More films from the fifth annual Tacoma Film Festival today: some kick-ass drama shorts and a feature that’s technically, if not thematically, impressive.
Drama Shorts (screened again 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Grand Cinema)
Shorts can sometimes be an embarrassment of incompetency, but today’s set rocketed out of the arena, grouped around the theme of kids, innocence and violence. From her very first wide-eyed moment, Raven Bellefleur gave “Ana’s Playground” a poignancy that put your heart in your mouth. Filmed in Minneapolis but set in an Any-War-Zone street, where Ana and her friends calmly play soccer amid shootings and scattered bullets, the terrifying ordeal Ana goes through to retrieve the lost ball is devastatingly filmed. There’s no need of subtitles in this world where gunshots and salutes are the common language, even for children.
In “Siren,” an old man’s WWII flashback becomes a grainy, poetic statement about playing with guns, set with a lovely Neo-Romantic score.
“Shuffle” is, remarkably, a gangster movie set in mild-mannered Seattle, and local Garrett Bennett makes it work with chiaroscuro underground lairs, a tough boss and a sensitive Seattle type hit-man who’s throwing in the towel after he’s seen how the violence sucks in children. Shots are tense and angled, and the ending is neat.
And “Mamánek” laughs kindly at a wonderfully gangly adolescent boy who does all the things mothers dread, with psychology so thick you could cut it and in-your-face close-ups.
There’s also “Dry Rain” by Northwesterner Matthew James Clark, adapted from the book by Pete Forum, about an estranged father who uses his son to get his life restarted.
Also worth another look is “Bass Ackwards,” a Friday night feature by former Seattlite Linas Phillips, and screening again at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Starring Phillips as himself, this one’s a road-movie that takes a while to get going but has a technical proficiency that keeps the rhythm going (and was probably why it was selected at Sundance). As Lin (Phillips) bums his way through life videoing weddings, sleeping on his sister’s study floor and getting busted making out with another guy’s wife, he doesn’t develop beyond the single-dimensionality of being a clueless jerk. While we watch this idiot get himself a job shoveling poop on a Vashon alpaca farm, drive a puttering VW van across country and move in with his parents, we’re waiting for him to get a clue – and for the movie to get a point. Meanwhile, though, there are some really nice shots, a nostalgic guitar score, and a 21st-century American malaise that gets pretty close to the bone.
Picks for Saturday: 10:30 a.m. “Anomaly”/“What’s in a cup of coffee?” at UWT; 12 p.m. Family Shorts at the Grand; 6:30 p.m. “The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner”/“The Fence” at The Grand
The Tacoma Film Festival runs Oct. 7-14 at various downtown venues. Tickets: $8.50/$6.50 matinee. 253-572-6062, www.tacomafilmfestival.com