Review by Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl
Film by Andrii Andreiev and Artem Gordina
“The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.” – Christopher Paolini, Eragon
The film Antarctica from Director Andrii Andreiev, is this month’s recipient of the Best Film on Nature and Wildlife. There is no dialogue, no narration… In fact, there are very few human beings at all in the film. The icy seascape of the region and the animals who call it home are the real storytellers. And I was captivated from the first moment to the last by the story they tell.
It’s not easy to make a film. And the goal of most filmmakers is to send a message; have their cinematic breakthrough that will make the story they tell relatable to the viewer. So we draw from our own experience. We are thinking, feeling beings. We laugh and cry, we struggle, we conquer.. So to tell a story, we glean every bit of emotion and psycho-substance we can from our own experience and the experiences of others just like us. So what an ambitious task to tell a story that can convey a message and move a viewer when, in a film like this, human beings are bystanders to the region itself and the creatures who live in it and are not like us.
Or are they? When I viewed the film I was in awe of how emotionally moved I was. I saw camaraderie as a migration of penguins waddled over the icy plane. I saw tenderness and vulnerability of a Mother and baby seal snuggled together for warmth and affection. How Andreiev was able to capture such intimate behavior of wildlife with such minimal intrusion is something to marvel at. He captured a very human instinct – the need for relationship and survival, yes, but also love.
The cinematography in ANTARCTICA is stunning. Andreiev shows us a kingdom rarely seen by humans – glacial crags, pillars of ice that stand colossal overhead, stanchioning a rivulet of aqua blue – This continent is nature’s masterpiece and the wildlife that inhabit the vast, harsh and devastatingly beautiful landscape are truly something to behold, mythic even. One can’t help but think this is what heaven must look like with every shade of blue and white. The red boats and orange jackets of Andreiev’s team of explorers are a sharp contrast to the winter white and steely-blue vista.
Watching this film felt like stepping into Narnia. I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, visiting the ancient pyramids of Egypt and the epic ruins of the Coliseum in Rome, but while viewing this film I realized that everything I have seen until now has been man-made. Magnificent, certainly, but built by the minds and the hands of mankind.
Normally in film it is OUR story. A human story where we see a life unfold as man or woman struggles to find meaning in the day-to-day things we can all relate to. But this is NOT our story. This land is nearly untouched, untainted by human civilization. The only human presence in the film is to bear witness to a land beyond understanding where we are foreigners with the privilege of gaining a glimpse of nature’s masterpiece.
The pinnacle of this stunning cinematic piece is the ‘gastronomic dance’ – a feeding of whales unlike any other part of the world with their unique technique of a ‘bubble feeding net’. It is only one place on the Earth with this phenomena – near Alaska where the whales hunt this way. And it is AWESOME to behold. The film could stand on this scene alone, it is so remarkable and artistic.
It is a Phenomena we cannot understand, only observe if we are among the elite few, like Andreiev, to venture into this extraordinary land. But are we meant to? I found my mind lingering after the the credits rolled that such a phenomenon of nature reminds us how small we are in a much bigger, grander picture. We live in a world and we work in an industry that puts human beings and our feelings at the forefront. Perhaps this is a reminder that there are things far greater than ourselves at stake.
Although most of the film is dedicated to presenting the pure, unadulterated beauty of the Antarctic, Andreiev concludes with a series of shots where man and nature are as one. It’s the conclusion to the journey of these pioneers celebrating the natural wonders they have witnessed, relishing in the marvel of nature’s Polar Mecca: A man waves his fists triumphant in the air after scaling an icy crag; a team of explores, bundled head to toe in red coats lay on the sleeted ground in star formation among a throng of penguins; a Man sweeps his fiancée off the ground near the frost-bound shore, sharing a kiss amidst the ocean spray as two walruses wrestle on a nearby snowy plane. Man and Nature have come together in this place so cut off from civilization that it has remained pristine, and the integrity of the natural life-cycle left completely intact.
The question one is left with, and I believe this is intentional, is this.. can man resist the urge to conquer, to take over uncharted territory and allow it to be exactly as it is? Nature has its own story to tell, that much is clear and no doubt, mankind is capable of sharing that story. But can we share in it without breaking it down to make it our own?
Review by Arindam Bhunia
Film by Yash Revar
What we usually do when the lively, energetic, and brilliant ‘little one’ of our family all of a sudden becomes gloomy, inactive and dull? Well, conventionally most of the time we lay the blame on the sufferer only. But we can’t even presume that the harrowing reality is throwing dust in our eyes. We can’t even think that our little dear one can be a victim of child s abuse or child molestation and his or her changing behaviour can be the sign of post-traumatic stress disorder. Yes, the menacing truth is that, more than 40 million children subjected to abuse each year. Not only that, as per report today in every 10 seconds a child is abused or raped. Director Yash Revar has beautifully highlighted this catastrophic side of the society in his short film Bhog.
Story goes like this very enthusiastic and full of life Swayam is a brilliant student in his class. Friendly natured Swayam did not take much time to mingle with the new uncle, his father’s friend. Circumspectly uncle became one of his best friends. The innocent boy could not perceive the coarse and brutish nature of his dear uncle. Swayam’s parent sent him his Uncle’s home for study. That day in the empty house Swayam was sexually abused by his UNCLE. Terribly frightened Swayam could not inform his parents about the incident. That dirty incident engulfed him like nightmare. Swayam becomes lifeless, inert and dull as he can’t come out from the trauma.
Our society has a mind set –up with the fact that only teenage girls and young women can be victim of sexual harassment. But nowadays the picture has slightly changed; at this time our little girls as well as boys are also can be a victim.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Criminal Victimization Survey, there were 346,830 reported rapes or sexual assaults of persons 12 years or younger and at least 62,939 cases of child sexual abuse last year and this figure is increasing daily. According to child psychiatrists, children can’t comprehend sexual harassment properly and that’s why the culprits make these innocents as their target.
When a movie exhibits this type of overriding topic it becomes a massage to the people. And in our current situation we need directors like Yash Revar even more. It’s really difficult for a child to understand such an issue to perform the role. In Bhog the child has performed extraordinarily, though in this case maximum credit goes to the director Yash Revar.
The last scene of the short film, where Swayam protests and saves a girl child from molestation undoubtedly is a master stroke. So not only ourselves, we need to conscious our children too. Then only will this kind of short film acquire its real tribute.
Review by Panchali Kar
Film by Kimia Eyzad Panah
Director Kimia Eyzad Panah puts forward a strong statement in a very subtle way. This short film revolves around the life of an Afghan married couple and their struggle under societal pressure. There have been no preachy moment, no violence, no argument sequence, yet the issue was highlighted to perfection.
The movie begins with an uncle of the male protagonist who has a conversation with the protagonist, expressing his family’s desire to have a male child from him and his wife. There have been no argument or debate at this point of time, however it sets the mood regarding which way the film is heading.
We see the couple throughout the film being conscious of each others’ presence. The majority of the run-time is occupied by silence, often awkward silence, which sets to the note of the internalized tension between the couple, that has come into existence due to societal pressure. Even the eye contacts between them are very limited. Both of them are seen to be hiding things from each other to maintain the apparent peace in the relationship.
However the lack of communication is well depicted in these practices of hiding certain actions among the everyday chores of life. The husband throws away the dinner in the waste bin because he had had food at his uncle’s place, where he apparently had a conversation about having a male child. However he was not in a position to discuss about the conversation or the demand of male child to his wife, so he rather tells her that he’d eaten the dinner the other day and the it was tasty.
The lady is kept under close surveillance and behind the locked doors all day long, which is the major issue of the film. She doesn’t have the liberty to go out and buy stuff on her own. She has to depend on her husband for anything she needed. However the rebellious part comes when this lady goes out everyday, after his husband leaves and visits different places like apparel stores, bookshops, amusement parks, etc.
The film is beautifully filmed with amazing close ups and mid shots. Very jovial and soulful. Silence along with crisp ambiance sound plays the key role behind setting up the mood for the film. The performances by the protagonists are worth mentioning. They did full justice to the story.
STRUCTURES OF NATURE
Review by Panchali Kar
A Film by Martin Gerigk
Structures of Nature is not just a film, it is a brilliant narration of phenomena: natural, scientific, social, political, and so on. What keeps the audience glued on the screen aren’t some discrete oration of some of these phenomena themselves, but a series of cohesion and adhesion, that creates a symphony between these phenomena, which seem unrelated otherwise. And in fact these inter-related aspects between the discrete mathematical equations, chemical formulas, societal structures, political discourses, which apparently seem boring, grabbed the attention when a simile is established with spirituality or everyday norms.
Kudos to the director for coming up with such a brilliant project. Coming to the technical aspects: the film is astoundingly shot, capturing brilliant macro shots and extreme close ups. The long shots too are pretty decent. None of the elements visible added any unwanted baggage to the narrative. The post processing has been interestingly done, using split screens, colour pop, bright colour palate, which totally boosting up the visual narrative. The oration was beautifully done with a crisp pace. In the end, this movie leaves us with loads of possibilities to think, ponder, look for answers.
Review by Arindam Bhunia
Film by Ghirija Jayarraj
From the very beginning of the review the name pinned in my head was Alan Kurdi. A three-year-old Syrian boy whose image made global headlines after he drowned on September 2nd 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea. Yes, that poor baby was a refugee and after that incident in overnight the refugee as well as asylum seekers crisis became an global issue. Nowadays in world politics this is one of the most consequential issues. The short film Touch shows how after surviving war, how those poverty-stricken vagrants are persisting in their lives.
Story begins with a Tamil interpreter who is fighting for the Asylum seekers in Australia. The current situation of the Asylum seekers makes her frustrated and her frustration level forces her to quit the job. But in a last massage therapy session an asylum seeker’s dreadful and nightmarish past changes her way of thinking. The asylum seeker lady had a beautiful untroubled and gleeful past with her parents, husband and babies. But war demolished everything. Armies brutally murdered her husband, not only that the bloodthirsty monsters gang raped the helpless woman. Through a lot of obstacles she alone escaped from her country and came to Australia. The severe trauma of that incident took away all her emotions. During the massage therapy she reminisces about her past and burst into tears. This incident remolds the frame of mind of the interpreter.
These poor refugees and asylum seekers are forced migrants, they are forced to leave their homes and seek protection as a result of conflict or persecution. According to a report, about 86% of the world’s refugees are living in developing countries. Australia’s humanitarian intake has remained relatively steady over the last 20 years, with around 12,000 to 13,000 people typically accepted every year. The barbarism and cruelty during the war; the helplessness of the refugees, are perfectly pictured in the film. All the actors did their job so perfectly and passionately that it is really very difficult to mention ones. Especially the character of therapist took the eye and I think every refugee needs that motherly “Touch”. Editing and sound quality incomparably harmonize with the film. Story line of the film is so proficient and up to the par that music in the film was like an auxiliary.
Refugees who have lost their own country, own culture are also ordinary people like us. These helpless people should get some privilege and sympathy. We don’t want to discern another Alan Kurdi. Only love, care and attachment can help these poor people to retrieve their normal life again. Director Ghirija Jayarraj needs a lot of kudos and claps for giving us such a sublime massage.
BRASS WIRES ORCHESTRA
Review by Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl
Film by Filipe Correia dos Santos
“What’s wrong with having a conversation? It takes place in Real Time and you can’t recall what you’re going to say. Texting, Email, Posting.. All of these things let us present the self that we want to be. We get to edit. And that means we get to delete. The face, the voice, the flesh, the body. Not too little. Not too much. Just right.” – Brass Wires Orchestra “Youth”
Facebook. Twitter. Snapchat. Instagram. The advent of social media was revolutionary with its unfettered access to technology and an unprecedented, global cyber network; people from all places and all walks of life, at all times sharing information and forming “connections” that might otherwise be impossible. Genius. But dangerous. Because an imbalance has occurred, a glitch in this revolutionary form of communication.. The problem? We’re not really connecting.
This imbalance is the theme of Brass Wire Orchestra’s Music Video “Youth” and its poignant message, innovative style and artistic direction have garnered top honors for BEST MUSIC VIDEO in this month’s entries for the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival.
Director Filipe Correia dos Santos wastes no screen time getting to his thematic issue. The movie opens over BLACK. A VOICE, deep and distant, (the ever familiar Omniscient Narrator) speaks.. “Why does this matter? It matters to me because I think we’re setting ourselves up for trouble. Trouble, certainly, in how we relate to each other. But also trouble in how we relate to ourselves. In our capacity for self-reflection.”
It’s an effective opening, for several reasons.. Firstly, we have a clear Point of View. And while I am not usually a fan of the Omniscient POV, (it’s challenging and can feel a bit dated) Santos manages, in my opinion, to wield it effectively and with a bit of flair.. As the Narrator speaks, lines a little like sound waves or bits of an audio track appear sporadically over the Black Screen. At first wavy, then jagged, more like the peaks and lows of a heart monitor; then suddenly the lines straighten and come together to form a Rhombus. A Masked Man stands inside – part of the picture but separate, identity obscured, studying his enclosure of slanted walls. He stands on a wet plane. The water creates a reflective surface to mirror his own anonymous self. Another Voice speaks out.. younger, the Voice of HIS Generation “We’re getting used to a new way of being alone together.”
And thus the song “Youth” begins.. And I have to say, I really like the song. The musical composition is just enough emo-rock, just a bit alternative, just my style. I also really like the lyrics.
“We raise our thumbs, we’re on display, while we go numb things stay the same.
Friends you don’t know.. they all watch your show. Tomorrow is just another day.
Feast for the ego, Fast for the soul; You’re in a carousel you don’t control.
Throw sand in our eyes we open them wide.”
Now a good music video, in my opinion, has three parts: The song – that which we hear; The Story – that which we see; and what I like to call the Concert Element where the Musicians themselves are showcased playing their instruments. What makes Santos’s Video so impressive is an expert fusion of each of these three elements (all of which could stand alone in their own impressive right) but instead enhance the overall theme of the film.
Santos is fastidious in his direction. He creates two distinct SPACES for our Protagonist (at the start, the Masked Man) First, there is the BLACK BOX (BLACK RHOMBUS just doesn’t have the same ring to it) This space is theatrical, contrived; Mannequins, all wearing geometric masks, posed this way and that, and all missing some form of limb; It’s dark here. Our Masked Man moves among the bodies curiously, almost unaware that they’re not real. The design of the black box is all about lines and angles and colors are more like gel filters one might see in some Photoshop setting. This is a computer-generated space we’ve created for ourselves because we are obsessed with the capabilities we’ve now realized are possible. But…
“We don’t know where we’re going..”
And slowly, our Protagonist removes his mask. His hands explore his now exposed face as though he has never felt his skin before. Santos brings back our Omniscient Narrator for one final time.. “What’s wrong with having a conversation? It takes place in Real Time..” Real. Time. This is a turning point for our no longer-masked Man. The Black Box, photo-filter den he inhabited changes. He is now is a vast, snowy, rocky, harsh, landscape. A wasteland to some.. And he begins to run. Running free, running from, or running toward? I believe that is a question Santos leaves to the Viewer. And he lets the music run with our Man: “Youth on us is wasted. Scared of disappointment. Running through a wasteland. Don’t know where we’re going.”
Is that why we like the BLACK BOX? And we all have them.. our own little hide-aways. Because we’re scared? Boxes feel safe, from confrontation, from getting too close to those who might hurt us. But that isn’t living. It’s hiding. And technology has gotten the best of us and created these false senses of security and connection. We are inundated with information – anyone, everyone can stream their lives for all to see and we all see the show from our private little boxes. But it’s killing our sense of relationship to each other. We LIKE something or we POST some funny meme and someone else in turn LIKES that and we feel a “connection.” As the video warns “We’re getting used to a new way of being alone together.” I guess the question then is what kind of life is that? And isn’t that a wasteland of its own?
In the end, our guy chooses a return to the land of the living. Harsh though it may be, unedited, unfiltered, it’s real. He becomes our Hero and although there is no look of triumph on his face, no self-satisfaction or certainty that what lies outside the box will yield success or safety or love, there is bravery in his eyes. And that inspires me and is what moved me to pen this review.
The detail of this Music Video is so impressive. I love how the wavy lines in the beginning appear like bits of audio track to enhance the Narration. It’s subtle, but somehow seeing the deep Voice resonate onscreen brought a certain gravity to his proclamation, and then the resemblance as the lines become more jagged like one’s heart beat on a hospital Monitor, made my mind wonder.. is this a bit of irony? That our life-line is in jeopardy since REAL-TIME, heart-to-heart connections and conversations are being rapidly replaced with email and text from the convenience of our phones and computers? And finally what I love about “Youth” is that it’s insightful but relatable. Very often I’ll view a Music Video that is a feast for the eyes, a visual extravaganza, but then I listen to the song and I have NO IDEA how the Director came to that interpretation. I don’t want to be stumped as a viewer, I want to enjoy; to relate! And yes, of course I prefer when the scope of my thinking/feeling is broadened by a Director’s fresh and unique interpretation of a story told in song. Unless you’re David Lynch, in which all bets are off!
All kidding aside, Santos nailed this and the Brass Wires Orchestra now have a huge fan in me!
Arindam Bhunia is a marketing manager in an MNC with more than eight years of work experience in electrical field. Apart from his corporate job, he has interest in cultural activities so he joined Human Lab Corporation as Chief Executive Officer. He oversees strategic planning for film, television and video game production, marketing and distribution for the company’s business verticals worldwide. He is also responsible for overseeing finance, legal, labour relations, technology and HLC Studio operations.
Panchali Kar is a Dancer, Choreographer, Actor and Filmmaker. In addition, Panchali is a devout advocate for egalitarian social change, is affiliated with the NGO, Responsible Charity and currently working on a photo documentary on LGBT rights. She is an avid scholar and veteran of the performing arts and a seasoned instructor. Panchali maintains several degrees in the Arts including a M.Mus degree. Ms. Kar is also affiliated with AKTO, a Kolkata theater group based in the city in which she resides.
Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl is an award-winning actress, writer and producer currently living in NYC. Her production company, Mad About Pictures, has produced three films all currently playing the festival circuit. “The Mourning Hour”, her most recent film, just took top honors at The Williamsburg Independent Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently writing a thriller feature but continues to pursue her acting career and can be seen on television and online in episodes of Revenge, Criminal Minds and Heroes.