Review: Lust In Translation – Seven short films

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New Queer Visions, a UK based short film festival, have released seven of their best selections with Filmdoo, entitled ‘Lust in Translation’, which showcases the talent, variety and expertise of a handful of filmmakers from all over the world. The Edge got the chance to review the seven films, all of which are constantly and consistently impressive in nearly all aspects of their production, and act as striking eye openers to the world of love, loss, regrets and happy endings, however fleeting they may be.

SHIMI

Image via Kate Maveau

Image via Kate Maveau

The first of the seven films, written and directed by Kate Maveau, dives straight into the realm of power, control and longing. Keely, a young and talented but lonely girl, is a training ballerina with the faint shadow of innocence trailing her, making her the perfect ‘target’ for the mysterious Mairi who pulls her hard into her life of seduction and secrets. Cue all things manipulative, tense and strange.

It’s an eyebrow-raising, strange film, daring in terms of cinematography and visual effects but equally expert in them too. A sequence where Keely appears to walk in slow motion through a crowd of drunk, high partiers all getting it on with eachother towards Mairi is extremely powerful, the lighting one of the most prominent and impressive aspects of both that particular sequence and the entirety of the film. Often the actions of the characters will refuse to match the accompanying music, creating a very unique disjointed effect which pokes its head round every now and again and trails throughout the whole film. It’s uncomfortable at the best of times, but in a way that intrigues you, dares you to look closer, and makes it all that more vaguely powerful.

Lost in the World

The second of the seven, a film by Xolelwa Nhlabatsi, poses a slight change of tone. And pace. Oh man, this film is everywhere, chopping back and forth between different time frames, leaving us completely unaware as to where we are at or were at, or anything really. Think Inception type confusion, but without the dreams and the DiCaprio.

It follows a South African police officer on a revenge rampage to kill the men responsible for the violent rape and murder of her longtime girlfriend. In the process, she loses her mind and develops an addiction to drugs which allow her to hallucinate her late girlfriend for a few fleeting moments. It’s a beautifully shot film, with many frames awe-inspiring enough to rival those on the big screen. But there’s just something about the script and the dialogue which sends the whole film slightly off-centre. Something just a tiny bit stilted, but enough to halt its flow. Which is disappointing, really, because the rest of it – despite its confusion and its lack of explanation – is really quite clever.

Stevie

By far my favourite of the bunch, Stevie follows, well, Stevie, a girl on the upper end of her teenage years as she goes on her first date with a boy, Justin, the cousin of her best friend who has just moved to town. But it’s not your usual, cutesy, twee first date encircled by the sugar-sweet blossoms of first kisses and young love. It’s a date which evolves into a definitely-not-a-date, crashed by both Stevie’s friend and Justin’s sister, the latter who is especially friendly to Stevie.

Image via Chloe Jury-Fogel

Image via Chloe Jury-Fogel

There’s some nice stuff about young love in there, but the real heart of Stevie comes from Stevie herself, figuring herself out and who she really is. It’s immediately funny, and immediately charming, shot to perfection with a clever use of hand-held camera to introduce its sixteen short minutes with the rest expertly utilising light and sound to reflect Stevie’s own persona. It’s also proficiently scripted, no lulls and no pacing issues, whilst simultaneously being laugh out loud funny at some points. Feature length version of Stevie, please!

Blood and Water

Written and directed by Emily Nan Iason, Blood and Water is another uncomfortable watch – mainly because the romance running through this film’s veins emerges between a student and her university/college professor. So just a tad awkward. But even though you find yourself slightly tense at such a dynamic, it’s impossible to look away from. With superb acting and an even better heap of direction and use of lighting, Blood and Water makes the biggest impact of the seven films.

Flo, our protagonist, is a student who thrives off sexual encounters and nights of raucous energy but is tripped up when she is lured by her professor, who is the one thing she cannot have. For obvious reasons. It’s an interesting premise, and one that follows through. However happy endings are a thing of fantasy in the world of Blood and Water, with a seriously unsatisfactory ending without a hint of finality about it causing the rest of the film to pale in its wake. Which is a shame, because with a better ending, or with five extra minutes to shape some of that finality, the whole thing could have been brilliant.

Two Girls Against the Rain

The only documentary of the group, Two Girls Against the Rain delves into the life of Soth Yun and Sem Eang, two Cambodian women who have been struggling for the rights to their love for a very long time. Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in the world, still upholds traditional values in terms of love, marriage and sex. Whilst same-sex sexual activity is legal (with conditions and rules), the government has not yet legalised any LGBT legislation. This short documentary is one of the first to give voice to the lesbian community, which still faces stigmatization.

Although it offers little in terms of originality, it’s definitely interesting and draws some important issues to the surface. It’s always inspiring to see people acting for the rights of their happiness and the happiness of others, which is what the documentary uncovers, and to know that change is happening and will continue to happen as long as people like Soth and Sem fight for it. Two Girls Against the Rain isn’t unique, it isn’t all that memorable, but it’s important and covers ground which is simultaneously far from us culturally and topographically, but also all too near to us in terms of inspiring us to carry on the fight.

Almost Obsolete

Winning the award for ‘best title’ from me, Almost Obsolete, written and directed by James Cook, offers the story of Chris, a woman recently dumped and pushed out of her daughter’s life by her ex-girlfriend, as she embarks on a spur of the moment road trip to Brighton to see her friend Michael, reigniting her own spark for life.

Boasting a very impressive montage sequence of a drunken night in an arcade, the entirety of the film is actually really quite engaging. Every character is wholly three-dimensional, which is hard to do well in a short film, and it focuses more on friendship than romantic relationships -though these are also of the plentiful variety – which is really lovely to see. Its marked theme of escape is one we can all probably relate to, and it relishes this for our own enjoyment. It’s also great to see a short film which allows us to actually like the characters. We don’t just tolerate them; we like them because they are likeably written. Props to Cook for that.

Lit

Image via Elena Oxman

image via Elena Oxman

The final film of the septet boasts a somewhat tiresome premise. A woman, Jessie, known for picking up other women from the club picks up one woman in particular, who turns out to be different from the rest. She’s troubled, confident, brutal, and she changes Jessie’s perspective. It’s one of the deep ones, I’ll give you that, but it loses its engagement about three quarters of the way in, relying too much on one-on-one dialogue without enough action or movement. Nevertheless, it’s thought provoking and carries two relatively three-dimensional characters who are both inarguably interesting, which works for its thirteen minute screen time. Anything more than that, though, would be its downfall. And, luckily, what results is far from completely tiresome.

Lust in Translation, the first release from New Queer Vision, a UK based short film festival, is available worldwide, exclusively on VOD at filmdoo.com.

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Second year Film and English student, self-proclaimed go-to Edge expert on Cloverfield, Fall Out Boy, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Loves mostly those three things.

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