No it’s not porn. But it is funny. Butt Fantasia is a short 5 minute comedy set in Austin, TX and in the magical land of butts. An older man sits at a bus station when a magic red hat falls from the sky. The hat lands on his head transporting him to Butt Fantasia. Here butts reenact scenes to orchestral music. There is a butt party, a butt execution scene, a 50 foot butt takes over a city causing utter chaos and finally our hero goes on a journey to discover the fate of his own butt.
Butt Fantasia doesn’t make a lot of sense but does it have to? This is pure entertainment for viewers who think behinds are hilarious. This troupe of choreographed derrieres dance, they smoke, they shoot guns, they delight and they might gross you out but only a tad.
This short film was directed by Mohit Jaswal and Nathaniel Hendricks and was one year in the making. Co-producer Zach DeSutter calls the film “a labor of love for stupid cinema… it’s loosely based on the original Fantasia, except with butts.” If you’re curious about the butts themselves, they are mostly male and I only spotted a couple female ones. In an industry where male nudity is scarce, it’s refreshing (is that the right word?) to see more male butts!
What drives us? What motivates us to create? Is it love, loss, joy, pain, fear, wonder… Or is it all the above?
In Jennifer Alleyn latest film Impetus, a hybrid narrative drama and documentary, she examines the creative process through existential angst. It’s a free-form exploration of the philosophical ideas behind our impulses. The film transitions back and forth between French and English, between Montreal and New York City. Creativity has no firm place, has no set language. It’s fluid and the story structure, or lack thereof, reflects that. It’s up to us to give our imagination a shape for others, and for ourselves. Sometimes that easy but more often than not its a struggle.
There is the filmmaker (Jennifer Alleyn), who is nursing a broken heart and has lost sight of the character in her upcoming movie. Then there is John (J. Reissner), her musician friend whose dealing with the effects of age and loss of those near and dear to him. Rudolf (Emmanuel Schwartz) is the filmmaker’s lead actor who, like a reptile, wants to shed his old skin to begin again. Then there is the filmmaker’s lead actress Pascale (Pascale Bussieres) who is eager to please but feels a deep loneliness that disconnects her from her art and her happiness. A pianist Esfir (Esfir Dyachkov) who refused to play the piano by herself after her son’s untimely death. And taxi driver (Besik Kazarian) whose face we don’t see but whose astute observations on life brings Pascale to tears.
The movie shares a lot of deep thoughts on creativity and love as the driving force in our lives.
“The character are there. We don’t always see them.”
There is a reptilian theme that I found thought-provoking and effective. Pascale and Rudolf housesit for a traveling artist, taking care of his reptile, a gecko. We see the creature in the terrarium, peeking through the plants. Then in different scenes the audiences sees various other plants with human subjects behind them, as though the filmmaking process is like looking into a terrarium. Rudolf (Emmanuel Schwartz) reenacts the movements of a reptile in a scarily convincing way. The movie goes into the filmmaker’s creation and draws us back out to the process. When the reptile loses its tail it will grow a new one, representing loss and the creative process. One character says, that while the tail will grow back, a scar will remain; “there will always be a difference between the old and the new one.”
Impetus is an inventive exploration of the metaphysical. However it struggles to keep the viewer’s attention. While the story got away from me the philosophical ideas stuck.
Impetus had its US premiere at Slamdance 25 as part of the Narrative Feature Competition.
Eyes at the Specter Glass: A Cosmic Horror is a visual and auditory experience that requires your patience, your passivity and your attention. Set in the cosmos, this short film is composed of shifting and moving shapes that start off in black and white and then morph into beautiful blues, pinks and purples. If I were ever abducted by aliens, I can only imagine it would look, sound and feel a little like this. This film envelopes you in darkness, light and sound. There is no overstimulation here. Everything is gradual and paced to allow you to soak everything in.
This 11-1/2 minute short film is directed, animated and scored by Matthew Wade with music mastering by Jacob Kinch. According to Wade, Eyes at the Specter Glass is about the “perception of reality and how we catalog life events through memory, bias and time.” The macrocosm of the universe is told through the perspective of the individual.
Eyes at the Specter Glass is an experience worth your while if you allow yourself to submit to it. I could see this film as an installation at a museum, as long as it could be viewed in an enclosed space.
Eyes at the Specter Glass premiered at Slamdance 25.
“You are entering the realm of the clandestine and forgotten. A split screen caught between channels.”
Set in 1950s New Mexico, The Vast of Night follows two teens as they uncover a secret frequency that reveals an otherworldly presence in their small town. On the night of Cayuga High School’s basketball game, Everett (Jake Horowitz) the local radio DJ who has a knack for technologies, meets up with Fay (Sierra McCormick), a switchboard operator. Fay asks Everett to teach her how to use a tape recorder. Fay hears a strange noise coming from one of the phone lines and she captures the sound on tape. When Everett plays it on the air, the two learn that something is amiss in their community. Billy (Bruce Davis), a retired military worker and Mabel (Gail Cronauer), a homebound widow, both reach out to Everett with their stories of secret military experiments and extraterrestrials. Everett and Fay are on the run to uncover the truth behind these stories and why the aliens are targeting their hometown.
Directed by Andrew Patterson and written by James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, The Vast of Night is a dialogue driven drama. Rapid-fire chatter mixed with slow, methodical storytelling drive the plot forward. Not much happens in the way of action and the story’s tension comes from increased paranoia and the uncovering of a supernatural mystery.
“The Vast of Night an exercise in people telling stories to each other. Drawing you in detail by detail.”
director Andrew Patterson
While the dialogue is key to the film, I found there to be too much of it. Cut away 25% of the chatter, especially in the beginning of the film, and I wouldn’t have felt like I was drowning in dialogue. The real appeal for me was the science fiction element with an emphasis on mid-20th century technology: radios, tape recorders, audio reels, switchboards, telephones, etc. There is also retrofuturistic vibe with the discussion of the year 2000 and “electronic highway control.” All the characters wear period appropriate clothing and vintage glasses. Some of the scenes are filtered through a blue-tinted television screen adding to the retro vibe. McCormick and Horowitz were convincing as the curious, technology loving and seemed plucked right out of the 1950s.
The Vast of Night will appeal to fans of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Twilight Zone. The heavy dialogue can be exhausting but if you have the patience to get through it you’ll be rewarded at the end.
The Vast of Night had its world premiere at Slamdance 25.
Transgender people do not exist in a vacuum. Not only does the transition mean a painful rebirth for the individual but its also a harbinger of big change for the people in their lives. And when there is a spouse and children to contend to, how will this major life shift affect them?
The Israeli documentary Family in Transition tells the story of the Tsuk family living in a conservative Jewish community in the coastal city of Nahariya. Amit and his wife Galit have been married 20 years and known each other for 27. They’re incredibly close bond deepens when Amit reveals to Galit that he is a woman and wants to transition. Galit and their four children are supportive of Amit as he transitions. We follow their journey from Amit’s birthday party, to daughter Agam’s Bat Mitzvah to Galit and Amit’s ceremony as they renew their vows and remarry as women. It’s a two year process from Amit’s revelation, to the hormone treatment, to the gender reassignment surgery in Thailand and to the wedding vows. This is a portrait of a beautiful marriage and a close knit family supporting their own through a difficult time.
But the Tsuk family’s story doesn’t end here. Something shifts for Galit when she feels taken for granted and can’t find the emotional balance in her marriage with Amit that she craves. You can only give so much of yourself before you’re going to need to take something back. This is where life for the Amit and Galit takes a sharp and unexpected turn. Their journey begs the question, who do you want to be?
Family in Transition was directed by Ofir Trainin and premiered at this year’s DOC NYC. This fascinating documentary is not afraid to tackle some harsh truths about gender dynamics within the family sphere. The sudden shift in the Tsuk’s journey was surprising and revelatory. Going into it in more detail would spoil the film for those unfamiliar with the story. Trainin had this to say about the film in the official director’s statement:
“The main goal of Family in Transition is to expose a unique family that can teach us all how to accept the difference in one another. The Tsuk family breaks social conventions and helps change what we though we knew about gender, partiy, parenthood and transgender issues… By embracing the different, I hope we can work towards creating a world where transgender people can live a normal life and be accepted by their community.”
Family in Transition will open in Los Angeles on November 16th and in New York on November 23rd.
I encourage you to read transgender film critic Danielle Solzman’s excellent review of this film.