Some stories are not meant to be long. They are meant to be concise, direct, a glimpse, a moment, five minutes, a single incident, or a lone conversation. These stories are not meant to be novels; these scripts do not want to be features.
Shorts across mediums can be some of the most powerful stories, some of the most telling, convincing and some of the most challenging to construct and to deliver. I love short films, but I think they are extremely difficult to pull off. I have seen a fair number that just don’t work because they don’t come together. Short films require a certain kind of hypersensitive balance. The shorter the film, the more weight each second, each shot, each movement holds. Every line, every word, every breath the actor takes matters. Each directing choice tells us something, directs us somewhere.
The Vancouver International Film Festival brings features and shorts from all over the world to Vancouver screens. The short films are selected by the devoted VIFF team, and then packaged together for our viewing pleasure; bundles of stories that will make you think, make you wonder, make you laugh and make you cry. Stories that take on new meanings when shown together, enhanced by one another, paralleled.
On Wednesday, October 2nd I attended the 2013 VIFF short’s package titled Two Handers, for the most part and was blown away by some of the incredible, touching stories captured on the screen in diverse, short, and innovative ways.
Two Handers, for the most part consisted of nine short films from six different countries and ranged in length from five to seventeen minutes long. The common thread between them all: a story captured through the relations of two characters (at least, for the most part). What I found most amazing was the depth and range of stories told in this format. Each short was vastly different in style and context, but captured the beauty and nuance of a single relationship.
There were a few shorts that really stood out for me, and made the others seem less polished and even incomplete in comparison. Stephen Graziano’s In the Light of Day and Oliver Briginshaw’s Parallel both do an excellent job of delivering an unexpected, exciting twist at the very last second. The acting in Leo Baker’s Off Course is wonderfully comedic, and the child star in Yana Kehrlein’s Breaking the Bough is charmingly convincing in the portrayal of her character. However, my two absolute favourite shorts of the night just happened to be the two shortest films in the package: Sky Blue Collar (dir. Derek Frey, 8 mins) and In Passing (dir. Alan Miller, 5 mins).
The setting and subjects of both of these shorts are quirky and contemporary. Sky Blue Collar is a modern day twist of the Shakespearean classic Romeo and Juliet, only here, it is the tale of a businessman and carpet warehouseman who must sneak away from their class-conscious bosses to share a joyous ride on a forklift. By use of subtle dialogue and delightful acting, viewers are encouraged to come to their own conclusions about the details of the relationship.
In Passing is the story of two lonely people who have had enough, and coincidentally, both decide to jump from the same building on the same day. As they fall to meet their fate in slow motion, they meet each other in the air for the first time and begin to fall for each other, a very brief romance indeed. For a student film, the special effects are incredible. The suspension of disbelief achieved, and two people really seem to be plummeting downward, past real, recognizable Vancouver buildings.
Both Sky Blue Collar and In Passing engage their viewers in serious topics, but they do so in silly, unique and uplifting ways. Both shorts work so well, they stand alone. They both tell complete, interesting, and engaging stories, and do so in less than ten minutes.
Some stories are just meant to be short.
Two Handers, for the most part shows again at Vancity Theatre on Oct. 9 (10:00 am)