Posted by: DaddyWells | March 1, 2010

Review: ‘Someone To Watch Over’ – Shorts

Short documentary films are like short punchy sentences. They are bold and provocative. When shown in series, the films can explore a theme from a variety of perspectives. Someone To Watch Over is an 80 minute compilation of six films that deals with humanity’s dependence in family.

The Space You Leave, directed by James Newton, profiles three parents with missing children. The second film carries the monotony of the first film but sheds the quiet. Loop Loop, directed by Patrick Bergeron, is a five minute montage speeding through a colorful city with a graphic and architectural subtext.

In The Dwelling, director Sheldon Candis takes the audience to to Sumida Gawa in Tokyo, where homeless men build homes from scraps, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and survive a meager daily existence for the pleasure of doing it another day. My Name Is Sydney, directed by Melanie Levy, brings the story back to the west, where 16-year-old Sydney lives a complicated life of expression. Sydney struggles with autism, and her mother and father struggle to communicate with their non-verbal child. Sydney uses a board to point at letters and make words. Despite her difficulties speaking her mind, Sydney is a writer.

The next film, Goldthwait Home Movies, directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, is a hilarious showing of family videos with contemporary commentary by the now adult Goldthwait children. The old-school footage with the absurd interpretations in the voiceover create a comfortable family-and-friends atmosphere with a lingering touch of nostalgia.

Arsy Versy, directed by Miro Remo, comes from eastern Europe. Although the film centers on Lubo’s passion for photographing bats, the core of the film is the relationship he has with his mother, who watches over him as she wonders if he will ever get a job that will pay the bills or a lover who will keep him company when she isn’t around anymore.

The films in Someone To Watch Over interestingly concern repetition. Considering the title, and the subject matter of the films, the idea of caring for another or caring for oneself is a day-at-a-time sort of activity. The success of ‘taking care’ is measured by the opportunity to do it again, to live another day. In My Name Is Sydney, any sort of true communication with Sydney requires patience from both parties and collaboration from Sydney. The spelling board is used over and over again, as a way of extracting meaning out of Sydney’s world.

The repetition in The Dwelling is dependent on earthly rotation. The film starts during the day and closes at night. In a way, the monotony of The Dwelling resembles the daily routine familiar to most. The unique circumstances of living on the street make the routine seem painful. The wooden box that doubles as a room does not seem water or air tight, and the cardboard pillows don’t seem comfortable. This life, intimidating to those of us with a roof over our heads, is enough for these men, who make the best of their dwelling with cognitive effort and a formula; don’t drink alcohol, drink coffee instead.

Although Loop Loop was not a narrative like the other films in the compilation, the lingering effect of the five minute montage re-enforced the idea of life as patient repetition. The scenes from the film are made into long strips that are stacked one on top of the other. These strips of film begin to shift at different speeds, and soon the strips begin to take on a three-dimensional feel. Then goes into the scenes from the strips in full-screen, as if the audience was in a train that crosses the heart of some nondescript tropical eastern city. The film then loops back to the original format ready to go again. Chaotic repetition and submission to the dwelling.

Someone To Watch Over was as provocative as it was visually appealing. The title of the compilation is already a question to a series of films that provide few if any answers. What does it mean to watch over oneself, someone else? What does it mean to survive, to exist? The answer, again, is unapologetically obtuse. The suggestion is to keep at it, to beat uncertainty with discipline and a patient routine.

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