A half a whole - Pratulya Chand
To me, the essence of Surrealism is the acceptance of the dream-state as a reality. When you look at the work of Dali, Magritte, Kahlo, and even Joseph Cornell, you can see the imagery of dreams being given form in a world we at least somewhat recognise as our own. A half a whole takes the world of dreams and explicitly pins it to us and to our world, while making us question what is real and what is dream, though leaving us unsure which is the important portal through which to step.
The artist struggling with self-doubt, self-loathing, self-image issues. These stories are a dime-a-dozen, but they also ultimately expose the greatest strength of artists - their ability to look within and find those nuggets of pain and pound them into something resembling Art. The Art Police is, at heart, the struggle of a writer to discover that in himself and his art that is worthwhile. He's aware of that, and in that, it becomes post-modern. At the same time, he is blissfully unaware that we are aware of his shortcomings, and when he is confronted with that in the guise of The Art Police, his world crumbles. This is a strong short, well-shot, well-edited, well-acted, and well... good. It doesn't wallow too much in itself, nor does it 'insist' upon itself. It has something to say, and it says it, and that alone makes it a much better take on the subject than 90% of the films you'll see.
Matchgirl - Rick Hamilton
There are stories that need to be updated every now and then for different groups. The Little Matchgirl is a Hans Christian Andersen classic, and here it is updated to make an incredibly powerful point about the plight of homeless transpeople in America. The story of trying to warm oneself by the flame of a match, and then staring into the flame seeing a better life within, is a magic one, and it is so well-done here. Director Rick Hamilton powers this short with a great deal of precision and wonder. Both important and entertaining, I can't recommend this highly enough.
Magia - Iker Acre
There are dark films in the world, and then there are REALLY dark films, and these get to be exceptionally dark by being so light and loving that you don't realise that you're about to get sucker-punched. Magia is exactly that kind of film, and it's amazingly well-done. The shooting is simple, and the voice-over of our young girl narrator is really pleasant and wonderful. The end is a jarring, troubling, dark, and heavy piece of work, and it makes the entire film that much more impressive. Gentzane Paris is really good, and I can't wait to see more!
Darkslide - Brendan Petersen
Visually stunning. That was the first thing that came to mind as the final frame of Darkslide faded from my vision. Damen Krow is a musician living with Asperger's syndrome. He's also into drugs a touch. What we are presented is a voyage through his world, which largely is influenced through his mind. The visions we encounter are... difficult. The visuals, which brought to mind everything from the early works of David Lynch and Jonas Mekas to 1960s psychodelia, threw me off at times, but also brought out the meaning behind so much of the film. As the final frame faded from me, I was left with an uneasy feeling of loss, and an over-whelming questioning. The acting isn't quite there to match the power of the visuals, but they are so stunning that you will hardly notice.
In the wind - Lan Shuzhang
The mockumetnary form doesn't translate sometimes. It's tough because you either have to pick up the tongue-in-sheek aspect, or go full drama. In the wind works on several layers, and ai REALLY wish I spoke the language because it seems like there is a lot here I'm just not getting. What's really remarkable is that this feels like a documentary, so much so I had to double-check (yup, it says Drama!) and that is the sign of a well-done production, though with only the subtitles, it feels a but drier than most, and that made it a touch difficult for me.