Wednesday 21 November 2012

Beneath the Earth 2012

Beneath the Earth is an online film festival that aims to showcase content that viewers might not get a chance to see. The festival is truly international in spirit--because it's online anyone anywhere can attend.

This was my second year jurying the festival and, like last year, I was treated to a short list of great films. This year's selection of seven movies included a documentary and a feature, as well as short films from around the world.

Winner Best Film: Ditching School to Whistle

Ditching School to Whistle is a short documentary about Ien Chi who skips class to attend an international whistling competition in North Carolina. Although the doc is a bit amateur in terms of its production, the subject matter is surprisingly compelling. Who knew there was such as thing as competitive whistling?

Quirky and sensitive, the doc introduces us the "world" of whistling--people travel from all over the globe to attend the competition. The event is small and not well attended by the public, but the whistlers don't care. They're there more to share their common passion than out-compete one another.

Indeed, Ditching School to Whistle was one of my personal favourites, and fully succeeds as a documentary: it opens your eyes and mind to something you likely rarely considered, delving into a subject that's uniquely interesting.

Winner Audience Award: The Double

The Double is a Taiwanese period piece, set in the 1950s--when Japan controlled Taiwan. The film, which runs about 30 minutes, tells the story of twins Ameko and Yu. The story is part dream, part reality, as Yu suffers from nightmares, and it's a little hard to distinguish the two.

In truth, I had a hard time with this movie. The story--as I understood it--is certainly compelling, but there's a chance I might have missed something. If that's the case, if I'm wrong about what I think happened, then it's a shame the film went in a different direction. All this is to say, The Double may not achieve all it sets out to do.

The movie looks great. It's well made, for sure, and, I think, best exemplifies the goal of Beneath the Earth. Where else would we likely have an opportunity to see a short film from Taiwan? I'm interested to see what becomes of the filmmakers, but would advise them, in the future, to have someone take a look at their script first.

Despite my misgivings about the audience award winner, all the films that screened at this year's Beneath The Earth Film Festival are well worth watching. The movies can be viewed on the festival website until November 30, 2012. My personal favourite is Stay Still, which sadly didn't win any awards.

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