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Shorts & Docs Galore

reykjavik_shorts_and_docs_2013Review by Zoë Robert.

This year’s Reykjavík Shorts & Docs Festival opened with Mission to Lars, a documentary about three siblings: Kate, Will and Tom.

Tom suffers from Fragile X Syndrome, the most common form of inherited learning disability. The film follows his siblings’ attempts at trying to fulfill Tom’s dream—obsession, really—to meet Lars Ulrich of Metallica.

I first heard about Mission to Lars in a BBC radio interview a while ago and was intrigued: what a unique idea for a film. And the film is brilliant, every bit hilarious and touching as it is original, a definite must-see.

On Sunday evening, I attended the Celebrating Icelandic Female Filmmakers program, which consisted of five shorts—all student films—and a Q&A session with the directors.

The session began with Abject by Ellen Ragnarsdóttir. I missed the first half of that film so am not entirely sure what led to the main character peeing on someone’s clothes but if I understood her response during the Q&A session correctly, the film, like several others in the program, tackled the issue of the objectification of women.

Twenty-four minute Good Night by Muriel d’Ansembourg and Eva Sigurdardóttir was next. The longest of the session’s films, Good Night follows Rachel and Chloe, two 14-year-olds who hit the streets of London dressed well beyond their years.

The film has its fair share of uncomfortable moments—at times countered with humor—but its provocative subject matter of teenagers exploring their sexuality and men’s attraction to younger women and girls, does come with a strong message about the pressures on girls and young teens to grow up at an increasingly early age. The film can also be commended for its cinematography.

But the stand-out film of the session for me was You Have to Look Good, which follows the life and rigorous training schedule of 23-year-old single mom Soffía as she prepares for a Model Fitness competition.

As she approaches competition day, we see her struggle with her energy levels, and her nerves, worried that she won’t cut it. By the end, we learn that Soffía has suffered from bulimia and that throwing herself into fitness training was her way of trying to overcome the disorder.

The film raised many questions about health, beauty and the strive for perfection. Perhaps not surprisingly, the film attracted its fair share of questions during the Q&A.

Director Alma Ómarsdóttir emphasized that she had only wanted to document Soffía’s life and experience with the competition, and had not set out to make a statement about what has become a popular lifestyle. Soffía, though, revealed during the Q&A that she had decided not to take part in the competition again.

Each to Their Own by Birgitta Sigursteinsdóttir tells the story of a butcher in Brighton, England, who has adapted to changing dietary habits by also selling vegetarian food.

Based on the film’s description, I had high expectations for Each to Their Own but was personally disappointed. It didn’t really deliver much in the way of views and opinions about vegetarianism and the meat industry. Perhaps six minutes simply wasn’t long enough for this topic.

Similarly, The Last Thing by Harpa Fönn Sigurjónsdóttir was a great concept, but the film—at least for me—lacked on delivery leaving [perhaps intentionally] many unanswered questions.

The ten-minute film tells the sad story of a woman who collects the belongings of people who die a lonely death: photographs, documents, jewelry and other valuables are stored for up to 20 years for distant family or friends to pick up.

During the week-long festival, films from a variety of countries, with focus this year on Germany and Poland, have been shown.

Other films I would have liked to have seen include A World Not Ours, described as “an intimate and humorous portrait of three generations of exile in the refugee camp of Ein-el-Helweh, in southern Lebanon.” Interestingly, the film uses over 20 years of footage filmed by multiple generations of the same family.

Judging by the few films I saw at this year’s festival, it’s safe to say that Reykjavík Shorts & Docs succeeds in its aim to bring “films that are challenging, sexy, funny, outrageous, educational and films that simply cannot be missed.” With close to 90 films on the program, there is surely something for all film lovers to enjoy.

stars40

Reykjavík Shorts & Docs runs until May 16. For full program details, visit shortsdocsfest.com.

Zoë Robert – [email protected]

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