July 31, 2011


From Tammy Davis' Ebony Society
The series of Homegrown short film selections are sessions I always try and get to during the Film Festival. There's generally the Works on Film and a Digital/Drama selection. I think Works in Film is the only one I'm able to get to this year and there was a selection of six fine New Zealand short films. But watching these, boy, we need to lighten up as a society, eh? There's a dark streak running through every single one of these films.

An ex-child's TV show character finds him/herself working in a Chinese takeaway, dealing with reality. Director Stephen Kang has a hook and uses it, perhaps stepping over the line sometimes, but generally making a pretty smart film. The photography by DoP Virginia Luan is often gorgeous, playing with light, shadow and framing to great effect. While I'm not certain it entirely achieves what it wants to and there are perhaps a surfeit of moments where the audience thinks "oh-ho! A person in a blue puffy suit attempting to smoke! Hilarious!" (though I don't think this is what the filmmakers were going for).

Ebony Society
Outrageous Fortune's Munter, Tammy Davis, directs this short film about two young boys who stumble on to more than they bargained for when they break in to a house. This film really comes down to the performances of the boys, and they are unpretentious and natural. This is a very "kiwi" wee film, not short of charm and darkness with a small story told well. 

Not a particular favourite of mine, this film had a very distinctive visual style to it, made to look almost like a watercolour. A woman living with her husband out in the wop-wops gets seduced by an eel and disconnects herself even further from her life. The decision to have no dialogue was perhaps a stylistic choice too far, serving only to heighten the unreality (rather than the fantasy).

An aging hippie faces his retirement and life without his beloved wife. Bird is an unrepentant hippie, often smoking up before running off into the forest in his nightgown, chasing after the spirit of his deceased wife. His daughter just can't put up with helping him any longer and, after Bird's house half burns down, she sticks him unceremoniously in a home. A touching film, with a lot to say in its short run-time and handled with grace and respect.

A young man's first day on the job at a meat-works. I'm not actually too sure what else to say about this film. It'll either desensitise you to meat processing or put you off meat for awhile, as the work in the meat-processing plant is all shot matter-of-factly. Ultimately, I think it's about a young man fitting in to a new environment and becoming one with the old hands. 

Preferably Blue
A surprising animated addition to the line-up, about a bitter and drunk Easter Bunny who plots to destroy Santa Claus. It's difficult to write more than a few rhyming couplets, let alone an entire short film of them. There is plenty of cleverness and sass on display here, I'm just not sure what it's in aid of. There's a real dark streak of humour throughout the film and this really twists things at the end, all but undoing the work before. 


  1. Cinema of unease is still well and truly alive amongst NZ film-makers.
    And as if eels didn't give me the creeps enough, this short film certainly added another layer of yeuch.

  2. I really couldn't stand Eeling. The visual treatment was interesting at first, but then it distracted from the rest of the film, which as it turned out didn't really have anything special to say. Feminists might have a field day with it though.

    I also wondered what meathead set out to do. I kept waiting for a twist or something horrible to happen. NZ cinema has set me up to be a sadistic pessimist.