Friday, June 03, 2005

SIFF diary, part 5

Murderball and Geek Love

In just a few hours, I will be at another SIFF screening, I thought I should finish writing about last weekend's films before I get hopelessly behind, which is easy to do when seeing so many movies and wanting to document each and every one.

Memorial Day was an amazing day at the festival as we took in three screenings. We started the day with Murderball, the much talked about film about wheelchair rugby. While I had heard that Murderball was an excellent documentary, it was so much more than I expected. Instead of getting bogged down in the specifics of quadriplegic rugby players, it instead focused on the sport and the intense rivalry between Team Canada and Team USA at the paraolympics in Greece. And I would have never guessed there was a documentary in the rivalry. It was absurd to watch the rage and passion in these teams as they battled for the gold in Athens, but it is the kind of rivalry that makes for great cinema.

And Murderball alone makes for greatly entertaining cinema. The sport in the film was played by quadriplegics, which was described in the film as people with impairment in all four limbs. Some were more impaired than others. Some were amputees, most have neck injuries that resulted in steel plates, and all of the players had very different stories. But the strength of the film was that it didn't dwell on the disabilities, but on the sport. And it was easy for forget that the players are disabled when you watch them play in wheelchairs decked out in steel, that look like something from The Road Warrior, that they use to slam into the chairs of their opponents, sometimes sending them flying. After watching Murderball, I not only understand more about the people who play the sport and their disabilities, but I also learned that Murderball looks like a blast. After watching the film, I wanted to ram things with a wheelchair. And most of all, it succeeded in making serious disabilities seem not nearly as scary. It didn't dwell on the tragedies involved with becoming disabled, but rather on the people who with therapy live an otherwise normal life and because of their disability can play Murderball.

Yes, that does keep the future from looking nearly as scary. I cannot express how optimistic I felt upon leaving this film. And how much I wanted to crash wheelchairs into each other... but all of that faded with the much more serious tone of Missing in America (which I wrote about in SIFF diary, part 4).

And then Monday night was the very sold out screening of Geek Love, a shorts program about "loners, freaks, nerds and geeks looking for love in their own unique ways." This was a very strong selection of films.

Everything's Gone Green was what I imagined would happen if Bartleby the scrivener found a girl friend. Edwin hasn't left his office/room/apartment in ages when the receptionist takes interest in him and draws him out of his isolation. This is a charming short with eccentric characters.

Cashback was probably the flashiest of the shorts. We observe Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) and his nightshift coworkers pass the late night hours in a grocery store. Sharon tries not to watch the clock, Matt and Barry play practical jokes, and Ben likes to pretend that time has stopped. The result is a sometimes hilarious, often surreal, and totally original film that is being expanded into a feature length motion picture.

You can watch a clip of the film at

The Big Empty is among one of the best films I've seen thus far at the SIFF. A 20 minute short based on the story, The Specialist. After seeing numerous doctors in search for a cure for an ache, Alice (Selma Blair) goes to see The Specialist (Elias Koteas). During the gynecological exam, he exclaims "there's nothing there" followed by a sucking noise as he disappears leaving behind a puff of snow. He reemerges and puts on snow gear before he goes back to explore further and tells Alice to get some take-out because he will be a while.

The Big Empty is wonderfully intriguing and adventurous and has a cast that you'd expect to see in a studio feature film, not a short film, as well as some great cameo appearances.

The Butcher and the Housewife is about a housewife who derives great pleasure from her visits with her local butcher. Not a particularly spectacular film, especially after having just seen The Big Empty and Cashback, but it was fun watching silly dance numbers set to a soundtrack provided by The Scorpians.

Katydid was another disappointing film about sibling rivalry. This film was obviously a film school project made primarily to utilize twinning effects.

And Le Vie d'un Chien was a clever short about a scientist who discovers a drug that is able to transform people into dogs, where they can experience true freedom. This is a very witty film that I enjoyed immensely.

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