THE ART OF THE VOICE-OVER - I wrote about voice-over narrators in films for the Telegraph website. Here’s the beginning of the piece: The most irritating thing about The Great Gatsby ...
6 hours ago
"I had a daughter born in lawful wedlock who grew up amid the fields and pastures. I had her baptized and confirmed and brought her up in the fear of God. I taught her respect for the traditions of the Church as much as I was able to do given her age and simplicity of her condition. I succeeded so well that she spent much of her time in church and after having gone to confession she received the sacrament of the Eucharist every month. Because the people suffered so much, she had a great compassion for them in her heart and despite her youth she would fast and pray for them with great devotion and fervor. She never thought, spoke or did anything against the faith. Certain enemies had her arraigned in a religious trial. Despite her disclaimers and appeals, both tacit and expressed, and without any help given to her defense, she was put through a perfidious, violent, iniquitous and sinful trial. The judges condemned her falsely, damnably and criminally, and put her to death in a cruel manner by fire." - Statement by Isabelle Romee, Joan of Arc's mother, made prior to the commencement of the Catholic kangaroo court proceedings against her daughter.
“Those who fail to exhibit positive attitudes, no matter the external reality, are seen as maladjusted and in need of assistance. Their attitudes need correction. Once we adopt an upbeat vision of reality, positive things will happen. This belief encourages us to flee from reality when reality does not elicit positive feelings . . . [The Law of Attraction] argues that we attract those things in life, whether it is money, relationships or employment, which we focus on. Suddenly, abused and battered wives or children, the unemployed, the depressed and mentally ill, the illiterate, the lonely, those grieving for lost loved ones, those crushed by poverty, the terminally ill, those fighting with addictions, those suffering from trauma, those trapped in menial and poorly paid jobs, those whose homes are in foreclosure or who are filing for bankruptcy because they cannot pay their medical bills, are to blame for their negativity."" - Chris Hedges
I consider short films a genre unto themselves - a form of storytelling with its own unique set of rules (or, when rules are broken, their own unique parameters waiting to be burst open). This excellent series of short films from Africa is playing for one show only at the TIFF Bell Lightbox cinemas in Toronto, and at press time, only three of the five shorts were available for review, but if they're any indication of what I'm missing when they're all screened publicly, I think it's safe to say that this is a series that deserves to be toured as widely as possible and for those living in Toronto, it is absolutely NOT to be missed.
While these films are generated by "new voices", what struck me about the three shorts I did see is that they're actually ABOUT something. Having seen thousands of short films in my life (and far too many of them Canadian), I'm constantly distressed to see movies that are little more than "calling cards" for features or worse, the horrendous, "Look Ma, I can use a dolly. Hire me to direct crappy TV." There is this really appalling sense of "careerism" in Canadian and American short cinema - films not being made because they HAVE to be made, but because far too many basement dwelling rich kids think filmmaking would be a better "career choice" than having to work for a living. This attitude is supported by far too many educational and training institutions to keep tuition fees flowing in and/or to maintain their relevance/existence (and to keep things nice and cushy for the nest-featherers who administer such programs).
Cinema, however, is a calling - it's not a "career choice". Cinema chooses YOU! When a film is to be made, it should be made with the sort of passion and belief that the story MUST be told and that not doing so would render its maker doomed to a kind of artistic purgatory until it IS made.
The three of five short films I saw in this program are all infused with the sort of vitality of commitment to the medium and storytelling that makes me feel secure in the knowledge that cinema is still alive - somewhere! Granted, they are all rooted in places that, on the surface, are removed from the traditional North American experience. Though frankly, I'd argue there are corollary settings that are not being explored in North America because THOSE filmmakers are often passed over for the sort of pathetic garbage I detailed above. (Or worse, some genuinely good filmmakers avoid them in order to kowtow to the above.)
It sometimes sickens me when I realize just how many short films I have seen - especially from North America. The dross I've subjected myself to includes (but is not limited to) pallid rip-offs of John Hughes, Wes Anderson and/or Quentin Tarantino, juvenile philosophical dark ramblings that should have been left in the trash bin of the Existentialism 101 classroom and most horrific of all, the "joke" short - one in which the punchline, or "twist" is what drives the film.
In any event, do yourself a favour and catch the shorts in this series. Hopefully they'll be coming to a theatre near you beyond the borders of downtown Toronto.
Here are brief reviews of the three I have seen.