Published Sep 21, 2015As part of the Wavelengths programme at TIFF, several short films are grouped by thematic or stylistic similarities and offered in a collection for viewers to mirror the runtime of a traditional feature length film. YOLO, besides being a rather simplistic acronym, ultimately represents the ethos of many of the titles included in this program, whether pertaining to identity or the notion of trying to reconcile existence with its ephemeral nature.
Ben Rivers' A Distant Episode is really a companion piece to his meditation on the deceptive and illusive nature of cinema, The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Afraid and the Two Eyes are not Brothers. The film, which starts as an ersatz "making of" with crew members lethargically filling time between actual takes, eventual inserts artificialities indicating that the text itself and how it's manipulated is the message. The short film included with this program, A Distant Episode, is like a hazy black and white reiteration and summary of this idea, featuring a crew filming two astronauts by the ocean with looming threats in the background that ultimately become a different focus of the shoot. It's a cyclical, experimental work that asks the audience to remember the artificiality of the reality they're being presented on film.
Behrouz Rae's peculiar and brief (it's only one minute long) short, The Reminder, features a young boy staring at a photograph on the wall, analyzing its image specificity in relation to himself. In channelling ideas of identity and the confusion in understanding the self in relation to our parents, it proves far more thought-provoking and intriguing than Beatrice Gibson's self-righteous and pretentious piece of rubbish, Solo for Rich Man, which was apparently inspired by William Gaddis' novel JR and attempts to restage a series of performance pieces utilizing footage from a four-day experimental music workshop for kids. Perhaps there's some additional meaning in these references themselves, but they way Gibson presents it, it appears to be some sort of adolescent yarn about the falsity of success and the evils of greed. It also features the sounds of loose change clanging together for a good five minutes straight. It's painful.
Fortunately, Wojciech Bakowski's Analysis of Emotions and Vexations is far more intriguing, both intellectually and visually. It posits itself as an artistic reflection of the notion that all of our great ideas lose their power shortly after inception, which he tries to reflect in a series of drawings that stem from the brevity of inspiration. It's a reflection of his state of mind, true, but it's also a treatise on the instability of the human brain and the constant stimuli surrounding us that modify and muddy ideas and concepts.
Rounding out the programme is Ben Russell's titular YOLO, which is an experimental blend of street performance (the Eat My Dust youth collective from Soweto's Kliptown district are being filmed) and perspective distortion. Whether imagery is being reversed or we're viewing our subjects through a mirror, our perspective is constantly being manipulated, which comments on how we perceive the artistry of a filmed subject.