Born of Woman 2017 [Fantasia International Film Festival]

Last year saw the first time where the programmers at the fest felt a need to have a short film block dedicated entirely to women-made short genre films as they had received a big selection of very strong titles.  This year continues this with its second edition or the 2017 edition.  Here are short reviews for each film involved in it this year (in no particular order).

Man in The Moon (Australia) (2016)
In this short written and directed by Monique Mulcahy, a mother and son living in the countryside are growing apart.  As she intercepts an odd radio signal, her son seems to be more and more involved with his videogames.  Soon she discovers what he’s really been up to.

This short explores the relationship between a teenager and his mother, how they grow together but also apart, and how external elements can influence this.  The film is a strong short with few lines of dialogues, yet it passes its emotions and message clearly.  It’s well shot with a beautiful cinematography.  While it’s a mellow film that has a subtle impact, staying with the viewer for a while after it has ended. 

Creswick (Australia) (2017)
A woman staying with her father discovers that his mental capacities may be decaying and she now has the responsibility of looking after him as he has done for her as she grew up.  The family dynamics are switched and emotions are complex.

Written by Natalie James and Christian White, with James directing, it’s a film that feels personal and strong.  It tells a simple story and adds a few supernatural hints and one incident that may be supernatural or could be a metaphorical representation of what is going on with the father.  This piece of the film hits pretty hard and is very surprising in a film with a mostly soft approach to things.  This short Is proof of concept towards a feature and if the feature is as strongly written, directed, acted, and presented, it should be a fantastic first feature. 

Apocalypse Babies (Canada) (2017)
Two children wander a world post end of it it seems while talk radio talking heads are heard speaking their minds and attempting to rile up their public.

This short by Anabelle Berkani is a strong reminder of what the world could be leaving behind for the children of now and of the future.  Berkani wrote and directed the film which stars her own two kids as the worry of a mother listening and watching where the world is going.  She puts forth on the screen that worry and the fears for an unreliable future.  The film is strong, well-directed, and filled with worries.  It’s a powerful short film that is available with American talk radio overlay or Quebec talk radio overlay depending on the location it’s being viewed so to provide the biggest impact depending on the viewer.

Undress Me (Canada) (2017)
A college freshman attends a frat house party where she has sex for the first time with a random guy she meets there.  Soon after, her skin starts falling off in what seems to be the start of her body decaying rapidly.

Amelia Moses’ short explores themes of coming-of-age, self-image, and potential body issues, using an angle that creates a strong female-centric body horror story.  Influences from David Cronenberg films are clear right out the gate and even though she stated not having seen In My Skin (Dans ma peau) by Marina de Van, her film is reminiscent of de Van’s and touches on a few of the same themes.  The practical effects in Undress Me are sublime.

Read Felix’s full review of Undress Me here. 

Dead Horses (Cavalls Mort) (Spain) (2016)
In the middle of a war, a small child notices all the dead horses, then the bombs, then his world falling apart.

In this short stop-motion animation by Ana Solanas and Marc Riba, the reality of war on a child’s life is shown in dark tones with a sadness permeating the atmosphere.  The film takes this child through his understanding of war, death, and the lack of a future.  It’s filled with dark images and hard to watch situations, but the way it’s handled gives them irreverence and a way of reaching their audience without being overbearing.  The film is sadly fascinating and absolutely morbidly beautiful.

The Last Light (Mexico) (2017)
After the disappearance of a family member, a little girl finds a boy tied up in a farm house.

Written by Angelita Mendoza and Victor Capiz and directed by the former, The Last Light is a dark film about disappearance, loss, and the risks child curiosity.  It’s a well-done exploration of these subjects and shows talent across the board, from writers to director to cast.  The film is a stunning vision of a dark subject that takes just enough time to say something but also does not overstate itself or overstay its welcome.

REM (New Zealand) (2016)
A security guard finds a homeless man who turns out to be a renowned scientist who is having visions of future disasters.  As she tries to set up something to help the world, things don’t go as planned.

Written and directed by April Phillips, the film is one of those shorts that grabs its audience and shows them things they may not want to be reminded about.  Homelessness is a big subject to touch upon and so it mental illness which the genius scientist is most likely afflicted by.  What works here is that things are not fully explained, reasoning is somewhat unclear for both protagonists, and the film creates more questions than it answers.  It’s one of those that could use being dug into deeper, but the fact it leaves so much open to interpretation is in big part why it works so well.

Waste (USA) (2016)
A young medical waste worker is a loner who enjoys his personal time alone at work.  However, once at home, he is learning to enjoy the presence and company of his eccentric foodie roommate who pushes him to try new things and to be open-minded.

Written by Amelia Gray and Justine Raczkiewicz with the latter directing, Waste is a quirky story about human connects and how far some will go for the thrill of trying something new.  The film is funny and quirky in a good way, it shows the lives of two people with odd lives who connect on a personal level and are ready to try new things at different levels.  The acting is talented, the settings and decors as well as the costumes are lovely with a heavy helping of nostalgia while the horror angle shows up here and there during the film.  It’s one of those sweet, well-crafted, horror stories that are perfect as short films.

A Little After Midnight (Un peu après minuit) (France) (2017)
A blind school teacher working for an occult art school lives a life filled with mystery and atmosphere.  She needs something from a man that may change everything for her.

In this film by Anne Marie Puga and Jean Raymond Garcia, an elegant atmosphere permeates the story of this blind school teacher as she goes through life looking for something more.  The acting is nuanced from the lead and the rest of the cast gives a lovely interpretation of each of their characters.  The film is shrouded in mystery and a fog that creates an almost Hammeresque ambiance for a story that may or may not have something to do with witchcraft and sorcery.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.