Official Selection: Power Plays

Official Selection: Power Plays
Going from Mexico to England to Denmark and Canada, this grouping of shorts defined by conflict or issues of power struggle covers the world a couple of times, revealing some surprisingly universal themes of human nastiness and indecency. Essentially, this is the perfect grouping of shorts to watch for anyone looking to remedy the plight of feeling good about humanity.

To start, Canadian experimental documentary Taipei Taxi shows a bunch of crappy grainy footage intended to exacerbate political struggles while playing a recorded conversation between two strangers in the back of a cab. It's all about immigration, bureaucracy and so on. Rusted Pyre is somewhat more accessible, detailing an ersatz initiation ritual between a popular girl and a dorky girl, wherein the dork is inevitably manipulated. Because the format is so stark, this film is quite unpredictable, which is a plus considering these actresses have a hard time pretending to be drunk on film.

Picnic is an unforgettable little short, detailing a lover's forest getaway gone wrong when two passers-by stumble upon them during coitus. While this Danish short could follow a predictable format of conflict escalated, it goes to a more personal psychological place of victim hood rarely tackled on film. Similarly psychological in execution is documentary short Two, which features some candid interviews with a grown British man that likes to pretend he's a two-year-old girl while a nanny looks after him. And, yes, she changes his diaper and puts him in a jolly-jumper.

Now, even though the next short, The Combo, doesn't really have any sort of catharsis or purpose it actually works quite well, mainly due to the performances from the lead teen actors. Dressed as fries, a shake and a burger, three fast-food employees stand out in front of their restaurant bickering and learning about each other. Where the listless nature actually works for this title, the same tactic fails almost completely in Northeast Front, which features a mother in Mexico trying to save her son from blackmailers, or something.

And lastly, animated short The Tannery points out that when an animal's pelt is used for fur, the soul of that creature is stranded on earth for eternity. I had no idea.