SHORTS BLOCK 1: SHADOWS WITHIN PART 1
Director: Tomas Stark
Writer: Tomas Stark
Stars: Dante Fleischanderl, Kristofer Kamiyasu
“Are you sad?”
Deliria takes place on a slow, hot summer afternoon. A father and son are on a picnic in a field, full of tall grass, and surrounded by woods. The father dozes while the son colors in blocks in a crossword puzzle. Seems idyllic, right? Well things quickly take a turn for the trippy as the frantic movement under the father’s eyelids signals that he’s deep in dreamland. And just where does his son run off to? If, in fact, anywhere at all …
From the use of light to the soft, hazy aesthetic of the film, Deliria definitely delivers on the delirium. As you watch it, you feel like you’re in a fever-induced slumber, not sure what is real or what isn’t. The soft music hints at what’s to come, and the subtle details from the pencil breaking to the discarded watermelon rinds to the minimal dialogue render it a perfect summer short.
GO TO SLEEP: A LAO GHOST STORY
Director: Phet Mahathongdy
Writers: Phet Mahathongdy, Liam O’Donnell
Stars: Phet Mahathongdy, Lidet Viravong, Ova Saopeng
Language: English, Lao
“Your blood is cursed.”
In Go To Sleep: A Lao Ghost Story, a Laotian refugee struggles with his career and his marriage — all while wrestling with his haunted past. After the Vietnam War, millions of Laotians left their country and have since been weighed down by the guilt of abandoning their homeland. One of the ways in which this guilt has manifested itself is in sleep paralysis/night terrors/old hag phenomenon etc. (see, for example, this article on the subject), and this mysterious and deadly occurrence is the subject of this short film.
While I find the subject material compelling, I feel that, in terms of what Go to Sleep tries to accomplish, it would be better suited for a full-length movie rather than a short. As it is now, we don’t get enough time to figure out how this seemingly sudden manifestation is related to the issues with his job and his marriage. It puts in a bunch of details but never has time to develop them, so, unfortunately, we’re left with too many loose ends.
Director: Ricardo Farias
Stars: Betiza Bistmark Calderón, Edel Govea, Reynier Morales
“This is for what is coming.”
A post-apocalyptic sci-fi short, Deliver introduces a sepia-colored, deserted landscape with minimal plantlife and minimal inhabitants. A couple, pregnant with child, travels to a trading post where they must sacrifice one thing in order to ensure the survival of another.
It’s not clear what disaster happened exactly to make this world the way it is, but in a short film, that’s not essential. What matters is the stakes and the characters, and Deliver wisely focuses on those components. In post-apocalyptic settings, there is something about procreation that always makes for an interesting narrative, and that is very much on display here. The acting is fantastic as well, and it’s a short film that definitely makes you think about family and tough choices.
Director: Julia Scalia
H’ilol is a super-short short (approximately 2 minutes). In that time frame, it’s really hard to deliver a developed narrative. It’s better to focus on portraying a thought or a moment, and H’ilol does just that. It centers on a photography session in which the photographer transforms into a sinister character, which leads to an unfortunate end to the model.
While I’m certain H’ilol is drawing attention to the dark world of the photographer-model relationship, it’s honestly just a fun watch — purely on the surface. What it lacks in dialogue, it makes up for in animated expressions and quirky details. Altogether it feels like a really weird acid trip, but an oddly gorgeous one at that!
The North American premiere of Shorts Block 1: Shadows Within took place at the Cinepocalypse Film Festival on Sunday, June 16, @ 9:30pm CST. The Cinepocalypse Film Festival ran from June 13 to 20, 2019, at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. More information can be found here.