Award-winning short films play at Loew

by Owen Shepcaro | 11/16/14 5:20pm

Hopkins Center film director Bill Pence founded the Telluride Film Festival in the 1970s as a sort of happy accident — he and his wife arranged for two silent films to be screened at a local theater over Labor Day weekend, and one successful event grew into a robust annual tradition. For nearly 30 years, Pence has organized for Dartmouth to screen selections from the festival, and this fall, he and Hop senior film intern Varun Bhuchar ’15 arranged for several shorts to be screened on campus as well.

Bhuchar, who has interned with Pence since the spring, proposed screening the Telluride shorts at Dartmouth several months ago. Bhuchar curated, edited and compiled 10 shorts from Telluride’s total of 32 for a presentation that screened on Friday evening in Loew Auditorium.

Bhuchar said he considered content and running time when selecting shorts.

“At first we were looking for the films that were artistically striking and that best achieved the goals they set out to achieve,” he said. “We found a diverse group of films that we wanted to screen and then the challenge became organizing them in an interesting and dynamic show.”

The final presentation included comedies, dramas and films with social and political themes, created by directors from several countries. Each was created in the last two years and was between four and eight minutes in length.

The screening began with “Box” (2014), an abstract, avant-garde short that explored the visual power of contrast, shape and perspective in film.

Next was “Aissa” (2014), recipient of a special distinction prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The short chronicled a French doctor performing a medical examination on a Congolese immigrant to determine if she is over 18 and can stay in the country. Sobering, the short reveals the detached and unsympathetic attitude sometimes shown toward immigrants.

The third short was “Life’s a Bitch” (2014), which charmed the audience with its humorous portrayal of the protagonist’s painful break-up with his girlfriend, warmly handling his fluctuations between depressed, angry and promiscuous.

The fourth short, “Baths” (2013), was an abstract animated film by Polish filmmaker Tomek Ducki. “Baths” illustrated a race between two elderly swimmers, who realize their fading youth.

Jon Gonzalez ’18 said he considered the film a statement about modern art more than a short with a traditional plot.

“It was hard to follow what [the film] was trying to say, but it created a powerful sensory response,” Gonzalez said. “I thought that the genius of it was in the response it created, not in the plot it showed.”

“Balcony” (2013) told the story of a group of people fretting about the safety of a young boy seated on the ledge of a balcony. The film illustrated the incompetence of the police and fire departments contrasted with the boy’s mother’s ability to convince him to move away from the ledge.

The longest short, “Balcony,” was at times tedious and heavy handed.

The sixth film, “Symphony No. 42” (2014), was an animated film and another highlight at the event. The short illustrated humanity’s relationship to nature in a series of 47 scenes, each expressing a distinct though sometimes illogical rendering of our surroundings through the use of absurd juxtapositions.

The film is short-listed for the 2015 Academy Awards.

The seventh short, “Supervenus” (2014), criticized the superficial and unattainable definition of beauty in Western society, and the eighth short was “Verbatim” (2014), which portrayed a deposition that reaches an impasse when the man being questioned does not understand the term “photocopier.”

“Verbatim” was popular among audience members, who became engrossed in the futile argument and laughed at its absurdity.

Zack Palmer ’18 said he thought “Verbatim” was the program’s best.

“It was really funny but at the same time created a strong frustration in the viewer,” he said. “I hated the guy being questioned for his obliviousness and loved the animation of the lawyer. It really was just hilarious.”

The final two shorts were “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared II: Time” (2013), which chillingly portrayed the inevitable passage of time with singing puppets redolent of Sesame Street, and “Yes, We Love” (2014), which included four scenes of four generations on the Norwegian Independence Day.

Bhuchar is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.