Reviews

T(HE)Y (Director Caroline Callender, Silver Liftin)

The documentary T(HE)Y is the short student debut of Caroline Callender and Silver Liftin. This film is dedicated to the problem of transgender teenagers. There are two main characters in this film — Dakota Nieves and Indiana Baker. They are high school students in New York City. They look very positive and confident. They tell their stories of relationships with others and, above all, with their families. Their stories look very emotional and sincere. Both the characters cause sympathy and amiability.

The film was shot with great skill. The directors do not just show interviews of the characters, but they also came up with interesting shots, as well as inserted fragments of chronicle. However, the authors do not abuse external effects focusing on the heroes. The camera is considering the characters very carefully. We see both general and close-ups. For ten minutes films we live a small life together with the heroes. Thanks to the competent alternation of general and close-ups, the viewer feels that he is personally familiar with the characters of the film.

According to the characters stories, we understand that the theme of transgender people is not as simple as it seems. First of all, the heroes of the film had to overcome the lack of understanding of the immediate environment and some family members. The film does not aim at global coverage of this topic. It is important for the authors to give the floor to two specific young people who are no different from their peers. Transgender is not presented in the film as a problem. The transgenders should not be perceived as a problem. This is just a phenomenon of the individual nature of a particular person.

The film quite copes with its task. It has become a window into a world for young transgender people. Yes, it is believed that the USA is a free and tolerant country. But American society still need such a film. Especially such the films will be useful for more conservative and traditional societies. Silencing and denying the existence of people with such a nature is a big mistake. But any aggression against them is a real antihuman crime. And thanks to movies like T(HE)Y, people have the opportunity to take a closer look at the transgender experience. Even this short film is enough for understanding that these people do not pose a threat to the foundations of society.

If this movie can have the shortcomings, they are in a certain monotony and lack of dynamics. The characters sitting in the same place a lot of time. It looks like they were interviewed in one day. Mostly it’s was made like a television film. However, if the directors caught heroes in different days in different situations, in different mood, the movie could be have cinematographic language. This would help to create a three-dimensional portrait of the hero. When we see the same landscape behind the motionless hero, after a while we get bored.

In conclusion, we must admit that in general the film is very strong and honest. It is not by chance that it became the winner and participant of many international film festivals. The theme of transgender teenagers should be more widely sanctified in the cinema. This practice will contribute to the development of society tolerance and helps families to accept such children.

My Name Was January (Director Elina Gress, Lenee Son)

The documentary film My Name Was January directed by Elina Gress, Lenee Son is dedicated to the tragic fate of 26-year-old transgender January Marie Lapuz, who was killed in her home in New-Westminster (Canada).

January lived a very difficult life. She was an immigrant from the Philippines. To earn a living, she was forced to be survival sex worker. She was also a good singer and dancer. She was practically a cult character in the local LGBT community. She had many friends and admirers.

The film consists of the interviews with people who knew January closely. Thanks to their fragmentary stories we can create in our mind an image of a living person who recently lived near these people. The most touching episodes is the conversation with January’s mother. She still has a habit of calling January as «he.» Impossible to watch without tears the mother’s monologue. She looks devastated and deeply unhappy. But in a few minutes later we find out that this woman is not January’s birth mother. It turns out she took the baby from another woman for a fee. It happened in the Philippines. And this is one of the most shocking moments.

The film contains a lot of touching and emotional moments. The most memorable moments is a documentary footage with January. We see a cheerful and pretty woman who is a pride favorite.

The filmmakers do not try to put a global task in this work. They are interested in private story of a common person who died, but remained in the memories.

If you look away from the main theme of the film, it turns out that after death, we all somehow continue to live in other people’s memories. This gives reason to think about this virtual immortality. At the very least, there is an incentive to be a good person. January was just such a person. She left behind bright and good memories.

Watching this film we involuntarily think that even Western free society has a problem of acceptance of «other». January was a transgender and sex worker. She had to lead a risky life. Was this lifestyle was the only way to make a living?

After watching the film we have a many other questions. January was an immigrant. Did this fact prevent her from building any career in Canada? How her death has influenced on Canadian society? Watching the movie we involuntarily compare this situation with such conservative countries where the problem of transgender people is silenced. For example, the transgender people in Russia are initially live in a marginal position. But the situation with January shows that the problems of transgender socialization are take place in western countries.

This film must show people that transgender people are the same people as others. They are not perverts or lunatics. And public institutions should help them adapt to society.

This story was filmed with great skill and it leaves a lot of thoughts and questions after viewing. Even if you see January first time in this movie and never heard about her until this moment you would imbued with sympathy to her person and you will empathy for her tragic fate.

Last Conversation (Director Karolina Łachmacka)

Last Conversation is a short student film directed by Karolina Łachmacka. As it often happens in student films, all the action takes place in one location with two actors. Of course, they talk between each other. Of course, it’s a man and a woman. Of course, they are talking about parting.

Strictly speaking, this is not a film in the conventional sense. This is a qualitatively performed exercise of the film school. Yes, this work was done at a high level and it demonstrates the professionalism of the whole team. However, it is very difficult to identify the idea and artistic value of the film. There is a feeling that Karolina Łachmacka has mastered the technical side of the film and she has high filmmaking skills, but she has nothing to say. However, this is quite normal for a novice filmmaker.

So, what this film is about? There’s a girl we don’t know anything about. We know neither her profession nor her social status. By the way the presence of the details would help to create a voluminous character and a viewer could be empathized with hero. We can only say one thing about the man: he looks older than the woman. They are sitting in the cafe, and the woman tells not really convincing story about rape. It makes squeamish reaction of the man. He does not sympathize with her and he doesn’t try to find out the details. He just says he can’t touch her anymore. Then the woman says that it was a joke and she goes away.

Of course, in a brief retelling it is impossible to see the real advantages of this work. But they are really exists. It should be noted that an acting is really gorgeous. Emotionality and temperament of Ayvianna Snow is perfectly combined with melancholy and restraint of Trevor Murphy. Close-ups of the actors create the necessary intensity of emotions. Ayvianna Snow lives a whole life within minutes. The documentary hand-held camera creates the effect of presence. It seems we’re seeing an episode of real life. Summarizing, we can say that the best thing in the film is the acting.

The advantages of film over. The story is absolutely banal and devoid of any turn.

Speaking of the script, we must notice that there is an absolutely banal story without any turn. Watching this film we must remember famous French short film On s’embrasse? directed by Pierre-Olivier Mornas. At the heart of this work we can find the same story. However, parting story is deliberately pushed into the background and it forms the necessary final twist. In fact, one short film has two storylines that connect at the end. First we see one story. Then the final twist opens a second story and gives a deeper meaning to the story we have seen first.

There’s nothing like that in Last Conversation. We see a simple story without the second layer. The viewer can’t wait for some unusual twist. But there is actually no final. The story ends as trivial as it began. The woman moves away and that’s all. Where’s the reward for the audience? What should we be shocked or surprised by in this story? Thus, this film was created only to evaluate the professionalism and talent of its creators, but not the story itself.

Baby For President (Directors Vincenzo Vermicelli, Alex Justo Zulueta)

The feature film Baby For President is a parody humorous show produced by the Mashed Potato Players. Vincenzo Vermicelli and Alex Justo Zulueta created the film at the intersection of genres: a comedy, a political satire, a parody of the TV show. The film is made in an original way, combining a comedy story and an experimental concept.

The plot is based on an absurd situation. Five year old boy Dominic and his father have seen a same dream in which Dominic becomes a President of the United States. Next, for an hour and a half, we see the election campaign with Dominic and Incumbent President Herbert H. HOOEY. The novelty of the concept is that we watch a film shot in an unusual way. The camera does not follow the characters and does not show them in different situations, as in traditional cinema. Instead, we see the «talking heads» of leading TV shows and various experts throughout the film. Thus, we perceive the history of the confrontation between the boy and the President as it would be shown on television in real time.

Choosing an experimental concept, the authors always risk to lose the attention of the audience, if it will be immune to creative search. By the way, a story of the boy’s struggle for the presidency, for all its absurdity, could be shot as an ordinary comedy with an ideal dramatic structure. Such the film would have main character Dominic, who opposes to his antagonist HOOEY. The hero’s goal is to become President, and the antagonist’s goal is to stop him. We would be waiting for the final scene with classical finale where the hero defeats the antagonist. We also would be grateful for a crazy final twist turning the story upside down.

The film, stylized as a TV show, frankly, not the most exciting spectacle. When you look at successive TV presenters and experts more than hour, your hand involuntarily looking for the remote control of the TV. At some point, the movie starts to seem too long, and even humor doesn’t save the situation. Nevertheless, somewhere in the middle of the film you can feel a full immersion, and you get so used to this format that the authors ‘ idea becomes close and clear to you.

The filmmakers show us the story of Dominic through «watching TV». We see only short inserts with Dominic and HOOEY, and all main part we see the various TV shows. In fact, the purpose of this film is to show the true nature of modern society. Despite the fact that we are talking about the United States, we can find that the same system works in other countries. Despite the existence of the Internet, the TV still plays an important role in the mass consciousness. In fact the talking heads from the TV create reality, no matter how strange it sounds.

This film is a deep political satire on modern society. Even if you’ve never seen the American TV shows, you’d be surprised how similar it is to what you can see everyday on TV in most countries of the world. Brainwashing and the formation of fake reality – this is the main task of television in the modern world.

The film Baby For President is not a story about a stupid President HOOEY and a child Dominic, but about the reality in which we live. The authors of the film make the audience think about very serious things through comedy and parody .

A Collective Tragedy Waibel’s Stalingrad Inferno (Director Handuo Zhang)

A Collective tradedy: Waibel’s Stalingrad Inferno is a documentary work by young director Handuo Zhang. The main character of the film is visual artist and poet Joachim Waibel. He is an author of the painting series dedicated to Stalingrad battle. This artist has his own creative style, which has absorbed many modern trends of visual art. His paintings with abstract and postmodern influences are designed to influence on emotional and associative perception.

The timing of the film is only 13 minutes. During this time Handuo Zhang shows the process of preparation for the exhibition, the footages of military chronicle, the interviews with art experts. Despite its short form, the film is very informative. It allows the viewer to get a general idea of the artist and his works.

When we see how Joachim Waibel prepares the installation of paintings, it seems we’re looking at the intimate process of creation. A true artist can always express things the way he sees them. It’s gonna be a unique and unlike any other vision. That is why every creative act is nothing but a new universe of here and now. Without a doubt, the director is not accidentally use the shot where the cleaning lady wipes the paint off the floor. Contemplating this, the viewer observes an act of art. A paint on the floor is perceived as a part of the creative idea. It illustrates how the paintings can overcome their boundaries and leave a mark not only in the souls of the audience. And then it becomes clear that in the same way a war leaves the traces in human history. These are the footprints that can’t be erased clean.

It’s very difficult to tie Waibel’s pictures to historical Stalingrad. If there were no military chronicle shots in the film, it would be difficult for us to build an associative array. There is nothing that could be associated with the battle of Volga in 1942-1943 in the pictures that we see in the film. Then why is it Stalingrad?

The fate of mankind was decided in Stalingrad. In case of victory of Nazism it is impossible to imagine how the further history of mankind would develop. It would be a catastrophe not only for individual peoples, but for all mankind. That is why the works of Joachim Waibel evoke the horror and terror. The predominance of black and red colours shows all the dirt of the war without the pathos and heroism. At the same time they open all abyss of darkness which have been defeated the by Soviet people.

The film by Handuo Zhang does not overload the viewer with artistic information and biographical details. At the same time, the film is something more than an information report. This is a documentary observation that allows you to highlight the main thing in a particular creative project of the artist. A Collective tradedy: Waibel’s Stalingrad Inferno is a wonderful presentation of the artist and his works. This movie opens up an artist Joachim Waibel and  encourages the viewer to become interested in his work.