Film Review: A Hero for A Day

It’s not a light subject, a school shooting. Many have stained America’s history from the last decades and still do. Even if the rest of the world is not used to being witness to events like these at their own homes, the suffering of common people in any country can make others cringe in fear and sadness thousands of miles away. Even through the pain, a positive look towards this tragedies can still be taken: the possibility of recovery before an attack or emotional containment for the bullied is always a good thing. Tragic events often come with great lessons that, if heeded, can help avoid bad situations in the future and ensure some social safety for the younger citizens.

A comedic view on this subject can definitely make some people uncomfortable, but as the plot of A Hero For A Day develops, a useful and positive message can be found. Even if the motivations of the main character are weak (usually violent students are tormented heavily and at a very young age), the funny approach is visible from the first 10 seconds of the short. Even if this is a questionable way of depicting a tense situation like this one, there is definitely not a bad intention behind it. On the contrary, the tendency to show the demonized character that is the shooter as a guy who just got his buttons pushed too often can help bring a kinder eye on The Bullied and in consequence, make them easier to approach.

With the success 13 Reasons Why has had in the month after its release, the spotlight is definitely focused on school attendees and their behaviour around their peers and at home. This will resonate positively with the problematics brought up on A Hero For a Day.

Much of this optimistic take on a bullying victim is expressed through the colors and soundtrack of the short. This is definitely intentional and was achieved perfectly. It will remind the viewer of past comedy works like Guy Ritchie’s Snatch or a more recent The Hangover. The messy ways of the protagonist, the literally colorful scenery and the figuratively colorful supporting characters make this more of a realized teenage fantasy than a piece of social comment, but the mastery with which it was assembled shows great creative potential in the hands of Lifan Wang and Shannon Brunetti.

Even with a big budget and great technical tools, we are short of directors that can show good understanding of the basic rules of filmmaking and a great variety of pleasant aesthetic choices. This is very well accompanied by the work of the actors. The mood tone of the short varies greatly from start to finish, and the performances make the viewer slide easily between one (a very tense and dangerous situation) and the the other (a funny environment), back and forth before the very positive ending sequence. Comedy works perfectly, a the presence of Rage makes it much more effective. A hint of determination was needed to bring our hero to the front line, for better or worse, and finding that strength within is also a fun detail.

It would be wise to keep an eye on Lifan Wang’s future projects, but for now taking a look to his past productions will definitely keep us entertained.

Film Review: Chains of Freedom

School can be hell for kids. Even in this day and age, even with so many commodities, attention and specialized teachers, it can be traumatizing. Regular school, with all its benefits, with all its ups and downs, is still a source of stress and uneasiness, and some students deal with it better than others. So imagine this same situation, but in a place where the only adult figures are authoritative, angry and cruel. Not all teachers are this way, but in the eyes of a child things like these can get blown out of proportion really quickly. In a setting that reminds us of wartime education, the reaction of these children, even being improbable, can still shake some feelings in the viewer, reminding them of other anecdotes related to these tragic and violent global events.

Situations of sacrifice and loss are all around the world, closer to us in time and space than we like to think about. Serious matters like death or death by one’s own hand are much more frequent that anyone would like to, and in a place where people are not taken care of, the number rises greatly. Education is not only about books or skills, it’s also about personal growth and social interaction. These things should not be ignored, especially at a very young age. In a very cruel and dumb move, the Headmistress forgets or chooses to forget this very basic thing of education, either because of the needs of the times or a very hostile personality. Her students feel isolated and alienated, and find in each other a comfort the Headmistress kills off like a weed in a beautiful garden. What she forgets is that these relationships are supposed what makes the garden beautiful.

It’s hard to understand what happens in the mind of a child. Some things are clear, some make adults stare cluelessly and label their behaviour as silly, but every action from their part has a purpose. The very adult decision the children in Chains of Freedom make is a consequence of many things, but without going too deep, many of them can be identified and their reflections noticed in real life relationships. Hopefully this will change the way the viewers deal with harsh themes and the way these situations can impact a the life of a child.

While it is a piece mainly acted by children, the value in Chains of Freedom is really found in the plot. That’s why the amateur level of the young actors does not go against the quality of the film, no matter what people say. Innocence can’t be acted if the performer doesn’t have any: this only adds to the feeling of reality shown. No other choice would have been better.

In a short like this, the credibility of the setting is very important. Not only an extra effort is noticeable as to costumes, but also to set dressing. It’s not often that a team Chains of Freedom creates an entire atmosphere with such ease, as palpable as another character. Many will say it’s just clothing, furniture and hair styling, but the care with which these elements were controlled shows great expertise, attention to detail and love for the art. This is a very valuable attitude towards filmmaking, one that viewers should experiment a little more often.

Film Review: Mirror

Quite often the most simple of films portray the deepest meanings and the most honest explorations. Within this short film, we see on what of these films. One young girl in a bathroom seems on the surface like not much of a film, yet once you start scratching the surface you begin to see the different levels and layers to both the character and the film.

The level of emotion and understanding of mental health is astounding in such a short film. To show the differences between what we display to the world and what we privately display to ourselves is deftly articulated. Alongside this we see the internal struggle between emotions and the tug of war many individuals dealing with mental ill health have to face in a daily basis.

Aside from the fantastic construction and narrative, the performance of the young actress is admirable. To be able to portray such intense and raw emotion without any dialogue and very short screen time displays a connection the art and to the character she is portraying.

The film displays adept and impressive film making skills from editing, make up right through to direction. When all aspects of producing a film come together the result should can. E exciting, and this is what we are seeing here. A raw and emotional piece of film that is a testament to the cast and crew and their abilities.

Film Review: Pierrot

Pierrot couldn’t be a more apt title for this film. The idea of a sad clown, a juxtaposition in one body. The idea that the mask on the outside hides something much different within. Here, we see that idea explored in more modern terms.

Whilst the film portrays itself as a simple film in terms of locations, music, dialogue and production, underneath it is actually an intricate and multi-layered exploration of the human psyche. An expedition into how not only do our masks hide our inner desires and emotions, but masks can also allow us to fulfil those desires and be someone we are too afraid to be without it.

The narrative is incredibly well constructed, with clever and minimal dialogue. What drives this film is the actions of its characters. Their interactions and reactions are what tell the story, rather than their speech. This in itself makes for a much more intense and thought provoking visual experience.

Whilst the production is low budget, this actually enhances the appeal of the film as it further highlights the plot devices that are used and the story itself. The use of music is underplayed yet effective, enhancing the emotion in each scene.

A beautifully constructed and executed film that subverts its own simplistic mask to reveal a detailed humanistic exploration.

Film Review: Between Seconds

Nothing is bound to keep a person awake and in a state of utter distraction like memories of lost love. Everything is a reminder: smells, clothing, texture, flavors, colors, and the most painful one, the self. Some disciplines, like music, end up becoming a part of a person more than any other companion can. The bad thing is, romantic relationships for many people can become the cornerstone of their life. That, with enough time, is definitely going to be a problem.

Characters like Adrian and Alicia are not uncommon. Age keeps trying to catch up, to defeat, and no critic is harder than oneself. Love and romance are hit hard by these factors, but as weak as they might be, a sudden surge of strength can overcome it anyday. These characters, led by a mysterious Bartender (maybe Cupid, maybe God) get a second chance at love, happiness and self-fulfillment. Even with sad stories behind them, art and empathy made them come back from a state of loss and lack of inspiration. Even being a very simple love story, Between Seconds knows how to teach about companionship and inspiration.

There was definitely someone caring about the visual aspect of the short. Jaenicke managed to create, in a careful pastiche of styles, a very vivid environment, tinted with the color of memories. Nostalgic where it needs to be, Between Seconds effortlessly takes the spectator to an abstract world, sad but hopeful, that everyone knows and everyone has visited. Living means suffering once or twice and the empathy of the viewers will be rewarded thoroughly at the end. If we are reflections of Alice and Adrian, there is hope for a happy life at the end of whichever tunnel we are stuck in. Memories, on the other hand, are represented sharp as knives, both visually and in the heart of the protagonist. Nothing can erase them, though. The past is a truth they must learn to live with instead of rejecting it like children. It is brave to move on.

In a piece so focused on music and musicians, it’s no wonder the soundtrack gives the perfect finishing touch. Even when tormented, Adrian’s music does not become wrathful, angry or out of tune. He can only transmit sadness and maybe tenderness, since fury arrives some time before misery. He has lost her, which, to the character of a romantic man means losing the most important part of himself. Musicians tend to be sensitive that way.

Time, even if it’s shown in a very literal way, is also used effectively as a dramatic tool. Pianos over silence, voices over silence, and the time these take to make the spectator understand and feel is not rushed. Slowness is encouraged and beautiful scenes can be accomplished when the filmmaker chooses to reduce the amount of useless information the viewer receives at any given time. The care with which the most sensitive moments of the short are stylized can submerge the viewer in memories that could be considered universal. Maybe the journey to the clock world is one that everybody needs to make.

Film Review: Short Story

The opening of this film perfectly introduces to the audience to the dull, indie melancholia that is weaved throughout the narrative. The emotion portrayed in that first image sets the audience up for the despair and darkness that is to come. This is, however, interspersed with juxtaposing fantasy imagery. The bright whites are in stark contrast to the rest of the film, bringing in a lightness and hope that permeates the dark.

The story is a touching and honest portrayal of the final moments of life. The memories of a life lived and the frustration and often desperation that comes with incapacity. The monotony and despair of those that are tasked with caring for those that are suffering, and the emptiness that is left when it is over.

The fact that the film makers were able to capture this so effectively in a film that is under eight minutes in duration is remarkable. The production quality is strong, and brings a rawness that only aids the storytelling. Well thought out and executed photography are complimented by a minimal soundtrack.

The performances within the film are a delight to watch. They utilise a fairly minimalistic script and focus on body language and physicality to promote the story and characters. Given the short duration of the film, this is achieved admirably.

The film provides a strong narrative with a seemingly simple plot that is driven by human emotion and experience. Strong production quality and performances make overall finished product a pleasure to watch.

Film Review: Shiver

Tension fills the air as this film opens onto its protagonist. An effective use of visuals and music convey the message that something isn’t right, that there is an underlying fracture, something eating away. A strong opening that brings up a number of questions that the audience want answering.

As the film moves on the tension grows within seemingly mundane surroundings. An interesting juxtaposition between narrative and location. Excellent cinemtography and editing result in a smooth flow between scenes that aids in the fluidity of the overall piece.

As the relationships and characters become more evident it becomes clear the film looks athopes, dreams, friendships and love. The writers and production team build a world almost in isolation where the characters fight to survive. Where the everyday places a huge strain on their relationships.

The performances are strong and character investment is easy because of this. Both actors and writers have worked well to bring to life well rounded and exciting characters that are both flawed and redeemable. The dialogue flows well and doesn’t feel contrite or forced.

The ending brings everything to a conclusion yet leaves enough open for interpretation that the audience leaves with intrigue. A well shot, well acted piece that proves short films can pack as big a narrative punch as a feature. Talented writing and beautiful cinematography bring together an atmospheric piece that will stay with you.