Monday, October 19, 2009

This Place I Stand: Shorts Program 2

The prevailing theme of this program is the encounter of native and non-native cultures. Maybe that's why it hit closest to home out of all the shorts programs I saw. The PSA-style didacticism of Shane Belcourt's "Boxed In" is swept away by Blackhorse Lowe's stunning "Shimasani", worlds away from his tentative romantic comedy efforts. A young Navajo finds tradition and worldliness to be tragically segregated; the irresolution of the final shot is devastating. "Ivan and Ivan" follows the workaday details of an Indigenous Russian family until the tank comes to take the young one off to school. Director Philipp Abryutin's style is supremely deliberate, drawing you in with no production values and barely any dialogue. Daniel Gerson's "Welcome" depicts a child navigating a nightmare world of relentless substance abuse in inner-city Winnipeg; gorgeous and humane, it also embodies the sentimental view of childhood that ran through many of the films in the festival, and which I find kind of alienating. In "Jacob", Dena Curtis depicts the birth of a half-white child into an all-Aboriginal community with an assured and unflinching austerity. Adrian Wills' "Bourke Boy" depicts a quite remarkably tender relationship between a white father and his adopted Aboriginal son, while unfortunately sidestepping every available outlet for drama or dynamics. "Journey to Ihipa" depicts more complex racial dynamics, as a batty old woman has an unhappy reunion with her long-estranged son; Nancy Brunning's honest and complex film is undermined by confusing exposition and an unsatisfying conclusion. And in "Keao (The Light)" Emily Anne Kaliko Spenser shows how one woman rejects Hawaiian tourist-exotica for the traditions that lie beyond it; the film is simple but concise and clear-eyed, and it looks great.

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