Monday, April 11, 2011

Flicker NYC ’11: International Focus

There will be no overpriced 3-D at these screenings. This is strictly a Super 8mm show. Coming hard on the heels of the release of Blank City, Céline Danhier’s documentary profile of New York’s late 1970’s Super 8 auteurs, the Flicker NYC Super 8mm film festival keeps the Super 8 love flowing. This year’s New York screenings showcase international filmmakers experimenting with the accessible medium.

Indeed, Super 8 offers an appropriately gritty look for Oscar Forstén and Arthur Franck’s Penalty Box, featuring intimate interviews with members of a Finnish seniors’ hockey league, as they cool their heels for various game-time infractions. However, Forstén and Franck confine the discussions to their relationships with women, eliciting some universal responses from the gruff old timers. A sports film that is not really about sports, Penalty would make a nice festival pairing with Mika Ronkainen’s Freetime Machos, which chronicled the ups and downs of the “third lousiest” amateur rugby team in Finland.

Several of the international filmmakers have tackled sci-fi/fantasy stories, mostly successfully achieving a low-fi nostalgic effect. One of the best is Malcolm Finlay’s The Last Trip, about the efforts of an aging society of Welsh society of space enthusiasts to give a recently deceased member a proper send-off. It is a simple but sweet story, inventively rendered. Matthew Keen, also representing the United Kingdom’s Straight 8 filmmaking challenge program, also mines retro sci-fi themes in Robot. If not quite as endearing as Trip, he roughly approximates the vibe of gentler Twilight Zone episodes within the required thrifty four minutes.

Though it seems to use some of the props of genre cinema, Sook Hyun Kim’s The Conversation with Doctor Mouse falls strictly within the experimental rubric. Stringing together self-consciously provocative images, it can be somewhat wearying, even at a Flicker-friendly ten minute running time. It also suggests a rather hardcore political ideology through references to Mao and “consumer capitalism,” but never offers viewers anything concrete enough to rebut or engage with.

In contrast, Rafa Martinez’s Bautista’s Fable might be the richest New York Flickers selection. Combining animation with deliberately grainy color Super 8, Fable has a tactile texture that well suits the story. Baustista, a poor Colombian fisherman, loves the vivacious Ada, but she only has eyes for those with means. The sad sack Bautista seeks a little supernatural help, but as is often the case in genre stories, this only makes him vulnerable to the ironies of fate. María Angélica Chalela’s animation, inspired by tropical cultures and the street art of Jean-Michel Basqiat, gives the film a distinctive look and the Latin electronica soundtrack by Systema Solar propels the film nicely, while still feeling appropriate to the setting.

Like any festival, Flicker has its hits and misses. Yet, some of this year’s New York selections are quite notable for their resourcefulness and economy of storytelling. Those adventurous enough to trek over to Southpaw in Park Slope, Brooklyn will definitely be struck by films like Penalty Box, The Last Trip, and Bautista’s Fable. There will also be raffle prizes and an after party till whenever. Screenings start at 7:30 sharp (doors open at 7:00).