JWR Articles: Film/DVD - PSIFF Short Fest 2018 - International (Directors: Javier Kühn, Matan Rochlitz, Nils Clauss, Veena Rao, Elsa María Jakobsdóttir) - June 26, 2018
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PSIFF Short Fest 2018 - International

4.5 4.5

Reviewed at the 2018 edition of the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival.
Five fascinating films

As is almost always the case, films from non-U.S. locations offer a look at universal issues and art through the lens of those whose background and method are often far different than those of us native to North America.

Nevada
Javier Kühn, Spain
15 minutes, Four and one half stars

“Even monsters have parents”

Kühn has crafted a deeply personal two-hander (three if one counts the villain of the piece) that shows the absolute irrefutable love of a mother for an unseen grandchild whose pathetic father will not take yes for an answer.

In the middle, is the paid-for beauty whose role is to entice the wayward son then “calm” him down, in order for ugly justice to be served.

What judge would convict either of the women? Still, coincidentally reading Agatha Christie’s classic, And Then There Were None, resonates well with what may, or may not have actually happened.

 

I Have a Message for You
Matan Rochlitz, Italy
14 minutes, Four and one half stars

An odd sort of happy ending

With countless documentaries revealing the horrific atrocities by Nazi Germany against the Jews, it is curiously refreshing to hear that Klara, a now 90s+ woman—along with her husband Phillipe—threw caution to the wind and jumped from the train heading to Auschwitz They were hidden by sympathetic Belgians till the end of the war.

Decades later with cameras rolling. Klara recounts this extraordinary tale—not so much about her survival, but her deathly ill father on the same train of doom.

Rochlitz has carefully and thoughtfully posed the questions to this stoic survivor to let—rather than push—the story forward. It would not be nearly as poignant—at times wonderfully fanciful—without the stellar animations from May Kindred Boothby.

At the literal heart of everything is—seemingly—a message from her long-dead dad delivered ever-so coincidentally to Klara during a visit to Tel Aviv in the early ‘60s.

At one point declaring, “It’s over. I have lived,” the acceptance of life and death is palpable from Klara, whether or not her “pardon” was 100% factual or a welcome dose of wishful thinking.

 

Plastic Girls
Nils Clauss, South Korea
7 minutes, Four stars

Beauty that can only be skin deep

Here is a cautionary tale about the female sex seen as a commodity for commercial activity rather than something to be respected and admired.

The “mannequins” look wonderfully insincere and dull, with nary a wrinkle allowed to crack a smile.

The techno-electronic score is at one with this ode to giving “them” what they think will sell.

 

Rebuilding in Miniature
Veena Rao, Turkey
7 minutes, Four and one half stars

The joy of crafting small things

Forced to flee Iraq and seek refuge in Turkey, artist Ali Alamedy finds comfort and inner peace as he creates miniature scenes from places around the world that he has never seen and may never have the chance to do so. His painstakingly produced work gives a twist to an old adage, becoming “the art is in the details.”

Rao, likewise, has proven that good things do come in small packages, creating a wide-ranging portrait in just seven minutes. The icing on this visual cage is the mallet rich, plucky string score that joyfully waltzes its way through the magnificent creations.

 

Atelier

Elsa María Jakobsdóttir, Denmark
30 minutes, Three and one half stars

Studio of the damned

Largely black-and-whole imagery, “snap”-laden strings, a seemingly impregnable wall (so apropos these days) and glowing-eyed sheep. What better elements to backdrop a somewhat surrealistic essay on the creative process where no one comes up with a masterpiece. JWR

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