Film Review | For all your ambivalent and trippy summer needs

The Kinemastik Short Film Festival turns fifteen next weekend. Ahead of its takeover of Msida Bastion Garden, we take a peek at four short films forming part of this year’s programme

The Kinemastik Short Film Festival marking its fifteenth edition this year serves as something of a landmark, if only because the event has been a consistent breath of fresh air in the Maltese cultural scene. Way before public funding for the arts began to be dished out as democratically as it is today, Kinemastik – largely made up of an assemblage of Malta-based expats – created an alterative enclave of art cinema, music and general hedonism that constrasted to the more staid and conversative fair we had come to expect from both local cinemas and cultural offerings in general.

Returning to one of their older venues at the Msida Bastion Garden this year – the festival had made the Herbert Ganado Gardens in Floriana its home more recently – the event appears to be leaning even closer into the ‘party’ atmosphere that was always an integral part of its experience: the selected local shorts are music videos, three DJs are lined up for each of the nights and visitors are being lured in with the promise of ‘sunset cocktails’ upon entry on each of the festival’s three nights.

And while they may skew towards the more introspective or psychedelic aspect of any kind of ‘party’ atmosphere, the selection from scheduled Kinemastik shorts sent to this reviewer certainly fall into an overall atmosphere of summer languor, mined for varying resonances.

All Inclusive (dir. Corina Schwingruber Ilic, Switzerland) and The Golden Legend (dirs. Chema Gracia Lbarra and Ian de Sosa, Spain) both explore summertime leisure activities engaged in by the masses, albeit on entirely opposite sides of the economic spectrum. Also the more straightforward of the two, All Inclusive shows us judiciously pruned footage taken at a high seas cruise, whose unblinking directorial eye eschews any real embeddedness or sense of participation, allowing for the latent absurdities of the kitschy entertainment to be displayed openly as such.

Ilic’s icy directorial hand comes to a fever pitch when the noise subsides and we’re left with crisp, symmetrical shots of the ship being tended to, and ripping a foaming swathe across the ocean in its wake. Grimier and more involved in more ways than one, The Golden Legend pushes through the doors of a communal pool in the Spanish village of Montánchez. What starts as an empathic and quietly beguiling snapshot of a community enjoying its Sunday outing quickly devolves into a series of arthouse tics, however, by the end racking up little more than a series of barely-there vignettes, at one point having an elderly pool patron crooning a religious folk song while another visitor chows down on junk food… a cringe-inducing affectation.

Thankfully, Past Perfect (dir. Jorge Jacome, Portugal) offers a more genuine and naturally flowing take on the arthouse medium. Narrated as a dialogue through subtitles with no accompanying voiceover, all layered over a hypnotic blend of images and ambient music, Jacome’s 22-minute short is an impressive feat of psychedelic grandiosity. Two unnamed, unspecified entities talk through colour-coded subtitles, and one of them appears to be an immortal, omniscient diety of some kind. Their subject of conversation is nostalgia, and the philosophising at hand somehow manages to sit on the right side of ramblingly pretentious. Describing the effects of art as being akin to the effects of mind-altering drugs is a tired and rarely deserved trope… but Jacome legitimately succeeds in crafting a hypnotic crescendo that certainly made this reviewer feel high.

On the other hand, Watermelon Juice (dir. Irene Moray, Spain) remains resolutely down to earth, offering a candid and delicate peek into a young couple’s attempts at tackling sexual discomfort while on holiday. This comes with an affecting performance from Elena Martín as Bàrbara, whose inability to experience an orgasm appears to be tied to an unsavoury incident in her past – revealed both to us and the group of friends she’s holidaying with during an exchange that deftly distills the tensions of the #metoo era. Its climactic ‘solution’ may come across as just slightly too twee for some, but the sensitive-though-lighthearted mood of the short is carried off nicely, and certainly continues along the balmy summer vibe that Kinemastik is adamant to orchestrate.

All of the above films will be screened as part of the Kinemastik Film Festival, taking place at the Msida Bastion Garden from June 25 to 27, from 7pm onwards. More information: http://www.kinemastik.org

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