Experimental reflections on play expose the performativity and laws of modern life. Each of the filmmakers pushes boundaries in this selection of expressive, challenging, and hybrid short films. This compilation program includes: The Grannies, Constrain, Semiotic Plastic, and Gangnam Beauty.
The Grannies (Marie Foulston, GB/AU 2021) (17 min.)
Peeking behind the curtain: This is how the Grannies describe what they’re up to. Behind the jokey name is a small group of creatives who play the computer game Red Dead Online together—though they’re not actually “playing the game” as intended. Rather than completing the missions set in late 19th-century America, they set out like true pioneers towards the periphery of its playable world—and beyond.
Taking advantage of a glitch in the programming, they let themselves fall off the edge of the map. These virtual adventurers provide commentary for scenes from the game that are often presented in split-screen to replicate the multiplayer feel. With infectious enthusiasm and a keen eye for detail, they describe the landscapes they discover beyond the boundaries of the game world; the plains whose contours become increasingly indistinct, and where the influence of the laws of the game grow ever weaker. The imagery and voiceover combine to otherworldly and evocative effect in a travelogue about a journey to another digital dimension.
Constrain (Antoine Fontaine & Galdric Fleury, FR 2020) (11 min.)
Jerky footage, shouting, flashing lights, explosions, gasping breaths: these chaotic opening scenes evoke the feeling of a riot, but there isn’t a single person to be seen. This experimental and politically charged animated film uses abstract techniques to make tangible the impact of the repression of individuals based on physical characteristics, nationality, and social conditions.
The movements of anonymous bodies in a bare space where the aggressors remain invisible are based on actual cases of police violence in France. The monotone instrumental soundscape feeds into the menacing atmosphere.
This new reality in which the film immerses us raises the question of how to engage with the role we've been assigned in this rigid scenario, and how that role can lead to a person being restricted, coerced, humiliated, harmed, or killed.
Semiotic Plastic (Radu Jude, RO 2021) (22 min.)
The makers of this short film must have had fun reenacting human existence with plastic toys, from birth to death, through childhood, youth, adulthood, and decline into old age. The effect is also sinister as these soulless plastic dolls become huge on the cinema screen.
Detailed tableaux vivants depict the archetypal phases of human existence: a Barbie spreads her impossibly long legs to give birth to a Barbie baby, accompanied by electronic crying baby sounds. Wind-up baby dolls stiffly taking their first steps, Lego commuters wait at the station for their Lego train. Plastic Indians fight wars with plastic cowboys. And poignantly, a doll stands alone facing a row of toy tanks. Of course, there is a lot of sex, in every possible variation. And there is despair, stupidity, cruelty, and racism, because here too the plastic universe reflects the world of flesh and blood.
Gangnam Beauty (Yan Tomaszewski, FR 2020) (24 min.)
Between a traditional Korean mask dance and a humanoid robot, we are introduced to the internet personality Oli London, who has a dreamy look in their eyes. This English-born 30-something is totally hooked on South Korea, especially the K-pop idol Jimin. Oli has already spent a fortune on plastic surgery in an attempt to look exactly like their great love—not always with the desired results.
While Oli talks (mostly off-screen) about what drives them, their story is accompanied by expressive images of enchanted landscapes, wooden masks, dancers, street scenes, and other evocations of traditional and modern Korea. This attractively stylized hybrid form fuses documentary with theater and myth with dream and reality.
Parallel to this personal account, Oli also plays the two leading roles in the re-imagining of an ancient legend, which tells of an artisan who hopes to appease the spirits by making a series of masks, unaware that the love of his girlfriend will lead to a dramatic conclusion.
Documentary lovers, keep November 17 to 28 free in your calendar. The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam presents its 34th edition in cinemas throughout Amsterdam, including several special programs in Eye.
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