The Images Festival of Independent Film and Video turns 16 with over 170 independent films and vids, 17 new media art installations, four off-screen live events and an international symposium on urban space, technology and media. Whew. When there's that much material -- most of it experimental -- you need to know where to go and what to avoid. NOW surveys the best of the fest. By wendy banks
images festival OF INDEPENDENT FILM AND VIDEO at Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex), the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor West) and Latvian House (491 College), from today (Thursday, April 10) through April 19. Single screenings $8, galas $12, book of five $35. For this week's schedule, see Repertory Films, page 92. 416-969-0543, www.imagesfestival.com.
From the Other Side directed by Chantal Akerman, Saturday, April 19, 5 pm, Innis Town Hall. 99 minutes. Rating: NNNN
here is a quietly infuriating look at the predicament faced by Mexican workers. Paltry wages paid by factories in Mexico make the subsistence-level incomes of illegal workers stateside irresistible for many. The U.S., in the meantime, has effectively sealed off entry through urban centres, ensuring that the only way into the country is an often fatal trek through the Arizona desert. Akerman's camera keeps her typically cool distance through border towns and ranches; it sits implacably through interviews on both sides of the divide. This lack of hustle gives you space to absorb and respond to what you see -- above all the fence that marks the border, barbed, floodlit and patrolled.
Tamala 2010: A PUNK CAT IN SPACE directed by Trees of Life, today (Thursday, April 10), 8 pm, Bloor. 92 minutes. Rating: NNN
a shoplifting, chain-smoking anime kitten hops into her rocket ship and heads for Orion but winds up instead on Planet Q, where an evil megacorp is scheming to create a nightmare world by projecting images of an ancient robot goddess into the dreams of infants. Then things get weird. It's as if William Gibson and Haruki Murakami threw their favourite themes into a blender with an old Felix The Cat cartoon and some late-model Atari cartridges and hit "purée." The plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but then, it doesn't need to. You'll want to see it twice anyway, once to get the story and a second time just to watch the teeming backgrounds.
Brief Crossing directed by Catherine Breillat, with Sarah Pratt and Gilles Guillain, Tuesday (April 15), 7 pm, Bloor. 75 minutes. Rating: NNN
an older english woman seduces a young French boy on an overnight ferry from France to England. The film is suffused with bright, pallid colours that are somehow exhausting to look at; the woman is likewise bright, pallid and exhausting. She keeps staring beadily and saying, "You men are all alike!" The boy is a raw, inarticulate bundle of feelings, with bee-stung lips. Breillat winds them up and watches them go, then throws in a twist that changes everything. The result is a well-acted, thought-provoking, impeccably paced and deeply dispiriting meditation on love, sex, power and manipulation.
I Love the Sound of the Kalachnikov, It Reminds Me of TchaikovskI directed by Philippe Vartan Khazarian, Tuesday (April 15), 9:15 pm, Bloor. 74 minutes. Rating: NNN
this intensely personal film, non-linear, episodic and evocative, explores the past and present of Armenian identity from the genocide of 1915 to current separatist struggles in Azerbaijan. Collages of recurring images and sounds -- a woman singing in a church, a boy lying in the grass, the view from a security camera on a busy American street -- make up the bulk of the film. Dreamy and emotional.
Decasia directed by Bill Morrison, Saturday (April 12), 7 pm, Innis Town Hall. 67 minutes. Rating: NNNN
a symphony by minimalist composer Michael Gordon is combined with fragments of archival footage on decomposing nitrate film. In places, the film's so badly decayed that it looks abstract, like the animated scratches of Norman McLaren, until you see a face or a landscape peeking through. At other times, the images battle it out with the blobs and streaks in a losing struggle against oblivion. They get twisted and inverted: human faces degrade into cartoon masks, and a procession of schoolchildren in a convent turns into a parade of terrifying ghosts. The music chugs and wails along like a rusted steam engine hauling a cargo of fear and urgency. Hypnotic, disturbing and extremely beautiful.
Do the Wrong Thing 1 and 2 two programs of shorts, Monday (April 14), Innis Town Hall, 7 and 9:15 pm. Rating: NNN
the first of two programs of witty, angry, disconcerting short films by women includes El Diablo En La Piel, Mexican filmmaker Ximena Cuevas's painful exploration of what makes actresses cry, and Estonian Ene-Liis Semper's tragic FF-REV. In program 2, American Kristin Lucas's cyber-fi confessional Host queries love and surveillance. Finnish director Eija-Liisa Ahtila's Love Is A Treasure gently invites us into the waking dream worlds of five women in the midst of psychotic breakdowns. There are no histrionics, just matter-of-fact narration as Ahtila uses cheesy but effective camera tricks to show us what their delusions, self-destructive impulses and hallucinations are like from the inside. Then there's Canadian filmmaker Wendy Coburn's short, traumatic monkey opera Die Trauernde (The Mournful One).
Hollywood Inferno directed by Laura Parnes, with Alissa Bennett and Guy Richards Smit, part of the Seven Circles Of Hell program, Friday, April 18, 11 pm, Latvian House. 40 minutes. Rating: NN
an aspiring teen actress is led around Hollywood by creepy screenwriter Virgil, who offers to advance her career. She goes from working in a minimalist candy store to modelling fatigues in a Columbine-themed shoot to participating in a snuff film directed by a psychopath in a Willem Dafoe mask. Between gigs, she and Virgil spy on various circles of Hollywood hell through peepholes. Most of the dialogue is lifted from movies, interviews and art criticism. Clever and nightmarish, but also disjointed and obscure. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Boxed Life program, screening Saturday (April 12), 5 pm, at Innis Town Hall, is all about confined spaces. In Tadasu Takamine's incredible God Bless America, two artists live in a small room with a giant Bush-quoting claymation head for 18 days and nights. Also check out Ansuman Biswas and Jem Finer's goofily beautiful jackass-with-cosmonauts experiment in Zero Genie.
People mess around with the urban environment in the inspiring Urban Space 1: Interventions program (Sunday, April 13, 7 pm, Innis Town Hall). A local mystery is satisfyingly solved in Will Kwan's Don't Toe The Line, Or Toe Your Own Line (Huron), and Richard Ankrom's vigilante freeway maintenance in Guerilla Public Service grips you like a miniature heist flick.
The Irreducible Truth program (Wednesday, April 16, 7 pm, Innis Town Hall) is packed with trippy, funny, innovative shorts, notably Jung-Chul Hur's acid-soaked A Beautiful Dream, Steve Reinke's hilariously snide Anal Masturbation + Object Loss and Sato Yoshinao's deftly animated The Books.
And finally, the You're Soaking In It! program, showing Saturday, April 19, at Innis Town Hall, investigates all things pop, and includes Ximena Cuervas's giddy attack on daytime TV, La Tombola, Jeff Sterne's delightfully arcane and dirty love fable, Bear Girl: Dog Boy, and Benjamin Nemerofsky Ramsay's one-man Elizabethan heartthrob quartet in I Am A Boyband.