While it might not be in your budget to
travel the globe looking for the best short films the world has
to offer, curator Jonathan Howell, founder and programmer of
"The World According to Shorts" series at BAMcinematek,
has accomplished that daunting task and is bringing them directly
to Fort Greene Sept. 8 and Sept. 9.
The two-day series, divided into Program 1 and 2, features short films selected from France’s acclaimed Festival du Court Metrage 2003 in Clermont-Ferrand.
The mixed bag of films includes animated, narrative and experimental selections from Finland, Austria, Norway, Germany, Estonia and Brazil.
"The goal is to give a broad cross section of the international competition, of what’s available geographically and stylistically," explained Howell. "I’m trying to be representative as well as possible of all the countries available - there are about 60 countries in the international competition."
This fourth annual film series maintains its exotic appeal by leaving American films out.
"That’s one of the criteria I set," said Howell. "American films can be seen in America - any time. This should be a sampling of films from the rest of the world - hence the title ’World According to Shorts.’ It’s an introduction to New York audiences of films they wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Many are New York premieres and U.S. premieres."
Hans Petter Moland’s "United We Stand," from Norway, is one such U.S. premiere. Moland, who was commissioned to make the short, may be a familiar name because he directed the 2000 feature film "Aberdeen," featuring Stellan Skarsgard, which was released in the United States by First Run Features, according to Howell.
Moland’s short film, "United We Stand," is about a group of elderly men who go hiking and discover a female backpacker stuck in the swamp. "United We Stand" showcases the beautiful countryside, and the men singing rousing Labour Party songs, while they confront their mortality.
Another U.S. premiere, Katja Pratschke’s "Transposed Bodies" is a wacky black comedy that pays homage to "Frankenstein" with its series of lovely black and white photographs brought to life with narration. In "Transposed Bodies," a love triangle is revealed between Jan, Jon and Marie, but to give too much away would truly ruin the macabre fun.
"The World According to Shorts" also has a de rigueur French film dealing with a domestic crisis (Geraldine Doignon’s "Too Young," which is actually from Belgium), and animation ("I’m a Star!" by Stefan Stratil which pokes fun at Frank Sinatra), and a Russian film about a young man with tortured relationships with a musical instrument and his mother, "Contrabass" directed by Anna Melikian. And this is just a smidgen of the wide swath of perspectives, cool characters and locales in this year’s festival.
While oftentimes short films are assumed to be films made by students honing their craft until they get a crack at making a feature-length film, Howell said that only about half of these films are by students, and of the ones by students, it’s clear they have learned their craft well.
"I try to avoid films that are formulaic," explained Howell. "Frequently you see a student film and you can see the transparent ways they’ve learned filmmaking, and I don’t believe that’s the case here."
Although he is loathe to choose favorites, Howell did mention that Stefan Faldbakken, director of Norway’s "Anolit," is one to watch.
"He’s one who has feature film potential," said Howell.
"Anolit" features Stefan, who opts not to attend his father’s funeral, but instead joins two friends in their Friday night routine: cruising the small town, loitering at the local gas station and disagreeing on where to party.
"The World According to Shorts" festival is proving itself to be a venue to discover up-and-coming international filmmakers.
"One of the films we opened the first program with four years ago was David Mackenzie’s short ’Somersault.’ He now has a feature film at the 2003 New York Film Festival, ’Young Adam’ starring Ewan McGregor," said Howell. "It’s nice. It’s really rewarding when something like that happens, but it isn’t one of the goals I set for myself."
"The World According to Shorts" will be screened at BAMcinematek (30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene) in two programs. Program I will be screened Sept. 8 at 6:50 pm and Sept. 9 at 9:10 pm. Program 2 will be screened Sept. 8 at 9:10 pm and Sept. 9 at 6:50 pm. Tickets are $10, $7 students with valid ID Mondays through Thursdays except holidays and $6 for seniors. For more information, go to the Web site at www.bam.org or call (718) 636-4100.