Time and time again McGill students prove that the lack of a formal visual arts department is in no way an obstacle to fantastic productions. Fokus Film Festival is just one example of the wealth of creativity at this school, and as the only festival of its kind the submissions are particularly rich and interesting. Now in its 10th year, Fokus showcases student films made in and around the McGill community. The following is a list of a few true standouts of the night.
Moscow I Miss You by Sashka Avanyan
The festival opener, Moscow I Miss You by Sashka Avanyan, is a short but sweet tribute to the filmmaker’s homeland. Via screen grabs of Google Street View the audience travels through the streets of Moscow, stopping at personal landmarks along the way. At each landmark an old home photo pops up: The filmmaker in her old apartment, posing in front of the water, or as a child, with her mother. There is a strong sense of duality in this film technique. Google Street View is extremely public and accessible to anyone, but Avanyan’s use of the technology makes each location intimate and personal. On this virtual tour of the city it becomes apparent that revisiting one’s homeland, even virtually, is both painful and comforting.
Waterway to Stardom: Who is Flood Girl? by Lou Gatti
Lou Gatti’s tongue-in-cheek TVM Special Report seeks out the elusive story behind Flood Girl, the iconic McGillian who in 2013 was swept away by sudden flooding on McTavish. Who is this girl? What were her motives? Her desires? Hopes? Dreams? A former classmate, who preferred to remain anonymous, related her derring-do nature. The source said that they weren’t surprised by this after her “reckless interpretation of metaphor and allusion” in their German literature class. Maybe it was drunkenness, or an unprecedented desire to get across the street to Gerts. Maybe it was bravery, or an ill-informed attempt at internet fame. Whatever the motivation, Flood Girl found her place in McGill lore. Gatti’s short film captures the wonderfully kitschy essence of Flood Girl and McGill’s culture around the tale.
Smoke Dreams by Cody Lieberman
Cody Lieberman’s entry into the Avant Garde category is a cross between a nightmare and dream sequence. The short film, like many dreams, cuts between seemingly unrelated images, but seems to follow some sort of subconscious thread. In this case, the apparent thread is highly influenced by David Lynch: viewers see several clips from Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. There’s also a general sense of disjointed paranoia (Lynch’s signature) that comes through in the film. Clouded by smoke, darkness, and obscured by almost too-loud patches of dialogue, the film doesn’t appear to have a plot. Instead the audience is left with a mysteriously spooky representation of the dream world.
Karma Police by Ben Koring
Like the documentary entry Waterway to Stardom, Karma Police doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, and this pays off immensely in laughs. The film features two guardian angels of karma, watching our every move to see if we return that wallet we found on the street, or correct the cashier when they give us too much change. The angels, one an optimistic newbie, the other a cynic who’s reportedly been on the job for 75,000 years, watch their target to determine if he’s a decent guy or a “lost cause.” This clever film gives voice to the eyes in the sky that keeps our consciences in check—although they may not be as straight-edge as we’d expect.