The Fantasia International Film Festival hosted a great short film showcase this year dubbed “Born of Woman.” The series presented “a powerhouse collection of intimate, auteur genre works centered largely around themes of the body and interpersonal malaise”, all directed by female filmmakers. Here’s a look at the films in the showcase I was able to catch.
THE MAN WHO CAUGHT A MERMAID – Directed by Katilin Tinker
This creepy, effective chiller starts off playfully enough: an old fisherman heads down to the docks with hopes of catching a mermaid. The fellow fisherman laugh him off as an old coot, and his wife is tired of humoring him. Yet what at first seems like a fairy tale-like character piece turns into something far more sinister. The old man really does catch a mermaid, and brings the creature home, where he keeps her chained up in a kiddie pool in his garage. The look of the mermaid is great thanks to some believable creature make-up that conjures up a far more unsettling creation than something like Daryl Hannah’s portrayal in Splash. Director Tinker employs tight close-ups that aide the visual storytelling, and unveils a last-minute twist that, while not entirely original, still packs a punch.
SHORTY – Directed by Anna Zlokovic
Think of a playful remake of Under the Skin and you might end up with Shorty, Anna Zlokovic’s cute, creepy story about a young woman not of this planet, cruising for victims. Despite dark subject matter there’s a charming, cute tone to this short film, enhanced by Zlokovic’s trippy visuals. An open-ended conclusion leaves matters a bit too abstract, but overall this is a unique piece of art that signals an interesting, talented filmmaker.
SKIN – Directed by Jessica Makinson
At only 5 minutes, Jessica Makinson’s Skin is the shortest film in the showcase — yet it’s the one that stuck with me the most. Equal parts gross and engrossing, Skin follows two people having an affair…sort of. Soaking in the bathtub, a young woman peels a layer of dead skin from the heel of her foot, and mails it to a man. The man then carries it around like a holy relic, and even pops it into his mouth at times. He, in turn, cuts off some of his hair and mails it to the woman who sent him the skin. These characters never share the screen together, yet through the performances, and editing, filmmaker Makinson is perfectly able to capture a sense of intimacy between the “couple.” This is a remarkable little film.
STATIC – Tanya Lemke
Like a Twilight Zone episode directed by David Cronenberg, Tanya Lemke’s sad, sweet Static chronicles the dwindling years of a widower. One day, the old man notices his old TV is bleeding, which triggers off a chain of events, as well as flashbacks, that underscore the unforgiving march of time. Static is overtly melancholy, highlighting how easily “old junk” can get tossed aside. Well constructed, the only flaw lies in some spotty performances from the cast that just can’t quite sell the material. This aside, there’s something quite beautiful about Static, and it has a way of leaving its mark on you after the images fade away.
VENEFICA – Directed by Maria Wilson
A modern-day witch holds a young man captive in a secluded cabin. The witch is about to embark on a rite of passage to discover the true nature of her magic — good, or evil? Maria Wilson’s short is stylish and fun, and boasts a great performance from Wilson herself in the lead. At the same time there feels as if there’s something missing from this short; at 7 minutes, it possibly could’ve stood to be another 7 minutes longer to push the narrative further.