This review contains spoilers for “I’m Not Sure Today,” “War Paint,” “What is Beauty?” “Fucked Like a Star,” “Birth Control Your Own Adventure,” “After Her,” “Sexxy Dancer,” “Get Home Safe” and “Icebergs.”
The 11th annual Citizen Jane Film Festival was home again to the “MIX TAPE” block of short films, which was quite frankly an emotional roller coaster. Below, I run through each of the short films in the order they were shown.
“I’m Not Sure Today” had a 15-minute run time that felt like an eternity. In hindsight, this was a good film, but it was not a good film to kick off the block. It’s a subtle film about a woman who is in the always awkward position of going to her ex’s wedding, the key word here being subtle. The films would have made an excellent cool-down later in the block, but I’m not going to discredit a film for its placement among other great films. It was visually distinct, taking place entirely within a parking garage. The film had some an excellent metaphor between what’s being talked about by the characters and a choice one of them is making about a pair of shoes. Language barrier aside, the acting was fantastic. If I can watch a film in a language that I can’t understand and still pick up all that I need to know from an actor’s face, the acting is superb.
“War Paint” is a hard-hitting 17-minute, day-in-the-life film about a young black girl. The film pulled no punches. From the word “go,” the main character faces issues starting small and building to something larger and more sickening. The progression of events takes the main character from dealing with an overprotective father to confrontation with racist police officers. The chain of events between those two events is fluid. The backdrop for the film is a picturesque Fourth of July, and, while a little on the nose, was a very relevant and jarring reminder about what America looks like today.
“What is Beauty?” is a short amongst shorts clocking in at just three minutes long, but that’s all it needed to get its message across. Beauty has changed over time, from the Venus figurines of ancient civilizations to Kim Kardashian breaking the internet. The short was a nice reprieve from the heavy nature of the preceding film.
I’m not going to lie, “Fucked Like a Star” left me a little confused. I could sit here and act like the stereotypical pretentious critic and talk about its vision or something else of the sort, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’ll say this — “Fucked Like a Star” is great. It's a little experimental and maybe not for everyone, but great nonetheless. The film is a narration on soldier ants spliced in with imagery varying from footage of soldier ants to an uncomfortable close up of a woman braiding hair. The emphatic tone and imagery make for an interesting viewing experience that won't be forgotten anytime soon.
“Birth Control Your Own Adventure” is an op-doc about a girl’s journey with endometriosis starting at age 11. The documentary is impactful, creative and funny. The various visual elements throughout the documentary make for a jam-packed five minutes that feel so much longer (in the best way). Director Sindha Agha’s dry commentary throughout was particularly compelling in conveying the absurdity of the subject. The best part of the whole experience is the ending. The documentary ends with a short audio clip from a news broadcast about production of a new form of birth control for men being halted due to its side effects. It’s the perfect little bow that ties the whole thing together and adds a whole new layer to the issue. For me, it was the definite high point of the block.
“After Her” is a weird, little film about a man and a woman who stumble across a weird, little rock in a weird, little cave. I don’t want to say too much more, as it just needs to be watched. It’s a visual experience for a reason. Emphasis on visual.
“Sexxy Dancer” is a fantastic short comedy. A woman in the midst of a tough decision borrows Sexxy Dancer from her friend for the week. Sexxy Dancer is a shirtless man in tight yellow pants who dances at all times. The film centers around the woman’s ordinarily mundane week that now features Sexxy Dancer. This film is the definition of visual punchline. It's hilarious through and through, and definitely a little misleading when you don’t know what you’re getting into.
“Get Home Safe” is another more comedic short that centers around a guy beta-testing a game where the objective is to get home safe as a woman. It’s a very blunt look at male privilege, but did disappoint a little bit in the end. The final minutes of the film center around being able to play as a man and how much easier the game becomes because of this. I feel a better impact could’ve been made out of having a woman brought in to play the game and already being all too familiar with the rules.
“Icebergs” is a beautifully animated nine minutes of existential dread. Mundane, absurd and beautiful are the three best words I can think of to sum it up. The animation style is a rough-around-the-edges paper maché style that creates the film’s generally absurd tone.
Edited by Siena DeBolt | firstname.lastname@example.org