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Xavierpop Does #WSFF12 – @MovieJay Reviews The Opening Night Gala: Award Winners From Around the World

What connects the seven shorts in the Opening Gala are their ingenuity, craftsmanship, and multitude of awards on the festival circuit. What a special collection of movies these are, too. Some of them are as short as 6 minutes but are more alive and have bigger imaginations than most run-of-the-mill, paint-by-number feature length films.

From Argentina, the set begins with Luminaris (6 min), a dazzling photorealist stop-motion animation piece that follows a day in the grind of an assembly line worker. Indeed, his existence appears to be on an assembly line itself as we see him slide across his bed in the morning, his clothes dressing himself as his body pulls itself along with his feet sliding across the floor and then along the pavement all the way into the factory. The effect is wondrous to behold and so too is the special skill the worker has for making light bulbs, which begs the question if that isn’t the sort of job that is a vocation.

From there it’s the French animated Dripped (9 min) is quite possibly one of the best shorts playing the entire week of the festival. Set in 1950’s New York City, the short about a very particular kind of art thief as he tries to elude police capture. He eats the Picasso he has stolen and it literally causes him to become one with the work as his body takes on the form of the character in the piece, resulting in the ability for him to scale up an alley wall and out of sight. With vibrant colors, an exceptional jazz score and its loving and clever homage to works of the past, Dripped is a movie to savor. What a great piece of work this is.

Armadingen (23 min) is a neat riff on Michael Bay‘s Armageddon, following aging husband and wife Walter and Helga. They live a mostly contented if not mundane existence on their small farm until Walter hears the news report that an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth, there are only precious hours left to live, and the power will go out soon. That probably explains why the chickens stopped eating and the cows started acting funny earlier in the day. This is a sweet film that contemplates life through the experience of two people who have lived and seen much and who greet this news with sad acceptance as they light candles in the backyard and throw a roast on the bbq. Look out for that re-working of Aerosmith‘s I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.

Grandmothers (9 min) is the most sobering film in this program as it offers testimonials from four aging Argentinian women, part of the movement to identify victims kidnapped or killed during the military regime in Argentina in 1976, a bi-product of the Dirty War that saw 30,000 people stolen from their families, many of them women and young children. The film takes place almost entirely in one grandmother’s apartment with old photos and newspaper clippings and the voices of these women on the soundtrack.

Arnaud Brisebois and Francis Leclerc are the Canadian team behind Trotteur (9 min), about a young country man trying to outrun a powerful steam engine. Cinematographer Steve Asselin‘s cold blue steel and gloomy winter blacks and whites can be felt in our bones. Excellent mood piece, this one.

From Mexico, The Fisherman (11 min) is a wonderfully nostalgiac and melancholy movie set on the unofficially official holiday that is The Day of the Dead¬†where the living remember loved ones who have departed. We follow an elderly fisherman who uses old photos as bait on his line in order to fish for beloved artifacts that bring back memories of a woman from his youth. Maybe it’s his first love. Maybe it was his last one, too. We can’t be too sure, but we feel how important she was to him the way he builds a shrine for her and worships at it in his small fishing shack out in the woods. This is a very touching poem about memories and counting one’s blessings told with love and humility. Lovely.

And then, for something completely different and wacky is the concluding piece The Elaborate End of Robert Ebb (13 min), the B-movie of the set with its homage to old creature features that follows a night watchman in the unfortunate predicament of having been turned into a cheap, retro-grade, slimy-looking, green latex monster, no doubt a relative a few times removed from the Lochness monster.

– MovieJay