As always, the Fantasia International Film Festival’s ‘Born of Woman’ showcase featured phenomenal female-directed short films from around the world. Here are our top highlights!
Lily’s Mirror (2021, USA)
A fresh and engaging satire from co-writers/co-directors Linnea Frye and Adam Pinney, Lily’s Mirror is a brilliant, hilarious, wholly inventive, and ultimately damning takedown of the quotidian nature of gendered violence and society’s laissez-faire attitude toward male entitlement.
The short opens on our protagonist, Lily (played by Frye), on one of the worst dates of her life—her companion (Matt Horgan) chops off her hand with a hatchet before signalling their waiter for the bill. Confused and depressed, Lily mourns the loss of her hand and relationship and seeks advice from her doctor (Mary Kraft) regarding how to deal with her phantom limb pain. She is given a therapeutic mirror box that will help her brain adjust to the loss, but soon finds that the mirror box has supernatural qualities that allow her to communicate with the dead (but only in oddly specific ways). When the spirit of murdered news anchor Maria Estando Cortez (Viviana Chavez) insistently reaches out to her, Lily is pulled into a righteous mission that doesn’t quite turn out the way the two women have planned.
The short’s wry, lightly absurdist, and darkly comedic tone is perfectly supported by each member of its cast, with standout performances by Frye and Jamie Moore, whose pompous misogynist news anchor Tim Davis exudes just the right amount of self-satisfied smarm and petulance. A special nod goes to Shane Morton for the special effects.
Everybody Goes to the Hospital (2022, USA)
Written and directed by Tiffany Kimmel, this stop-motion animated short is based on a real-life medical emergency experienced by the filmmaker’s mother in 1963. It tells the story of Mata (voiced by Lucia Hadley Wheeler), a 4-year-old girl stricken with appendicitis. Identified as the “weak one” in her family, Mata’s symptoms are dismissed as the remnants of the flu until, one week later, her appendix bursts and she is rushed to the hospital. Over a series of 7 chapters, the short explores Mata’s experiences dealing with a long hospitalization, unsatisfactory parenting, and unexpected medical side effects.
Animators Eric Oxford and Rich Zim create a sparse, dimly lit, but vibrant world, one judiciously peppered with some great special effects by Greg Doble. Perfectly scored by McKenzie Stubbert and skilfully edited by Kimmel and Stubbert, Everybody Goes to the Hospital won Best Animated Short at both the Alameda International Film Festival and Boston Underground—as well it should.
Wild Card (2022, USA)
An official selection of the 2022 editions of DeadCenter Film Festival, Palm Springs Shortfest, and Chattanooga Film Festival, Wild Card is a 1980s-soaked exploration of the unpredictable world of video-cassette dating services from writer-director Tipper Newton. When lonely doctor Daniel (Billy Flynn) tapes a profile for the Wild Card video dating service, he may not have high hopes that it will lead to much, but it catches the attention of subscriber Toni (played by Newton). After the two fail to meet up to see a movie, they shift their date to Toni’s bachelorette pad (featuring an animal-print waterbed, the third star of the short). When Toni’s belligerent ex leaves a message on her answering machine, Toni makes Daniel an offer that he can’t refuse.
Tongue-in-cheek and heavy on the nostalgia, Wild Card delivers a fun and engaging send-up of neo-noir. Newton brings a likeable, kooky, yet mildly sinister vibe to her performance as Toni, perfectly complementing Flynn’s slightly desperate Daniel. In spite of everything, you just can’t help but hope that these two crazy kids will make it after all.
The Anteroom (2022, Spain)
Set in a dystopian near-future, The Anteroom (AKA La Antesala) is a tense and streamlined speculative fiction piece that feels all too timely against the backdrop of our rapidly multiplying collection of global and national crises. Written and directed by Elisa Puerto Aubel, the short stars Irene Anula as Refugee 28312, one of the few survivors of unidentified horrors in an unknown country. Against all odds, Refugee 28312 has managed to transport herself and her infant daughter to an anteroom controlled by a cold and calculative computer. Through one door, the wasteland from which the pair are trying to flee. Through the other, a raft to safety that is departing imminently. Seconds away from the lifeline that the family desperately needs, Refugee 28312 must negotiate for their lives—or face almost certain annihilation.
Though the dialogue is sparse and measured, the short excels at world-building, sketching out a post-apocalyptic scenario that feels frighteningly real, and leaves just the right amount to the imagination. The inclusion of a countdown clock raises the stakes considerably, keeping viewers rapt until the final seconds. The Anteroom is an unsettling triumph.
Don’t Go Where I Can’t Find You (2021, Ireland)
Saturated with visual poetry and moody atmosphere, writer-director Rioghnach Ni Ghrioghair’s Don’t Go Where I Can’t Find You is a queer, supernatural meditation on complicated grief. Composer Margaret (Marie Ruane) is dealing with the death of her lover, Freya (Stephanie Dufresne), who has died tragically in their own home. Seeking reconnection with her lost loved one, she composes a three-movement suite entitled “Memory of the Dead” that is intended to breach the barrier between their two worlds.
Ruane and Dufresne turn in fine performances, whilst Juliette Crosbie shines as Margaret’s violinist (and new lover), Louise. Achingly beautiful cinematography and fascinating costuming choices (particularly in the final scene) elevate this short, which was granted the Discovery Award at the Dublin Film Festival. Ni Ghrioghair received recognition as Best Female Filmmaker at San Diego Shortfest.