Published Jun 02, 2010Focusing on the inevitable fractures between children and parents, the sixth official selection of the Worldwide Short Film Festival proves to be an appropriately mixed bag.
Monsters Down the Hall packs the greatest wallop of these frequently harrowing shorts, with a young boy living with his junkie mother. She warns him to stay out of the mysterious apartment 18E down the hall, where the boy imagines a horror rendered with nightmarish intensity. However, when his mom succumbs to her lowest depths yet, he finds a truly inspiring courage.
Dick Cheney In A Cold Dark Cell compiles scenes of young hockey players falling through frozen lakes (from The Dead Zone and Damien: Omen II, among other classics) in a vague attempt at political allegory. Old Fangs, the only animated segment in the program, uses sharp, angular drawings to tell the story of a wolf confronting his father after years of separation. Opening Up (M'ouvrir) certainly takes the program name to a literal end, with a French-Canadian teenage girl coping with self-mutilation.
The program is not without its missteps, however. The Lesson attempts to document the struggle of a single parent coping with a drug-addicted teen's effect on his sister, but the message is lost in bitter cynicism. At Home With the Jedi provides a refreshing, comic, documentary alternative to the grim family fiction of the program, but Star Wars aficionados will either rejoice or cringe at the development of the series' Jedi wisdom into sloppy Scientology.
This results in an anticlimactic finish with A Gentle Push (Een Klein Duw), a Belgian calamity dragging together a troubled child, a beached whale and the country's World Cup qualifying match. With little payoff after the relatively padded 15 minutes, A Gentle Push marks the end of a program destined to leave viewers as frustrated as the dysfunctional children featured therein.