Short experimental films presented at The Brooklyn Film Festival
Reviewed by Main Tim
In an afternoon of short films laced together as “experimental” on topics of love, memory, and change—in an age ripe with digital overload via the endless storage of images and information—it was Boyland that seemed to most resonate with the audience.
Boyland, directed by Gabe Rubin and Felix Bernstein, seemed out of place in this group of semi-precious films, a few of which, where successful, were culled from excess digital flotsam. Labeled “experimental” by default of lacked qualities. Length, girth, or narrative would give most entire to conventionally-respected film festival categories. If the audience didn’t arrive at this screening to support filmmaker friends, then they came for experimentation, one would assume. However, the back and forth, almost exclusively about Boyland suggested they were more comforted by the dreamy, poetic narrative film and the ageist moral buttons it pushed. Experimental it wasn’t. The discussion ignored the films that might have been truly categorized as such.
In the after Q & A, the festival representation brought the sharing about Boyland to a close as the discussion of the May/December-style romance, à la Death in Venice, continued to be all the audience wished to discuss. Other films and their directors were virtually ignored as the chatter spiraled down to a very conservative questioning of suspected pedophilia. Was the actor in the older/wiser season of the romantic pairing truly of upstanding moral character (out of character) and just acting out the script? Clearly this pretty, dreamy film had told a story, and even captured an audience by doing so.
Other efforts in this grouping might simply be confused with music videos and other types of advertising, or The Matrix-style issues of memory, identity, and ownership magnified in the age of social media.
A sparkle in the show was Theodore Kennedy’s Something About Which Nothing Can Be Said, which answers exactly as many questions as it asks: none. It appears that Mr. Kennedy was either in the editing room employ of NBC’s Law & Order S.V.U., sweeping the floor of bits that failed to make the final cut, or just outside the building diving a dumpster. It’s possible too, that his employer insisted he take the outtakes and B-roll with audio asking actors to reposition before the slate is clapped and try and make something of what network television considers trash. An actor is told to move to his left and moves right instead. “Other left,” is the cattle herder’s reiterated direction we hear given to the actor before the camera rolls.
There’s a wonderfully tedious closeup of one actor’s hand grasping another’s, complete with the director’s off-camera audio coaching. The split-second in the end product will have the right feel and appear effortless. Meanwhile, we must share voyeuristically, the shoot crew’s process and understand it is just like watching paint dry. After a few teasing shots, Kennedy allows Mariska Hargity, the show’s star, to appear in a tight headshot and fully emote. It’s a closeup made for viewing on small hand-held devices and the tears truly glisten. She shows great empathy for the crime victim she’s comforting, but because Mr. Kennedy has let us in behind the scenes, we know it’s just a skilled actor’s technique an the actor playing the victim is scheduled to shoot tomorrow.
Finnish director Maija Blåfield’s Golden Age, like Something About Which Nothing Can Be Said, is true experimentation.The footage is also essentially found. In this case, it’s documentary footage she shot 15 years ago for a project long since abandoned. Even if she remembers what her intent was, she let’s the images speak anew in the present-tense. Subtitled from the Finnish and framed with an irregular vingnette producing a masked-tunnel to the old images, she constructs a non-narrative of the process of forgetting. A new story emerges from juxtaposition and dubbed dialogue. In Golden Age Blåfield consciously does what artists too often only do unsuccessfully: take something dead and forgotten and give it life.