Tribeca 2019 Review: ‘Ponyboi’

It can be read everywhere: queer cinema is on the rise. It’s quite hard to disprove that statement at first glance; there have been truly great films about queer individuals in the past years and they have garnered a level of attention that seemed almost impossible just two decades ago. But ‘queer’ can be a very dangerous word. While it eases the way to separate non-heteronormative experiences from heteronormative experiences, it also has the downside of being an umbrella term for a great amount of extremely distinct experiences, which can quickly blur their unique and autonomous nature. The term is already being criticized in larger discussions and even when not digging into those discussions, there is no denial that it has distorted the conversation around the rise of films that are inhabited and led by queer characters. These films only apply to a certain, more widely accepted line-up of queer experiences. While gay, bisexual and lesbian films have certainly managed to thrive in recent memory and offer more stories that don’t merely exist to please and educate straight audiences, there still is a dangerously high amount of cinema about other forms of sexual expression, that does exactly that and gets away with it, only because their filmmakers are also ‘queer.’ Case in point, the highly-irresponsible Girl, directed by a gay, cis-gender man. It’s a film which both fetishizes the trans body and wallows in exploitation of trans pain for affect, which didn’t hinder it from being celebrated by critics and rewarded with several festival prizes.

Obviously this doesn’t apply to every single one of these films. Cases for Tangerine have been made as a film that grapples with and respects the trans struggle, while being directed by a non-trans person that has merely done his research. There simply is a frequent amount of examples that reduce queer individuals to concepts, stemming from a lack of accuracy and nuance by filmmakers that are not a part of the represented group. These films are dangerous, because they distort other people’s experiences and create misconceptions and prejudice in the eyes of uneducated viewers. It’s not that the filmmakers don’t usually mean well, but they often simply don’t do enough to redeem this intention.

While the inter* community doesn’t have a lot of representation on-screen in general, rare exceptions such as XXY and Predestination display how right and wrong it can go in the hands of non-inter* filmmakers. So it’s a great pleasure that with Ponyboi, there’s finally a piece of intersex representation made by an intersex-man, about an intersex-man and it’s an even greater pleasure that it’s wonderful.

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Diving into Nostalgia with ‘Late Afternoon’

Everything that we are, how we define ourselves, and how well we understand ourselves, are determined by what we remember. Our memories constitute the role we assign to ourselves and to the people around us. For example: I am your friend, and you are mine. I know this for a fact because I have met you once before, and several times after that. I remember we bonded on a shared cab ride home one afternoon, and I remember trusting you enough for me to tell my deepest secrets to you, knowing you wouldn’t tell another soul. Regardless of its significance, our memories are not eternal. Time will play its part and slowly take away pieces of us, little by little. This theme is visualized in the animated short film, Late Afternoon, which is nominated for an Academy Award this year. 

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The short film, written and directed by Louise Bagnall, presents a depiction of an eventual version of all of us, in the form of an elderly woman named Emily. In the present, Emily is sitting comfortably in a chair, having tea, and sorting out her belongings with the aid of her caretaker. Throughout the film, we follow her escape reality as she reminisces on the long life she has lived far before that afternoon tea. Bits of events unfold through her temporary episodes of remembrance.

Emily’s first episode began with her dipping biscuit in her tea; it broke immediately— indicating the drink was boiling hot — and while she silently watches it sink to the bottom of the cup, she was diverted away from her chair. We now see a young girl “swimming” through an empty space and eventually enter a white sandy beach on a windy day. It’s Emily, in a much younger exterior. She runs around the beach for a while. She writes her name in the sand, plays cat-and-mouse with the waves, spots for boats, and fishes for gold by the shore. At the same moment when she was extracting a gold coin out of the water, she returns to her chair, having pulled out the chunk of biscuit in the tea. Then, her caretaker checks on her and finds the tea has gone cold. The thing about nostalgia is that it has the ability to blur someone’s awareness of time and space, therefore losing their sense of reality.

Late Afternoon captures a wonderful way of conceptualizing someone’s experience of escaping consciousness, by imagining them flowing through a realm similar to a space between dimensions. The style of animation is presented in a manner of continuous flow, almost as if symbolizing how time keeps on moving, and does not wait for anyone. Emily is almost never shown to escape her nostalgic episodes voluntarily, instead she is always being pulled away from the memories and forced back into reality. She is constantly thrown into moments in time, but restricted of the possibilities of slowing down, speeding up, or pausing.

If we look at how Emily remembers her life, it says a lot about how the memories that stay with us the most are not always the big events; instead the small, day-to-day moments can remain as well. It is profound how in a limited amount of time, this film is able to explore vivid themes of love and loss. Emily’s memories that are shown to us are related to either one of those two, or sometimes both. We know that — in a way — love and loss contradict each other, but at the same time they can be complementary and seen in a cyclical nature: after love comes loss, but after loss also comes love.

Late Afternoon shows that when time and our bodies are not reliable to turn to, or return to, we can count on the things around us — just like Emily’s belongings — to serve as a reminder of who we are.

One Short A Day: Week One

For the first week of the One Short A Day challenge, upon the suggestion of many friends, I decided to watch shorts of Ukrainian-American experimental filmmaker Maya Deren. I find it quite hard to talk about them, but what I know is that after every film I watched, I wanted to watch it again. And at the end of the week, I wanted to watch them one after another at one go. There is so much written about Deren, her films, her influences, and I wanted to read as much as I could but decided against it since it’s against the purpose of this challenge, which is to write about these films right after I’ve seen them, on how I felt watching them and their immediate effect on me. It was hard, but that’s why it’s a challenge. Hope you enjoy!

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Summer Challenge: One Short A Day

In case you couldn’t tell from the weather, summer is (almost) here! This summer, Much Ado is setting a challenge: One Short A Day. Starting from May 8th, I’ll watch one short film a day and will publish my thoughts on them every Tuesday. Films will be chosen randomly from your suggestions, films that are taught at film schools, films that won awards or went under the radar. My thoughts on the films will be one paragraph for each, written right after I watch them.

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If you want to join me in this challenge, you can alter it in any way that fits you. Tag your posts with #OneShortADay on Twitter and/or Letterboxd to share your challenge with us and give us your suggestions in comments or Twitter. You can also follow the challenge on Letterboxd here which I’ll update weekly.

Enjoy the challenge and happy summer holidays!

Forging a space for black female voices: a Q&A with Tiffany Ike and Kennedie King, the creators of short film series ‘Draping’

Independent filmmaking has always been the driving force behind new cinematic boundaries, and the up-and-coming filmmakers of today are no different. Interdisciplinary short-film series ‘Draping’ focuses on the under-examined subject of black femme identities and centres the voices of these identities in its examination of a myriad of complex issues – ranging from mental health, to queerness, to colorism, spirituality and motherhood.

We’ve been lucky enough to interview co-creators Kennedie King and Tiffany Ike and took the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their inspiration, the process of film-making on a micro-budget, and the necessity of black female voices in the media.

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© draping series / https://www.drapingseries.com

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Oscar Nominated Shorts 2018: Review

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With the Oscars only a few days away, the most popular question being asked is probably about which film is going to win Best Picture. Short films often get overshadowed by their feature length partners, but despite their small size, they can often present a better narrative than most movies you see being promoted by the big Hollywood studios. This year’s batch of Animated shorts provide personal and inventive stories with some dazzling animation techniques, while the Live Action shorts explore real-world issues that hit all emotions on the scale. In the following article, each film is reviewed with the two front runners in each category clearly presented.

Animation

1. Revolting Rhymes: Part One (UK) dir. Jakob Schuh & Jan Lachauer

Based on the novel of the same name by the legendary Roald Dahl, with illustrations by Quentin Blake, Revolting Rhymes cleverly rewrites the classic fairy tales that most of us grew up with. Following the narration of the Big Bad Wolf (Dominic West), the stories of Snow White and Red Riding Hood (featuring the Three Little Pigs) intertwine in this modernized, fun, and darkly comedic adventure. The relationship between Snow White (Gemma Chan) and “Red” (Rose Leslie) provide the most charm as it’s rare we get to see some of our favourite fairy tale heroines together. The animation is beautiful in its realism, especially in terms of the modern, Parisian-style architecture surrounding the story. Originally airing as a two-part series on BBC, only the first chapter of this tale has been nominated for an Academy Award, leaving the Wolf’s cry for “patience” for the rest immediately ignored, as you scramble to find part two on Netflix.

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