I went, I saw, I screened… and another WWSFF comes to a close. I’m not sure if it was the nice weather or the economy, but attendance seemed to be down slightly this year, especially at the usually popular Shorts for Shorties package of films. Most screenings I attended had perhaps two dozen people in the audience at most… sometimes even fewer than that. Then again, I was seeing daytime films and didn’t hit higher-profile prime-time screenings like Celebrity Shorts, which are usually full.
There were two programmes of films where I didn’t really fall for any of the shorts, which was disappointing – but film is subjective, so perhaps others in the audience found stuff in those collections they enjoyed. (I’m opting not to name what I found to be sub-par programmes.) I was also kind of bummed that Accidentally Funny (the programme of now-hilarious educational films from decades gone by) wasn’t on the roster this year.
One of the best additions to this year’s proceedings, though, was the VEHEMENT requests that people not only turn off their cell phones and Blackberries, but that they not text between films, or check the time, or have their tiny LCD screen lit at all during screenings. Kudos to festival programmer Angie Driscoll for being rightfully strident in her pre-show intros by repeatedly using the word “obnoxious” to describe that annoying electronic habit. Amen! And thank you! (At my final fest screening, I even heard a volunteer reprimand a delinquent audience member during a film with a stern, “Turn off your cell phone, please.” YES!)
Once again, life got in the way of me seeing as many programmes as I would have liked, so I’ve decided to re-adopt the wrap-up format I used last year.
Namely, highlighting the 10 films I enjoyed most.
In alphabetical order, they were:
7:57AM-PM (France) dir. Simon Lelouch An interesting pseudo-documentary profiling a renowned violinist as he plays in two very different Paris environments – one where his talents are celebrated, and another where they are completely ignored. Beautiful music to boot.
The Black Hole (UK) dir. Phil + Olly Super-short, but cute and clever, sci-fi comedy about a bored office worker who inadvertently creates a black hole with the photocopy machine… and promptly uses it for his own gain. It’s only about three minutes long, but it’s great.
Born and Raised (Netherlands) dir. Eelko Ferwerda More evidence that all you need to create a fantastic short film – and one with a beginning, middle AND end – is a terrific idea. In this little gem, an expectant father tries to create the perfect “sound painting” to play the instant his baby is born, so that it’s the first sound the child ever hears. Hilarious!
Careful With that Crossbow (New Zealand) dir. Jason Stutter A brief, but no less potent or funny, cautionary tale about a boy, his crossbow and things going awry.
The Henhouse (UK) dir. Elena Pomares Adorable animated story, without dialogue, about a wily fox who gets a job at a café (run and patronized by humans) as a way of getting in from the rain. The sequence where his boss forces him to wear a moustache, so as not to scare customers, was perfect.
Homeland (Czech Republic/Spain) dir. Juan de Dios Marfil My favorite film of the fest. I just loved it. It’s so simple, so beautiful and so moving… I cried through most of it and I’m not even sure I could tell you why. The story is about a girl and the curious creature she befriends and lots of knitting, and I found the themes of friendship, loneliness, sacrifice, love and loss all woven into it. You can watch the entire (6-minute) film here.
The Mouse That Soared (USA) dir. Kyle Bell Sweet little computer-animated tale about a mouse who’s adopted by a pair of birds, and who becomes a side-show sensation.
Overnight Stay (USA) dir. Daniela Sherer Another moving animated story, but this time a documentary. Filmmaker Sherer interviews her grandmother about good vs. bad, and winds up with a recollection of unexpected kindness during WWII.
The Secret Life of Suckers (Spain) dir. Juan Manuel Sánchez Years ago, the WWSFF introduced me to Pib and Pog, Aardman Animation’s mishap-prone globular pals. This year? The Suckers, a collection of rear-window, suction-cupped stuffed creatures, who get up to mischief. There were three Suckers shorts in the Shorts for Shorties programme, and I think the one with the cell phone was my favorite.
The Space You Leave (UK) dir. James Newton Somber and haunting documentary featuring interviews with three parents, each of whom has had a teenaged or adult child disappear. It’s a heartbreaking film to watch, but one that left its mark with me.
The festival also handed out its awards today, and you can find all the details on the winners – including the audience award – at the official website sometime later today or tomorrow.
See you next year!