Peering past the low fence lining the corner of the cozy house, past the foliage and past the table welcoming visitors at the garden entrance, some 20-somethings laughed around a bench on the patio. Although it has a home feel, the Bikya coffeeshop/bookstore/cultural centre was hosting the Futureshorts, the largest worldwide pop-up event that screens short films.
The small house was packed and there were no more tickets. Roughly 60 people fit, squeezed on ordinary chairs in front of the wooden "stage," not much larger than a scaffold.
A small musical performance put the audience in a good mood. Then the lights were dimmed, a short, confusing film introduction to Futureshorts was screened and the first movie promptly began: The Egyptian short, Regular Coffee.
A young veiled woman sits in a coffeeshop that could easily be the famous Togoreyya cafe in Alexandria. A companion, which at some point becomes obvious is her beau, arrives and sits in the other chair. Despite the very public surroundings, the small table, single chair, light on the couple and everything else dark in the background makes the shot intimate. And a good thing, too. The girl has something on her mind: she lays out the two pieces of the puzzle. Her sister is getting a divorce (first piece). Foreigners speak very openly (second piece). She links these two by dropping the bomb: she wants to have sex with her fiance before they get married to ensure that they are compatible. Surprised, the fiance banters back and forth with her, giving the topic a bit of a comical relief.
The Black Balloon was filmed next, with trippy, highly synthetic keyboard sounds straight from the 70s setting a strange mood. The movie seemed to use the balloon as a metaphor for people meeting new people, having new experiences and finding their "place" in the world. Not one of the best in the series played in this edition of the Futureshorts, but still worth seeing.
This was offset by the upbeat and witty A Brief History of John Baldessori, a figure who hit the American scene half a decade ago, continues working and to greatly influence artists. Baldessori was interviewed for the biography and his relaxed pace and the choice of narrator contrasted hilariously.
A picture paints a thousand words? Well so do timely shots. No need for words to see that the protagonist of Rite is nervous. Scatter-brained, he locks his keys in his car. The shot of his tatooed arm as he breaks the window of his car in desperation spoke enough on this man's thoughts. A few more scenes show his "type" of life. Without spoiling the movie, you find that he's trying to make amends, but to do that he has to open himself up to some things that are completely outside of his "type" of life. The end, for once, is a small little hope.
On the Line, likely the best in this Futureshorts series, from the beginning to end engages the audience. A profiler haunts around through the backdoors of the subway system that runs through a shopping mall of sorts, watching video cameras looking for shoplifters and anyone looking to start trouble. A big strong bear, quiet, high integrity; another endearing fact is that he is in love. But one choice could keep his love close to him - or put her out of his reach forever.
Hyatt, a local film, doesn't use words at all. Short clips of people doing ordinary things in Alexandria, Egypt, but mostly follows one young woman who is, very unusually for Egyptian traditions - completely alone. A lonely quiet is invaded by sounds and songs that invoke iconic stories.