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Short Film Roundup: Lasting Marks, Look Closely at the Mountains, Promised Lands

A reminder that the pain in our past is pain in our present in Charlie Lyne's bracing Lasting Marks, telling a story few know now, and too few knew then for what it really was. Homophobia in the West is something we currently like to condemn with brisk, authoritative disapproval, most of us with the authority to do so much more - it's those very same tactics that were so recently employed to demonize gay men in the West that are being employed still toward other groups, and indeed toward extending that homophobia into 2018. Anyway, the pain in our past lingers on, tainting the lives of those who've experienced it. Lasting Marks brings the shame of our past into our present, justly assigning guilt with a provocative duality in its gentle verbal recollections set upon its objective, yet heinous visual representations. It's 15 minutes of words - words as testament to their own power, to the lasting marks that they can leave to linger as long as they like. I imagine the shocked reactions of the casual Western crowd, a temporary mark of concealment over the shame of the present - the vague disapproval, the ignorant assertion that at least nothing like this could ever happen here again. Few know this story, and few know the reality of the marks it, and the countless others like it, continue to leave.

Marks left too in Ana Vaz's Look Closely at the Mountains, a paean for the natural world that is equally an elegy for it. This is a world that endures, as it must, and once we were a people that existed as extensions of its natural bounties; it is also a world being eroded, as we forget the rules of that existence, and neglect our duties toward it. Vaz's experimental, ephemeral documentary is suffused with compassion and sincerity, and the footage she uses is frequently highly arresting, but her approach is too nebulous to allow a true purpose to grow from her presentation of her material. The film is simply exquisite components assembled with a lack of persuasive intent, meaning that one only gleans the sense of empathy and awe that is supposed to be felt, rather than actually feeling it. Vaz has her heart in the right place, but her hands in the wrong place.

More promising is Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa's Promised Lands, a bold short with a fiery core of emotion and an intriguingly abstract method of expressing it. Wolukau-Wanambwa's naked, raw formalism is nonetheless never transparent; its opacity inspires curiosity, and her honesty and intelligent commentary reward it. Plain, simple devices belie the complexity of the puzzle of figuring Promised Lands out, though the directness of Wolukau-Wanambwa's approach makes the prospect of achieving just that arguably too great. Despite this, there's maybe too little purposeful cohesion to what she has to say here, even as every point made feels salient. The work is possibly in need of a more ruthless edit, or a tad more refinement toward consolidating its related thematic threads. It's a smart and powerful piece, however, from an exciting young talent.

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