Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 6:29 pm 
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Shorts Program One
Under the Sun / Ri Guang Zhi Xia
Yang Qiu, China, 2015, 19m
Chinese with English subtitles
An incident of random nature entangles two families and brings their plights into sharp focus.

We are in strong ironic Jia Zhang-ke territory here, with the cool, distant camera placement, the grim urban backgrounds, and the slow buildup through dialogue of a picture of backbiting, corruption, and cynicism in he face of China's economic explosion and eco-nightmare. The story focuses, crabwise, onn a young man who helped an old lady in an accident, and has been persecuted and threatened with a lawsuit ever since by police and greedy relatives. The best and most significant film in this set. Made under the aegis of Australia's Melbourne University film school, it was an official selection at Cannes 2015 and has received best short nominations at nine different international festivals.

Darius Clark Monroe, USA, 2014, 7m
With an unsettling lyricism all his own, Darius Clark Monroe traces an evocative and elliptical portrait of a dirty deed.

Strong, vivid filmmaking doesn't mean this makes much sense or grabs much purchase on its narrative, but may be promise of something powerful to come. Monroe directed the autobiographical 2014 documentary feature Evolution of a Criminal, which I saw and reported on from IFC Center. Dirt was shown and nominated for best short at Sundance. It shows former jailed bank robber Monroe is still making films and it has more polish than his debut.

Marte Vold, Norway, 2015, 20m
Norwegian with English subtitles
In seemingly idyllic Oslo, a couple demonstrates the discontents of intimacy with wit and biting honesty. U.S. Premiere

This meandering series of domestic incidents is a bore. A few touches of humor aren't enough to make it memorable.

Reluctantly Queer
Akosua Adoma Owusu, Ghana/USA, 2016, 8m
In a letter home to his beloved mother, a young Ghanaian man attempts to unpack his queerness in light of her love. North American Premiere

Simple and sincere, this doesn't get very ambitious with its discreetly homoerotic images focused on collaborator on the writing, Kwame Edwin Otu, sitting around, taking a shower, and in bed with a white lover. The evidently autobiographical narration is touching. Most tellingly, he explains to his mother in Ghana that while in America he faces the legacy of slavery every day and is surveilled, still there is the advantage over back home where he cannot show his "secret" nature, his gayness as he can here. Shown in six festivals in early 2016.

Isabella Morra
Isabel Pagliai, France, 2015, 22m
French with English subtitles
The courtyards of a housing project become a de facto stage on which unsupervised children perform, spreading rumors and shouting insults in an imitation of adulthood. North American Premiere

It's astonishing to see the large number of people involved in making this uninteresting film of kids in the banlieu talking about nothing, playing with a doll, or sitting around. The aim is to show how much time is wasted here. But there have been so many exciting, imaginative, important films made about life in the cités. Matthieu Kasovitz's La Haine and Abdellatif Kechiche's early Games of Love and Chance come to mind. This simply seems lazy. A waste of time.

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