EIFF 2008 Review: International Shorts: Childproof

21 Jun

The first set of films in this year’s programme of international shorts attempts to shake up our expectations of children and adolescents as protagonists as well as the kind of stories we have come to associate with young ‘uns in the lead role.

Although ditsy plotlines and cutesy characters are given the boot in favour of a slew of bad language and sexual encounters, this collection of films spanning Iceland to India is a hit and miss affair throughout so here’s a rundown of what to expect.

1. I Love Sarah Jane – USA – 2008 – 14mins

American director Spencer Susser hacks his slice out of the rom-zom-com genre with a zombie flick that sees a group of unruly Aussie teens tormenting a creature of the undead with a grass strimmer amongst other assorted weaponry.

With the moans and groans of said zombie creating an atmosphere of unparalleled romance, Susser attempts to explore the infatuations of a young boy with an older girl amidst their shared isolation. Some acceptable special effects and acting steers this little number away from B movie zombie schlock but in a vein akin to Shaun Of The Dead and I Am Legend it’s certainly not something you won’t have seen before.

2. Mumbler (Mompelaar) – Belgium – 2007 – 20mins

By far the most original and watchable of all five shorts, Mumbler follows a day in the life of Lubbert Das, a bizarre, middle-aged individual suffering from a speech impediment whose world is barely understood by himself let alone anyone else.

Directors Wim Reygaert and Marc Roels blur the line between truth and illusion making Lubbert’s walk in the forest a hilariously unnerving yet altogether unforgettable experience for viewers. A vibrant soundtrack of classical music accompanies the piece and when played at an almost ear splitting volume it only adds to the surreality of it all.

3. (Un)Ravel (Udedhbun) – India – 2007 – 21mins

The most drawn out and uneventful film in the programme, (Un)Ravel follows the story of an Indian schoolboy going about the drudgery of daily life interspersed with lustings after the local farm girl.

With dialogue few and far between, director and writer Siddharth Sinha and his team take the opportunity to showcase their vast collection of pre-recorded sound effects before going on to play them over and over and over and over again; a cat meowing proving a firm favourite. Flat and lifeless characterisation combined with uninspired cinematography scoops (Un)Ravel the award for the most achingly dull short to date. Your attention span will be tested.

4. Milky Way (Le Litre De Lait) – France – 2007 – 13mins

75 year old director Luc Moullet’s French holiday short does little to up the pace left by (Un)Ravel with a story that sees sixteen year old Gilles reluctant to fetch milk from the farmer’s wife now she has discovered that Gilles’ mother is sleeping with her husband.

Fortunately for Moullet however, there are some dryly comic interactions between Gilles and his little sister for viewers to enjoy, not to mention the predictable punchline at the end.

5. 2 Birds (Smafuglar) – Iceland – 2008 – 15mins

Finally, in a bid to justify the title of ‘childproof’, Runar Runarsson’s offering boasts a fine line in gritty teenage cliches as he successfully rams as many of the blighters into a fifteen minute short as seems humanely possible.

The result – an extended HEBS advert that proclaims the awful truth that, yes, even if you’re an innocent, fresh faced Icelandic teen you will go to a party, you will be pressured into drink and drugs and you will fall victim to some horrendously graphic sexual encounter with a man old enough to be your dad. (Un)likely to be showing at a school near you soon.

Review by Mhairi MacLeod


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