Film : International film shorts in Chilmark
The Martha's Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF) presents "A New You!"-- an evening of local food, and a program of short animated and live action films for kids on Saturday, Jan. 30. Seven different nations are represented in the nine films during the 75-minute screening at the Chilmark Community Center.
Rick Bausman, director of the Island's Drum Workshop will provide musical entertainment during dinner. Chilmark chef Amy Miller will prepare the meal, using beef from The FARM Institute, breads from Aquinnah's Orange Peel Bakery and vegetables from Whippoorwill Farm.
The strength of the film program lies in its variety of creative and cultural perspectives. My favorite short, a choice supported by two of my grandchildren, is the United Kingdom entry, "Cherry on the Cake."
In this eight-minute animation, a little girl feels diminished by the arrival of a new sibling in her family. When her parents dote on the new baby, she shrinks into a matchbook-sized figure who her parents don't even notice.
Cherry switches from sadness and rejection to anger. She packs up her suitcase with a few of her favorite things, and even though it's mammoth-sized compared to her, she tries to drag it away.
Cherry's parents and siblings decide she has disappeared. They file a missing child report at the police station and weep profusely. The charm of this short is the way Cherry shrinks physically as an analogue to the way she feels her role in the family has.
Another particularly appealing animation is "Pig's Happiness" from Latvia. The plot involves a pig family on an excursion to the beach. The little girl of the family strikes up a friendship with an uncouth wild pig that her parents disapprove of despite the fact that they act in piggy fashion themselves, chowing down at a trough attached to their comical vehicle and tossing their trash around with oblivion.
The pleasure of "Pig's Happiness" comes in the cleverness of the animation, as well as the message about paying attention to keeping the environment clean. These pigs and the accompanying cast of other animals speak in animal language, so the visuals carry the message.
Several live action shorts rely more on situation and narrative than visual ingenuity. "My Name Is Tuan" from Canada employs the simplest of storylines to make a worthwhile point about immigrants acclimating to a new culture.
The two longest shorts, one live-action and the other animated, offer worthy lessons for small children. In "Secret Friend" from Germany, Alexander halfheartedly prepares for a piano audition with his mother badgering him to practice. Alexander would rather be outside playing with his friends, until he invents an imaginary friend to help him through the tedious work of preparation for his recital.
A small Italian boy who lives in a seaside town misses his dad, a sailor who was lost at sea, in "King of the Island" from Italy. He imagines his father as a handsome hero and is dismayed when dad returns - fat, balding, and crippled. Using shadows as stand-ins for the boy's active imagination, this short shows how he learns to appreciate his real-life dad.
Another brief animation, "Bottled Promise" from Canada, also addresses issues of loneliness and abandonment. Here a child loses her best friend when he moves away. The two have devised an old-fashioned string-and-cups play telephone system for communicating, and once separated, use imaginary bottled promises to keep the friendship alive.
Two balloons act out the rivalry between a bully and a less aggressive spirit in the minimalist "Red & Blue," the U.S. entry in the program.
In "Crema Suprema," a three-minute short from Canada, claymation is the medium for delivering another message about rivalry, as two cake bakers try to outdo one another.
"Hajar's Wedding," an animated short from Iran, incorporates Chagall-like flights of fancy in which characters fly through a planet-dotted universe to narrate a story about preparations for a traditional Iranian wedding.
Compared to the often violent, often stereotyped American fare offered online, on TV or at the local Cineplex, these films will enlarge the cultural perspective of even the youngest Vineyard tots. MVFF earns kudos for making them available. Their next event is the annual, weekend-long film festival scheduled for March 12-14.
"Film Shorts," Saturday, Jan. 30, 5 pm, Chilmark Community Center. Dinner: $10 adults, $5 children. Movie: $6. For more information, go to tmvff.org.