Bill has had a dream of making movies for quite some time now. He dabbles in making videos for CAA or Rotary functions on occasion with some pretty good responses from his audiences. This winter and spring he is taking a screenwriting course at the NW Film Center School of Film in Portland every Monday night. At last week's class, his instructor said that he was introducing several short films on Sunday night and encouraged the class to attend. Bill invited me to go with him.
There were four short films that were shown before the feature presentation. As one might guess of a school of film, these were very artsy and/or edgy short films. "Ryan" and "Bingo" were computer animated films that were rather dark. "Ryan" was essentially an interview with a fellow animator. "Bingo" was a fanciful circus animation. "Next Floor" was actually rather funny and well done but it went a little too long at 11 minutes. It was a black comedy about gluttony in which there is a group of people dining on huge amounts of food--some of which looked pretty disgusting--waited on by many waiters. At some point, the whole table falls through the floor and the maitre de orders all the waiters and musicians to move to the "Next Floor" to continue their service. This keeps happening over and over again--so as you can imagine--it got a little old at some point. The last short was "Delusions of Modern Primitivism"--another comedy that was a bit on the dark side. I wasn't able to actually watch much of it because it is filmed in that same jiggly film style like the "Blair Witch Project" that makes me urpy. It was about a young man that decided that a body full of tattoos and piercings wasn't enough body art. He wanted a gunshot wound as another expression of body art. So he hired somebody in a garage to shoot him and then get him into an ambulance to get medical treatment. All of these films were rather disturbing on some level or another so I wasn't really sure if I was really happy that I decided to go on this adventure or not. But the feature film was actually very charming.
"Please Vote for Me" was the feature film about a third grade class in China that had a democratic election for class monitor. When asked what democracy or voting were, these children had no idea because of their culture. Elections only take place within the Communist Party. The purpose of making the film was to see how democracy would be received if it ever came to China. The documentary follows these children, their classmates and their families through a week of talent contests, debates, speeches, behind the scenes sabotage and bribery. At times, the kids got pretty emotional with hurt feelings and disappointment. But the children were delightful and it was fun to get a glimpse into what Chinese homes and schools looked like and the kinds of activities that they engaged in. It was interesting how they definitely caught on to the concepts of democratic elections. The "incumbent" who had been selected by teachers for the two proceeding years won the election even though all the kids disliked how he always beat them into behaving in class. But he had the best bribes--so my guess is that is how he managed to pull off the election. Seeing this film made it worth going. It was a very fun documentary.