Eugene Weekly : Movies : 5.8.08


Short and Sweet
A sampling of Northwest cinematic talent

“Sari’s Mother”
“Portrait #2: Trojan”

The latest collection of short films screening at DIVA is a selection of pieces from Portland’s Northwest Film and Video Festival, which accepts submissions from filmmakers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and British Columbia. It’s nice to see Canada depicted on film as Canada, not as a stand-in for wherever the filmmakers need to pretend they are — Rumble in Vancouver, anyone? Four of the program’s 10 pieces come from B.C., including the visual music box “Sometimes” and “Morris,” in which an octagenarian finds that his sexual revelation meets with a far milder reaction than perhaps he expected.

“Sari’s Mother,” by Seattlite James Longley (Iraq in Fragments), is a moving portrait of an Iraqi woman trying to get medical care for her AIDS-stricken son. It begins meditatively but builds precisely, shifting from images of everyday life to the frustration Sari’s mother faces in her changed country. Relief follows this dismaying tale in the form of “No Bikini,” Claudia Morgado Escanilla’s charming, spry film about a girl who finds freedom and confidence in the swimming pool by operating outside of gender norms.

Oregon is represented by four drastically different pieces, including Vanessa Renwick’s “Portrait #2: Trojan,” a beautiful, wordless piece that firmly sets the Trojan nuclear reactor against its landscape. A striking, ominous score by Sam Coomes turns hopeful and lovely as the massive structure is destroyed. Matthew Lessner of Nehalem offers the sly “By Modern Measure,” in which a practical French narrator describes the contrast between a pretentious young couple and the wider world. It’s a fairly familiar take on modern life nicely and stylishly presented in grainy, shaky black and white. Portland’s Jeff Riley offers the funny, sweet yet slightly grotesque “Operation: Fish,” an impressive animated piece (with bits of live action) in which Riley’s sense of humor shines in the depiction of a handful of goldfish ghosts and the hero’s weapon, which looks like a megaphone but has the buttons of an iPod.

But it’s back to Vancouver we go for the collection’s highlight and closer, Jamie Travis’ “Patterns 3.” This disconcerting, impeccably designed piece is, as the title suggests, third (and last) in a series following the strange relationship of Pauline and Michael. “Patterns 3” is half faux-documentary format, with the two individually discussing (in ordinary settings) how they met, and half surreal, suggestive musical, as they stand in their spotless, beautiful apartments and sing, the lyrics seemingly expressing hidden or subconcious thoughts and feelings. If you’re left needing to see the rest of this lingering story, you’re not alone.      

The Best of the 34th Northwest Film and Video Festival shows at 7 pm Friday, May 9, at DIVA. $5, $3 stu., members.