Posted by: Jessica Matteson | February 27, 2010

Review: ‘Dinner Party’

If an eclectic mix of short films is what you’re looking for, “Dinner Party” has you covered. Four short films were a part of “Dinner Party” at Little Ragtag on Friday: “Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No,” “One Day after the 10th Day,” “Born Sweet” and “Quadrangle.”

“Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No”

The entire room convulsed with laughter throughout director James Blagden’s 5-minute animated film. The story was simple: Dock Ellis, pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the ’70s, took some LSD. Then he played a game against San Diego. He threw a no-hitter.

Whether the audience knew it or not, the voice-over in the film was actually Dock Ellis. Ellis had given a radio interview for NPR over a year ago giving his play-by-play of the day he pitched against the Padres. When Blagden stumbled upon the audio, he was inspired to create an animated short.

The black and white animation with sporadic rainbows of color was certainly a trip worth taking.

“One Day After the 10th Day”

Footsteps. Running water. Rustling hay. Cowbell. Wind. Silence. Laughter.

Narges Abyar’s documentary, based heavily on sound, is about the relationship between Uncle Reza and the camel he looks after in his village in Iran. On the tenth day of Muharram, a sacred month on the Islamic calendar, Uncle Reza’s camel is dressed with ceremonial draping in preparation for the parade. The day after the 10th day will leave you speechless.

While Abyar is able to capture the tender relationship between Uncle Reza and the camel, the mistyped subtitles are a big distraction. Many words are either incorrect or misspelled. Even the title of the film, which should have read “One Day After the 10th Day,” was written “On Day After the 10th Day.” If the subtitles are not distracting, the film is otherwise softhearted and enjoyable.

“Born Sweet”

Some people are born salty. Others are born sweet. The ones born salty are tough and the ones born sweet are sickly. Vinh is 15 years old. He lives in Cambodia. He is sweet.

In this documentary by Cynthia Wade, we learn about the deadly arsenic that has poisoned a village in Cambodia. There is a person sick in every home. The people in the village are plagued by coughing, rashes and a greater risk of having cancer. Although they now have clean drinking water, the arsenic will never leave their bodies.

Vinh doesn’t know his destiny. He doesn’t know if he will marry or even find a girl that will love him. He simply knows that he wants to become a star. A karaoke star.

Wade captures the true essence of hope in this village as the children gather around and sing karaoke. This beautiful story about optimism is powerful, raw and charming all in one.

“Quadrangle”

If you grew up in the ’70s, you may know a thing or two about “experimenting.”  Deanna, Paul, Robert and Eleanor practically invented the term.

This documentary by Amy Grappell makes its way through the memories of Deanna and Paul as they reminisce about the good times with their friends Robert and Eleanor. Am I beating around the bush? Well, the film is called “Quadrangle.”

The room was in stitches for the full duration of the film. The over-the-top character of Deanna and comical dry sense of humor of Paul made the entire conversation captivating. There was almost a sense of, “Tell me more! No, wait, I don’t want to know.” It was like a car accident. I couldn’t look away.

The cherry on top of this uproarious film is the twist ending. I urge you to find out for yourself.

Director Amy Grappell joined the viewing and was available for a Q & A afterward. She said she was initially just playing around with the interviews with no true intention of making a documentary. This is why it comes across as so playful. She adds that she didn’t even know it was funny until the first screening with an audience.

“It’s interesting with an audience because they laugh hysterically and I didn’t realize my film was a comedy,” Grappell said.

Other showings for “Dinner Party” include:

Saturday, Feb. 27 / 12:30 p.m. / The Hive
Sunday, Feb. 28 / 8 p.m. / Little Ragtag

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