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Five Interesting Short Films


Welcome to what you might call the Doux Reviews Short Attention Span Film Festival. I present here for your consideration five shorts which I recently discovered and found particularly interesting. I won't go so far as to claim they are the five best short films out there, but one is my personal favorite, and each is definitely worth your time. (The title links to the film.)

Forbidden to See Us Scream in Tehran


"In this country I have no voice."

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, free expression is functionally nonexistent, popular music is subject to strict censorship, and women and girls are second-class citizens at best. Shima (Mohadeseh Kharaman) is the female lead singer for an underground death metal band, which makes her a "dangerous subversive" twice over. Frustrated with the limits imposed on their creativity, the band cooks up a daring plan: they will schedule a concert, and then report it to the "Guidance Patrol," the official enforcers of official morality. When the goon squads arrive to arrest everyone, they'll be hailed outside Iran as martyrs to free expression and, hopefully, be offered asylum in a more civilized country. Shima, who is also the guardian of her hearing-impaired younger sister Sherin (Sarina Amiri), is initially resistant to the idea, but gradually comes on board. But if Shima and the band escape Iran, what will happen to Sherin?

Forbidden to See Us Scream is an intense, well-acted, magnificently presented view of life inside a totalitarian police state, filmed entirely on location in Tehran. The actors and technicians who participated put themselves at risk of imprisonment or worse, given the film's pointed critique of Iranian society. Even more amazing, dissident writer Farbod Ardebili, who is living in exile here in the U.S., directed the production by remote video call.

Vikaari


"I am asking God, what is the plan you have for me? What is the plan you have for my daughter and me?"

In conflict zones all over the world, children are being born with blank eyes. They are emotionless and unnaturally silent, and each manifests one of three psychic powers: precognition, telepathy, or telekenisis. In South Asia, they are referred to as "vikaari," a Sanskrit word that means "things that change." Are they oracles, symbols of divine judgment, mortal enemies of the human race, or something else entirely? Sri Lanka, where the story is set, is still recovering from a bitter civil war that lasted from 1983 to 2009, and the presence of the vikaari threatens to re-ignite social conflict.

Vikaari is a real treat, with production values the equal of anything Hollywood could turn out, and some really magnificent acting. The kids playing the vikaari pull off the difficult task of being as creepily un-childlike as possible while still projecting a degree of childlike innocence. Joe Wijayanayake, who plays the worried father of a vikaari girl, gives what I consider the best performance of all. He communicates more depth of character and more genuine emotion in about a minute of screen time than some much more famous thespians will ever manage over an entire career.

Vikaari premiered at the Los Angeles Screamfest 2020 film festival, where it won a well-deserved first prize in the short films category.

Martha


Teenager Martha wakes up to discover that she's the only person left on Earth.

Shannon Tarbet turns in a magnificent performance as the title character, communicating a lot while saying very little as Martha goes from bemused to puzzled to full-on despairing. As you've probably already guessed, there's another layer to the story, and the script by Iona Firouzabadi gives us just enough clues that the ultimate reveal is surprising but not dishonest. Add the appropriate theme music and some Rod Serling narration, and Martha would easily be one of the top ten Twilight Zone episodes.

The production company's official site is here.

Little Grey Bubbles



"I bought a camera off of him through eBay, and we're both really into film and vintage cameras and I emailed him a couple of questions about it and we started geeking out about different lenses and things and it, it just grew from there."

When her online friend Marlon dies suddenly, just after he sent a text saying he had something important to tell her, Kim (Kaelen Ohm) travels to Canada to pay her respects at his funeral. There, she meets his widow (Francine Deschepper) and brother (Josh MacDonald). Kim has heard all about them from Marlon, but finds that she doesn't connect with them as well as she thought she would. For their part, Marlon's family and friends aren't really sure what to make of Marlon's surprisingly young online friend, and some are suspicious that Marlon and Kim really weren't just friends.

This is a touching story of well-meaning people trying to process personal loss in a very awkward situation. It's also a musing on the nature of friendship in the age of messaging apps and social media, and on how sometimes the people we are closest to may have a whole facet of their personality that we don't know about.

Space Girls


"We've been training for this our whole lives."

I've saved the best for last. Nine-year old Charlotte (Bella Padden) and her friends (Helena Albright, Emily Albright, Anika Selvarajah) are having a sleepover. They're obsessed with space exploration to the point that they have matching flight suit pajamas, and Charlotte even named her dog "Armstrong." The girls secretly stay up past their bedtime so they can set off on a "serious mission" in Charlotte's cardboard rocket, bravely facing the dangers of hard vacuum, zero gravity, and a four-year old little brother (Evan Cregan) who threatens to tell on them if he doesn't get to come along as a "spaceflight participant."

Space Girls is a delightful tribute to childhood and children's imaginations, and writer-director Carys Watford got some incredible performances from her young cast. It was an official selection at 33 different film festivals, nominated for 19 awards, and winner of two first prizes. It's easily the best ten minutes I've ever spent watching videos on the Internet.

Official film site here.

-Baby M

2 comments:

  1. Wow Vikaari looks highly relevant to my interests, I'm glad I checked this page out.
    I'll check out Space Girls too because cute girls doing cute things shouldn't be exclusive to my anime. And Li'l Grey Bubbles because that scenario sounds like something I'd relate to.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for recommending Vikaari, Baby M. I just watched it and enjoyed it a lot.

    ReplyDelete

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