Dir: Various | Canadian Images | 2014 | 92 mins
To my delighted surprise, when I went to go watch Lucas Hrubizna’s short film, Hard Card, it was explained to me that his would be one of the several short films weaved into one motion-picture length set entitled We Both Go Down Together. Thus, I begin my review of this wonderful set of short films that I stumbled upon in a fortunate stroke of serendipity.
One of the main things I definitely noticed with most of the short films that were shown was the intense focus on a particular issue or situation rather than on a story with a solid beginning, middle, and conclusion. Most feature length films, while highlighting major issues or bizarre situations, usually progresses and unpacks the premise towards a denouement. However, with this set of short films, it was more likely than not that the premise was the main bulk of the film.
As such, the beauty that I saw in many of these short films were the new seeds of ideas planted through ingenious short film premises that could grow to be feature length films. The incredibly creative expositions were about everything from a magical hole in the ground that duplicates living organisms (Burnt Grass) to the situation of a woman shrinking slowly but surely until she is barely bigger than a tennis ball (Withering Heights).
The short films that I thought had the strongest lasting impact on the audience was Hole, directed by Martin Edralin, and The Acting Teacher, by Aaron Craven. Both these films were very different from each other but had real substance in the messages they were sending. Hole is about a disabled and sexually frustrated man who attempts to act upon his urges through the help of the only friend he has. I was impacted deeply by this film and the sheer boldness it had in teasing out very real prejudices against the disabled and the double standards society holds for them.
The Acting Teacher, on the other hand, struck me in a very different way by posing questions regarding the legitimacy of those big figureheads in society people look up to in a funny and satirical way. I look back on this short film as a hilarious comedy of an acting guru that uses ridiculous methods to help two ridiculously bad actors find their inner movie stars, with a dash of sarcastic auditors on the side.
Last but not least, when the film procession finally came to project the short film I had purposely come to see, I was not disappointed. Talking with Lucas, director of Hard Card, before going to see the film prepared me for the eery and slightly uncomfortable tone his film comes out with right out of the gate. For more details on this conversation I had with Lucas, click here. Upon watching the film, I was firstly impressed by the fluidity of the dialogue on screen. No lines felt awkward or scripted but rather entirely too real and like something you would hear walking down the streets of Downtown Eastside Vancouver.
During the question and answer period with Lucas following the entirety of the short film procession, he explained that many of the characters in Hard Card were really simply just manifestations of real people in his life that he recreated on screen. While the film does end in an unexpectedly violent way, I appreciated Hard Card’s slow but sure build up to the finale because of the way the plot flowed and moved without any unnecessarily graphic or disturbing scenes.
Overall, while I will not say that I prefer short films over feature length films, I will say that I appreciate the ability and freedom filmmakers from all over the world have this week to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions through such an entertaining medium as this one. I loved watching the seeds of great stories take root on screen as well as the ingenuity of some directors in playing with difficult ideas and issues.