Short films are like the unsung heroes of film festivals. Everyone sees them, or tries to, but no one acknowledges them in their coverage, probably because so many of them (almost all that I've seen) are too abstract and mostly subjective. This year I decided, for a change, to watch more than one short, especially something from an indigenous filmaker and I managed to do some good in this aspect.
UAE Filmaker Nayla Al Khwaja's well directed Arabana or 'Wheelbarrow' was interesting to watch, even if it didn't have anything radically new to say. At a little over 5 minutes, it doesn't cover much. A neglected young girl in a villa, ventures outside and meets someone who gives her candy, while her mother chats away on the phone. There is obviously a message here, about parental negligence in urban societies, but what was most pleasant about this short was how well made it was and a good fusion of sound, editing and great black and white visuals.
Another local talent, Abdul Basit Qureishi, had his film Mini Blooper up for viewing. A silent funny, with a scratched, unpolished look, it featured a man who gives a stranger a lift, only to have him die en route to their destination, with a dubious briefcase in his lap. What does he do? The tone of the short is similar to one of those 1920's whimsical silents that Hollywood would make, with the narration in the form of text appearing after scenes. While skillfully made and funny in parts, I was unable to determine the reason behind the choice of technique. The short might have worked better if had a strong script with dialogues, but again, that is just my opinion as a non-filmaker. With original music and a of people from editors to cameramen who are all from the UAE, I remain appreciative of the efforts put into creating this.
Perhaps the best short that I saw, from both a subject matter and an aesthetic perspective, was the perverse The Wash. Again, with a short span of only 6 minutes, it opens in a macabre fashion, with a bleeding Amercian flag. The flag fixer working on putting it up, takes it to a launderette with amusing and unexpected consequences. The last shot, where the imprint of the American flag has found its way on the flags of other countries as well, says something about what the short is about. While nothing substantial, it is probably a stepping stone for a promising career of its director.
Keep reading for tomorrow's update about the children's segment of DIFF.