Friday, December 4, 2020

Other World's Film Festival 2020: Shorts 1: Conflict, Resistance, and Laundry

This is my first time experiencing Austin's Other Worlds Film Festival, now in its seventh year, and I'm excited! This science fiction festival has been named as one of “The World’s Best 50 Genre Fests” by MovieMaker Magazine, and this year features more than forty films, including features, documentaries, and short films. This being 2020, it is of course virtual this year. But there's something appropriately science fictional about that.

The festival runs two more days, through Sunday December 6, so it's not too late to catch some of it. When it comes to film festivals, short films are my favorite because there are often lots of little jewels to be found. Here's my look at the first session of short films, collectively titled "Conflict, Resistance and Laundry".

image of movie poster with orange light

Director: Carlos J. Matos
Screenwriter: Carlos J. Matos
Cast: Ana Bokesa, Filipa Ribeiro, Ziyi Yang
Runtime: 7 minutes
Language: no dialogue
Country: Spain

There's no rule that a short film has to have dialogue, and I applaud this one's attempt to tell its story without words. Filmed somewhat in the style of a music video, 2091 is about "three heroic hackers" who "attempt to save their world from an evil electronic entity." I have to be honest; if if I hadn't read that description, I'm not sure I would have figured out so specifically that that was what happened, but it was clear that the three individuals were in conflict with something mysterious and threatening. Some of the visuals were interesting, and the techno music was quite catchy.

Deus Otiosus / The Idle God
Director: Mat Braddy
Screenwriter: Mat Braddy
Cast: Sèverine Howell-Meri (Bryana), Margereta Szabo (Priestess Lila), Christopher Fairbank (Deus)
Runtime: 17 minutes
Language: English
Country: UK

This film was interesting but cryptic. [Spoilers ahead] Upon encountering the reclusive man whom her villagers view as a God, a pregnant widow learns that the blight that took her husband was the result of the man "pruning" in order to keep the population in check. She steals his technological link, which kills him, and ostensibly becomes the new "God" in his place. I think we're meant to infer that this link to the god-like technology is passed down from one "keeper" to another, but Bryana has interrupted that order. What she'll do with the information and the technology is unknown. I particularly liked Sèverine Howell-Meri as Bryana, and the film's atmosphere reminded me, in a good way, of an episode of Black Mirror.

Director: Wesley Mellott
Screenwriters: Chloe Carroll, Brittany Snyman
Cast: Rachel Donahue (Elysia), Chloe Carroll (Molly)
Runtime: 10 minutes
Language: English
Country: USA

[Spoilers ahead] In her grief over losing her human child to old age, a vampire named Molly kidnaps a young boy. Her human lover, Elysia, takes matters into her own hands when she finally acknowledges that Molly cannot or will not control herself. This was atmospheric and effective, with beautiful sets and lighting and good acting, but the last line of the film felt a little heavy-handed.

Q: Spukhafte Fernwirkung (Q: Ghostly Remote Effect)
Director: Marcus Hanisch
Screenwriters: Marcus Hanisch, Anna-Lena Theobald, Ariana Berndl
Cast: Effi Rabsilber, Lise Risom Olsen
Runtime: 20 minutes
Language: German
Country: Germany

A female scientist and a somewhat androgynous android set out together on a quest across gorgeous, sprawling vistas. I only understood about half of the German, but to be honest I'm not sure I would have understood the story even if I'd recognized every word. The scientist appeared to be looking for something specific, but I'm not sure whether what she was searching for was clearly made known to the viewers, and the ending seemed inconclusive. I wish I could have seen this with English subtitles so I could write about it more intelligently.

Director: Michael Bartolomeo
Screenwriters: Michael Bartolomeo, Stephen West-Rogers
Cast: Stephen West-Rogers, Sergine Garraud, Lukas Hassel
Runtime: 9 minutes
Language: English
Country: USA

Eldritch Laundry! This amusing film used an interesting film technique -- I don't know what it was, but it was as though the background was moving at double speed, while overlaid with the main characters' movements that looked almost like they were filmed in a stop-motion technique. My inadequate description doesn't quite make sense even to me, but whatever it was, it was a fitting choice for this odd little tale of comedy-horror.

Raze of the Cyborg
Director: Young-H. Lee
Screenwriter: Young-H. Lee
Cast: Young-H. Lee, Fox Lee
Runtime: 25 minutes
Language: Chinese
Country: Taiwan

This film doesn't quite give us a new story -- it'a about a man who will go to great lengths to rescue his kidnapped fiancee. But the production values, robotics, and other special effects were impressive, and the lead actor has the kind of polish that would make him fit in any cinema blockbuster.
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