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The Fokus Film Festival: beautiful, sublime, peculiar

This Wednesday, TVMcGill presents the follow-up to last year’s much- talked-about Fokus Film Festival. The screening will feature a variety of student-made short films, ranging from the charming to the utterly bizarre. This year’s festival also features a venue upgrade. Films will be screened at Cinema du Parc (3575 arc). Tickets are available at the TVMcGill office (Shatner B-12) for $5, and at the venue box office. Interested? Keep on reading.

Journée de Masse

Dir: Alexandre Ruiz de Porras

Journée de Masse takes on the timeworn scenario of a totalitarian, dystopian future à la 1984. The main character, identified only by a number, realizes that the system which he is forced to live under – in a stark institutional building populated by white-masked masses – is the antithesis to individual freedom. Predictably, he takes a stand against this treachery, engaging in a somewhat stilted philosophical argument with one of the militant commanders of the system. Though tightly edited and genuinely chilling at times (the legions of white masks filing down hallways behind the main character are effectively disturbing), Journée de Masse doesn’t take enough risks to be original. The plot is faithful to its inspiration but so much so that it seems trite and predictable. Many of the scenes also bear resemblance to Pink Floyd’s feature-length music video The Wall, but echo the scenes from “Another Brick in the Wall” to the point of mimicry.

– Claire Caldwell

Matthew in Between

Dir: Alexander Cowan

Obviously a deeply personal film, it is hard to walk away from a screening of Matthew in Between without being touched. It’s incredibly fast-paced and packed with meaning — a poorly timed blink and you’ll miss out on multiple layers of symbolism. The effect can leave you feeling overwhelmed, but as the credits start to roll and you are released from Cowan’s masterful grip, you just want to hit replay again and again.

I think it was Keanu Reeves who expressed his awe most succinctly: “Whoa.” Cowan is an incredibly talented artist and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with in the years to come.

– Jay Aguera

T.G.I. Forts

Dir: Tim Reyes and Lucy Satzewich

The mockumentary is a fickle genre. It must walk the fine line between realism and absurdity, finding a comedy that inhabits the realm of believable ridiculousness. It invites the viewer to laugh even more when the suspension of disbelief is lifted, revealing the delicately-constructed sham. Because of its precarious operation, few undertake the challenge of the mockumentary; but those that do it well – Christopher Guest among others – tend to do it exclusively. With their entry T.G.I. Forts, directors Tim Reyes and Lucy Satzewich prove to be true students of this school. Their film takes the Canadian garrison mentality to new heights in following the efforts of Theodore Zanger – domestic fort architect and preservationist of “our fortified past.” Renaissance man and Daily contributor Duncan Links, who also wrote T.G.I. Forts, plays the obligatory eccentric and is able to highlight the sense of detached reality that characterizes all good mockumentaries. Be ready to laugh as you join his clients in the discovery that Zanger is completely full of shit.

– Joseph Watts

Sadie’s Lullabye

Dir: Faye Patridge

The premise of Faye Patridge’s Sadie’s Lullabye is quite a tour-de-force, but it’s too sentimental to live up to its own potential. The short is a cut ‘n’ paste of two parellel scenes, a pregnant girl played by Zoe Speed and her slim-waisted doppelganger, played by The Daily’s own Mariel Capanna. The pregnant character walks around her apartment alone. She cradles her belly, serves herself a glass of milk, placing her plate of cookies atop her bulging stomach; looks out of her window mournfully. Her double shadows her actions, but instead of a plate of cookies, she heats up a TV dinner and grabs for the remote. Capanna’s character seems childish and innocent in the face of the weighty responsibility that her pregnant faux-twin carries. But the final scene is the real getter: while the “pregant” girl grabs a pillow from under her shirt, revealing the illusory nature of her condition, Capanna’s character sits on the toilet waiting for the result of the pregnancy test. It’s positive. It’s a surprising conclusion, yet the sappy acoustic guitar and droppy female voice that provides the soundtrack to the short make the story feel clichéd, even though it’s not. The gentle sunlight, the close-up on the characters shedding tears, may have been effective plot devices if the music hadn’t pushed it over the top.

– Caroline Zimmerman

Split Decisions

Dir: Emmett Fraser

Split Decisions is a short film about dealing with emotion. It opens with a one-sided argument – Jeremy is on the receiving end of some harsh words. Feeling alone and dejected, he leaves his apartment in the care of his stuffed monkey and walks out into the Montreal winter – cue the snow and the Death Cab for Cutie. Through the use of an interesting filming technique, we see Jeremy’s persona begin to split, and his emotions pour out as he runs off some steam. Luckily, Jeremy manages to find some happiness in his world, in the trusty form of bubbles, and life starts to look up.

– Jay Aguera

For Mama

Dir: Sara Yousefnejad

Sara Yousefnejad’s film For Mama is short, sweet, and sexy. The piece offers a revealing truth in the form of a message to a parent. While the film is only two seconds long, it is repeated three times over – once is simply not long enough.

– Sophie Busby

*These Days

*Dir: Steph Johnson**

Ice skating, beer drinking. and a traumatic event… Nope, it’s not Slapshot 3, it’s These Days, directed by Steph Johnson. With a comparatively modest budget, the film is shot entirely on a digital camera to evoke a “home movie” feel. Indeed, the narrative has been pieced together out of footage from Steph’s personal “home movie” collection. With skillful editing, the film displays scenes of a past relationship as they flash before the eyes of a young woman walking through the McGill Ghetto. The Jackson Browne song “These Days,” performed by Nico of the Velvet Underground, provides the film with a nostalgic emotional tone. Catch some pleasant wintry scenes of skating at Parc Maisonneuve, wandering through the Ghetto, or drinking at the Milton Gates. And look out for the acting highlight that occurs when Brett smiles in the vanity mirror.

– Cameron Schallenberg

Child Factory

Dir: Rosemary Chu

Rosemary Chu’s short film starts with the quote “Many grew up in Loving families. While others spent their childhood as Products of their parents.” Without the use of dialogue this film analyzes parent-child relationships. The filmmaker contrasts rebellion with submission and leaves the viewer questioning their own relationships.

The main character’s qualms are interrupted by dance sequences which propel the narrative towards its bittersweet end: “This is what she has to go through Everyday.”

– Sophie Busby