Culture  FOKUS your attention please

Maggie Rebalski previews films fromTVM’s annual festival

It’s film festival season here at McGill. TVM’s FOKUS film festival is an annual showcase of short films created by McGill students. Last week, I previewed the films for the 72-hour film competition (in which students have 72 hours to make, edit, and submit a film) and FOKUS film festival in the cramped and sweaty TVM office in the dungeons of the SSMU building. These films will be screened for the public at Cinéma du Parc on Friday, March 16.  I had many different responses to the films: I was impressed, amused, confused, and surprised. However, I can guarantee you one thing: for the whole two hours that I spent on that dingy couch, I was thoroughly entertained. Here are a few of my favourites from both festivals:

A beautifully shot montage of typical morning routines, this short experimental film makes waking up seem like the best part of the day. Think alarm clocks, white sheets, a sunny kitchen, eggs, and coffee. The cuts are seamlessly edited, and the director’s use of sound is biting – quite literally. What’s more, the instrumental background music perfectly matches the tempo of the montage. Mornings somehow manages to capture both the hurriedness and the peace of a morning ritual, all while making me suddenly crave some Place Milton. Both a culinary and a cinematographic delight.

Lucky Ghost Marriage

The puzzling title of this film matches the ambiguity of its narrative. In this case, the plot is not what drew me in. Set in a broken down, graffiti-ridden warehouse and shot with 16mm film, the cinematography of this experimental short captivates the viewer.  The film is an experiment in form – with high contrast, detailed black and white shots – and demonstrates great prowess in filming and editing.

Five point Five

One of the only longer experimental films, Five point Five was a much-needed break from the other heavy, more abstract films in the experimental category. Shot in vivid colour, with scenes set at a lake, in a house, and on the streets of a suburban neighborhood, this film might seem to be a work of fiction. It follows a protagonist, but the only thing missing is a comprehensible plotline. We see the main character in a library, in a backyard spilling onto a lake, inside a house, and driving a motorcycle down a tree-lined road. The viewer is given no connection between the various different scenes and settings of the film. After the preview screening, I heard it described as Tree of Life meets Dawson’s Creek, set in an Abercrombie and Fitch ad. I fully agree. Intrigued? You should be.

Under One Roof

One of few works of narrative fiction being showcased, this adorable story is unique among the films. It tells the story of three roommates at McGill, and how much they all value the support and companionship of each other. Although it displays no remarkable cinematographic elements, this film is so clean and wholesome that, by the end, you just have to smile. If it were any longer, it might come off too amateur and simple, but, ultimately, this film’s innocence is what makes it so charming.

The Mirror Stage

Recalling scenes from The Bourne Identity, and influenced Jacques Lacan’s theory of the mirror-stage, this short film is about a character who can’t find their image in the mirror and is experiencing a worrisome loss-of-self.  Incorporating suspenseful and dramatic elements of the Bourne series with a more serious academic reading of Lacan creates clever and ironically humourous moments. From the talented, dramatized acting, to the high-tempo, intense soundtrack, this film is, as a whole, pleasing to watch. In addition, the editing tricks are impressive, with multiple shots of a character standing in front of a mirror with no apparent reflection. The film alludes to deeper meanings about one’s sense of self, and I particularly appreciate how it is able to convey this message while also maintaining an almost self-mocking, satirical quality.