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Atlantic Gala Shorts and Uncle Boonmee 

The best of the local bunch and a spicy Thai noodle-scratcher

Anyone planning on checking out the Atlantic Shorts Gala on Tuesday (7pm, Oxford) will have a pretty fine time. I checked out the line-up of local short films at a screening Friday morning, and was impressed by the sterling line-up. Aside from Shaun Majumder’s Mind The Gap, ably reviewed in The Coast, I also was well-pleased by Andrea Dorfman’s gorgeous, affecting Flawed, an animated film about how her love affair with a plastic surgeon made her take stock and reassess her own self-perceived imperfections.

Also really enjoyed Jay Dahl’s SEX! With Hot Robots, which made me remember fondly pre-teen sci-fi nerd fantasies. It also has the best credit sequence I’ve seen in ages. This Tear is a Word continues Tanya Davis's streak of effectively marrying her poetry with images, these courtesy of Walter Forsyth. There are not one, but two Gypsophilia videos. Those guys really inspire the filmmakers. And including Dahl’s short, three visions of the future. I guess comedy horror is really 2008. I noted the chronic reappearance of Halifax camera wizard Jeff Wheaton in the credits for the shorts (I counted three instances)---par for the course for Wheaton, the MVP of the Halifax filmmaking community---I also noted the regularity with which former Coast sales guy Eric Duncan is showing up in credits too, challenging Wheaton with his ubiquity. In fact, in one film Duncan had his own department. And, speaking of Coasties, congrats to Megan Wennberg, occasional Coast freelance writer, for her short Bernard the Magician.

I’ve been struggling to make sense of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Not a movie, not even a film... more a cinematic experience. The story, if that’s what you call it, involves Thai farmer Boonmee, who begins to see spirits around him as his kidney problems catch up to him. His son, who disappeared to mate with a monkey ghost, returns in a slightly more hirsute, bloodshot form. And his wife, who died 19 years earlier, also appears as an apparition. But this isn’t anything like sensationalist cinema, it demands patience as scenes linger long, director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s camera locked off as actors wander in and out of frame, or just sit, lying in hammocks, discussing communists, karma and insects. The ghosts are certainly creepy, but also everyday, which undercuts the supernatural, as does a touch of humour here and there. A tangent with a princess in the jungle inverts the Narcissus tale, as she enters the pool and has congress with a water elemental, a catfish. A journey into the future is done with voice-over and stills, photos of soldiers misbehaving. I didn’t find a cohesive emotional response to any of it, suspecting that there’s a cultural shorthand I may have been missing, knowing little of Thai storytelling or myth. That said, I did enjoy moments strung between the longeurs, and I’m clearly not alone, since the picture won the Palme D’or at Cannes this year. I’ll say this, I’m more liable to marry a monkey ghost than see Uncle Boonmee appear in local cinemas, so kudos to the AFF for bringing this in for us to... experience.

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