3rd I Shorts At SFIAFF 2006

Not all films are created full length. Short films are what aspiring directors and producers create while waiting for the inspiration (and funding) for the big one. Though sites like youtube and ifilm have become popular outlets for mini-movies, a big screen at a festival is still a great way to soak in the latest and greatest. In particular, the 3rd I shorts program at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival offers an excellent opportunity for catching up with the emerging South Asian directors. Here are some brief thoughts on the pieces featured in this year's festival.

Girni
India 2005 | 22 mins
Director: Umesh Kulkarni

Shot and set in India, this is the story of a boy and his mother trying to make ends meet by purchasing a grain grinder on loan. The sounds of the girni, however, eventually starts to drive the boy insane.

Probably the best of the batch. I particularly admired its use of sound. A scratchy print but well worth catching nonetheless.

In Whose Name?
USA 2004 | 11 mins
Director: Nandini Sikand

A well meaning work that tried to sound warnings against religion corrupting politics in India. It started off strongly but ended up being too earnest in tone (and too jumpy in narrative) to make a serious case.

Lucky
UK 2005 | 20 mins
Director: Avie Luthra

A Zulu boy is sent to live with his uncle in Durban, South Africa. His mother has just died of AIDS and his uncle barely tolerates the kid, warning him to "avoid the colored woman down the hallway. She hates Zulus. She'll eat you. With Curry."

That the colored woman and the kid will form a link is a given. But the story arc is handled with grace. It did feel like an excerpt from a more full length work though. Still, nicely done.

Viva Liberty!
UK 2005 | 20 mins
Director: Dishad Husain

Poor Woody Ali finds himself in the USA's notorious Camp Liberty detention center. All he did was pick up a kid's water pistol by mistake on the plane ride over to the USA. Some start to his dream vacation!

This had a great premise and started off really well. But it failed to sustain the momentum and what could have been a great update of the antics of General Buck Turgidson from Dr. Strangelove petered out like a plateload of cold puris.

Time And The Hour Run
USA 2005 | 15 mins
Director: Samir Patel

From director Samir Patel comes this entry about an old motel owner in the middle of nowhere. A recent widower, he continues to be haunted by visions of his late wife and of celestial beings from the Hindu pantheon.

More a mood piece than anything else, I found it to be wonderfully moving meditation on death, loneliness and grief. I particularly enjoyed the way the widower's visions were handled. Grafting Indian iconography into wide open western plains is not an obvious thing to do but here it felt totally natural.

6 ft. in 7 min.
USA 2005 | 15 mins
Director: Rafael Del Toro

Hands down the most disturbing of the lot, 6 ft in 7 min. is a black comedy about an 18 year old kid who suddenly discovers he is the owner of a mechanical heart which, his parents casually inform him, will stop working in roughly seven minutes.

While the premise is wonderfully acid and was mostly well executed, overall it felt like an empty exercise in bravura filmmaking. Given the writer/director isn't of South Asian origin, his decision to set the story in a desi household simply seemed to be an excuse to spout a whole lot of guff about karma. This stood out in dire contrast with Time and the Hour Run which actually exhibited more of an understanding of death from a Hindu perspective.

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- March 22, 2006 8:02 PM // Film , Review