Atlantic Film Festival recap: Atlantic Shorts 6

At this year’s Atlantic Film Festival there were a total of 13 different shorts program, six of which fell into the Atlantic Shorts category and showcased Atlantic Canadia filmmakers. Atlantic Shorts 6 featured a variety of genres including stop-motion animation, documentary and drama.
Christopher Spencer-Lowe’s short film, Transfer is the story of Ben, a transfer artist, who coverts old 8mm home movies to other formats. Using actual found footage, the character of Ben becomes so captivated by a family on vacation that he tries to recreate that experience for himself.
Transfer was a very interesting and thought provoking short. It’s the type of project that’s brief, yet detailed enough to tell a story and to inspire conversation among the audience. The only fault I saw with Transfer is that at the beginning Ben narrates his job through a voiceover, but that voiceover stops and is never picked up again. This left me to wonder why it was needed at all. Rating: Four out of five lobsters.
Looking back at one man’s memories of Expo ’67 in Montreal is the subject of David Clarke’s short film 67. The man’s reflection is told through a voiceover combined with video footage of the Expo as it looks today.
While this was an interesting storytelling technique, I found that listening to someone speak over almost silent video clips didn’t really keep my attention for as long as it should have. While I liked the story and the way it was told, I found that I had to really concentrate to follow along, which took away from the viewing experience. For that reason, I wasn’t able to really reflect on the story because I was too busy trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Rating: Two out of five lobsters
Dr. Clock
Veronica Simmons’ Dr. Clock is a documentary that looks the idea of and the interest in time from a man who fixes clocks and watches. While I found Dr. Clock fascinating and unique, four minutes seemed far too short to really explore this topic; it looked like a teaser trailer for a bigger project. Who exactly is this man who was interviewed? Why does he fix clocks and watches? Can he tell me more about this obsession we seem to have with time?
For that reason, I found that Dr. Clock is a good, brief look at the theme of time, but it has the potential to become a more a larger film that explores these ideas in more detail. Rating: Three out of five lobsters.
 Negative Nature
Through a combination of sounds, time lapses and film reversal, the movements of various bugs, slugs and plants are shown in this six minute film from Dawn George.
Visually, Negative Nature was something that really captured your attention, as movies aren’t usually shown using the negative side of the film. Although, after it had finished I didn’t really know what George wanted me to take away from it as an audience member. Is there some story with these bugs and plants? Is this a documentary? I found myself wanting to know the film’s purpose and thinking it might be something more than just showing the audience what the negative side of film strip looks like. Rating: Two out of five lobsters
Found footage from Super 8 cameras seemed to be common theme in this shorts program, as both Transfer and Daniel Boos’ Palimpsest focus on this idea. Palimpsest is a collection of 8mm film strips of an unknown family and their friends that are slowly decaying with time.
For me, this was a fascinating way to approach a documentary-style film. You can spend hours studying these images, but if you don’t know who the reel belonged to you there’s so no way of knowing who these people were. That in itself is something that made the film worth watching. Even though you know you won’t figure out the story, you want to keep on trying because sooner or later the strips will fall apart and the memories will be lost. Rating: Four out of five lobsters.
South Bland Street
South Bland Street, from Lina Verchery is described as an “an experimental ethnography of a place, tracing geographies of time, memory and decay.” The film, which focuses on the South End street in Halifax, to me, appeared to be clips of industry, buildings and nature. I came away from the film not knowing anything new about South Bland Street and wondering what all these things meant in a larger setting.
In that sense, I feel that the South Bland Street’s visuals didn’t really explain anything and that the project would have benefited from a bit of exposition. In having this component I would have been able see what Verchery wanted me to get out of South Bland Street experience. Rating: Two out of five lobsters.
Secret Citadel
Secret Citadel is another film that I found would have benefited from narration or exposition.
A stop-motion, animated film from Graeme Patterson, Secret Citadel is said to be a look at “two characters, a red cat creature and a blue humanoid with a buffalo face, filming each other in a miniature landscape that recalls the great works of the Brothers Quay.” Without reading this summary in the festival guide, I wouldn’t have known what was going on. To me, it looked as if the cat and buffalo creature spent most of their time working on an architectural model of houses, located near a mountain and occasionally they would jump on a trampoline or dance around. Also, as someone who had no idea at that time, who the Brothers Quay are this took away from the film’s appeal. As a homage to the Brothers Quay style, I find that only people who know their work would have understood this connection.
While the stop-motion component was entertaining, overall the film was confusing and hard to follow.
Rating: Two out of five lobsters.
Atlantic Shorts 6 premiered on September 15 and was screened for a second time on September 18.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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