Nepali Times
Critical Cinema
No short shrift for shorts


Short films rarely get the respect as their feature-length brethren, passed over for distribution and often merely accompanying longer pieces in festivals. Yet it is with shorts that filmmakers most freely explore their craft, taking on stories and ideas they might not attempt in longer projects. In 'Voyages en Courts,' a short film festival by Alliance Francaise, this medium gets the attention it deserves.

The 'World Shorts' program assembles six international short films. Among them is Diane Igirimbabazi's Goretti, one of the few documentary entries, a poignant portrayal of 16 year-old Dushimimana Goretti, a Rwandan AIDS orphan who is left to care for her younger siblings. Her narration is articulate, and all the more heart-wrenching for its monotonous delivery. Closing the programme is the Thai entry Araya Suriharn's Pillow Talk, a hilarious and raunchy black comedy about a woman who cannot find satisfaction in her marriage so takes up with a phone repairman. It is a tone-perfect comedy and saves a clever twist till late on, leaving you cackling through the credits.

Alice Winocour's Kitchen, impeccably securing the absurd dread a woman experiences at the presence of a pair of live lobsters she is attempting to cook, is the highlight of the 'Strange Programme'. Though this programme is also home to a couple of pieces that seem more about special effects and computer wizardry than story and character, it is sense of mood the rest manage to conjure, from the dreamlike to the creepy, that ties them together.

The true gee-whiz entry, however, belongs in the 'Clermont-Ferrand 2006' program. There you will find Carlitopolis by Luis Nieto, a film where Nieto conducts 'experiments' on a mouse, including inflating it like a balloon with a straw. This program is consistently strong. The French director Yann Chayia quite effectively captures his continent's anxieties about its aging population in his film Men from Outer Space. It is a comic take on zombie films, smartly exploiting the tropes of the genre, where the elderly are invading the homes of their more youthful counterparts. A politically incorrect premise, but with a satisfying ending. Here we also find the unpretentious Sun in Winter by Samuel Collardey, truly a cinematic gem. Smartly edited, it is an evocative and touching portrait of the friendship of two regular guys that says a lot simply by allowing its characters to be themselves.

'Playground Shorts,' ostensibly for the younger audience, trades in some heavy themes, including death, isolation and race. It is refreshing to see children as an audience treated seriously, but the category does seem to be rather arbitrary. Fond de Teint, for instance, realistically captures a very young child grappling with race in a culture where he appears different from his peers. It has a kind of credibility that is fascinating, but it is difficult to see a child directly relating to it, especially as the mother is as much of the subject as her son. Besides, I imagine you would be hard-pressed to find a child who would be able to follow the English subtitles that most of the films here have. That aside, the program includes the mature, moving animation Marottes by Beno?t Razy Adults and Xavier de Choudens' charming 00h17. Those entries, and most of the festival, adults should have no trouble enjoying.

Voyages en Courts runs from 22-25 February at the
Nepal Tourism Board.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)