Saturday, September 28, 2013

Milwaukee Film Festival 2013 Shorts: Stranger than Fiction

Even though this was the second day of the Festival it was the first day I was able to attend.
Decided to start my festival experience off with the documentary shorts.

Documentary shorts are one some of my favorite movies.  There are so many interesting people and things in the world that short films can highlight.  And spending 10 - 15 minutes learning about them is perfect.  This is the first year that I have been going to the festival that they have had a whole program of documentary shorts and it did not disappoint.

First up in the program was The Flogsta Roar. This 18 minute documentary is about a university in Uppsula Sweden.  Every night at 10 pm the students yell out their window.  This is a ritual that has been going on for over 20 years.  We meet some students and teachers that live there and learn about their anxieties.  The movie brought back memories of my college experience.  There are ups and downs and just weird people.  There is some one stealing food from a fridge, a teacher that is obsessed with the pots and pans and also a student who had someone in the dorm room next to her commit suicide.  But they all get a chance to release their anxieties and tensions at 10 pm when they yell out their windows.  It's ridiculous, humorous, and sad all at the same time.  It manages to capture that unique environment that is college.

Next up was the short Pouters. This short was about pigeon enthusiasts in Scotland. I honestly had no idea what was going on. It appears that there is some kind of weird competition where you try to get someone else's pigeon to come to your coop.  These people are odd and extremely obsessed with pigeons.  This was one of my least favorite of the shorts but definitely interesting.

This was followed by Vladimir Putin in Deep Concentration. This 9 minute doc quickly goes through the life of Vladimir Putin.  I have to admit I know very little about him and his rise to power.  What this movie does it tells some of his backstory but comes to the conclusion that we know very little about him personally and he is a master at image control.  For a short doc I learned about one of the most powerful man in the world and this is one person that probably deserves a full feature doc.

From Russia to Christmas.  Mr. Christmas tells the story of a man who every year puts on one of the most extravagant Christmas light displays.  It is a fun and touching story as we learn his process of putting up the lights and his motivation.  This is a fun charismatic guy who loves Christmas, misses his wife, and loves his cat.  A fun enjoyable short.

After celebrating Christmas the next stop on our short film road trip was to India for Unravel.  Every wonder what happens to clothes that are sent to be recycled?  Well they are sent to India where they are sorted, torn up, and made into thread to be used for blankets.  The movie focuses on the India women who work at the factory that tear up the garments.  These women live in a small town and try to imagine what kind of people wear these clothes and why they would just throw them away.  The movie makes you think about our love of clothing and the excesses we have.  It is funny to see how they imagine the Westerners.

Back in the US we head for We Will Live Again. This is a fascinating doc and a little disturbing that challenges some of our beliefs.  We have all heard of Cryogenics but I have never see the inside workings of one.  This short takes us on a tour of The Cryonics Institute from the delivery to the freezing of their "patients".  The manager doesn't consider them dead just "metabolically challenged" and refers each one as a patient.  A perfect example of what a documentary short can be.  Takes us to a world we have never seen and challenges us.

For the last short we head to Saigon in 1968.  Eddie Adams: Saigon '68 tells the story of a single iconic picture from the Vietnam War.  The amount of power a single picture can have is amazing.  We learn about the famous photographer Eddie Adams from his diary and interviews from those that knew him and were there when the picture was taken. The picture in question is the Pulitzer Prize winning image of a South Vietnamese police officer shooting a Vietcong prisoner in the head.  The story of who the officer was and who he shot is told as well as the effects the picture had on support of the war and on Eddie Adams himself.  A powerful look at how one picture changed many lives and a discussion if a single picture can tell the whole story.  Definitely my favorite doc of the program.

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