REVIEWS AND BLOG

In Through the Night

It can be difficult to get across to an audience, a story or a message in a film that is shorter than five minutes, especially when using subtext and relying upon the audiences’ ability to interpret what is being presented to them. Here we find a film that manages to do just that, and do it with panache.

There is a lot of style in this film, which is impressive in a film that is seemingly so simple and limited in terms of location and casting. Despite these limitations the film is beautiful and incredibly well presented. It is polished and edited to perfection, with beautiful yet simple imagery. There is much to be taken from the background and seemingly insignificant in this film, as much as can be taken from the forefront and the dialogue.

What works so well in this film is its ability to be unassuming. In its surface, it is a girl applying make up and a voice over giving her inner monologue, and yet there is so much more going on without it taking over the film. The lead actress is so comfortable and confident in front of camera, the fact she has no dialogue is irrelevant. Her performance is sublime without it.

This film is a glorious example of how to produce an understated yet effective short film.

City of My Heart

With the help of a soundtrack that is very traditional and inspiring at the same time, Ciudad de mi Corazón shares beautiful postcards of the places and people that fill the city of Madrid with life with a viewership not often used to these landscapes. Even as one of the most talked about country as to the horror genre, Spain remains a filmmaking force the regular moviegoer does not generally know. The colors and lights, the fountains and monuments, the people make the city of Madrid a cozy environment, and even if the architecture shown has become famous all over the world, seeing it in Europe, its original place, has a special taste. Ciudad de mi Corazón, for many, won’t be much more than an inspirational video with pretty people and streets to look at, but in reality, it is hiding much much more. A near religious voice with a message of longing and love for what a skeptic could say is no more than some concrete on dirt is the perfect setting for a beautiful community and their tiny everyday stories.

There is some serious mystery in the kind of things the city of Madrid is being asked. A request that sounds more like a prayer is narrated by the beautiful voice of Elena García, an involuntary list of wishes and hopes that might as well be the thoughts of every soul living in this gorgeous Spanish city. Everyday life in an urban environment, even being similar to the of any other old city in the world, can have its own little character, like the faint smell of a stranger’s flavored cigarette on a rainy day. A city is like a body: all parts are in constant motion, all organs interacting with each other and letting life flow around in complete freedom. The way people act in Ciudad de mi Corazón shows a lot of color, personalities and behaviours. Different ages, natures, habits and professions show us the many shapes human art and work can take in an environment that absorbs them all regardless of skin color, gender, origin, age and religion.

The landscapes picked for this short are, more than any other element of this short, the most effective way to get the viewers to fill their lungs with air, to be inspired and moved by these stories, so similar to their own, but also developed in a very different world. With little effort, the team involved in Ciudad de mi Corazón shows off their skill at photography, at capturing life and keeping a certain time and space safe in their data storage devices and our memories. There are few things as beautiful as a single person developing its filmmaking skills and giving the world a piece showcasing a harmony of different skills and views on a subject rather than the result of a creative dictatorship only possible when a group of artists is involved. Ciudad de mi Corazón is clearly the former: the way Kostas Petsas managed to give random citizens enough space to show a side of their life in the city without ending up with a one-hour short shows pure skill, not only as a filmmaker, but as a storyteller as well. This is definitely a career to keep an eye on, great things can be made with the creative power Petsas is holding.

Drilling Holes into the Sun

Ordinarily, a film with so many juxtaposing styles within itself would result in a feeling of confusion and disjointedness. Yet here they are meshed together and their opposition to each other works to promote the the message of the film and differences in the two characters personalities and mental state.

The use of a slow, dramatic monologue intermingled with fast paced dance music and interpretitive movement pieces pro ides the audience with ongoing stimulation and it works in an almost two-tone way, with one complimenting the other. From a slow, intense unwaivering monologue to very stimulating visuals to heavy music, it’s almost like a film version of Bipolar Disorder.

What works so well in this film is that it shouldn’t work. It should feel like a mess, and yet it doesn’t. Each section lasts just the right amkount of time before it outstays it’s welcome and it moves on so you are presented with something different and yet perfectly acceptable within this context. Somehow the director has found a balance that is rare and a little bit beautiful.

The monologue is deep and well written in the deeper sections and the choice of music is exceptional. The movements within the dance sections are fluid and performed perfectly, with cast members flowing like lava lamps.

Here is a piece of film that is truly original, without wearing a neon sign that promotes it’s individuality. It is what it is, and that works.

Day of Reckoning

For a film that focuses on a tragedy, there is an underlying beauty here that truly transmits its glow in the finale. For a short film it packs quite the emotional punch in its conclusion, and delivers a strong message within its short running time.

Here we have an exceptional example of story-telling within a short time frame, and how best to use this medium given its restrictions. Despite exploring a delicate and complex issue, the film manages to keep its dialogue effective and sparse and uses its visuals and a belief in its audiences’ intelligence in order to tell the story. There is little exposition and the dialogue never feels forced or fake.

The lead actor does a fantastic job with minimal lines. His interactions with the young boy are touching, and his facial expressions tell the audience more than dialogue ever could. Fantastic acting and fantastic directing.

The team behind the film have managed to bring an air of charm and almost warmth to a topic that is riddled with fear, heartbreak and horrific memories for so many, and this is done with respect and understanding. A truly great accomplishment of a film.

Chronicles of Religious Persecution in China

Often, documentary style films lack drama and focus purely on providing facts. They consist of many face to face interviews with the potential occasional dramatization. However, here we have a documentary film that seeps intensity and drama from the outset.

This drama can in no small part be attributed to the narrator who injects passion and tension into his delivery. Given the controversial and dramatic topic it’s not surprising that injecting passion into it came so effectively from the narrator.

The narrators dialogue is provided against a backdrop of dramatisations. These are acted well and offer an excellent visual accompaniment to the voice over, giving the audience a much clearer idea of he seriousness and emotion that permeates the plot.

The film is fast paced, which is surprising and impressive given it’s construction. A film that focuses on a narrator often feels long and slow, yet here the dramatisations, music and topic make it feel much quicker. An impressive feat of direction and production.

The film offers an honest ad sometimes brutal look into a topic that isn’t well known, utilising effective storytelling and film techniques to create drama and tension throughout. A strong example of how to create an entertaining and engaging documentary film.

Rouge

Rouge runs through this film like lead through a pencil. Often when a specific colour is used throughout a film, especially when it is used as a tint for the entire image, it can feel cheap or unprofessional, yet here we see that it is used effectively and appropriately to enhance the atmosphere of the film. And that’s what this film oozes. Atmosphere.

Right from the beginning of the film there is a definite sense of intimacy and internalisation which holds the audience to the screen. There is minimal dialogue, which adds to the intrigue and mystery but also helps the audience to put the pieces together themselves and provide their own interpretation to what they are seeing. This in itself allows the audience a closer connection with the film.

Given the lack of dialogue, the performances are well delivered with the lead characters providing an intensity to their relationship purely through their physical interactions. This is heightened by the excellent use of music and sound editing. It all works together to create a spectacular atmosphere.

A strong film that utilises minimalism within its production and yet provides an intense and emotionally charged experience.

Vinaa (Question)

There are many potential ways to create a piece of film that will be relevant to people. One of these ways is the product of a strong personality that will attract the right team of expert people, compromise towards the vision and the tenacity needed to overcome the harshest moments of, in this case, the long and hard adventure that is filmmaking. This specific film has not come short of any of these traits that so many others before have lacked. This can bring failure very quickly, and only a very determined creator can see the finished work through the battle that is producing it, before the final cut.

That is why the value of this short is so big. A work of fiction that regular spectators actually want to see is almost always backed by huge wallets and big name producers without much useful content to communicate, but a piece like Vinaa, created from the heart, is definitely a win against big powerful companies. Nothing says ‘effort’ like the rough audio tracks and harsh lighting, cutting through the faces of the actors with the strength of a small star. Nothing says ‘determination’ like a determined group of friends getting together to produce a real flesh and blood piece of artistic interest, developed in their heads and in their hearts. Teamwork is what this industry needs – unending friendship and company, together with strength of heart.

However, a truly great piece often starts with a very well thought and planned script, and even if the hopes for an awesome film are big, it will be noticeable. Double checking facts, storyboarding, absorbing the work of the great artists of the genre will make a huge difference. Mere hours of light work and research on writing can elevate a regular script to levels one wouldn’t imagine. Because stories are not only meant to entertain or produce emotions, they also have the potential to teach many useful things to people of any age all over the world. This is why a more solid screenplay, with many of the elements Vinaa included in the story, can be more to an audience eager of surprises and knowledge than a regular short of the ‘photographs-of-people-talking’ kind.

Classic actor to actor chemistry is very noticeable and strong, producing a visible thread of friendship and trust that not even professional actors have sometimes. The actor direction, then, was probably easy, since the companionship of everyone involved in that side of the camera is palpable and gave very good results. The budget of 0 American Dollars is a very impressive feat achieved only by those with the most responsible and loyal collaborators, with the most amazing and supportive friends.

The life of a creator is not easy and they will experience many joyful ups and vicious downs. This has broken many filmmakers and their potential masterpieces, but as long as the Vinaa team stays together and focused on the goals, the path ahead can only bring pleasant and interesting things.