SHORTS Film Festival – Friday Review

By Sam Turner

Friday night at the Shorts Film Festival dealt with the major topics of life, love, death and unconventional uses of fresh produce.  A packed out Norwood Concert Hall was treated to shorts by truly talented Australian filmmakers.

The evening’s showings were bookended by two comedy films.  Owen Trevor’s Two Laps is a heart-warming film about two senior citizens who compete in a swimming race on the same day every year.  It is a beautifully shot film and opened the night’s proceedings nicely celebrating Aussie’s love of competition and joie de vie.  Up next was Rippled, a stop animation music video made by Victorian artist Darcy Prendergast.  Shot using long exposure techniques without any special effects or post-production hokum, this is a very clever exploration of urban landscapes.

Documentaries Murder Mouth and Kia Kaha changed the tone of the evening to one of contemplation and provided two of the evening’s highlights.  South Australian Madeline Perry’s confronting film about the importance of facing up to the realities of living a carnivorous lifestyle provided moments of hilarity, suspense and sadness.  Similarly, Kia Kaha demanded its audience to think about an issue which is too easily put to the back of one’s mind.  Interviews with three Christchurch residents examine the after affects of a catastrophic natural disaster months after it has occurred.  Kat France’s film shows a city which may have had its heart ripped out but it’s irrepressible soul lives on in it’s buoyant citizens.

Contrasting in nearly every way were the films A Few Nervous Habits, a thoroughly original whimsical comedy and Dorothy, a horror movie-by-numbers from Queensland.  Lead actors Astril Pill and Steve Sheehan give a beautifully understated performance in this very funny SA film which told the strange tale of a lady who wakes up to find an orange in her vagina.  Although well crafted, Eros Romero’s Dorothy, on the other hand, relied on the fail-safe ingredients of clowns, dolls and a creepy little girl to produce a middle of the road horror film which brought little new to the table.

Equally, unoriginal was Jeffory Asselin’s The Billabong, a tale of two young boys whose courage and friendship prevail along with an obvious metaphor.  Whilst Steven Robinson’s Donydji may not have been the most stylish piece of the evening it more than made up for it in heart.  Robinson’s look a Vietnam War vets volunteering to help build an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory said more about Australia in 18 minutes 30 seconds than Baz Luhrman managed in over two and half hours in his 2008 eponymous epic.

The acting in Heck may not have been first class but the subject matter, script and craft made for very enjoyable viewing.  Tanya Goldberg’s film deals with the euthanasia taboo brilliantly in a way that is hilarious, moving and uncondescending.  In contrast, Purple Flowers’ gushy melodrama made me think the Shorts organisers had sneaked in half an episode of Home and Away for a laugh.

Equally out of place, was the next film Post Apolyptic Man.  As with Dorothy, the film was stylish and well shot but lacked in originality.  I assume Nathan Phillips has seen the Mad Max franchise so why he felt he needed to add another with a rubbish title is anyone’s guess.  Remake rounded off the evening nicely with a light comedy exploring the merits of the Hollywood rehash as debated by two bungling burglars and a couple of hapless bobbies.

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