Images transport us to see how others live. For example, it shows us what it’s like to be a young mom. The shorts at this year’s Shorts Not Pants take us to those journeys. There are many ways to enjoy the festival and to choose which shorts to watch. But this year I’m taking a trip around the world and doing so without leaving the city. This is a journey with a mix of results. Let’s begin anyway!
Can we achieve world peace? Why am I asking this question? I’m not sure Andrzej Jobczyk‘s short Airborne even answers that question but I don’t mind that it doesn’t. Through animation, he reimagines a world where humans kill themselves through war. And the only things left are animals and plants that have human like designs. It uses warm neon colours set in dark mode so it’s perfect for us millennials whose eyes perpetually hurt. One of the few people who saw it did not like the accompanying music but I’ll let it pass. I actually watched Airborne during Veterans Day, which was the perfect short to watch that day, but it’s never too late. It is part of the first block of shorts playing in person on the 18th.
Comedy shorts are a dime a dozen, and for a while, Vedran Rupic‘s The Diamond seems more like cubic zirconium. A man (Erik Sjöström) tries to befriend a little person (Rodridgo Pozo Vizcarra) so that he can use the latter to get a diamond that he thinks will buy him friends. The CG and the stilted acting in English – this is a Swedish production – is so intentionally bad that it becomes good. And it actually goes places that earn its uniqueness.
Also playing on the 18th is the second block of films which include shorts like Emile V. Schlesser’s Kowalsky, about Jean (Raoul Schlechter), a member of the titular family that isn’t as rich thanks to him ruining the family business. Most of the things we know about him and his mother Mimi are through expository dialogue. Anyway, he asks Mimi to pawn off the family jewels to pay for his house and to feed his wife Eva, and she turns him down. This leaves him no choice but to steal from her, an act that eventually leads into the short’s twist which doesn’t really work. The short’s aesthetics also feel too amateurish.
The second block also Mehdi Pierret‘s Le mobilier, or The Furniture. Its protagonist, Ilidia (Isabelle Anciaux), is an exasperated custodian at an art gallery that is mountain an exhibit where artists pose at furniture, which has larger impications because, you know, the art world. At first, its brash satire of the art world brushed me the wrong way because I majored in art history and they weren’t all like this, but this satire points to the world at large where indifference is the norm. Society, in this case, sees small acts of kindness as heroism, which is something I agree with. The better comedy short of the block and the whole fest at large.
Block 3, one of the few blocks playing on the 19th, has Morad Mostafa‘s Khadiga. Clocking it at 19 minutes, it’s the second longest of the shorts I’m writing about in this piece. This is one of the shorts I referenced in the opening paragraph, with the titular character (Malak Tarek) having no way to support herself. She actually has husband who works overseas but his vacation keeps getting postponed. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not.
Regardless, Khadiga an interesting look into Egyptian society that doesn’t look twice at a young single mom. Although the short has less concerns about society than it does her permanently sad face that it captures on widescreen. Kudos to Tarek for that. Khadiga does something shocking in the middle of the short. This is the lowest rated film of the shorts I’m writing about, at least that’s what it shows on Letterboxd. Maybe that’s because some might see this as poverty porn, but it toes that line well.
Block 3 is the most diverse block. The programme continues that journey with Fan Sissako’s On The Surface. It uses impressionistic animation to show a Black woman swimming on the shores near icy mountains. The subject and the landscape beautifully signify that this short is an Icelandic production of a Malian woman’s story. The shorts seems to exist for the narration of a woman talking to her child, but there’s enough mix of poetry and prose to make this worth watching.
The Sea Calls for Me from Tumpal Tampubolon is on the next block of shorts playing during the same day. I got mild spoilers for this and I apologize for doing the same. So this short is about Sura (Muhammad Umar). He’s a boy who lives in the trash filled shores of a market town in rural Indonesia, and within that trash is a white blow up doll. He tries to protect that doll from an older boy (Dikky Takiyudin). That doll is the most major adult character in this short that kind of shows the Peanuts-y world that Sura lives in. Great use of widescreen ratio to depict occasionally contained surroundings. This is the best of the shorts I’m writing about. It is also a selection from this year’s Reel Asian festival.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, History, Short, War
- Release Date: 11/18/2022
- Directed by: Andrzej Jobczyk, Emile V. Schlesser, Fan Sissoko, Mehdi Pierret, Morad Mostafa, Vedran Rupic
- Starring: Dikky Takiyudin, Erik Sjöström, Isabelle Anciaux, Malak Tarek, Muhammad Umar, Raoul Schlechter, Rodrigo Pozo Vizcarra
- Produced by: Christian Kuosmanen, Fabien Colas, Mandy Marahimin, Sawsan Yusuf, Siamand Masoodian
- Written by: Andrzej Jobczyk, Emile V. Schlesser, Fan Sissoko, Gustav Sundström, Mohamed Mamdouh, Nara Nugroho
- Studio: INSAS, Kite Rock Pictures, Letko, Red Star Films, Tanakhir Films