Kranti Kanade’s short Idol (2011) comes across first as a plain narrative of irreconcilable tension between the two generations in a Marathi family. The son is a devoted fan of Maradona, a football giant who scored the “goal of the century,” and his father believes in the worship of Ganesh and sticks to his fatherly authority. The son isn’t allowed to watch Maradona on TV in the house, for what was a crucial match. The tension leads to fits of temper and anger which seem sad but inevitable. The narrative remains with you to dwell on deeper issues of the divide in belief systems. The modernism of the football games and telecasts are pitted against the non-negotiable authority of the fathers. The short has the economy of the form, the brevity of presenting an issue and the insight of raising questions. A clean and crisp work, the film exhibits control over the form and the narrative and demands admiration for presenting the issues in such clarity.
Beholder (2011), USA
Nisha Ganatra’s Beholder comes from the TV anthology series, Futurestates, a provocative and engaging project from PBS that invited film makers to think of the future that is upon us. It is an admirable attempt and yet another example to deploy anthology form (this time on TV) towards social purpose. Perhaps the most famous of the series belongs to Ramin Behrami’s The Plastic Bag, a film on the environment with voice over narration by Werner Herzog. The full series is available online.
Placed in a gated community, the film projects a future where genetic control of the offspring would be critical. The goal fits with the singularizing utopian power that is behind the concept of the gated community, a sort of police-state that is cleansed of all cultural and social undesirables in search of a pure and sanctified life. When a pregnant wife of an active politician (with apt last name “Aryana”) finds out that she is carrying a “gay gene,” the machinery to control the purity runs into familiar gear. The film purports to project fright and bias to alert us of the future that may well be lurking around the corner.
The synopsis of the film claims that it touches on the “issues of race, sexual orientation and conformity,” while it also “examines the notion of identity and the costs of belonging.” A pursuit of this multi-level agenda is evident in the narrative that fails to take high peaks. This may be a summary of a liberal outlook on social critique. For a short film that demands brevity and begs for clarity, the film attempts to be ambitious in reach, plus at times quite preachy when the central crisis seems quite bare. A common temptation as we know to address all that we can in the shortest time we can.
The film has the merits of high production value, with sharp camera work. Jessica Paré’s transparent face adds weight to what could have been a strong contribution to the cause and form of anthology form.
In That Moment (2010), USA
Shipriya Mahesh’s film about a brief romantic, mysterious and yet quite an ordinary encounter between a performance artist whose still poses are meant to attract both small donors and admiration and a woman who seems to be the attention of his gaze. Without words and with ample richness of images in B &W, the film is a short and sweet surprise. If short films were to make statements of grandiose proportions, we would we would come away very dissatisfied most of the time. But if they were meant to lead you to affective and then the levels of thought, then they carry the force of their form. This film is a good example of what the form claims the idea that brevity is the wit of the soul.
The Stitches Speak (2009)
I reviewed this film at the Rotterdam International Film Festival (IFFR) last year. It left me with admiration then and now it merely confirmed it. This is Nina Sabnani’s film that animates the actual handicraft work done by the women artisans of Kutch to narrate their own story of migration, survival and claim to make a statement through their work. A remarkable piece of work that leaves you looking for more from this artist.
Tubelight’s Moon (Tubelight Ka Chand) (2010)
An ode to the imaginative reach of a young child and a quick sketch of the urban poor, Shlok Sharma’s film is about a child that dreams of the moon and makes one of his own. Lyrical and crisp, the film shows how dreams need not look for commodities to quench their thirst. His ill-begotten Moon is as admirable as his place in the lonely world of his own ingenuity is sad. Charming piece of work that ought to leave you glad you watched it.
Wheeling Dreams (Chal Meri Luna) (2010)
Hardik Mehta’s short about the rivalry between a bicycle and luna is brief and with the production quality and limited ambition of sketching an encounter it lives to its purpose. Appears to be a work of apprentice years and as such the film deserves attention. Shorts are often opportunities to hone one’s skills and there is a place for that too.
The Return Address (2010), USA
Set in 1955, this is a narrative that portrays a young boy who lives up to Oprah-like ideal of doing good deeds to those you know and those you don’t. A quick and impressive sketch, the film is labor of narrative simplicity. Abi Varghese goes for high production values particularly recreating a time-period for a short film. A film like this serves more as a calling card than a statement in its own right. This is how we begin to distinguish between the short reach of short films and the other potential of short films. A well made production that serves its aims.