Tension abounds in writer/director Theodore Collatos’s latest feature, Tormenting the Hen, as nearly every discussion and/or interaction is laced with potential avenues providing offense and/or judgments, even the more inconspicuous and trivial subjects up for discussion harbor the possibility of illuminating surprising truths and viewpoints. With his script, Collatos has crafted a proverbial minefield for his characters to navigate, one that is laden with opportunities to weaponize any and all words and the hazards of crafting conclusions about others with incomplete information.
In his debut, Cameron Bruce Nelson has managed to present an effective portrait of humility in slow burn, a case study on the matter of adaptability as the nature of Sal’s situation remains in a constant state of flux, trying in earnest to readjust until finally realizing that he may not belong or be able to make do as nature decisively states its dominance emphatically. A bittersweet tale occupying the margins of the in between, in between the dusk of unrealized, cast off dreams and the threshold of promise and new beginnings.
On the surface, writer/director Christopher Jason Bell’s short film, left, appears to be a rudimentary walkthrough of a very basic premise - a young woman roaming an airport; and to a certain extent, this is true. It is, in its entirety, nothing more than a young woman wandering through the confines of an airport while attempting to arrange a place for herself to stay. However, it is within this elementary narrative framework that Bell experiments with the role of the camera as well as a minimum allowance in terms of narrative.
All things familiar, yet all things becoming increasingly sinister, Clark seems to have crafted a sci-fi horror/mystery film with no real, concrete horror elements. Instead, inundating the storyline with plenty of mystery, mystery piled atop mystery. A straightforward narrative film stalked and accosted by the experimental with Clark’s experimental imagery insinuating a cinematic approximation of the metaphysical as flashes of light cycle chaotic, reasoning and context seemingly lost in its rapid shuffle, abstraction deployed as the narrative catalyst.
Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan’s enigmatic debut, For The Plasma, seemingly about everything and nothing all at the same time rests at the intersection of cerebral over-complication and tongue-in-cheek, lo-fi jaunt, all on a nearly non-existent indie budget. The film’s playful avoidance of categorization or its incessant need to avoid any normal, discernible narrative path will surely have viewers, either, reveling in the ambiguity of it all or steadily growing ever more exasperated by its opaque nature.
Death is abundant in Tears of God, the feature-length debut from writer/director Robert Hillyer Barnett (co-written with Diamando Proimos), manufactured at the hands of others or cultivated within the familiar palms of their own. Either way, death is a pervasive condition afflicting the congregation of a small church (of sorts) nestled in the snow-covered, mountainous landscape where they worship and suffer; live and, ultimately, die.
Billed as a black as tar comedy, Nathan Silver’s 1990s period piece, Stinking Heaven, plays with the idea of a ramshackle commune of sorts, a house full of recovering addicts desperately attempting to overcome their addictions, as well as their pasts; although, I am not sure if tar is a black enough descriptor for the type of comedy found within the close quarters of this suburban home in Passaic, New Jersey.
Paintings from the likes of Monet, Manet and Renoir (to name a few) populate the backgrounds of each still frame, each frame signifying one act of the film’s storyline with 18 acts in total. The actors, themselves, exist primarily in the foreground, in time period aligned garments, over-emoting in the vein of silent films, gravitas pinned to the performances by way of over-exaggeration. Their existences will occasionally blend into the paintings, two art forms bleeding into one as the oil-painted veneer of thickets and overgrowth cloud the stances and footfalls of the actors navigating the artificiality of the surrounding terrain.
The occupying quirk found in Alison Bagnall’s Funny Bunny is easily recognizable on the surface as more of the same. At first glance, Bagnall’s feature has the familiar appearance of all the other indie comedies strewn about the distribution landscape over the past several years except that Bagnall’s implementation emerges as a more thoughtful interpretation.
Given the current circumstances of the turmoil in Syria, Bell’s tender portraiture is as timely as they come. Although, he refrains from overloading the film with political viewpoints choosing instead to, merely, present a man looking for work. The cinematic equivalent of walking a mile in another man’s shoes, The Winds That Scatter is, unfortunately in this day and age, a necessity.
Thanatos, Drunk is a fairly straightforward narrative, a slice of life excursion through the nightclubs and narrow back-alleys of Taiwan. Underneath the fairly mundane day-to-day activities that comprise the surface level plotline lays an elaborate tapestry of emotional entanglements as guilt, pain, love and indifference wrestle within everyone day and night. All matter of existential struggles present themselves throughout the languid days, every new development or occurrence is yet another thread added to the complexities of the interconnected web being woven until everything, inevitably, comes to a head, unraveling all around those involved.
For Future Reference is a new feature in which we review and recommend festival films yet to be picked up for US distribution (although, hopefully, they will be in the near future). For our inaugural episode, I've chosen Guto Parente's The Mysterious Death of Pérola, an almost dialogue-free, snail's pace slow-burn murder mystery wherein subtle, unsettling imagery replaces more traditional scare tactics.