by Michael Sarko
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Fans of independent cinema are lucky to be alive and socially conscious in this day and age. It’s a time when large audiences can see genuinely independent projects, sometimes at a silver screen venue and, barring that, via the Internet. Unlike the late 1990s when the indie scene became temporarily moribund from overexposure or any time prior when it was hidden in the dark recesses of VHS and arthouse theaters, today’s indie is both real and accessible. That’s what is good about the shorts programs presented by Rawstock, including the upcoming KLAUSTERFOKKEN series screening at the Northwest Film Forum on Dec. 11.
Rawstock, a collective of independent filmmakers and enthusiasts from around Seattle, tend to pick out a good cross-section of what’s available in the low-to-no-budget scene for their shows. Some offerings come from Rawstock collaborators like directors Christian Palmer and Jason Reid, others make up a grab bag from around the world.
KLAUSTERFOKKEN is a nine-piece show, counting the trailer for the experimental series “Every Day is a Journey.” EDIAJ is a six-director game of cinematic telephone, beginning with Rawstock regular Justin Freet’s “Chapter I: The Inner Octopus,” and ending with “Chapter VI: Wet Work” by Ian Connors. Each director will have seen a publicly screened version of the previous chapters and will have used characters and plot elements from each to tell one continuous, if not coherent, story.
KLAUSTERFOKKEN begins with “Viva Veda,” a deadpan comedy short starring Lizzy Caplan as a self-absorbed model reveling in a public display of insufferably shallow “art.” Rawstock has screened this short before, thanks in part to its association with event sponsor Vena Cava, a fashion label.
The program begins in earnest with a highly lyrical science fiction short called “Grounded” by director and visual effects producer Kevin Margo. Made in 2012, “Grounded” finds an astronaut infinitely crash-landing on the surface of a desert planet, leading to a deeply existential and primarily visual experience. The whole thing plays like the twist ending of a “Twilight Zone” episode, but with a higher budget and a literacy in mind-bending 21st century sci-fi.
Digital comedy aficionado Mitch Magee has a series of three shorts dispersed throughout KLAUSTERFOKKEN titled, “Plants and Disco.” The premise, an impossible TV show about songwriting and philosophy inspired by common greenery, seems like it might wear thin upon repetition, but each piece only makes Magee’s surreal, comical world more endearing. It also helps that the brief disco tracks at the end of each piece are good enough to be fun, but not good enough to be, ya know, “good.” At the very least, the “Plants and Disco” shorts are palate cleansers, but they’re also well worth looking into on their own.
Two animated shorts in the program explore the often off-putting topic of socially noxious people trampling all over whatever worlds and lives cross their paths. The more family-friendly CGI cartoon “Frankie Rulez!” comes via accomplished animator San Charoenchai. The short’s destructive protagonist is an alien whose sole mission is to travel the cosmos and disrupt the lives, comfort and leisure activities of those around him. Not so much a narrative as a collection of amusing set pieces, “Frankie Rulez!” has plucky animation and a devilish sense of humor.
Meanwhile, the squiggly sketches of “Trusts & Estates,” by Jeanette Bonds, is something of a moral endurance test. Bonds recreates a conversation between four suit-wearing alpha males she overheard in a restaurant one day. The resulting dialog is unsparing. The exchange is a messy mix of emasculation, rape jokes and boasting about reprehensible business practices that ruin lives. Is it fun? Not especially, but “Trusts & Estates” shines an unfortunate light on the depths of human ugliness.
Capitol Hill features significantly in the longest segment of KLAUSTERFOKKEN, Christian Palmer’s no-budget slice of life “Nightvisions.” Hand-held cameras follow a pair of 20-something partygoers as they stumble through increasingly drunk games over the course of a single night. Sometimes it’s cute and romantic, other times it’s uneasy and depressing. Palmer keeps things grounded, though. He also keeps his lens away from most of the easiest cinematic landmarks of the neighborhood, sticking to residential side streets and only a brief visit to Cal Anderson Park.
The NWFF doors open at 8 p.m. for KLAUSTERFOKKEN on Dec. 11. In addition to the main program, Rawstock will also debut an original short called “Period Piece.” A pre-screening party will feature cocktails from Bulleit Rye and Blue Dog Mead.