Indy Film Fest: International Shorts
Capsule reviews of "The Record," "The Calf," "Earl's Town," "When Grass Grows," "Half-Meter" and "Blue Rain" playing at IFF.
For Indy Film Fest schedule and tickets, please click here.
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The New Zealand hill country is the gorgeous backdrop for this evocative drama about three teenage youngsters. About age 14 I’d guess, they tool around on their bikes looking for mischief to get into — vandalism, drinking, etc. The largest boy has a mean glint in his eye and seems headed for trouble. They encounter an injured calf and debate what to do with it, with the troublemaker advocating for killing it. It seems capricious and cruel, but there’s more than meets the eye in this observant look at growing up.
A bookish music store owner is visited one day by an old man with a record to sell. It’s a very special record — it only plays music that you’ve forgotten, the man says. It plays different songs each time, even if you pick up the needle and drop it in exactly the same place. The store owner becomes obsessed, as the various songs summon back memories of his boyhood and an unexpected separation. Black-and-white animation shifts in shapes and rhythm like a puzzle that moves with time. Strangely haunting and compelling.
Earl Thompson, an elderly man with high blood pressure and dementia, is cared for by a home health aide from Angel Care somewhere in Australia. He’s a blunt sort, probably did hard work with his hands before he got old and sick, and spends most of his time drinking beer and staring at his goldfish, Amos, named after his son. Amos, the human, shows up regularly, though Earl claims not to remember him, even denying that he is his son to the aide, Kathy. Amos also has a habit of hitting up his dad for loans, which will eventually lead to a nasty encounter, but also some humor that surprises us with its warmth. Funny and human.
When Grass Grows
Two girls, about age10, sneak off for a regular rendezvous under a tree surrounded by tall grass. It’s a micro-short (just over three minutes long) snapshot of preadolescent womanhood. One’s sister used to join them, but has gotten weird since ‘the hairs sprouted down there.’ They discuss their mothers’ periods, the prospect of having babies, shaving their legs, and other hallmarks of the rites of passage they are about to undertake. It’s an elegant little piece, though it feels like an apéritif that whets the appetite, leaving you wanting more.
Two friends are rebuilding on the plots where their old family homes used to sit. Guo, a cab driver, wants his childhood chum, Pao, a former fish farmer, to agree to each back off a half-meter on their facing walls so he can have a driveway to park his car. Pao can easily afford a car but doesn’t want one. Their disagreement leads to an outright dispute, with their mutual friend, Qing, trying unsuccessfully to mediate. Guo sneaks out in the middle of the night and redraws the line. Eventually there are fights and they start camping out to prevent the other from committing shenanigans. At home, Pao is hectored by his wife not to give in. Guo’s mother raises his son after his wife left him, and he is annoyed the kid just plays video games and doesn’t mind him. A heartbreaking slice of workaday life, where lifelong friendships and neighborly attitudes hang in the balance.
An absolutely devastating look at postpartum depression. A young woman, Sarah, and her husband show all the trappings of the joy of a newborn baby — flowers all over the house, toys, bassinet, new changing table and crib, etc. Sarah fondles her infant son tenderly, but seems disconnected and distant. Her husband tries to help but is pushed away. Her feelings of depression intensify; she misplaces the baby in the closet or falls asleep with him in the bath. There’s more to this tragic tale, but love rests at the heart of it.