Official Selection: Who's Your Dada?

BY Robert BellPublished Jun 7, 2012

Very rarely surreal, as the program's title implies, this collection of shorts primarily targets notions of identity in relation to authority and social order, taking the occasional break for conspiracy theory and police shooting music video art. What's more is that, as a collection of shorts, these titles unintentionally work together to deliver what's mostly powerful and affecting cinema in a humble, personal package.

Things start light-heartedly with the black & white Canadian ode to early cinema, The Big Tree, wherein a man is tasked to cut down the largest tree on Vancouver Island with a stilts organ to earn back his fishing boat. Complete with a musical number and washed-out lighting aesthetic, the impetus is that of hyperbole in the face of classic cinema expectations, with the occasional dismemberment and drug trip carrying the fluid narrative.

This tone carries over in to Men of the Earth, which features (mostly) one continuous take of backstage construction drama while drivers are forced to wait at a stop sign, but is halted with the dud of the program, Woodcarver, which is experimental video art about the shooting of an innocent man by a police officer in Seattle.

Fortunately the next short in the bunch is a documentary by Errol Morris about JFK assassination scholar Tink Thompson, The Umbrella Man. Surprisingly, his logic about conspiracy theories and the unkempt nature of genuine truth in comparison to documented truth proves quite thought provoking.

The standout short of the program is the Canadian NFB animation of Edmond was a Donkey, which features a quiet, shy man ― presumed arrogant by his co-workers for eating lunch on his own and not participating in office gossip ― finding an identity when gag donkey ears make him question the body he was born into. While implicitly quirky, based on the premise of man as donkey, the underlying message of social dread of difference prevails, ensuring this stand as a profound and moving martyr parable of adaptive resistance.

Similarly touching is the other Canadian NFB animation, Kali the Little Vampire, which uses the vampire allegory to expand upon the nature of being an outsider during childhood. It's slightly more effective than the smart but overly subtle Nothing Else, wherein a 32-year-old man is so deadened by the day to day grind that he can't even think of a wish while blowing out his candles on his birthday.

Lastly, half-hour film The Twin takes a slightly more lucid approach to the dark British comedy How to Get Ahead in Advertising by following the experiences of a man that learns of a small twin growing in his throat

Entertaining and cleverly executed, this Swedish short never manages to move much beyond Multiplicity in thematic complexity, tenuously handling the nature of ego reflection versus notions of individuality.

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