ImagiNATIVE 2020: Our Review of ‘Short Program: Black’

Posted in RWM 2020, What's Streaming? by - October 21, 2020
ImagiNATIVE 2020: Our Review of ‘Short Program: Black’

Some films are hard to categorize. That’s a true statement when it comes to the short films in imagiNATIVE’s Black program, one of their experimental programs. These shorts aim to break boundaries, and while some don’t succeed in that aim, others do. By the way, this is a content warning since some of these shorts touch on suicidal thoughts.

In gaidat/mahccat (dissociate), Sami director Sunna Nuosuniemi superimposes images on her face as she talks about a friend who has suicidal thoughts. There’s a twist here that aims to show how characters are mutable and universal, and that sometimes people can’t take their own advice. The shift, nonetheless, feels rapid and rough, and she could have done it better.

Morningstar Angeline works both behind and in front of the camera for her music video Vibrant Eyes, evoking Maya Deren in this black and white short. She occasionally uses split screen, depicting her hands and other parts of her body in isolation, praying to nature. A succinct comment on the connectivity between humans and nature.

One of the outliers here is Joshua Baker’s Vairakau Maori, the second short during this festival about a Cook Island Maori. He harvests raw materials from medicine in nature because where do you think your pills come from? Half of this is just Baker sitting the man down for an interview. There’s a strange part of me that wished he interviewed one of the people who needed the medicine.

Ingir and Marja Bal Nango’s THIS IS FICTION-19 shows a Sami woman calling her landlord about the vandalism that took place in her cabin. The Bal Nangos shoot this short from the hallway instead of in the room where their protagonist is. But they somehow still captures the intensity of what she’s feeling. FICTION-19 also comes out within the context of COVID-19 – the short’s title plays on that context. Another thing it captures is the life of a woman who normally travels through Scandinavia and gets visits from her social circle. The pandemic takes all of that away from her, and the short makes its audience feel that too.

A family comes into focus in Inuvialuk animator Tom Mcleod’s Greed Story. It specifically breathes life into a girl who must escape her father whose greed overcomes him. There’s a hand drawn expressionistic aesthetic here, but the execution can be better.

And it does get better, as we hear a Sami mother’s voice speaking out in Ann Holmgren’s VAR2020. All the short needs to show alongside that narrative poetry is light gleaming on water to express a sense of longing. The images here are the sharpest in the program. This is the second short that deals with COVID, a topic it handles with subtlety.

Hamo (Hinetu Dell) is the protagonist in the last short, Kath Akuhata Brown’s Purea. Hamo is a Maori leader calling for those who have departed from this world. All this short has to do is capture Dell walking alongside the ocean to show Hamo’s majestic presence, making us feel generations who have walked the same path as her.


  • Release Date: 10/23/2020
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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