A Moment in Time & The Masculine and Mysterious
VAFF's Saturday short programs run the gamut from provoking and emotional, to funny and fantastical. "A Moment In Time", as you might imagine, features films that deal with events in the context of time. "The Masculine & Mysterious" bundles films dealing with Asian masculinity featuring, oddly enough, animation. Warning, this post is spoiler central.
A Moment in TimeYellow Sticky Notes
Drawn and captured by the director, this film chronicles his life over the course of nine years - a life full of appointments - as well as what he was doing when major events happened. The film's most touching moment reflects on the events of September 11th, 2001 in New York; a rabbit whose ears are shaped like the Twin Towers loses them to crashing airplanes. Yellow Sticky Notes is available on Jeff Chiba Stearns' YouTube channel here.
Food for the Gods
Food for the Gods was a produced at Vancouver Film School. With a budget of $10,000 (most of which was donated in professional services), it looks very polished - with good acting, good shooting, great set work - though the pacing could have been tighter.
Wianbu is very difficult to watch. It depicts the brutal, repeated rape of a young woman at the hands of Japanese soldiers. The cinematography and editing forces the audience to experience her violation and her hopelessness. The film begins but never really ends; rather it forces you to live in an endless moment.
Servants of War
I'm not sure what the intentions were in following Wianbu with Servants of War. Should I have been thankful that I did not have to watch two films depicting rape at different times, but rather in quick succession - to hit me hard and then let me free? Servants of War tells the story of a Japanese soldier who, along with a war comrade, storms the house of a young woman and her kid sister. They force the residents to cook them a meal before one soldier demands that the other rape the two girls. At first the protagonist resists, but, after his loyalty is questioned by the other soldier, he submits and rapes the young girl. Once he finishes, he is horrified by the monster he's become and kills the other soldier. Fantastic acting heightens an already devastating watch.
The Letter Goodbye
A period piece that takes place during WWII, depicting stories of soldiers living in the trenches. Through one soldier's letters to his lover, we are shown the significance of a simple parchment when what is most important is taken away.
Grange Avenue depicts a love story between a Chinese immigrant named Raymond, and Julia, a Caucasian woman, during the 1960's civil right's movement. The overall tone is reminiscent of Cold Mountain - cold and sparse. It features great acting and good editing, but also an unfortunately abrupt ending. In one sense the couple are very much in love and talking about eloping, then the next scene informs us that Julia has aborted their child and is leaving Raymond because 'the times' won't allow it. After their relationship has been built up fighting racism, it feels jarring when that issue suddenly becomes the reason the end everything.
Light Years is about what happens during the last eight minutes of the world - the time it takes light from the sun to reach our planet. We are shown the stories of four pairs of people all over the world. The film is beautifully acted, expertly shot, and contains great dialogue. We are shown all the emotions that might manifest within us if such a moment were to arrive.
The Masculine & Mysterious
600 follows a young man as he struggles to come to terms with his life. Where is he going? What will he do? The film follows him as he stumbles around drunk in the rain, with a voice-over narrating his fears. I spoke with a friend who taught English in Japan and he echoed the sentiments of the protagonist. Short and to the point.
Snapshot: Six Months of the Korean American Male
This film, through media clips, attempts to show the life of Korean men within a 6 month period in 2006. From the fangirl idolization of John Cho, to the tragic Virginia Tech shootings, filmmaker Valerie Soe attempts to show a moment, through the tinted glasses of pop culture.
Asian Task Force
Asian Task Force is a mock TV show pilot depicting an Asian A-Team. Between intricate and inspired (a food strainer is used as a weapon at one point) fight sequences, and ridiculously cheesy dialogue, it really feels like a serious rendition of an action show from the 80's. At the time, shows like Miami Vice were serious business, but looking today, they seem cliche and preposterous which makes them hilarious. Because it takes itself so seriously, ATF is hilarious.
S/He follows a young woman as she struggles with her gender identity. She fantasizes about being a soldier and cutting her hair. She sees her peers hitting puberty and prays that it doesn't happen to her. Her parents try to reach her as she slips into depression. It is only when she is allowed to cut her hair that we see her true self.
It Strikes Twice
When a young man encounters a Korean immigrant who claims to have been struck by lightning, he is skeptical. The lack of trust between the two represents the cultural disconnect between different generations of Asian Americans. Great dialogue, funny and provocative at the same time.
When Roger accidentally delivers drugs to a beautiful stranger instead of Chinese food from his mother's restaurant, the stranger enlists his help in quitting her job from an Internet "modelling" site. Roger must act as her fiance to scare off a possessive boss. Initially reluctant to help, Roger finds strength as he realizes that her situation may be not so different from his own. This film is quite entertaining and the awkward chemistry between the leads works perfectly.
When a young lady who can only speak Korean and a young man who can't go back to his place, they cannot communicate at all - at first. As it turns out, she is with him because she wants to make a former lover jealous and keeps calling her ex for a play-by-play. Our protagonist doesn't understand what's going on, but they end up "communicating" in the most passionate way when both realize that they are both lost. Beautifully shot, featuring fantastic acting.
Machine with Wishbone
Machine with Wishbone highlights the kinetic sculpture of artist Arthur Ganson. Filmmaker Randall Okita features Ganson's works with stunning cinematography and editing. Little intricate machines travel by themselves and interact with each other over a fantastic score. The framing of shots is fantastic; I'm a sucker for fooling around with depth of field, and this film has that in spades.
Egg Ghost is a claymation short about a ghost girl that chases and ultimately seduces a young man. When he gives into her seduction, she gains a face, while he loses his. It is he who becomes the egg. I love that this film was done in claymation. While sometimes it can seem cheesy, it can also be unsettling when its characters are human.
PHEW...all films accounted for.
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