The Born Of Woman short film showcase has been a fixture at Fantasia since 2016, and this year’s line-up is a spectacular mix of horror, fantasy and dark comedy. Vengeance was had, blood was spilled, ceilings were danced upon, grudges were unleashed and fears were faced. While there was, as the previous sentence indicates, a tremendous variety, one thing that shone through in each short was a tremendous confidence, style and personality. Some of them perhaps had feature potential but, more importantly, each felt perfectly formed.
In Ida Jogler’s The Gaze, a medical student believes that she has been assaulted by her supervisor. When she finds her assertion challenged, she discovers that she may have a power she never knew about. There’s a strong central turn from Siri Miller and an ending that doesn’t pull any punches. No punches were pulled in Manon Alirol & Léo Hardt’s brilliant Petite Avarie, which is centred on a hilarious and savage fight in a sleepy pub between a woman and her boyfriend, who dumps her immediately after finding out that she has breast cancer. And it’s her birthday. And her cat has just died. The performances from Manda Touré and Léo Hardt are pitch-perfect, juggling the tragedy, fury and comedy beautifully, and it just keeps escalating to daring and hysterical levels.
Chelsea Lupkin’s Lucy’s Tale follows a shy high schooler who is going through some rather unusual and terrifying Ginger Snaps-esque changes while dealing with a powerful crush and a trio of bullies. Lupkin’s decision to avoid sentimentalising the plight of the outsider and any easy answers gives it an unexpected power and poignancy. Nose Nose Nose EYES! from South Korean director Jiwon Moon packs one hell of an impact and is the most straightforwardly horrifying of the selection, as a young girl goes behind the curtain to see her bed-bound father. It’s beautifully constructed, very sharp and you’ll be watching between your fingers. After that, the chilly sci-fi of Kjersti Helen Rasmussen’s Voyager almost feels like a relief, but in just eight minutes it goes from intriguing to unsettling with impressive confidence, leaving us wanting more but not unsatisfied.
Kate Dolan’s Catcalls is a wonderfully pointed nightmare for its protagonist, a flasher who returns home to his wife only for one of his victims to arrive at his doorstep asking them to call the police about a different kind of monster. It absolutely delivers on the horror front and has a wicked sense of humour. Hannah Bergholm’s Puppet Master is a very different proposition, a fantastical story of a woman who longs for a puppeteer and finds herself becoming part of his work. It’s not as overtly horrific as that sounds, instead finding a Dave McKean-esque tone and offering visual splendour to match its heart, with a hugely satisfying ending. Things get even weirder in Marie Dvorakova’s delightful Who’s Who In Mycology, a gleefully odd slapstick comedy featuring gravity-defying acts, boorish book-bound experts and a lot of spores and fungi.
The programme concluded with Faye Jackson’s affecting and quietly triumphant The Old Woman Who Hid Her Fear Under The Stairs, in which the titular character pushes herself to conquer her anxieties and terrors and reclaim her home. Anchored by an excellent performance from Sara Kestelman, Jackson’s film balances a slightly quirky sensibility with a real sense of insidious dread as the woman discovers that there’s more to conquering your fears than a quick fix.
It was a superb line-up from an incredibly promising roster of filmmakers, and we cannot wait to see what these directors have in store for us next.
The films from the Born Of Woman short film selection were seen and reviewed at Fantasia 2018.