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Monday, June 28, 2010

Silver Docs '10: Shorts Program 2

Short programs are essential in festival going. They allow you to get a better overview of the festival itself, what sorts of films are being made and accepted, in a short amount of time. However, programing them by theme can be a bit tricky, which was the lesson from this program. The five shorts were grouped together under "Still Here," but the films about mental illness and disability, also had essentially the same stylistic elements as well. So, 90 minutes of abstract and very methodical stories featuring nearly all unseen narrators made for a long, depressing block of films with little variation.

Darkness of the Day
Dir. Jay Rosenblatt
* * * *
This meditation on suicide was created using found footage from 16mm industrial and educational films (some from a landfill, others from the Prelinger archives). Rosenblatt reads the final entries in the journal of his massage therapist who jumped off a cliff, and this is inter-cut with historical suicides. Adding to this was the suicide of Rosenblatt's sister in law during the making of the film

The feeling is much like what is probably Rosenblatt's most famous work, Human Remains, but while the straight ahead narration of that film provided interesting and at times ironic juxtapositions, this narration, over these despairing images, almost feels heavy almost to the point of romanticizing the act of suicide. Had Rosenblatt perhaps transcended his style with more personal interventions it may have avoided this. This film does, however, express the ambiguity surrounding a person completing suicide.

If These Walls Could Talk
Dir. Anna Rodgers
**
Stylistically a triumph, this film really fails thematically. Principally, the film, which aims to tell the stories of former patients committed to Irish mental hospitals, has them in voice over, while the images are only of a dilapidated building out of a horror film. The tone of the film isn't much different, never letting us see these people; a film that does this seems to reinforce stigmas about and the anonymity and isolation of mental illness. That this film was perhaps more interested in using the characters and the place as a stylistic spring board.

This Chair is not Me
Dir. Andy Taylor Smith
**1/2
This is the story of Andy Martin, who has cerebral palsy, attempting to find his place in the world as well as express himself, is moving. The film is told from and shown in his point of view; or mostly. The film doesn't go all the way with it, at times using re-enactments, and a one-song score sort of hurts the feeling of the film.

Listening to the Silences
Dir. Pedro Flores
* * * 1/2
An interesting film about Roy Vincent, a Welsh man who is hears voices, but claims he's maintained a healthy life. For a first film the film handles the ambiguities in the story quite well, not really pointing us in any direction or trying to add any undue conflict or controversy.

Holding Still
Dir. Florian Riegel
* * *
Another semi-pov film about a woman who has been bed-ridden for over 20 years and has become a photographer through security cameras set up around her house. It takes a while for the narrative to get going, and the film has a bit of difficulty dividing up time between biography and the present, the philosophy of which is the most interesting and rewarding part of the film.

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