Fantasia 2018 Review: BORN OF WOMAN Shorts are Wickedly Fierce

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Fantasia 2018 Review: BORN OF WOMAN Shorts are Wickedly Fierce

[Still from The Old Woman Who Buried Her Fear Under the Stairs]

This year's Born of Woman program from Fantasia 2018 featured international short films from France, Czech Republic, USA, Norway, South Korea, United Kingdom, Finland, and Ireland. Every year, this program sells out, and that's an encouraging sign for the future of cinema. As usual, it's staggering to see the amount of film funds and film boards listed in the credits that support shorts --- from an envying American standpoint --- but I digress. 

From Finland, Hanna Bergholm premiered Puppet Master, a experimental dance of ethereal puppets and a man and a woman. I'm not quite sure what it's about, but if I had to guess, it's a metaphor either into the mind of a serial killer or domestic abuser. I'm not the biggest fan of experimental film, but this one sure is pretty.  

The Canadian premiere of NOSE NOSE NOSE EYES! from South Korea’s Jiwon Moon feels like a piece of an epic horror film in the tradition of Audition with sumptious set design, great acting, and a terrifying, villainous mother. I want to see this feature immediately.  

From Ireland, Kate Dolan's North American premiere of her terrific Catcalls gives the middle finger to disgusting men who think it's cool to harass women with a very satisfying comeuppance. This is another short film that should be made into a feature ASAP, because damnit, we need more women getting revenge on scumbags. Hell. Yes.

All the way from Norway, we were treated to the Quebec premiere of Kjersti Helen Rasmussen's Voyager, rich in atmosphere and sci-fi paranoia by way of John Carpenter's The Thing. The story is set in an arctic seed vault, a strange man is found eating the seeds. Is it the beginning of an alien invasion? This film feels like a snippet of a much larger epic.

The world premiere of Petite Avarie from France was co-directed by Manon Alirol & Léo Hardt, who also stars as an incredible jerk who leaves his partner after she finds out that she has breast cancer. Petite Avarie is a hilarious black comedy that keeps going with surprises long after you expect the short to be finished, but the film never overstays its welcome. 

The Canadian premiere of the quirky Czech film Who's Who in Mycology from filmmaker Marie Dvorakova brought to mind the surreal playfulness of Jeunet's Delicatessen and Amélie and won a Student Academy Award.

From Britain, Faye Jackson's The Old Woman Who Buried Her Fear Under the Stairs follows an elderly woman living alone as she experiences all the ways that her vulnerability comes into play. She reads about terrible events in the newspaper or sees awful things on TV. Oh, and there's a hooded figure that stands on the corner and stares up into her window every night. Once she discovers how to get rid of her fear, everything changes. The film is an unexpected welcome and an exercise into how endangered we can become as we grow older.  

From the U.S., we've got two excellent world premieres. The Gaze from Ida Joglar follows a scientist assaulted by her Nobel-prize winning, but sleazy boss who slips something into her tea and assaults her. She discovers that like Carrie, she possesses supernatural powers. The final shot will stick in your mind for a long, long time. I look forward to future work from Joglar and her lead, who's fantastic.

Lucy's Tale from Chelsea Lupkin follows a bullied high school girl with the burgeoning powers to hurt both her bulliers and the people who are much kinder to her (also like Carrie), but with the difference that she's grown a tail. Some pretty cool prosthetics are on display here, and Lupkin is another talent to watch.

Overall, the Born of Woman program continues to be a terrific showcase of female-directed (sometimes co-directed with a male) films that are the best of the best, the world over. I hope that more people have an opportunity to seek these films out, wherever they play.

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