St Kilda Film Festival: Slamdance Mixtape 2 Review


Slamdance Film Festival celebrates subversive filmmakers. Originating in 1995 Park City, Utah, the founders refused to feel jilted after not being accepted into Sundance Film Festival. Determined to build a platform for unique and innovative storytellers, Slamdance was conceived and has grown into an annual program.  It operates under the mantra of ‘By Filmmakers For Filmmakers’.

Now at the St Kilda Film Festival 2019, the Slamdance Mixtape 2 showcased an eccentric mix of short films. Highlights include the following short films.

Photo: ‘Tungrus,’ St Kilda Film Festival

Photo: ‘Tungrus,’ St Kilda Film Festival

Film: Tungrus
Director: Rishi Chandna
Country: India

Tungrus was by far a stand out from the international program. The documentary short follows the bizarre living situation of the Bharde family who own a rooster as a pet in their tiny Mumbai apartment. The patriarch one day decides to bring home a chick for the cats to play with; little did he know that this chick would grow into a rooster with such attitude. Chaos ultimately ensues and the results are hilarious. The rooster is truly the ruling force over this poor family. We witness the different family members fume over and dutifully care for this beast of a chicken. 

Written and directed by Rishi Chanda in his first film, Chanda shows he has a flare for comedic timing as we witness the many ways this rooster terrorizes the Bharde household. ‘Tungrus’ is not just a story about a rooster, but about the people around him. The strife, the loyalty and varying levels of devotion they feel towards their pet. The doco-short also asks the question of where we draw the line between dearest pet and dinner. 

Photo: ‘Santa Ana,’ St Kilda Film Festival

Photo: ‘Santa Ana,’ St Kilda Film Festival

Film: Santa Ana
Director: César Pesquera
Country: Spain

Santa Ana left me feeling a touch breathless and a little spooked. The short film blurs the lines between documentary and horror, and uncovers the eeriness that emerges from the Santa Ana winds in Southern California. The winds are infamous for affecting the moods of the locals to such ferocity that they all seem to go a little psychotic by the end of the summer season. 

Spanish director César Pesquera injects depictions of the evil the locals believe to be driving the satanic winds. He utilises VFX and CGI animation and blends them with testimonials from the quirky and peculiar residents of Santa Ana. A pirate man with an eye-patch, a topless crystal clad gentlemen, to name a few.  The cinematography truly shines throughout the film; the long tracking shots of the barren, hilly landscape, the black mystical figure against the white desert, the haunting image of the house on fire are still transfixed into my memory. 

Photo: ‘Charmer’, St Kilda Film Festival

Photo: ‘Charmer’, St Kilda Film Festival

Film: Charmer
Director: Judah Finnigan
Country: New Zealand

Charmer is a romantic dramedy that is hard to digest. We cringe as a woman in her fifties goes on a date with an obnoxious man of the same age she met through a dating app. The date is drawn out and is uncomfortable to watch as neither one of them seem enthusiastic by each other’s company. We watch as the pair put up fronts and pull them back to reveal their insecurities and past romantic failures.  Although worlds apart, these two characters are desperate for love and affection, both short and long term. The woman makes concessions for her problematic date in order to find a partner for the night. 

Colour explodes off the screen in every frame of this film. The vibrancy and luminosity of the production and lighting design brings a spark to the awkward and slow paced narrative. Writer/director Judah Finnigan shows the comedy and the tragedy of online dating and looking for love at a later stage of life. Indeed, this film would not have been as interesting if it were a date between two twenty or thirty year olds. There is a quick wit to the dialogue that brings the film a much-needed sense of relief. 

St Kilda Film Festival has sessions running everyday from the 21st to the 30th of June.  

Amelia Basile