SLASH Film Festival 2022: FANTASTIC SHORTS COMPETITION – CHAPTER 2

SLASH Filmfestival is Austria’s largest event dedicated to fantastic cinema. Founded in 2010, it quickly grew in size and scope, attracting close to 15.000 visitors over its 11-day run. Each year’s program is comprised of 50+ Austrian, European or international premieres of highlights from the field of fantastic cinema, ranging from crowd-pleasers to hot docs, from fiercely independent films to heritage revivals.

FANTASTIC SHORTS COMPETITION – CHAPTER II: For all of mankind’s greatest achievements, humanity has also excelled at being complicit in some of history’s worst atrocities—quite often while denying culpability. SLASH takes you on a trip down the seedier corridors of memory lane to shed light on faded or hushed historical horrors and to unearth personal traumas or sinister secrets repressed from the conscious mind. On this inward journey that blurs the lines between humans and animals, unacknowledged grief and unresolved guilt, you’ll meet overworked dream censors fed up with disguising the truth and snail-like or headless office drones who have fallen prey to the mindlessness of modern society and the senseless violence it breeds. As our clock continues to wind down, we look up for answers and may discover a cure-all where we least expect it. Is the future written in the stars, and will life find a new way forward?

Letter to a Pig (2022): Directed and written by Tal Kantor, this incredibly animated film tells the story of Holocaust survivor writing a thank-you letter to a pig that saved his life. Then, after listening to the man discuss his life in a classroom, a young student dreams about what he has heard, but it comes to him as a nightmare. Remember when someone would come to your school and blow your mind with the tragedy they had endured and you were surrounded by your fellow classmates and you couldn’t believe they’d have kids listening to this? This film reminded me of those days and my sense memory kicked in, thinking of the smells and textures of the seats in my old high school auditorium.

Swept Under (2022): Ethan Soo has directed a film that yes, is about a cursed carpet given to a young Cambodian man by his sister that ends up murdering him, but I loved that this movie efficiently and effectively contains a message about the way America’s policing the world has a dark history that is never discussed. There are some horrific real and manufactured moments in this film that really could be an entire anthology, as long as it keeps the perfect closing shot that this has.

There’s a shot in here of all the faces trapped within the carpet that is just plain sinister. There are so many layers to this story, even down to the disappearance of the Cambodian man at the end, that tie so perfectly into the sad story we have written. A near-perfect analogy well-told. Soo is one to keep an eye on.

Last Seen (2021): Nathan Ginter directed and star Chris Jensen wrote this story of Devon, whose sister has gone missing, his relationship with his mother has deteriorated and struggles have started with his lifeguard job. However, the only good thing in his life are the sea monkeys that his sister left behind. As you can tell from the description, this is a dark movie about those left behind when others disappear.

Ginter and Jensen may not have done much yet, but this short points at their ability to do so much. This made me think about the people in my life and what their loss would feel like. This isn’t a feel good movie, other than to feel great about the talent that made it.

Censor of Dreams (2021): Night after night, the dream team — literally — of The Censor and his assistants turn Yoko’s memories into fantastical dreams. On one night, nothing happens as planned. This movie has the look of prime Michel Gondry, as co-director and writer Leo Berne and Raphaël Rodriguez take a story by author Yasutaka Tsutsui — which also was made as the anime Paprika — to show us the lengths that the censor within our head fights to protect us from moments in our subconscious that we must face or continue not understanding why we’re dreaming such strange dreams.

Headless (2022): A Korean short directed and written by Bason Baek, this takes place in a world where most people are headless. There’s one man with a head, a police officer named DuSeong. His latest case is a sexual assault in which the suspect and the victim both lost their heads. Then, his daughter loses her head. This feels like a music video and I have no issues with that. An interesting and surreal blast of cinema.

Phlegm (2021): Directed and written by Han-David Bolt, Phlegm reminds me of Jamie Thraves’ video for Radiohead’s “Just.” Pascal Ulli plays a man walking to work that ends up stepping on a snail, wiping off his shoe and then stepping directly onto another snail until the sticky material all over him just weighs him down and forces him into the ground. As the camera pulls back, it’s revealed that he is not the only person to have undergone this disgusting and horrible trial.

It feels as if this is every day when I had to walk to work, the feeling of not even wanting to enter the building, every step bringing me closer to a destructive experience that tore away at my soul, forced to be around fake faceless emotionless ciphers of not even human beings. No snails though.

From.Beyond (2022):  Through the use of found footage and genre mixing, From.Beyond documents several of mankind’s first encounters with life from other planets. Directed by Fredrik S. Hana, who wrote this movie with Jamie Turville — and directed one of my favorite videos for Kvelertak’s “Månelyst” which references tons of horror movies — this is one odd short.

Hana creates a fake reality within this movie, a series of moments of various lives as they come to realization with the fact that we are no longer alone and never were. This is more art than commerce and I mean that with the greatest of meanings; I also believe that it’s the closest I’ve seen a movie get to what actual Disclosure will be like. This short feels occult; it is the hidden made true.

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