Saturday, November 13, 2010

On the Flip Side Life is Far More Interesting

On the Flip Side

On The Flip Side is a collection of short films made by, or featuring, Asian Canadians. It featured everything from a drag queen musical to a Fresh Prince of Bel Air dance off. Here are my brief thoughts on the short films that were screened at the Reel Asian International Film Festival.

Exit Upon Arrival – Dir. Paul Wong
The short featured a split screen in which we see the director Paul Wong entering and exiting through a door. The film is manipulated in such a way that it creates a revolving door effect. Depending on which screen you watch, Paul will either be entering, leaving, walking in reverse, etc. Normally I am not a fan of installation works, yet I could still appreciate the artistic merit of the film.

Wind + Snow – Dir. Leslie Supnet
Similar to the first film this was another artistic piece. The film featured scenes with horses and elks running in the wild, a woman skipping over rope, rainbows, etc. Oddly enough I really enjoyed the meditative nature of the film. I probably missed some of the symbolism but everyone will take away something different from the film.

Covers – Dir. Jenny Lin
This animated tale centres around a reclusive dominatrix, Covers, who is abducted one night. Covers is subjected to weird acts, even by fetish standards, for the amusement of her mysterious kidnapper. The first two acts are the film’s best. The perverse humour really shines during these parts. The film loses its focus a bit in the final act. Still, it is tough to deny Covers' quirky charm.

Film Concerto In Hanging Major – Dir. Meelad Moaphi
Hands down this was my favourite of the night. The film is a how-to guide of sorts for those contemplating suicide. A bird-man creature is about to hang himself when he is presented with five option (e.g. jumping, wrist cutting, shooting himself, etc). Each option comes with facts regarding the success rate and the proper way to do it. Inspired by an opera, the Magic Flute, Meelad Moaphi’s film uses humour to examine a serious topic.

A Dragged Out Affair: The Musical – Dir. Sonia Hong, Olga Barsky, Claire Lowery
Winners of last year’s edition of the festival’s So You Think You Can Pitch contest, the directors turned their winnings into this entertaining musical about forbidden love. The plot focuses on two rival drag queens that fall in love with each other. The problem is that this type of love is considered a huge taboo amongst the drag queen community. The extremely funny film features outstanding songs, wonderful costumes, and good set designs. The film could easily be turned into a feature or a theatrical show ala Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Hopefully the songs will be available for download in the near future.

Window Horses (Karaoke Projec) – Dir. Ann Marie Fleming
Created by award-winning writer Ann Marie Fleming this witty animated short features a Stickgirl singing about the horses she sees outside of her window. The horses represent beauty, simplicity, stability, and strength in this crazy world. Yet for some reason things like the horse’s teeth remind Stickgirl of her dad. This was another film where I found myself wishing there was an iTunes version of the song. I could listen to it all day.

Peggy Baker: Four Phases – Dir. Howie Shia
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) produced this film for the 2009 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award which dancer Peggy Baker was the recipient. The short uses four different animation and documentary techniques to help convey how movement has shaped Baker’s life. This is a beautiful film that perfectly captures how the human body can say so much through the smallest of gestures.

You can view this short for free on the NFB website.

6 on 6 Battle – Dir. Tadaaki Hozumi
Through the use of a few well selected avi files, and a series of media players, Tadaaki Hozumi takes a look at the cultural stereotypes commonly associated with dancing. The film incorporates everything from clips of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to George Bush dancing in Africa. Hozumi’s film is both entertaining and thought provoking as it points out how racial stereotypes are widely accepted in mainstream culture.

The Auction – Dir. Gloria Kim
Here is another example of a short that could easily be expanded into a feature film. The Auction is about a Korean girl who wants an expensive doll for Christmas. Unfortunately her immigrant parents have fallen on tough times financial and can only afford a skipping rope. While the film is designed to show the Korean immigrant experience, the themes are universal. I could identify with many of the issues raised in the film. The performances are great and the film manages to be touching without being overly sentimental.

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