Sunday, November 15, 2015

Not Screening in Villeurbanne: The Reflection of Power (short)

Festival submissions are just as competitive for short films as they are for features, but shorts always get the short end of the stick from the press (if that). Nonetheless, it is great thrill to be selected by a prestigious short film festival. Although it cannot remotely compare to the suffering of the victims killed and injured by rampaging Islamist terrorists in Paris, selected filmmakers must be disappointed screenings at the 2015 Festival du Film Court de Villeurbanne were understandably suspended this weekend, in accordance with the decree of national mourning.

Ironically, one of the films that would have screened today somehow manages to make the North Korean capital of Pyongyang look even more surreal. The Kim Dynasty personality cult produces the strangest form of denial in Romanian-born Mihai Grecu’s The Reflection of Power (trailer here), which will hopefully still screen this Wednesday (11/18) in Villeurbanne.

The streets of Pyongyang are empty, because nearly everyone is attending the mandated propaganda pageant. That much is not unusual, but on this day, the city of imposing architecture and kitschy monuments is flooding. Water is rising to Biblical levels, but the assembly carries on. Those performing support functions ignore the water at their ankles. If the Feared Leader has not acknowledged the flood, neither will they.

Visually, Reflection is an eye-popper. This is one of the few shorts films that is worthy of IMAX treatment. Grecu and his effects team do incredible work first recreating the notoriously isolated city and then convincingly deluging it.

Just how we should take the steady flooding is open to interpretation, but it is hard to imagine Reflection getting a command invitation from the Kim regime anytime soon. The images of a city ignoring its peril may not be perfectly suited for French audiences right now, but its artistry is impressive and its implied criticism of ideological extremism still might find receptive audiences. Of course, the fact it is not screening today is a fractional part of an enormous human tragedy.

Everything scheduled at the Villeurbanne festival deserves the chance to be seen and the Eagles of Death Metal deserve the chance to be heard. Some say this is a wake-up call, but those who slept through September 11th, Mumbai 2008, and the Charlie Hebdoo attacks are not likely to wake up the reality of terrorism now. Regardless, we offer our sympathy to the people of Paris and hope our respective leaders learn from these horrific events.