Seattle’s One-Reel Film Festival 2015 – Saturday Roundup

SIFF Film Center projection room

The One-Reel Film Festival is part of Seattle’s renowned Bumbershoot music and arts festival. Throughout the weekend, I’ve had the opportunity to see short films from all over the world, some of which can be viewed online (I’ve included links below where applicable). The films were arranged into blocks of around an hour apiece, which I’ve arranged in presentation order below. Bold text means I enjoyed the film, and an asterisk (*) means it was my favorite film of that block. Skip to the bottom for a list of all the films that can be viewed online.

Click here for Sunday’s films


Films4Families

  1. Bear Story (Director: Gabriel Osorio, Chile, 11 minutes)

    This film tells a deep, dark story of a bear taken from his family by a dictatorial circus regime. Given the film’s Chilean origin, this seems to be a real-life tale of oppression molded into a child-friendly wrapper. I’m inclined to say the film erred by using the mechanical diorama aesthetic as a literal framing device rather than a mere visual style. The visuals of the diorama are stunning, but implausible enough as a physical streetside object to be distracting. The film could have merely adopted the style for amusement’s sake without deigning to explain it, if not for it literally being shown to a [bear] child on the side of the road. But I daresay that the reluctant satisfaction on the adult bear’s face at the end made it worth it as a framing device.

    Teaching painful history to young people in a way that doesn’t feel like medicine is a difficult task, and for this bear to have to craft his lifelong oppression into a quick, consumable format to entertain (and educate) one child at a time clearly takes a toll on him. But he’ll keep at it, if it means keeping that message alive. The film makes this subtle point rather well, even if it has to dazzle and distract a bit with its visuals before sneaking that message in.

    More info and trailer here.

  2. Bunny New Girl (Director: Natalie van den Dungen, Australia, 6 minutes)

    Never work with children or animals, so the saying goes in filmmaking. This film seemingly violates both rules, featuring a shy little girl on her first day of school wearing a paper-plate bunny mask, evoking a quick sense of schoolday dread. To her classmates, the weird kid is weird, and must be called out as such immediately. The girl’s eyes tell a story of childhood dread despite a complete lack of dialogue, and once the true meaning of this weirdness becomes clear, the story quickly takes a turn for a tale of kindness and inclusion. It’s all very sweet and funny and cute.

    More info and trailer here.

  3. Lila (Director: Carlos Lascano, Argentina, 9 minutes)

    During the first minutes of Lila, in which the title character wanders through the city rendering everyday things and people into whimsical colored pencil sketches in her magical reality-altering sketchbook (which eventually comes to life to move in a 2D plane and affect reality), I experienced two simultaneous reactions.

    First, this is all visually well-staged, and second…why is Lila in this film? She seems almost a whimsical addition herself – a projection of the filmmaker into the story, meant to hand-feed us the emotion that we’re meant to experience for each little vignette. She’s not a necessary component, and the eventual attempt to humanize her by telling a bit of her ambiguous backstory visually doesn’t do much to justify her presence. It’s no fault of the actress, who does a fine job at being a manic pixie sketch-girl, but every sketched scene would have been fine without her.

    Watch it online here.

  4. Pik Pik Pik (Director: Dmitry Vysotskiy, Russia, 4 minutes)

    A satisfying “Merry Melodies” throwback featuring a flat, bright 2D animation style and rhythmic classical underscore for its silly tale of environmental unsustainability.

    More info here.

  5. Ray’s Big Idea* (Director: Steve Harding-Hill, United Kingdom, 4 minutes)

    This film’s animation is beautifully ugly. Each hideously overcrowded frame is pristinely rendered with the detail of something like ILM’s Rango, with each unique character and visual detail grandly crafted for no more than a few seconds of screentime apiece. The film’s core concept is the first prehistoric fish who thought to leave the ocean on his tiny little legs, and it renders that concept with a nice, wry sense of humor. Then it takes several hilarious (and gross-looking) turns from there.

    Watch it here.

  6. Submarine Sandwich (Director: PES, USA, 2 minutes)

    A sandwich is built through live-action stop-motion animation, turning inedible objects into slices of sports memorabilia that loosely resemble a sub sandwich. I’ve said this before; stop-motion involving live humans is a creepy aesthetic that I rather enjoy, but here’s the thing – not everyone can do this as well as Jan Svankmajer, and his creativity was creepy in the service of some sort of message or atmospheric objective. This just felt like a technical exercise by someone who was perhaps a casual fan, but didn’t quite know what to do with the look. The timing felt off, shots lingered for too long, and there were awkward shifts in zoom and framing for no discernible purpose. The result is cute, but ultimately derivative, and doesn’t do a great deal to justify its existence. Other than making an indigestible thing that kinda resembles something else.

    Addendum: It seems PES is also the filmmaker behind “Fresh Guacamole,” from 2013. I now believe even more strongly that this was little more than a technical exercise, but Guacamole was at least a better execution of the concept. Even if adding diced tomato to guac is an abomination.

    Watch it here, or if you don’t want to sleep tonight, just watch Svankmajer’s Food instead.

  7. The Trumpeteer (El Trompetista) (Director: Raúl Robin Morales, Mexico, 10 minutes)

    This film, with its dingy, grey-brown uniformed figures (seemingly the same clothing and character model), made splendid use of light and shadow and color despite its deliberate homogeneity during the opening moments. After introducing a squad of identical bandmates in a miserable prison-yard, the film erupts into a gorgeous brass symphony of color and reflected light to represent the lead trumpeter’s musical rebellion against the rigid, boring bugling prescribed to him by the bandleader. We see swirls of color and light erupt from his trumpet in a manner that is first subtle, then erupts into a full-on acid trip of fluorescent watercolor. Quite lovely.

    Watch the trailer here.


 

Best of SIFF 2015, Part 1

  1. Bihttoš (Director: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Canada, 15 minutes)

    This unconventional, highly personal documentary about a father and daughter from an indigenous community in Canada (and another in Norway) feels like little more than a pretty solid college admissions essay. Even if the conclusions are a bit trite and not long-lasting (“And they all kinda turned out just fine!”), the visuals and storytelling are unique and thorough enough. Not bad, but not for me.

    More info here.

  2. The Chicken (Director: Una Gunjak, Croatia, 15 minutes)

    This is a rough film, illustrating both the ugly realities of meat production, as well as the dangerous ignorance of a child in a war zone trying to preserve a piece of her innocence. The film helpfully notes that no animals were harmed in its production, which is not evident while watching.

    More info and trailer here.

  3. Personal Development* (Director: Tom Sullivan, Ireland, 15 minutes)

    An absolute delight of a family dramedy about the teenage daughter of a divorced single dad who has the great misfortune to have to deal his daughter’s unexpected “woman’s troubles” during his solo weekend with her. I almost feel ill-equipped to evaluate this film, except to say that it rang true, didn’t let father or daughter off the hook for awkwardness or familial affection, and it all felt very sweet. A brief run to the shop for menstrual painkillers makes for a nice comic beat, as the pharmacist gives Dad the unexpected third degree.

    More info here.


 

Best of SIFF 2015, Part 2

  1. The Answers (Director: Michael Goode, USA, 8 minutes)

    Nathan, recently deceased, stares directly into the camera and asks for the objective answers to every question in his life. He quickly comes to terms with his demise, and gives way to the novelty of knowing the unknowable details of his prior existence, however alternately hilarious or distressing they might be. The infographic bits (“How many eggs did I eat?”) are quickly supplanted by greater insights, such as who was the his ideal woman. Insight gives way to a palpable sense of regret, nearing in just a few minutes what Albert Brooks accomplished in Defending Your Life – a sweet and poignant existential comedy.

    More info here, trailer here.

  2. Go Daan Go! (Director: Mari Sanders, Netherlands, 15 minutes)

    Chalk this one up to personal bias, but I found this story of simplistic family drama and sports triumph to be utterly boring. Will Daan be allowed to swim? Well, his mom has both an emotional and practical reason to not want him to do so, and his dad really wants him to, and they all love each other and they’ll all be fine regardless. But hey, at least we got to see the kid strumming on his sad guitar with a couple of broken strings while his parents fight downstairs. Total snooze.

    More info here.

  3. Listen (Director: Hamy Ramezan, Denmark, 13 minutes)

    This film is a biting piece of cultural criticism, simultaneously excoriating fundamentalist Islam, religious and sexist oppression, the role and place of insular immigrant communities, and the mainstream institutions that are ill-equipped to assist them with their problems. A battered woman sits behind a burqa, as well as barriers of language, apathy, and a near-complete lack of control over her life. Her distress is palpable, and evident in her thrice-repeated opening monologue. But there’s little that anyone can or will do about it.

    More info and trailer here.

  4. World of Tomorrow* (Director: Don Hertzfeldt, USA, 15 minutes)

    Don Hertzfeldt’s visual style remains as weirdly splendid as ever, and it is now accompanied with a pack of fascinating sci-fi ideas that emerge in rapid-fire dialogue and visual chaos as a third-generation adult clone named Emily explains the future to her original self (Emily Prime) as a toddler, with neither one quite fully understanding the other. Hertzfeldt’s sense of humor remains pitch-black as ever, and as the ideas and implications for mankind spill forth one by one, the laughs become more and more mirthless, giving way to an imminent sense of doom. Outstanding and worth a watch.

    Watch it here (free trailer, paid rental).




Quick List: All of the films that are available online

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One thought on “Seattle’s One-Reel Film Festival 2015 – Saturday Roundup

  1. Pingback: Seattle’s One-Reel Film Festival 2015 – Sunday Roundup | FilmWonk

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