Kia Ora and welcome to the September edition of the Show Me Shorts Screening Room. Here we’ll take a look at some short films you can find online that we find interesting and try to give some perspective, background, or at least some (hopefully) relevant anecdotes about the films we discuss on the 1st of each month.
I’m Kanna, a volunteer at Show Me Shorts. This edition of the Screening Room is inspired by a quote that I read in an article recently about a fashion writer called Jefferson Hack. In the article, he was quoted as saying
“Storytelling is central to human existence, and it’s the foundation of memory, imagination and culture. The important factor for me is engagement, not escapism. Inspiring your audience to think for themselves is more powerful than merely distracting them.”
While Jefferson Hack was referring to print media, I think that this quote can just as easily be applied to film.
For me, being engaged in a film is about believing and investing in a world on screen. It’s about being drawn in, being pushed around, and being left in a state of wonder. It’s about being surprised. It’s about sitting there as the credits roll and feeling like you understand something about life that you didn’t before. It’s about waking up days later with the film still having a lingering presence in your mind.
Personally, I find that the most engaging films are those that adopt the strategy of ‘less is more’. Choosing to omit certain aspects of the film not only refines the film’s core structure, but also draws the audience’s attention to what is not shown on the screen. As Jefferson Hack suggests, this empowers the audience by inspiring them to think for themselves, engaging them in the film and ultimately enriching their cinematic experience. While filmmakers may feel more inclined to turn to spectacle or excessive layers of detail to engage their audience, I think that a minimalist approach can be really powerful in honing the focus of a film to eliminate the unnecessary and reveal what is most important in the film. To explore this idea, I would like to share with you three short films.
‘Missing Her’, directed by Michael Weisler, was a finalist at the 2011 Tropfest Short Film Festival. It follows the story of a young Thai boy who moves to Melbourne after being adopted by an Australian couple. With very little dialogue and a narrative driven largely by the couple’s struggle to communicate with their new son, this film is engaging in its ability to approach an uneasy subject in a subtle and touching way. The child at the centre of this film is incredibly endearing, and you might find yourself rooting for him more and more as the film progresses.
‘Les Soirs’, directed by Julien Pietri, is a film about a young girl who uses television as a way to escape the bleak world that surrounds her. What I find most compelling about this film is the fact that it contains absolutely no dialogue, leaving the viewer with the responsibility of filling in the gaps in the narrative. While the child’s loneliness is ever-present, I found that the girl’s resilience and audacity meant that I was never really left feeling overwhelmed by the sadness of her situation. ‘Les Soirs’ is a film that is both simple and fleeting, yet its poignancy and feeling of authenticity makes it an extremely refreshing and rewarding watch.
The Third One This Week
The final film I would like to share with you is ‘The Third One This Week’, a short film directed by Felix Thompson which first screened at SXSW in 2011. Set entirely within the confines of the men’s restroom, this film is an intimate look into a doctor’s attempt at preparing himself to deliver some bad news. There is a fantastic use of space in this film, with some beautiful shots that really enhance the tension between the two characters and the all-knowing audience. What is most interesting about this film for me is what the filmmaker has chosen to omit, rather than include. While the film could very well have extended beyond the scene in the bathroom, the film ends at a perfect point, leaving the audience hanging.
So, in conclusion, I hope you have enjoyed this month’s installment of the Screening Room! Film as a medium is a truly powerful thing, and the potential it has to create thought-provoking, sincere, engaging works of art are endless. Thanks for joining us and hope to see you again next month!