A Selection of the Shorts from Stranger With My Face 2017 [Stranger With My Face International Film Festival 2017]

Stanger With My Face International Film Festival is a festival that concentrates on female-make film, with a definite penchant to horror and life explorations.  Each edition brings current films and issues as well as older films and a bunch of shorts to their audience while also pushing them to think about some of the issues women face in life as well as in moviemaking.

What Happened to Her (USA) (2016)
Described as “[a] forensic exploration of our cultural obsession with images the dead woman on screen” on the film’s IMDB page, this short shows scenes of actresses playing dead bodies on television shows and in movies, in various states of undress.  The short is narrated by an actress describing how it is, how it feels to play such a part.  Directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, the film explores the odd fascination that viewers and filmmakers (or television makers) have for the female dead body and how often it is found naked.  Writer/narrator Danyi Deats lends a voice to all the actresses that have taken these roles once or more in their careers and gives these dead bodies life.  The film is an interesting study of why we see these victims on screen and what their prevalence over male naked victims may do the female psyche and female representation on film, something that a lot do not necessarily think of when watching these forms of entertainment.  It’s subject is not just interesting here, it’s important and it may shed some light on why female roles are often this way in murder mysteries and it may lead to some thinking as to where this all leads us.

Pendulum (2017)
How does a generation grow up and live while knowing with certainty that the world will end in their twenties?  This short explores this in a beautiful way, with images that make one want to watch and characters that are realistic and touching.  Laura Cooney’s film is written and directed in a way that gives it a powerful message of what is really important in life, what matters to each individual, what matters in the grand scheme of things.  She manages to make a film that is part philosophical drama, part confrontation of one’s own mortality.  Here she leads the film with talent and is join by actors Scott Michael Wagstaff and Tom Sawyer who both give performances filled with emotions and a touch of despair as should be expected.  The film is altogether sad and has desperation in it, but it also shows hope that one can be happy or find happiness no matter what is coming. The film achieves this through strong performances and beautiful imagery with cinematography by Ruben Woodin Dechamps and editing by Patrick Walsh and James Corbin.  Their visual work provides stunning images to go with the sad subject and is paired with music by Marc Canham that adds just the right amount of emotions to what is going on on the screen.  This one is a powerful short that should make a few think.

Gardening at Night (USA) (2016)
A woman is waiting at home while her friend is dying across the country.  As she learns to face the loss and face life without her friend, she helps her friend accept her fate and pass in peace.  Written and directed by Shayna Connelly, this short feels like a highly personal.  She imparts here feelings that many have felt while dealing with the impending loss of a loved one.  The deep friendship between the two women can be felt throughout the film and the way they each learn to live with the change and to let go is beautifully rendered on screen.  Star Janelle Snow shows restraint in how she handles the emotional material and shows just the right amount of sadness, uncertainty, and a slew of other emotions.  She takes her character and makes her very human.  The film is heavy with emotions and meaning while not feeling overbearing and managing to make the viewer explore its difficult sunject.

Blood Sisters (2017)
Two friends hanging out at a house for a few days decide to do a blood ritual to become blood sisters as it seems to them like it would be fun.  Things go obviously and bloodily wrong.  Written by Hannah White and directed by Caitlin Koller and Lachlan Smith, the film is a good representation of friendship through anything and the insanity that two friends can go through and still be friends through it all.  The film stars Emma Gladwell and Hannah Vanderheide as the two best friends, both of whom do a fantastic job of playing the drunken besties going through some crazy shit.  The film is fun and funny, while also showing the strong bond between two friends that have gone through a lot together.  The bloody element to this is fantastic and hilarious in places, with makeup and prosthetics by Emma Rotstein, special effects and CGI by Issac Moores, and helped by SFX Props Master Daniel Smith.  The film is one of those films that are easy to watch and a bloody good time.

Mouse (2016)
Two addicts find a mouse in a can of beans and see their golden tickets to becoming rich.  Through the deciding of how to do this, things do not go as planned.  Written and directed by Celine Held and Logan George, the film explores the odd relationship and way of thinking of two addicts struggling to survive but still preferring to get their next hit than their next meal.  The argument between the two as they try to decide how to go about this plan is entertaining and the characters are well acted by Vanessa Wasche and Logan George who do their own versions of batshit-crazy that work on different levels.  The film has a good amount of grossness throughout even though the effects and makes good use of its one-room setting.  It’s an interesting peek into the minds of two no-so-well people.

Doll (2017)
A young woman comes home and finds a matryoshka doll in her closet.  Soon supernatural events start happening and things go very badly for her.  Written by Jin Chen and Jia He and directed by Jia He, the film has interesting ideas but it feels like just more of the same when it comes to cursed objects/hauntings.  The film unfortunately feels a bit generic in terms of its use of a cursed/haunted object and it feels like it’s same old, same old to this horror fan.  The genre is one that many have worked with and this one is not actually scary.  It does have some good ideas; it just didn’t work for this viewer.
You can watch it on YouTube here.

Hi Stranger (2016)
An odd little naked human speaks to the viewer directly, effectively weirding out just about everyone who has or will watch this short.  Describing this film anymore would make it a disservice.  Written and directed by Kirsten Lepore, this one is a weird one, all done with animation and the voice of actor Garrett Davis.  This short is odd and creative.  It’s one of those films that make the viewer want to look away but they just can’t.  The animation is well done in an interesting style that fits the subject and how things evolve in the attempt at conversation from the character on screen.  It’s weird, it’s odd, it’s something almost everyone needs to see.
You can watch it on YouTube here.