Altered States Shorts [CAAMFest 2019]
For one of its short film programs this year, CAAMFest has put together a fantastic selection that will blow your mind.
Athena Han’s Bunny Man (Canada, 2018) is an 8-minutes short about four friends having a heated discussion over dinner. While discussing about the difference between the terms FOB (fresh off the boat) and CBC (Canadian born Chinese) and whether or not the terms are categorized as racist slurs, the presence of a mysterious bunny mascot at the next table sends the situation over the edge. The situation escalates out of hand very quickly, delivering us towards the surprise twist at the end that makes us think about racism, hatred, and how far we can extend the battle of identities between ‘us’ versus ‘them’ can be.
Down on the Sidewalks in Waikiki (USA, 2019) tells the story of a man who is frustrated with his job as a janitor who has to clean up after tourists in Waikiki. After he finds a man murdered on the floor of a public toilet, he starts to see things differently. When the ghost of the man haunting his every move, he realizes that he has the power to change. With stunning visual techniques, director Justyn Ah Chong will take you on a surreal journey of self-rediscovery.
Maegan Houang’s In Full Bloom (USA, 2019) follows the story of a mourning widow who is afraid of leaving her house. Instead of interacting with the scary outside world, she grows different kinds of plants and flowers in her tiny house. One day, as she orders worms to grow a rare flower, she does not realize that the worms start to create a black hole in the middle of her house, absorbing everything near it. As the black hole gets bigger and bigger, she is faced with a hard choice of re-assimilating with the society or disappears into the abyss with everything she cherishes.
In Alexander Bocchieri’s The Pit Where We Were Born (USA, 2018), a father and son reunite at their family’s imu, a pit that Hawaiians use as traditional underground oven. As they are digging the imu, their conversation develops, as if they are also digging deeper and deeper into their life stories, revealing secrets and unfolding events of the past, present, and future. In a subtle way, The Pit Where We Were Born leaves room for interpretations and makes us wonder about what will happen with the characters after the film ends.
The Sports Day (China, 2018) by Lin Tu takes you on an 11-minute emotional rollercoaster ride inside a teenage girl’s head as she is forced to lose her virginity by her boyfriend on their school’s sports day. As she becomes traumatized by the event, she digs deep into her psyche and confronts her inner demons.
The Visit, (Taiwan, 2018) tells the story of an expecting couple who visit the woman’s aging grandmother in the rural mountains of Taiwan. From the very beginning, The Visit sets the tone into an inter-generational gap by contrasting values of city and village lives, the role of technology and traditional household items, as well as the usage of English and Mandarin. After the grandmother mysteriously disappears, the tone suddenly turns into something darker. I am sure most Asians can relate to the story of people visiting another dimension for a few hours and coming back home days after they depart, without knowing that they actually made the visit. Playing with different layers of the meaning behind the phrase ‘the visit,’ Roxy Shih’s film will send shivers down your spine.
The ‘Altered States’ Shorts program is showing at CAAMFest 2019 on May 10.