I imagine it’s pretty tough for a filmmaker is going to get his or her short shown on a big screen. A film festival gig like this one is probably as good as it gets. These may well not be the best shorts shown at the Montclair Film Festival because I only attended two of the more than 10 programs. But these were my favorites.
The Big Paradise
Decades and decades ago when I was a student at Kent State University I spent one night of every weekend (can’t remember whether it was Friday or Saturday) in a basement bar called the Kove. Like so many of my classmates we left the other bars at midnight and packed this dive to hear 15-60-75. I thought they were the best blues band I’d ever heard.
So I was pretty psyched to find out that the film festival was showing a short documentary about this band, which has since changed its name to The Numbers Band, and its leader Robert Kidney. For me the film isn’t long enough and there isn’t enough music. More time is spent on Kidney explaining why he won’t wear his hat flat. But it’s good enough to show that they still exist and they still can play some awesome blues.
A side note to this story is that Terry Hynde, brother of Chrissie, played sax for the band and still does. We all thought he was the one with all the talent and that Chrissie was just the sister drinking beer in Orville’s next door.
We are introduced to 88-year-old poet Donald Hall, with his straggly grey beard and a tie-dye peace sign T-shirt, as he rides a stationary bike with Pink Floyd playing on his headphones. Hall offers us some social commentary like “old age is a ceremony of losses.” Referring to his first date with his wife Jane Kenyon, he comments, “I asked her out to dinner and in the 70’s that usually included breakfast.”
We don’t get to hear too much of Hall’s poetry but the one clip of him reading is really good. Living in seclusion in what I think is Colorado, Hall is poignant, cynical and sentimental. Jane, despite being younger, died two decades ago and he still mourns her passing every day.
The Legend of Rasputin
The slightly abridged story of Rasputin as told in a 13 minute puppet show. Rasputin is summoned from Siberia by the czarina to cure the sickly heir to the Russian throne. His cure involves a chant with some lyrics from Bohemian Rhapsody. There’s some groping in the Royal abode and a polar bear swim in the icy river. There are protesters mowed down by a car (this is in Moscow, not Charlottesville). And in the end we learn the real reason for the Bolshevik Revolution.
The Mozambique artist Fiel dos Santos is doing his part to stop gun violence. Taking guns that were turned in to the government in exchange for food, Fiel destroys them so they will never be fired again. He then uses the disabled guns to create figures of his father, mother and five brothers and sisters. The figures are animated in the film as Fiel describes what happened to his family during Mozambique’s 16-year long civil war. It was a war in which Fiel had brothers fighting on each side. And it was a war that the fueled by American, Russian and other outside interests.
A woman bakes a cherry pie for her house guest, a somewhat younger woman. This pie has a secret ingredient. Can you guess what it is? Here are some hints.
- It is not a spice.
- It has an earthy taste.
- This film was part of the midnight shorts program, so it is not family viewing.
- The house guest has had sex with the pie baker’s husband.
- It won’t happen again.