Flickerfest: high quality, short anxieties

Kirsten Krauth

Flickerfest 2002 is in its 11th year, offering the most comprehensive roundup of Australian and international short films, and now touring its various programs nationally (see www.flickerfest.com.au for dates and locations). It is also one of few festivals to seriously recognise shorts filmmakers’ talents with a number of awards on offer and a chance to be picked up by SBS’s Eat Carpet for broadcast.

This year’s program features 4 main sections. International Shorts is where the best worldwide and Australian films are in competition. There’s Australian Shorts if you just want to catch local action. The Short Documentary Competition offers the rare chance to see this highly specific format. And there’s the category I’m pretty excited about, the first ever Online Festival, 60 minutes of digital shorts in competition on the Flickerfest website throughout January, where you can vote for your favourite film. It’s great that Flickerfest has acknowledged the many filmmakers creating shorts for the web. There’s also a spotlight on 3 years of Canadian shorts, and a 12 year retrospective of the Australian White Gloves Festival.

Special sessions include a Tribute to Alfred Hitchcock program with shorts that reference Hitchcock films, experimental films that recycle his footage and Bon voyage, one of only 2 shorts he made for the big screen. One of the films featured is Das Ei (The Egg, Hans George Andes, Germany, 1993). Now, a lot of people have a thing about softboiled eggs. They can’t stand the sight of runny egg yolk or the wobbly, mucousy, white albumen. Das Ei plays on these deep fears in a day in the life/death of an egg set in realtime to Bernard Hermann’s score from the shower scene in Psycho. Hitchcock shots are transformed: the spray of the kitchen tap; the knife in the membrane; the yolk gurgling down the drain. Great stuff.

Other film highlights include Hop, Skip and Jump (Srdan Vuletic, Slovenia, 1999) and Copy Shop (Virgil Widrich, Austria, 2000). The former I’ve seen before and it’s hard to forget. Jumping from the 1984 Olympics to the streets of Sarajevo in 1993, a relationship wrestles amidst the battles of war. Boys play games, teasing snipers. Through a target we see a boy killed; his body too small, feet too slow. And what happens if your former lover turns out to be the sniper, wreaking vengeance, firing into your apartment? It’s a disturbing and clever film.

Even better is Copy Shop, a mini-masterpiece, where the film itself appears like paper coming out of a photocopier. The film, like the central character, looks set to disintegrate. It’s flimsy, it tears. Brilliantly self-referential, our main man works in a copy shop where he starts to photocopy his own body. As he does, the machine starts to take over, spitting out copies of film stills we’ve seen earlier, eventually making copies of the man himself. The obsessive narrative can’t help but turn in on itself and, as in Being John Malkovich, he eventually has to confront a world populated by endless editions of himself. In a moving ending, he looks down from the heights to see a wriggling mass of his own heads, seething like disease under a microscope. A witty, stylised and just plain weird take on the exciting possibilities of cloning.

Flickerfest is helped by its atmospheric setting; the verandah looks out onto the well-oiled bodies and cool horizons of Bondi Beach. In the heat of summer, it’s a good place to chill out. See the next issue for a comprehensive roundup of the best of the fest.

Flickerfest 2002, 11th International Short Film Festival, Bondi Pavilion, Bondi Beach, Sydney, January 4-12, touring nationally

RealTime issue #46 Dec-Jan 2001 pg. 16

© Kirsten Krauth; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2001