Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Miscellaneous Film Festival Shorts…

These are various and sundry short films I saw during the 1998 Women in Cinema film festival. These were generally screened before the main features.

Advice to Adventurous Girls tells us more about the filmmaker, Kim Wood, than it does about its subject: Lilly La France, the first woman to ride on a carnival’s Wall of Death. We hear lots about Wood’s fascination with this woman and precious little about the Wall of Death. Wood hopes to make a longer film (this one is 8.5 minutes) about La France, so maybe that one will have more detail. (Seen 28 January 1998)

Busk is about following your dream. Even if your dream is being an extremely white French Canadian rap singer on the streets of the ‘hood in Toronto. I’m not sure, but I think the message here is that it’s okay to be annoying. Paula Tiberius directed. (Seen 24 January 1998)

The Marriage Market takes a look at the burgeoning Russian mail order bride business in the United States. Director Elizabeth Wynne-Johnson presents some Bay Area men who talk frankly about their experiences in “shopping” for a wife. The woman-as-commodity aspect is, at the very least, provocative. (Seen 29 January 1998)

Miriam Is Not Amused, as a title, is a play on words. Eighty-two-year-old Miriam Pachen, the subject of this documentary by Kim Roberts, claims not to be very interesting. But we learn that she is actually a real-life, honest-to-God muse. Her late husband was the poet Kenneth Pachen. But the film shows us that Miriam is rather interesting in her own right, quite apart from being a poet’s inspiration. (Seen 28 January 1998)

One Sunrise is a visually interesting study of a woman in an Asian prison. Director Suzie Wardell gives us no information about who she is or what she is doing there, but the woman’s facial expressions and the images of light are strangely moving and hopeful. (Seen 26 January 1998)

Pam Flam and the Center of the Universe is a clever and amusing vignette about a young man (Chris Hogan) who takes egocentrism to a whole new level. Betsy Thomas’s short essentially has one joke, for which its eight-minute running time is just right. (Seen 25 January 1998)

Resistance is a harrowing chronicle/therapy project about the filmmaker’s family history and a devastating event from her own adolescence. She somehow manages to draw parallels between repression in Yugoslavia, domestic abuse, rape, and honey bees. (Seen 26 January 1998)

Blood Relations

This collection of shorts (with the exception of the first one) seems calculated to make you feel that, no matter what kind of family you come from, it could have been a lot worse. (Seen 24 January 1998)

Still Revolutionaries looks back at what it was like to be in the Black Panther party in its heyday. Sienna McLean’s generally uncritical film shares the reminiscences of two women for whom the Panthers were family and more, but who ultimately left because human nature there wasn’t any different than anywhere else.

The Big Picture is a brief animation by Ireland’s Corinna Askin. The blaring music, fast images and voice-overs can be hard to digest, but the point made by the statistics that punctuate this work is crystal clear: women have it lousy on the whole island.

De Suikerpot (The Sugarbowl) features its director, Hilde van Mieghem as the scariest screen mother since Faye Dunaway played Joan Crawford. Little Kristien has a humorous knack for getting into trouble. On American TV this film would have a laugh track. But as a Belgian short, it is a harrowing look at child abuse. Van Mieghem promises a sequel.

Why I Live at the P.O. is a bit like an episode of Mama’s Family. Director Jodie Markell adapted this slice of Mississippi family life from a story by Eudora Welty, and she also plays the self-serving narrator. The film is amusing, but the southern-accented dialog has an uncanny ability to inflict drowsiness.

The Clearing is a mini-movie that manages to have more impact in 26 minutes than some features make in two hours. The story involves a fugitive and the young woman who encounters him in the woods. Director Kat Smith is a talent to be watched.

Girls VertiGoGo

The title for this collection of shorts is clever and somehow appropriate despite the fact that none of these films have much in common except that they are deal with miscellaneous and sundry adventures of young women. (Seen 25 January 1998)

Daisy Feldman’s New York features director Amy Veltman in the title role. A bit reminiscent of Lili Taylor, Veltman plays a young woman with an extreme fear of heights. The film is infectious with the style of New York humor popularized by Seinfeld, but this film is about something: growing up.

Gone Again, a moody black-and-white drama, tells of a brief and turbulent relationship between a young hitchhiker and a gas station attendant. Anna Geddes’s short subject seems to be part memory and part wild adolescent female reverie.

Number One Fan is another tale of hitchhiking. Amy Talkington made this film because she had a house in the Hamptons available to her. A young runaway hooks up with the wrong crowd and things end badly.

On Becoming Blonde is a very wry and witty treatise on how our perceptions of people, or at least women, can be colored (no pun intended) by the hue of one’s hair. Bethy (whose face we never quite see, sort of like that Wilson guy in Home Improvement) finds her hair changing to blonde and notices subtle differences in the way people relate to her. Melinda Roenisch directed.

Girls Night Out begins with a chance encounter on a New York street. A middle-aged gallery owner invites two young women up to his loft. The course of the evening (and next morning) is never predictable. Myra Paci’s story is just weird enough to be true.