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Directors of For Sama

Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
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NYFF: Shorts (Animated & International)

Part of the joy of film festivals (I’m told) is discovery, and so, this being Manuel's first full New York Film Festival, he figured he’d give its various Shorts Programs a chance.

It’s not a form I watch often though you’d think it’d be growing in popularity given our ever-shrinking attention spans. And with that in mind, rather than review all thirteen shorts I watched, I’ve singled out highlights from the programs screening at the festival, which include Pixar’s latest and a dazzling black and white queer short from Argentina. More...

Images from Pixar's latest short: Sanjay's Super Team

Shorts Program 3: Animation

Sanjay’s Super Team by Sanjay Patel
If the “Pixar is back!” headlines that greeted Inside Out earlier this year were somewhat dampened by the “well, except for the short before it” lines that followed (Lava has only gotten worse in hindsight, especially with its song’s ubiquity at Starbucks), Sanjay’s Super Team is here to assuage your fears. Whatever type of film The Good Dinosaur turns out to be, know that it’ll be paired with one of Pixar’s most interesting shorts in years. Following Sanjay, an Indian boy who’d rather watch his animated superhero show than pray with his father, the short is inventive, action-packed, and while not revolutionary in story or execution, it nevertheless shines for its assured economical storytelling, its wonderful character designs (I love Sanjay’s bobble-head-like head), its luscious score (courtesy of Mychael Danna) and its melding of East and West mythology to tell a tale of a modern Indian childhood. The short is autobiographical in nature and Patel clearly has a loving affection for what he’s put on screen; I cannot wait to see what he does next at Pixar.

Whole by William Ryzin

Whole by William Ryzin
CGI has long been pushed towards photorealism but there’s nothing quite like seeing it used to animate characters and populate worlds that are unlike our own. In telling the story of Mira, who’s heartbroken over a breakup, Ryzin goes for a plastic-aesthetic, one that makes Mira (a sort of white figurine with feminine features) look like she’d be quite at home in an Ikea catalogue. The psychedelic trip Mira takes in trying to find her “power animal” is perhaps heavy on the literal symbolism (whole/hole), but it’s so funny and gorgeous (if this were a corporate-sponsored short, you’d be seeing some merchandise for Mira’s eventual power animal), and ultimately quite touching.

The other two standouts (this was a great collection overall) were Palm Rot, another superhero-esque origin story in anime style, which is particularly stunning, with great sound-work all around, and The Lingerie Show, which visualizes a monologue about drug addiction, that’s quite powerful even as it continually aims for discomforting images and situations. Rolling, on the other hand, is a fanciful if lightweight short about, well, a squirrel blissfully rolling around; Food is a cute stop-motion documentary take on contemporary food discussions, and Hot Bod is a bizarre MTV-esque take on those “Grow Your Own Girlfriend” water toys gone awry.

Shorts Program 1: International

The Mad Half Hour

The Mad Half Hour by Leonardo Brzezicki (Argentina/Denmark)
Brzezicki’s short film is a wonder. Shot in black and white, it opens with a phantasmagoric vision of a horse (as the voice-over suggests) being puppeteered by a human. The images are blurry, askew, and disorienting, clipped too quickly to make any good sense of them. As it turns out, we’re hearing a dream being recounted though later we will see the same Super 8 video being looped in an art gallery; has the artist turned his dream into an installation or was the dreamer merely aping what he saw? Immediately the lines between fantasy and fiction are blurred. It is then we meet our main couple playing tennis until one of them says with the earnestness of a bleak existential protagonist: “I’ve lost all passion.” He repeats the line as if trying to make it more meaningful than he imagines it’s sounding: why do we do anything? he asks. His boyfriend then decides they’ll have a fun night ahead, but as they go out for karaoke (they sing Xanadu!!), roam the streets, and get lost in a forest, we begin to understand why Brzezicki has titled this The Mad Half Hour: this is not quite our world, it’s both absurd and existential, disorienting yet assured: Felliniesque and Chaplin-like. For all its non-sequitur images and dialogues that haunt the two young men, the best moments come courtesy of classic slapstick humor. Oh, and did I mention the three-eyed cat who makes an inadvertent appearance? A must-see.

Carry On

Carry On by Rafael Haider, Austria
This short film is about an Austrian farmer and his donkey. There is, perhaps, in this description, the unkind insinuation that such subject matter would inevitably be drab and depressing. And yet, Haider’s tender portrait of Sigi’s attachment to his sick donkey (his wife keeps asking when he’ll finally slaughter him), is a perfect example of what a short film can do, which is paint a vivid portrait of the minutiae of life. Never succumbing to cliché or whittling down its larger themes into an easy parable, Haider and his actors imbue Carry On with a rugged sweetness that makes you forget you’re watching a 22-minutes film with a scene where a chicken gets beheaded.

La Novia de Frankenstein, about a cunning if deceitful young woman, Ivana, in Buenos Aires is wonderfully funny, Monaco, about an Aussie young man searching for an automotive apprenticeship. is just plain boring, while Marea de Tierra, which pairs musings on teenage love with breathtaking sights of the Chilean archipelago, is riddled with too many clichés to be anything other than “artsy.”

Shorts Program 1: International & Shorts Program 3: Animation both play Sunday September 27th and Wednesday September 30th.

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Reader Comments (1)

Sanjay looks adorable and i want to see this mad half hour short

September 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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