WSFF Prize Winners
Last night I, and many others, filled the Isabel Bader theatre to see the winners of the WSFF Awards.
We were also lucky to see a short made by high schoolers the previous day, in a programme that used archived NFB 'found footage', scratch film, and hand painting techniques to create a music video for the Hidden Cameras tune "Believe in the Good of Life" (which is cute and catchy and now on my wishlist). The clips they used were quite inventive, and while they haven't yet mastered the idea of editing to sound, it was fun to watch.
INVULNERABLE won the Mini Audience Choice Award (and $5,000), and rightfully so. This Spanish film tells the story of a high school science teacher who discovers he's HIV positive. The film is shot documentary style, and cuts between his burgeoning relationship with a fellow teacher, a support group, anonymous encounters in a gay club, and his lectures on the behavior of viruses in class. The acting is wonderful, particularly the lead. His emotions simmer under the surface, and his pain is palpable while never overdone. The shots capture instants that tell more than a ream of dialogue could. The film does justice to an incredibly complicated situation without descending into pity or stereotyping.
THE SADNESS OF JOHNSON JOE JANGLES is a funny and bizarre send up of westerns. The premise is that Jangles and his husband are expecting a foal and are traveling out West. En route they run into a mysterious business woman who offers husband a gig in her alcohol centre in a new town with loose laws and that the government will blow up if anyone leaves once they've entered before the town is official (which happens in four months). Of course, when they arrive, nothing goes quite as planned. Incredibly well-cut husband ends up working as a stripper, (who goes by the name of Faget, which in a film with such outlandish creativity seems a little lame, but it's not overused) and Jangles gives birth with the help of a preadolescent drinking doctor, but instead of the prize steed hoped for, he has a donkey (a puppet). The acting is impressive, capturing the perfect tone - being funny without sarcasm, and excellent use is made of some adorable kids. And the puppet - so funny.
BEFORE I GO tells the story of a old couple in which the woman has pretty much lost her marbles and has the competence and comprehension of a four or five your old, and her exhausted husband is trying to move her into a home before he goes completely mad. They struggle with each other, their mutual frustration and fear over what is an impossible situation. The acting is superlative and the script is fascinating - it tells such an intimate story and never takes sides, every incident slides your compassion to one or the other, but both are painfully understandable.
LEPIDULTEROUS is a dance film, I assume, set in a stylized outer-space/over-sized garden kind of environment. The two performers in bright costumes and fantastical make-up dance around and with each other, their movements inspired by insects - clever use is made of editing to give one of them the quick, jerky movements of a dragonfly. There is a kind of sexual tension between them, a curiosity and a strangeness. When the female turns into a cocoon then the following day becomes a butterfly and flies away you see the sadness and confusion of the one left on the ground. Strange but very beautiful.
DIMMER is a documentary (commissioned by Interpol) about Mike, a blind teenaged boy in Buffalo. You don't immediately notice that he's blind - the doc does a great job of establishing his character first, and it's quite clear that he and his friends are just regular dudes, with the same aggressions, frustrations, and interests as any guys their age. The film focuses on Mike's crumbling relationship with erstwhile girlfriend Theresa, who we see only for an instant and learn about mostly through the effect of her phone conversations.
THROUGH MY THICK GLASSES is a clay-mation short where a cute grandpa recounts his adventures as an child during WW2 after his parents fled and left him in the care of his aunt. The story finds humour (the Nazi soldiers are represented by a giant black and grey machine that towers over the small plasticine village) in quite a dark narrative. Young grandpa wants to be in the resistance, which perpetually results in trouble his kick-ass aunt rescues him from repeatedly. The point of him telling his story is to convince his grandkid to put on his winter cap so he can play outside. It left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
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