N.I.C.E. Sicilian Short Films Contest – Taormina Film Festival

Just arrived yesterday to charming Taormina, aptly named because it’s perched royally on mount Tauro overlooking mount Etna. The town is not packed as I was initially afraid of but contains a healthy dose of tourists that happily savor the holy trinity: pasta-espresso-ice cream.

I decided to kick off the festival with the short films contest sponsored by New Italian Cinema Events (N.I.C.E), showcasing Sicilian cinema as an optimal way to get the local cultural sensibilities.

Here are some of my favorites, which illustrates that a rich story can easily be captured under 12 minutes:

Sunnyside (Ivano Fachin – 6′)
The film, shot in black and white depicts the grim daily grind of a corporate rat in… Manhattan (!?). I was hoping to see the Sicilian version… regardless the film is able to bring about a sense of daily work routine by using repetitive activities of the actor; drinking coffee, typing away in his office etc. with no heard dialogs – only intimate guitar soundtrack that shares space with the sounds of the big city. When the protagonist decides one day to wear a red clown nose firing smiles wherever he goes the people seem initially not to respond. It’s only when he gives up on this “be happy” strategy that reality changes but without him noticing. Think about it the next time you wait for an email reply that hasn’t arrived just yet. It’s just that people have other agendas and most likely it is not personal.

The Tomato – Il Pomodoro (Alessio Angelico – 9′)
If the previous film dealt with the grim side of life, this film literally lit up the screening room due to its comic and clever screenplay. Using a tried-and-true plot strategy of marrying unlikely combinations: a tomato falls out of the grocery bag of a light switch salesman, a seemingly trivial event, gets mushroomed into a Kafkian tail of bureaucratic nightmare. The poor guy needs to fill out official applications to remove the tomato from his doorstep as if it’s a public hazard. Inspectors are coming and measuring the shriveling tomato that by the day loses its original maturity when dropped, thus creating a vicious cycle of comic parody. I liked the choice of the tomato, as the object of contention, that on one hand puts the film on a sci-fi mode of an Italian society that like the sacred cows of India – evolved into complete veneration of the tomato with dead serious processes and at the same time the immense ridicule seeing it though realistic eyes.

Rec Stop Play (Emanuele Pisano – 11′)
The film weaves together 4 stories: a father tending to his comatose child, a prisoner on parole receiving love letters from a customer in a launderette where she works, a casual dialog of two passersby and a common thread of a guy that records all these dialogs only to play them back to a puppet in his garden. The message at the end of the film states: “communication conquers all barriers.” I saw a different Pirandellian message: what you see is never what it seems. Especially since the plotline uses brief shots to conjure specific assumptions and then reveal the opposite intent.

Self-Portrait – Autoritratto (Antonio Emanuele – 8′)
A frustrated painter is experiencing a radical case of creative bloc to the point his girlfriend leaves him and he’s left alone with a blank canvas that is mockingly staring at him in his shabby apartment. The photography and the facial expressions of the struggling actor that tries variety of tactics to compel the canvas into obedience – turns the canvas into a relentless adversary. It sure made me think about how hard sometimes the first stroke could be, carrying this imaginary heavy weight of self-criticism, where in fact all you need is really to take the plunge and let your first idea lead you to the second, third and Nth ideas that typically just hide under that blank page. Ideas are like a social network in your brain and can easily get viral, you just need to post the first comment…

By Shlomi Ron

Visual marketing guy with a penchant for fine Italian cinema.

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