Monday, November 17, 2008

NW Film and Video Festival: Free Hugs and a Transexual

Back by popular demand, my paper posted in the wrong place...



On the evening of November 12th I attended Portland’s Northwest Film and Video Festival. Since I had work at four in the morning the next day I stayed for only two films. Skeptical of independent films I attended with high expectations.
The first work I saw that evening was Christopher Tenzis 10 minute short entitled
‘Tis The Season. The story was about a pink haired, internet sensation named Skye. It was filmed during the winter time in downtown Portland. The narrative was simple; Skye held out a sign which said “free hugs” and waited in downtown for people to give her a hug.
Tenzis, who before the film claimed to be a “purist” in the realm of film, shot the entire piece in 8mm film and set the music to John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things”. These two elements bring back an aesthetic that reminded me of my childhood days watching Sesame Street who’s creators also used Jazz influences and 8mm film.
The way the film is edited draws pulls a great emotional response from the audience. Skye is dressed in warm clothing and is shown in various places in the downtown portland area and for the first five minutes of the film, she doesn’t receive a single hug. She is shown at train stations, in a park, in front of the Portland Art Museum, and other various populated areas. My favorite scene in the first half is a moment of irony when she sees a bunch of animal rights protestors with signs and she tries to fit in with her sign that doesn’t match. In the second half of the film, the tone changes. All of a sudden, one person gives her a hug. Then there are more and more hugs edited closer and closer together.
This film generated a large emotional response from myself and from the other viewers around me. For the first half of the film, there was a great amount of tension because it seemed like no one was going to hug her. The audience could connect with this as it is a universal feeling to want to be loved. The second half was a gigantic release as there was a bombardment of hugs from many different people of all different classes and professions. As the film keeps progressing, the hugs become more frequent and more animated. Though it is a happy ending, getting to the positive outcome is interesting for it is about a person who puts themselves out into the middle of the population and makes an effort to connect with people in a culture that looks down upon making a connection to other people. Our culture preaches fear in the news, in the paper, and in our television shows. This piece brings about a happy ending through rebelling against what is comfortable and what is acceptable.
The other film I watched that evening was an autobiographical documentary on a transexual who changed his sex to female entitled She’s a Boy I Knew by Gwen Haworth. The 70 minute documentary shot in digital video, while well made and spliced with an occasional animation to bring more life to the work, I couldn’t shake the feeling of narcissism Haworth displays as she looks back on her life and how her sex change effected the other people in her life. The film was much too long and brought many details of her family’s life into the picture giving it a very thorough picture of the situation, yet this may have put a damper on the watchability of the work. There was no real climax to the piece and it eventually ended after the sex change. The film did use graphic pictures highlighting his/her transformation which was intriguing yet quite disturbing. The film is a brave move in understanding a different idea of sex, however it does lack in the case of engaging an audience.

1 comment:

a teacher said...

thanks for re-posting this. i love how you described the hugger and how you felt as an audience member. in fact, i am such a gullible schmuck that i got a little teared up reading about it.