Short films in focus


Last Friday night, a package of short films—comprised mostly of T&T films, all but one of which had their world premiere—screened at the ttff/14. The package featured Hidden Avenue, directed by Daniel Ahye (T&T); Last Night, directed by Ayesha Jordan (T&T); How Many Times, directed by Ryan Khan (T&T); The Cutlass, directed by Darisha Beresford; Cleaning House (T&T), directed by Toni Blackford (Jamaica); and Flying the Coup; directed by Ryan Lee (T&T).

Hidden Avenue stood out for me because of the rhythmic spoken-word voice over, which told the story of a young man who is a member of a charity organisation. However, as with all things that seem to involved money in our beloved country, corruption unfolds before his very eyes. The protagonist chooses to do nothing and subsequently must face the consequences of his inaction. The four-minute narrative is Ahye’s first offering at the ttff and began as the subject matter for a song competition. The film was a course submission and had to follow the themes of accountability and transparency. Derron Sandy wrote the spoken word piece and the video came together in just a matter of days. It is definitely encouraging to see creative people coming together from different fields to collaborate on a film. These diverse backgrounds give texture to the work.

Last Night is Ayesha Jordan’s third submission to the Festival, and received great applause from the audience at the screening. It focuses on a young girl who awakes in the middle of the night and has an encounter with a strange entity. Honestly, I had trouble sleeping that night because I kept thinking about this film. I do believe that that is an indicator of the film’s success. One audience member complimented her team on the score of the piece, saying that it achieved the air of oppression befitting a horror. A very interesting fact is that the story is based on a story written by the little girl who stars in the film. Jordan’s film reveals her talent to create the exact intended atmosphere that the genre of the film depicts. Her previous Festival entries were a rom-com and a drama, and she maintains that she experiments with different genres in order to keep her work new and to paint a story that people would always be interested in.

How Many Times? is a story about a woman who is about to get married who finds out that her abusive mother has been released from prison. I know the filmmaker Ryan Khan personally and was very happy to hear that this film screened at the Short Film Corner of the Cannes Film Festival. Suffice to say, I was expecting a lot from the film. According to Khan, the film, which took two years to shoot and one year to edit, is an experiment in visual language. The film definitely grabs your senses and simultaneously draws you in and evokes an emotive response, without much dialogue. As film critic Kaleem Aftab said in his workshop last week, “When we watch a film we should separate the dialogue from the visual image. Film is a visual medium and the visual should take precedence over dialogue.” In my opinion, Khan can consider his experiment in visual language a success.

The Cutlass, directed by Darisha Beresford, is based on a true story of a kidnapping crime in T&T. The eleven-minute narrative was written and produced by Tenille Newallo. I would like to say kudos to the team for bringing these issues to light in such a dramatic and creative way. It is great to know that the woman who had this happen to her is very supportive of the entire project. These are stories that need to be told because they open up very important dialogues around crime, kidnapping and the abuse of women in our country, issues that define our daily lives but are usually dismissed. In the Q&A after the screening, Newallo pointed out that she felt it was important for a woman to direct the film. Newallo insisted that despite creative license, the film has stayed as close as possible to the original story, where the true essence of the story, her bravery, and the mental battle between the two characters, has not changed. As Newallo pointed out, it is a story of human struggle and triumph.

Cleaning House was quite enjoyable to watch. Directed by Toni Blackford, a Jamaican writer and director, the film tells the story of Susan, a seemingly quiet and pensive housecleaner who takes her job seriously. The film unfolds as she receives a phone calls and then heads off to a job. She cleans the house of the person who requested a housekeeper but then she drugs him and begins to search through his apartment. The homeowner is then revealed to be a psychopathic pervert. Blackford has done a great job of keeping the film tight and focused. The storyline is interesting, the cinematography is great and the actors are very believable. There was not a second that went by that I was not engrossed in the film. Also, judging by the resounding applause from the audience, they enjoyed it as well. I think we are all looking forward to seeing more from Blackford.

Absolutely hilarious! That’s my take on Flying the Coup, the second film in this year’s festival directed by Ryan Lee, a graduate of the UWI Film Programme. His other short, Cubes, evoked the same belly-bursting laughter as this 24-minute film. In this film, set during the 1990 attempted coup, the neighbourhood troublemaker accidentally ends up teaming up with a police officer on his first day of work in order to escape Port of Spain. They trip over each other’s personalities as they try to escape the chaos-filled streets of the capital. The entire audience at the Little Carib Theatre was in stitches throughout the film. A great cast supports the writing—actors who know how to communicate comedy with their body language and facial expressions, which tickles the funny bone of viewers, frame after frame. Shooting a period film is always a challenge; however Lee applies his creativity well to meet this issue. During the Q&A, Lee commented that he initially wanted to do a serious piece about that episode in our country’s history but was met with some opposition. While I do hope that Lee gets to pursue his creative goals, I for one am really glad that this comedy was created. A definite must-see in this year’s Festival.

Image: a still from Flying the Coup

Date: Wed 24 Sep, 2014
Category: ttff news and features

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