Tuesday, September 13, 2016

VEFFNY ’16: Normal (short)

Based on the press photos published by a not particularly sympathetic media, it looked like the entire nation of Venezuela was on the streets protesting the Chavista regime during the 2014-2016 demonstrations. Apparently, there were still a handful of brainwashed loyalists still out there. Ironically, that will be somewhat fortunate for Alejandra, because she is able to find refuge from murderous riot police with a true believer from her past in Vadim Lasca’s short film Normal (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Venezuelan Film Festival in New York.

You can hear the chaos and carnage on the streets from Fabricio’s flat, but you can’t see it because he has plastered over his windows with card board. He is not about to go peeking out either, lest he be hit by a stray bullet. It is a horrific scene, which he logically blames on the protestors being shot rather than the regime enforcers doing the shooting. Suddenly, his solitary cowering is interrupted when he hears his former never-quite-girlfriend Alejandra desperately knocking on doors. He will let her in and allow her to clean off her comrades’ blood, but inevitably they will start arguing about politics again.

Normal (as in how did this madness come to be it?) is an intelligent, well-acted film, but it is Gabriel Delgado Peterson’s sound design that really makes it. You can hear the roar of the screams, the sharp crack of bullets, and the duller clank of tear gas canisters fired into the protestors. Lasca’s screenplay tries to maintain an impartial neutrality that merely bemoans the way ideology divides people. However, his faithful verisimilitude stands as a devastating corrective. It just sounds pathetic when Fabricio blames the horror show on “agent provocateurs” infiltrating the police, because it is.

Nina Rancel and Slavko Sorman look convincingly exhausted and develop the chemistry of a couple with painfully fractious history together. Lasca cranks up the claustrophobic discomfort, while instilling a perilous sense that all Hell is literally breaking loose outside. It looks deceptively simple, yet it is technically quite accomplished. Very highly recommended, Normal screens this Thursday (9/15) as part of the 2016 VEFFNY’s New Venezuelan Perspectives I short film block at the Syndicated Bar Theater Kitchen in Brooklyn.