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Campfire Film Festival May 2010

“What I ask of a work of art is that it should have either Grace or Fury, and that it should deliver either Wisdom or Mystery.”  So says the eminent film critic John Flaus, and who am I to disagree?  I myself have always been attracted to cinema as the prime art form, because of its innate ability to capture and/or create an entire world – the world (reality itself) or, indeed, the world of our experiences.


Questions of humanity, of “spirituality” if you like, are always at the forefront of films, yes, every film – but, these questions are more like answers most of the time, especially in the homogenised product of Hollywood.  Away from Hollywood, away from the cliches and platitudes, there are films that dare to question, provoke, catalyse (they have Fury), and there are others that pierce through the cliches to something true, sublime, beautiful (they have Grace).


UNDoctrinate is a brilliant short film that has Fury and delivers Mystery.  Mystery is no mean feat, especially in this day and age.  This film is like a severe European art film, like a Haneke (The White Ribbon) or Dumont (Twentynine Palms).  It has an imaginative soundtrack, some razor-sharp editing, and only one word (apart from the title) – but what a word, and, never let it be said that there is no difference between upper and lower case letters!


Alike Alove and My Mother, My Friend have Grace and deliver Wisdom.  One film is about the joy of parenting, the other about the sorrow of separation.  Life, and Death.  Alike Alove skirts close to advertising aesthetics, with its “happy” images and baby sounds, but it is not only about joy, it is joyous in itself.  Precise framing and slow-flow dissolves, of photos, and then a magical cut to moving images – the cinema as metaphor for life, the breath of life.  My Mother, My Friend is on the surface a simple documentary, but its protagonist/narrator is wonderfully candid and a great storyteller to boot.  She recalls the moment she is told her mother will die, “she’s going to die”, and at such a moment, her only response is silence, and the film captures this silence, this deep existential sorrow of death, with … yes, silence, no music, no commentary.  Now that’s wisdom.


Outlawed and Framed have Fury and deliver Wisdom.  Outlawed is an ingenious melding of thriller tension and personal diary cinema.  Within the chaos, within the confused landscape of multiculturalism and racism combined, there is the human voice saying “Hey, say hello, don’t be afraid”.  Framed is an all-too-familiar tale, down the ages, of religious persecution and social engineering.  Human nature is a complex place, full of the most beautiful good, and the most terrible evil.  Can the evil be eradicated, one day?  Can humans evolve?


Short films, unlike most features, have a real chance of delving into important life issues in a more personal and interesting way, and these five films prove that.  Also, short films are generally produced by younger filmmakers, who are dying to express themselves, their feelings.  Cinema is the most wondrous of mediums for investigating the important issues in life.  And art in general is one of life’s great salvations.



© Bill Mousoulis May 2010
This report first appeared in Campfire.