Sunday, August 27, 2006

Microcinema Fest 2006: Saturday Screenings

Saturday afternoon rang in with the first of Canadian director Carey Lewis' shorts, THE SPLIT. Lewis bowled the crowd over with last year's Best of Fest STREETS OF WONDERLAND, a powerful drama about junkies at Niagara Falls preying on tourists, and one addict's struggle to break free. THE SPLIT was, surprisingly, a jokey, edgy crime short about two thick-headed low-grade crooks set up to take a fall. Equally surprising was the more loose approach taken to the production, a little rougher around the edges than STREETS. But quite funny throughout, with a running gag built around a trip to the bathroom a highlight.

Next was EL REPORTE from Puerto Rico and director David Saldana. I think some of the Fest's younger hipsters did not connect with this easygoing if a shade overlong tale of a young business exec's sidetrack-filled trip across the island for a business meeting, and the lessons about cherishing life that he learns along the way. But this story warmed my aging heart, and I could overlook some soft editing and a few gaps in production value. Engaging performances also helped. Nice to see more micro from the non-English-speaking world.

Bill Kersey's PERMIAN FLOW screened 'barnside' last year, and it was generally agreed should have been in the Fest. Kersey makes thoughtful short nonfiction works with nice shooting and editing, and this was a solid addition to his body of work.

PAPER DUE, from director Daniel Vendt, was really designed to be a showcase for his interest in musical composition, and succeeded on that front; but otherwise was just a clever little sketch about a college kid who forgets to bring a paper to class.

The afternoon closed out with TRANSFORMERS, another funny outing from director Carey Lewis about the same pair of knuckle-headed crooks and their attempt to blackmail a rich guy, with surprising results. A little funnier and sharper-looking than the first short about these characters, and worth seeing more of.

After dinner, the Dastoli Brothers returned with one of their more lo-fi productions, a gangster adaptation of a Shakespeare classic called GANGSTER MOVIE. It's nice to see the brothers showing some skills on the acting/scripting side as well.

Ryan Graham took on the zombie genre next with LIVELIHOOD, about a different kind of zombie plague; where the zombies simply try to return to normal society, and face a variety of problems and prejudices. A wide-ranging social satire with a steady stream of laughs, though carries on just a shade too long. This one features another performance from Scott Graham, the director's brother and--as I said in my OCULUS review--an actor I think is a rising talent in microcinema.

THE FATHER, UNBLINKING by Ziggy Attias was a very beautifully shot, though I felt a bit emotionally distant, short about a taciturn farmer who finds his young daughter has died rather suddenly.

THE UNITED STATES OF NOOO! was a very loose-limbed, tongue-in-cheek documentary from Jay Bauman and Mike Stoklasa, riffing on that ill-fated pop culture moment in the new "Star Wars" trilogy when Darth Vader is born. Stoklasa narrates the proceedings in a likeably easygoing, self-referential way. At times there seems to be a bit of mock in this doc, but an older Russian woman who slowly edges away from Stoklasa when he imitates the birth of Vader is too priceless not to be real. I think personally that this short got the biggest laughs of the Fest.

The Fest closed with Christopher Sharpe's SEX MACHINE, of which much has been written about on this blog. Rather than offering my slanted review, I will quote from the Q&A afterward, with me taking questions from the crowd. A guy in the back raises his hand:

Q: How much was the movie made for?

A: I think about $8,000.

(Murmur of surprise)

A: And they paid me $6,000 of that, so--

(Ripple of laughter)

Q: So they actually made it for $2,000?

(Crickets chirping)

A: No, that was a joke, but see me after, you and I could work together!

And that was the end of Microcinema Fest 2006! Until next time, give me a shout at

No comments: