When it comes to cursed families, a few names come to mind: the Kennedys, the Grimaldis, the Hemingways, Bruce and Brandon Lee. Now add to that list the Beksinski family. Famous in their home country of Poland, the Beksinski family included: Zdzislaw Beksinski, a celebrated Polish artist known for his macabre paintings and sculptures, his son Tomasz, a well-known radio presenter, movie translator and journalist, and his wife Zofia, the devoted matriarch who created a balance in a household with two very eccentric figures. Tragedy first struck the family in 1988, when Tomasz survived a plane crash which left one person dead and many injured, including himself. The experience left Tomasz, who was already prone to depression, shattered. A decade later, another blow to the family came with the sudden death of Zofia. A year later, on the eve of Y2K, Tomasz committed suicide. His father found his body. The final and most brutal tragedy of the Beksinski’s family story came in 2005 when Zdzislaw was stabbed to death over a dispute with a teenager about a small loan.
“I’ve started to use my camera as a diary, because I’m too lazy to write it.”
Needless to say that the story of the Beksinskis ended with great sorrow. When Zdzislaw died, he left behind hours and hours of home video footage. Everything from personal conversations, footage from art shows, family trips, important and mundane moments in the life of the Beksinkski tribe were all recorded. Fascinated by technology, Zdzislaw decided to forego the route of a traditional diary to create a video archive instead. Director Marcin Borchardt spent three years sifting through 300 hours of archival footage and the result was his documentary: The Beksinkis: A Sound and Picture Album. This living scrapbook is a portal into their world. In the era before social media, these recording were not fabricated for public consumption. According to Borchardt, this is what makes Zdzislaw’s footage so authentic. No one is putting on a show. The viewer is drawn into an intimate space where the Beksinskis have have deep conversations, especially about their son’s depression.
“I’m finished. I’m a wreck. I’m no good for anything any more.”
Borchardt’s documentary offers a compelling portrait of a creative and tortured family. It reminded me of Sophie Fiennes’ documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami which is entirely comprised of home video. However, I found Borchardt’s approach a lot more engaging. It does require some patience of the viewer to sit through stitched footage to make sense of what we’re being shown. The upside to this documentary is that while there is no real context provided, Zdzislaw narrated a lot of his footage so we hear the story of the Beksinksis through his words.
The Beksinskis: A Sound and Picture Album had it’s US premiere at Slamdance 25.
A man drives down a slip road into the woods. With him inside the vehicle is a mysterious creature. They exchange no words. The car stops when the man encounters children, all dressed in white,who proceed bang on the car from the outside. Once they disappear, he makes his way through a group of adults who are partying in front of a bonfire. The creature is waiting on the other side of a muddy pond. It’s time for the man to fulfill his end of the bargain with the creature and continue his journey.
Slip Road is an ominous and mysterious short film that begs the viewer to extrapolate their own meaning from the series of events in the story. I saw the film as a metaphor for creation and sacrifice. The slip road and the children represent a birth. It’s also the first sacrifice the man must make. He must ignore the children, and the prospect of being a father. He then makes his way through the party but choses not to participate. When he brings a sacrificial offering to the creature, a baby wrapped in a white blanket, the creature drowns him and another version of the man appears. To me this represented more sacrifice. The man must abandon the party life if he wants to fulfill his end of the bargain with the creature and become a creator. I also reinterpreted the whole film as the abandonment of one way of living in order make way for another.
Slip Road was written, produced and directed by Australian filmmaker Raphael Dubois. It stars Izaak Love as the man ‘Wendell’ and Sohaib Zaman as the creature. There is no dialogue but some powerful yet quiet performances from the two stars. It’s beautifully shot with stunning imagery. I was very excited to see this after watching the trailer and it was even more mysterious than I expected.
Slip Road premiered at Slamdance 25 as part of the Anarchy Shorts series.
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.