Best of 13th Raindance Film Festival Shorts Review
More and more it would appear that DVD is the ideal format for the short film. They can either squeeze in as an adjunct to the main feature (and thus allow us to check out the obscurer work of directors from Carl Th. Dreyer to Robert Rodriguez), be lavished with the stand alone treatment if they’ve got a dig enough reputation or name attached (C’était un rendezvous, Rubber Johnny, My Wrongs #8245-8249 & 117, the forthcoming release of Oscar-winner Six Shooter), or simply be grouped together into various compilations. Understandably, it is the latter which is currently proving to be the most commonplace, with discs appearing in the form of thematic collections (the BFI’s superb Free Cinema offering being one of the latest), ‘best of’ compilations (the Cinema 16 releases, Best v Best) and festival tie-ins as we find here. Indeed, Best of 13th Raindance Film Festival Shorts - a somewhat unwieldy title – has plenty of competition out there: most prominently from Resfest and onedotzero, and that’s just in the UK. (Perhaps unsurprisingly the discs released to date from these three have included a number of crossover points.)
That said, it is impossible to deny that each of these productions has been handsomely mounted, looks terrific in spite of undoubted budget limitations – the amount of ’scope productions is really quite surprising – and offers up a distinctive, if not always fully developed voice. With regards to the latter it’s also interesting to note that there’s never any reliance on well-known actors here and as such no distractions. We have to approach these films at face value only and therefore watch them solely on their own terms. A Study of Luma, for example, is free to weave its disquieting magic as it tells an odd little tale of a young child’s telekinetic powers. Similarly, Girlfriend in a Kimono, though I’m not particularly smitten by it, simply unfolds before out eyes with no attachments – the perfect means of entering its own little world.
In other words we’re faced with what is essentially a level playing field, a situation which means that ultimately these films’ respective successes may very well come down to personal preference. Certainly the whole gamut of short filmmaking seems to have been covered, some of which you’ll warm to immediately, others less so. We have calling cards, exercises in pure style, a handful which show genuine ambition and others which simply wish to tell a funny tale or two. Indeed, sometimes it’s even possible to mix these up and expect something entirely different from what we’re actually going to get. A Monk’s Awakening, which is a French-produced, Japanese-language period samurai piece, had me convinced that there was going to be some kind of humorous or ironic pay-off simply because we rarely find this level of delicacy. Needless to say I found the film to be far more effective on a second viewing…
(As an aside, A Monk’s Awakening also points up another facet of the short film, namely its ability to predict potential new trends. In this case we see a more classical style of Asian filmmaking being translated abroad; meanwhile Dupe, a cheeky little British entry akin to a low-budget Multiplicity, has eBay as one of its major plot devices, a move which will surely soon become commonplace in numerous features.)
And if A Monk’s Awakening proves to be especially successful in its ambitions and achieves its own perfectly formed world, then this is also true of many of the others. L’amour est…, a brief 3D computer animation, similarly feels complete in its off-centre sense of humour, dark wit and wobbly cover version of the Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’. And much the same is also true of Scene 26, a film which, as the title suggests, intentionally offers only a segment of a much bigger picture, namely a particularly nasty set-piece which wouldn’t have seemed out of place in one of the Coen brothers’ darker efforts or indeed one of the more malicious gialli. Either way, the level of assuredness really cannot be denied.
If we do want some rougher edges, however, then these too are present (as extras) in the form of the 14 finalists from the Nokia competition to produce a 15-second short. Designed to be watched on a mobile phone and as such not all that dissimilar from web virals, these inevitably amateurish efforts cover everything from the all-out avant-garde to the practical joke. In fact, the effect is rather like that of having a compilation within a compilation – one that similarly shares the depth, eclecticism and sheer range to be found in the main event.
Whilst each of the ten shorts found of this compilation would appear to have been taken from the best sources possible, it’s sad to announce that they’re still not getting the best possible DVD treatment. Squeezed onto a single DVD-5 the results are highly noticeable stepping on the diagonals and continually apparent artefacting. At first it appears that this is simply the result of the DV equipment upon which many were produced, but unfortunately such flaws affect all of the films included. Furthermore, those in the wider ratios (1.78:1, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1) are all presented without anamorphic enhancement, whilst those which don’t come in the English language are lumbered with burnt-in subs. Thankfully the soundtracks fare better with each short being treated to crisp DD2.0 offerings. However, it is worth noting that in the case of Yeah Yeah Yeah! at least, we should be getting Dolby Surround. As for extras, the disc includes all 14 of the Nokia finalists as mentioned and the trailer which played for the festival.
Right Place (Kosai Sekine)
A Monk's Awakening (Lou Ma Ho)
Battle Chess (John Dunstan/Michael Paszt)
The Story Of Luma (Arran Bowyn)
Dupe (Chris Watt)
L'Amour Est...(Adam Komiskey)
Girlfriend in a Kimono (Dominic Thackaray)
Scene 26 (Rob Hardy)
Park (Andrew Pearson)
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! (Marcel Fores)