I like to think of myself as an open minded person. In fact I usually prefer outsider and edgy art to mainstream, traditionally "pretty" things. But "Short in the Dark," the collection of short films I watched last night (as part of the 100+ I am watching as a SIFF short film juror) caused me to throw all that into question and just beg for something pretty. Or at least something with some humans in it.
While one film was mysteriously lovely (Shu, a meditative, one-shot view of a high-security prison in CA) and two were sweetly funny (an animated piece about bats by local filmmaker Sarah Jane Lapp, and the chronicles of a skateboarding couple by local filmmaker Karn Junkinsmith), the bulk of the showcase featured blaring, unpleasant noise and visuals that made me feel like I was the subject of some horrific scientific experiment (Will the subject's retinas still function after 45 minutes of repeated flashes, blurs, and spastic jump cuts?). The only solace was that I wasn't alone in my discomfort. There was a great deal of fidgeting in the Northwest Film Forum theater, and at one point, when an interminable short film made clear it was going to start all over, someone behind me actually said, loudly, "No!" as if his dentist had just said, "Why don't we do another root canal just for the heck of it?"
I'm sure these films were very time consuming and technically difficult to make, and I do think every generation must deconstruct and reconstruct the art forms of its elders, but if you're going to do so, wouldn't it be okay to craft something that people actually wanted to watch? The whole assault-and-battery approach to art perplexes me. You don't have to be trying to win a popularity contest, but if the point isn't to connect with humans in some way, then why not keep it to yourself?
ANYWAY. I was a bit hesistant to watch the next 90-minute set of movies on DVD last night (must keep on my schedule to make it to the Sunday deadline!), but I'm so glad I did. The collection was called "Serenity Prayers" (it plays this Sunday), and while I didn't love everything in it, it was a salve in the sense that every film in it makes a genuine, if sometimes flawed attempt to connect with humans (using humans). Standouts included Pockets, a surprisingly touching documentary short about what people have in their pockets at any given moment, Welgunzer, a kooky but extremely well executed sci-fi romp about time travel and suicide, and The Control Master, a funny, supercool animated short that was made entirely from retro images recalling pulp fiction and vintage catalogs. Hooray for humanity!