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Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 22.Apr.22

Upon Her Lips: Butterflies  
Reviews by Rich Cline
Upon Her Lips: Butterflies
release UK 22.Apr.22
22/UK NQV 1h32

In this collection, five very different short films recount female-centred stories. Each deals with sexuality, but that isn't the main issue in any of them (gender is the core theme in one). It's refreshing to see profoundly human stories that just happen to feature women in the focal roles; these are involving stories about relationships that are redefined by challenges and the importance of working together to face an obstacle. And while some feature gratuitous love scenes, each also touches on how it feels to be a woman in a man's world.

saraya and yaron dir-scr Samira Saraya
with Samira Saraya, Hadas Yaron, Fidaa Zidan, Jad Khamashta, Regev, Chen Shahuda, Barak Gaon, Yonatan Banai
20/Palestine 20m


Polygraph Documentary-style camerawork puts this story right into the context of present-day Israel and the tensions between Jewish and Palestinian communities. There's an earthy authenticity to the settings and situations that vividly brings everything to life. And the characters have a gritty sense of attitude, living openly gay while being cagy about everything else.

The story centres on Yasmin (Saraya), an Arab nurse who is happy in her relationship with Israeli intelligence officer Orr (Yaron). Yasmine is annoyed that Orr is reporting to her to boss about their private life, but Orr is up against the wall, facing a lie detector interview. Then Yasmin's sister Jehan (Zidan) turns up, visiting from the occupied West Bank. And she's shocked to learn that Yasmine is shacking up with an enemy agent.

The tension simmers as these three women try to have a civilised evening together, as Jehan criticises Yasmin for leaving her true self aside to make space for Orr. Each has a distinct view of this tension, while in the background television news coverage shows bombs raining down on Palestinian cities. Cleverly, none of this is overstated, so actor-filmmaker Saraya is able to depict this situation with nuance, provoking thought without preaching a message.

cismondi and richard dir-scr Margot Gallimard
with Salome Richard, Alexandra Cismondi, Laurent Delbecque, Minha Puaut, Philippe Taudiere, Carla Pouzet
17/France 30m

Larsen   3.5/5

Feedback Shot in the style of a feature film, this French short uses its extended running time to hone in on the personal drama between its central characters. It's an involving story about two women facing a situation they're not prepared for. The approach to a complex topic is earthy, and it's performed with honesty by a strong cast. The script also includes some unexpected angles on the topic that force the viewer to think more deeply than expected.

Swimming instructor Maude (Richard) is scared when she suddenly loses her hearing. She has has been with her girlfriend Clothilde (Cismondi) for many years, and their sudden inability to communicate throws them out of sync. Maude's brother Gael (Delbecque) finds this difficult, but reaches out and begins to learn how to adapt. But Clothilde is dismissive, insisting that Maude's deafness will pass. Perhaps Maude just needs someone who will love her whatever happens.

Writer-director Gallimard makes clever use of the sound mix to help us experience things through Maude's perspective, and to also let us understand Clothilde's own struggles. Big emotions understandably swirl through each scene, including fear and frustration, but Clothilde's short-fused anger comes as a surprise. The film sometimes meanders a bit, but the deeper message is a powerful one, reminding us that we should listen to that inner voice more often, rather than what we see or hear.

johannes and schlott dir-scr Julia Ritschel
with Elisa Schlott, Tabita Johannes, Eva Nurnberg, Jasmin Shahali, Fabian Dammich, Daniel Golzenleuchter, Tijan Bittaye, Josh Alsen
16/Germany 15m

The Cricket and the Ant  
La Cigale et la Fourmi   3.5/5

The Cricket and the Ant Loose and relaxed, this German drama centres on an illicit romance that's a lot of fun for the lovers, complete with the zing of excitement in having to hide from public view. But there's a question hovering around them that neither wants to face. Writer-director Ritschel keeps the tone light, even when the feelings swell up. And the title reference is conveyed with compassion, commenting on parable about a cricket who lives life to the full while the ant follows rules that give it a more stable existence.

Opening on a sunny isolated beach, teen Lena (Schlott) is having a romantic day out with her French teacher Katharina (Johannes). And back in the classroom, Lena can't hide her giddy happiness, although she doesn't dare tell her friends why. And they also need to be careful around Katharina's husband. Of course, the secrecy begins to get to them, and Katharina starts to face the reality that she will need to make a decision.

Beautifully shot, the film adeptly puts these women into a bubble, unable to properly see the truth about their relationship and the bigger picture around them. So things like work meetings and family responsibilities pop up almost like an insult to their blissful affair. It's not that their feelings for each other are shallow, but it might be impossible to sustain their connection due to the circumstances around them. This adds a wave of big emotions to the story, even when things get a bit overstated in the end.

buckley and rodger dir-scr Asli Umut
with Chereen Buckley, Deanna Rodger, Gerry Skeens, Elliot Richards, Terrence Kren, Patrick Lenney, Tuna Erlat
15/UK 16m

We Were Waves Once  

We Were Waves Once There's a lovely silence to this British short, which observes a young woman as she sticks to herself, trying to get her life back into gear. Sensitive writing and direction by Asli Umut, plus a fine central performance from Chereen Buckley help the viewer identify with this situation. So even if it's a bit weightless, the story is so nicely understated that it can't help but worm its way under the skin.

Unable to cope with the death of her father, Cocteau (Buckley) is struggling with writer's block. Holed up in her flat, she passes the time watching people in her neighbourhood, looking for inspiration. Then she meets Alicia (Rodger), a full-on young woman who loves to rap about anything that pops into her head. And perhaps this is the kick Cocteau needs, in more ways than one.

It's fascinating to watch the quiet, observant Cocteau open up to this much louder, more adventurous stranger. And their cute spark of attraction is very nicely played by the terrific actors. This adds a kick to the way Cocteau finds a breakthrough in Alicia's impulsive way of looking at life. The topic may not be terribly complicated, and the film feels like it ends slightly too soon, but it leaves us with a smile.

mannino and vaselli dir-scr Abbe Robinson
with Marta Vaselli, Massimiliano Lakoseljac, Margherita Mannino, Roberta Caronia, Ryan Gori, Massimo Giuman, Eleonora Piva, Daniela & Paola Fuga
14/Italy 12m

The Girl and the Gondola  
La Ragazza e la Gondola   4/5

The Girl and the Gondola Gorgeously shot in Venice, this British-produced short centres on a young teen who spends her days on the canals with her father, dreaming of being one of the boys. Everything and everyone around her reinforced what a girl can and cannot do in this culture. So even if the film is sentimental and a bit corny, watching this cheeky girl take her future into her own hands is thoroughly engaging.

Despite the fact that she's bucking tradition, Carla (Vaselli) has grown up dreaming of becoming a gondolier like her father (Lakoseljac). But even though she knows the canals better than most men, girls simply aren't allowed to pilot gondolas. And older women even tell her off for playing football with the boys. Then one day she spots Natalia (Mannino), a young female gondolier who gets nonstop criticism from the men. And Carla is inspired by her tenacity.

The relationship between Carla and Francesco is sharply well-played by Vaselli and Lakoseljac. This adds a nasty edge to Francesco's refusal to even consider letting her row the gondola, putting us into Carla's shoes as she begins to discover that maybe the world isn't as limited as he keeps telling her it is. And the film hints that, even if Carla doesn't quite realise it yet, Natalia can teach her more about life than rowing a boat.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 22.Apr.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall