Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Sundance ’19: Count Your Curses & End (shorts)

In one of the shorts that screened at this year’s Sundance, average people take their encounters with the supernatural in stride. In another, not so much. Usually, such incidents are extraordinary, but they are common place in Lorène Yavo’s wickedly droll animated short, Count Your Curses, which screened during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Rather ominously, Sophie wakes to find their house spirit has been mauled to death it again. It is not just a pet. It is supposed to protect her and her roommate Charles from the ghosts and mythological beasts haunting the nearby field. They try to buy a new house spirit from the spirit store, but the proprietor refuses to sell to them anymore. Instead, he refers them to a sorceress, who might be able to diagnose the supernatural phenomenon at work.

Curses somewhat resembles the MTV show Daria, in terms of its blocky visual style and deadpan humor. Yavo’s dialogue is quite amusing, in a drily arch way. Plus, there is also humor in the characters’ blasé acceptance of some outlandish situations.

On the other hand, there is nothing funny about Yimit Ramírez’s End. The bad news is Juan is dead. He will get the chance to relive an episode from his life, but it turns out this is not good news either. The personification of death gets to chose when and it opts for the worst moment of his life. He does not handle the experience well.

End is a remarkably dark film with some real bite, but the budget constraints show in the scenes of the void of purgatory. Nevertheless, it is nice just to know Ramírez was able to complete this film, considering his past film reportedly ran afoul of the Cuban censors. His feature I Want to Make a Movie did not even criticize the royal Castro family. Instead, one character of dubious credibility goes off on José Martí, who has been dead for over one-hundred twenty years.

Both Count Your Curses and End are clearly the work of talented filmmakers, who must have some distinctive films ahead of them. Curses is the sort of highly rewatchable film that could go viral if it were a Vimeo Staff pick. Sadly, Ramírez will also have to navigate politics and bureaucracy (indeed, it is difficult to resist reading allegorical meanings into the Hellish vision of the afterlife presented in End). Each film is recommended for festival programmers, following their screenings at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.