Release Date - September 30th 2016
Surveying the works in Volume 37 of The Journal of Short Film, a series of overlapping motifs and themes begin to suggest themselves: place, individual and collective memory, the transformative moment. Perhaps unexpectedly, though, what emerges as the films clearest shared feature is their interest in the potentialities of the soundtrack. In a variety of different ways, the volume’s films draw our attention to the ways in film sound shapes the viewing experience and creates meaning. Deft, impactful moments abound, making us aware of the importance of the choice of sounds (who’s speaking, about what, and in what idiom), their placement relative to the image (how a wash of atonal music plays off against an abstract visual figure), and their particular acoustical texture (what the recording of a voice sounds like played in a particular, quiet room).
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 37
1. Model Fifty-One Fifty-Six, Josh Weissbach. (11:02) An abstract color study in blue, red, and black, this experimental film chronicles what the filmmaker calls “physical changes to [his own] heart since being born with the congenital disorder, transposition of the great vessels.” Drawing on the visual and sonic atmosphere of 1980s science fiction, the film envisions a convergence of the human and the cyborg.
2. Where Is Joel Baum, Pearl Gluck. (25:19) A tragic accident causes unexpected consequences in the home of a Hasidic rabbi in contemporary Brooklyn. As this dramatic narrative unfolds, the Grand Rabbi’s wife is forced to reconsider her loyalties when she discovers that the culprit is her grandson, heir to her husband’s dynasty, and more obsessed with Lenny Bruce than the Talmud.
3. A Past of Plank and Nail, Jessica Bardsley. (6:30) Combining rigorously composed shots and ambient sounds, this film provides a poetic mediation on a late autumn visit to Emily Dickinson’s Massachusetts home. The filmmaker draws her title from one of Dickinson’s lyrics, which she also provides as an epigraph:
The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House support itself
And cease to recollect
The Augur and the Carpenter –
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected Life –
A Past of Plank and Nail
And slowness – then the scaffolds drop
Affirming it a Soul –
4. Désamour, Joël Louis Jent. (9:16) A narrative studded with sharp visual symbols, Désamour centers on the parting of ways of Ada and Christoph. Christoph cheats on Ada, and the young couple’s assumed closeness turns out to be an illusion. When Ada escapes into her own world of thought, she recognizes the central problem of their relationship and has a moment of resolve.
5. Gashopon Kou-lou-kou-lou, Eden Chan. (5:12) Oscillating between the drab and the beautiful, this animated film conjures an oblique social criticism. As much as the scribbled, pulsating drawing, the soundtrack—comprised of quotidian noises, recorded and looped—explores the hazy border between pleasant patterns and disturbing uniformities.
6. My Schizophrenic Existence: Examining Blackness in Personal and Academic Spaces, Daysha Veronica Edewi. (18:03) Combining personal reflection, interviews, citations from critical theory, and potent visual metaphors, this essay film reflects on the complexities of African American identity. The film’s voices explore their experiences of navigating predominantly white spaces, while, at the same time, being stigmatized as lacking in cultural blackness by African American peers. “Can one still be black,” the filmmaker asks, “without adhering to the rules of blackness?”