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August 2013 Archives

August 11, 2013

2013 DC Shorts: Women Working without Words

Coming September 19-29, 2013, are screenings over 150 short films (under 20 minutes) from around the world in the DC Shorts Film Festival. In six Washington, DC area venues, Festival organizers under the direction of filmmaker Jon Gann will air 17 unique 90-minute showcases. Marking its tenth anniversary, this film festival has grown from its first year of one theater with films showing just over two days.

This year's selection of something for everyone--dramas, comedies, animation, sci-fi, documentaries and experimental films, includes 16 films from Russian directors. While defending the films, Gann was apologetic in an August 6 press conference given the current political situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over asylum given to American whistle blower Edward Snowden. Gann said he has broken off his relationship with the Russian embassy.

The Dresser has decided to look at some of the films offered in the DC Shorts Film Festival in a series of essays published here at The Dressing. What immediately caught her attention were two films without dialogue that powerfully make their points from a woman's perspective--"Frost" and "Duel."
Canadian director Jeremy Ball presents a visually rich portrait of an Inuit family of three that is running out of food. The daughter takes up her lance and makes a journey to an urban center. What happens in this 13-minute film is a huge surprise and the Dresser will not spoil the pleasure of discovery with further comment.

In the four-minute "Duel" by Portuguese director Philippe Teixeira Tambwe, a graffiti hoodlum wearing a hoodie sprays a swastika on a subway wall but is scared into hiding when someone enters the platform. The intruder is a girl who picks up the dropped spray can and neutralizes the offensive symbol. The hood confronts the girl and they move through a tango of interactions where this girl, like the one in "Frost" overcomes adversity. Duel.jpg

Like "Duel" and to a lesser degree "Frost" when the father pushes the last raw meat back to his daughter, the emphasis in Chloe Yelena Miller's poem "No Infinitive" is about intense communication. What the Dresser finds particularly delicious about Miller's poem is the discussion that takes gender out of the equation ("Gender neutral, were we/ heterosexual?") without removing the vulnerability that a woman risks ("I wear one piece of my two piece:/ topless.").


We met in Esperanto, declared: ...............Mia mas vin.

Which means (in case I forget): ...............I love you.

We swam in the Sardinian sea, the water as blank
as your conjugations. I wear one piece of my two piece:

I will, first person future,
label these photos in our language
without a national body. The word
for our actins is not a noun.

Gender neutral, were we
heterosexual? The flexible
syntax translucent, nudity's definition.

I could pronounce (phonetics): ....................You.

There were rules: The accent
is always on the next to last syllable.

It was Carnival, a meatless (almost meaty) masked
party. Lent followed, we gave up
each (reflexively).

Chloe Yelena Miller
from Unrest

Copyright © 2013 Chloe Yelena Miller

August 13, 2013

2013 DC Shorts: Expansion of a Shrunken Head

The 2013 DC Shorts Film Festival running September 19-29 includes 16 films from Russian directors. More than half of the Russian films are animated.

In this second review of the upcoming DC Shorts Film Festival, the Dresser looks at Anya Belkina's "Systems Preferences." This 17-minute documentary is drawn from the life of the Russian-born artist-director but now living and working in Boston. The story concerns the computer pioneering achievements of Belkina's maternal step-grandfather Bashir Iskandarovich Rameev. Belkina narrates the film in English.

Using a combination of animated human figures and computer graphics, Belkina tells the story of her inventor grandfather living under the shadow of his father who was condemned as an enemy of the state. The young Bashir sends a letter to Stalin and is told never to do such a thing again but the young man burning with creativity and a desire to become a contributing member of his country finds a way to work within the system to create Strela, the first Russian computer, the computer that helped support launching Sputnik into outer space. In conjunction with the launching of Sputnik, Belkina uses archival footage of United States president John Kennedy speaking before the American congress about how the Russian achievement accelerated America's schedule for its own space program. Personal touches like the filmmaker being terrified of the shrunken head her grandfather brought from American and the love story about Bashir and Belkina's grandmother (seen in the image representing this film) make this film poignant.

Katherine E. Young is known for Russian translations and in her poem "Hazmat," the Dresser gets a sense of something dangerous going on between the lines that addresses to way the filmmaker's grandfather had to work surreptitiously in order to create the Soviet Union's first computer. Young's line "I subscribe to the religion of airplanes" speaks metaphorically to imaginative leaps that Bashir had to make to bring his creative impulse to fruition without getting a bullet in his skull (as mentioned in Young's poem) for daring to expand human knowledge and achievement.


After the hazardous materials crew
has cleared the rooms, I move among familiar
things, touching here and there a vase, a lamp,
straightening the absurdly clean cloth
in front of the baby's place. We are obsessed
with decay, with bodily fluids, inconvenient
remnants of our animal selves. I think
of rabbis in latex gloves scraping the blood
from Jerusalem streets, of the Muslim custom
of burial within twenty-four hours.
Surely the bone hunters and reliquary
makers, the city fathers warring over
John the Baptist's knucklebone had it right:
flesh is Essential. Flesh is Divine.

I subscribe to the religion of airplanes,
silver-winged vessels that transport a person
to realms unfamiliar, where alien temples
ennoble the hair, the nails, the body
and blood of obscure local saints. These are
my relics: a rug rescued from scissors, a cat
plucked from an engine, a book that--once--
would have won its possessor a bullet
in the skull. Some say Death's an angel--this, too,
I have seen--flash of steel wings, whirlwind
of atomized flesh, dust carpeting run,
cat, book, interior spaces and private
reliquaries, particles of shared disbelief.

Katherine E. Young
from Gentling the Bones

Copyright © 2007 Katherine E. Young

August 15, 2013

DC Shorts: Yell FIRE not HELP

The 2013 DC Shorts Film Festival includes the option of viewing over 120 films out of the over 150 total count from one's own computer or certain mobile devices. After purchasing an online Indieflix pass, the DC Shorts Festival Films will be available to the viewer during the Festival period September 19-29.

In this third review of the upcoming DC Shorts Film Festival, the Dresser looks at Adam Sinclair's "Sanzaru (Diffusion of Responsibility)." This 15-minute quasi-docudrama made in Malaysia is based on the case of Kitty Gervase, a New York City student who was raped and murdered March 18, 1964 while 38 people aware of her cries for help did nothing.

The story of "Sanzaru" concerns four students tasked with a project based on Diffusion of Responsibility, a theory that was drawn from what happened to Gervase. Three of the students depict a current day example of people turning a cold shoulder to help others in an effort to settle on one anecdote that will complete their project. A side story is the girl-boy relationship between two of the students and how the young woman of this couple becomes a living example of what the students are studying.

What the Dresser found particularly interesting about this film was its blend of English and Malay dialogue. The students go back and forth seamlessly using both languages. English subtitles are provided.

Technically interesting is the occasional split screen that shows all four students within their own portion of the screen as if they are isolated and not sitting across a library table from each other. While the Dresser found the film very powerful, she felt it could have been tighter and thereby shorter.

In the impressionistic poem "The Distance from Brooklyn to Boston Takes Four Hours to Bridge as Long as the Bus Doesn't Burst into Flames" the collaborating authors Kevin McLellan and Sue Nacey work with chance and change in a ruleless landscape which seems to reflect Adam Sinclair's film where one of the characters also disappears into a crowded city and no one comes to her rescue. The long title of this poem reminds the Dresser that she has often heard if someone attacks you, yell fire not help. What resonates chillingly for the Dresser are the lines: "either everything is/ coincidence--or nothing is."


You still frequent the locality
......of of and and
you placed on layaway. This

.........repeated remapping
of borders between you and
necessity. How you've had to

......change your worn face
as if remembering yourself
.........from now backwards

or rather an attempt to. Repeat
......after me: irony is worn thin
like the skin inside your lip

......and either everything is
coincidence--or nothing is. And
......who are you, you

say, to make rules
.........when there are none.
......And there is no way

.........out of and--and
the strongest shape of you
that remains is the back of

.........your head as you
......into the crowd.

Kevin McLellan and Sue Nacey
from Roundtrip

Copyright © 2010 Kevin McLellan

August 17, 2013

DC Shorts: Dark Secret Loves

What the Dresser loves about the DC Shorts Film Festival is the mix of experienced and new directors. In this fourth review
of the 2013 DC Shorts Film Festival running September 19 to 29, the Dresser looks at two films that Dresser believes represents star power--Andrew Napier's "Grandma's Not a Toaster" and Nicolaj Brüel's "She Is Love." Napier was producer and assistant director for "Curfew," which DC Shorts screened in 2012 and which won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film as well as many international awards.

Both "Grandma's Not a Toaster" and "She Is Love" are screened in Showcase 1, which satisfies the Dresser who believes that the selection for the first set of films shown in film festival must be of the highest quality so that patrons will come back to see other sets of films. The Dresser chose "She Is Love" because it was grouped with experimental films and did not notice in which showcase it would be screened. Then she asked DC Shorts Festival director Jon Gann which film director who had the most name recognition and he pointed toward Napier.

GrandmasNotAToaster-250x140.jpg"Grandma's Not a Toaster" concerns three siblings who have not been written into their grandmother's will. In this ten-minute dark comedy, the elderly and failing grandmother sits in the background as the conniving sister and her two brothers, operating on two very different moral planes, discuss the situation. Meanwhile Grandma takes matters into her own hands. The focus of the film, which has impressive graphic credits and compelling original music, is strictly point of view and a rather fractured set of viewpoints. In this film, the Dresser thinks comedy is overtaken by the kind of darkness of which only youthful creators are capable. "Grandma's Not a Toaster" leaves an audience with a lot to think about.

In "She Is Love," a young boy in a war torn landscape encounters a mysterious woman who lives in a lake. Who is she and why is the boy moved to follow her? Perhaps the title of the film provides the only answer. German film director Nicolaj Brüel's paints a decidedly impressionistic mood in this seven-minute masterpiece.SheIsLove1.jpg

"Dark Secret Love," a prose poem by Carol Quinn viscerally reflects the swim the boy takes in "She Is Love" and impressionistically meshes with the asthmatic good grandson in "Grandma's Not a Toaster" with such phrases as dark secret love, how long his own breath could sustain him, only then did he know what he was capable of.


One day in the spring of 1778, David Bushnell, a colonist from what would be Maine, flooded the tanks of a homemade bathysphere to see how long his own breath could sustain him. Only Alexander of Macedonia, who was said to have a diving bell made of glass, had done anything like this before. Bushnell could navigate by cranking propellers, so to save his strength, he gave over to the current for a while. After fifteen minutes, phalanxes of bass glinted around him. Kelp strained against its roots as he passed through. A sea horse held on like his newborn daughter's hand. After forty-five minutes, he saw wrecks still burning under water--the sponges and crinoline leaves like clouds of smoke suspended. He began to dream of the fire hunts of his childhood, the blue flickering in the eyes of baffled deer. Then he felt the impact. He opened the hatch and saw that he had drifted up against a blockage ship.

Only then did he know what he was capable of.

Carol Quinn
from Acetylene

Copyright © 2010 Carol Quinn

About August 2013

This page contains all entries posted to THE DRESSING in August 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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