The Movie Waffler Shorts Showcase - BRIX AND THE BITCH / CONDEMNED / HOME | The Movie Waffler

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Shorts Showcase - BRIX AND THE BITCH / CONDEMNED / HOME

Reviews of three recent shorts.






Reviews by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)


Brix and the Bitch

Ever since the unnamed bandit of Edwin S. Porter’s 1903 silent film The Great Train Robbery pointed his pistol towards the camera and proceeded to empty the chamber point blank at the audience, visualisation of violence has been an integral feature of cinema. Film is a medium defined by action, by locomotive movement beyond the means of static photography. Porter’s bandit notwithstanding, slapstick comedy dominated early cinema (which, in simple terms, is another form of violence, often predicated upon exaggerated comic depictions of circumstantial pain), and spectacular, kinetic motion has differentiated cinema since: they are called ‘the movies’, after all.

In Nico Raineau’s Brix and The Bitch, we find a fitting exemplar of this sort of demonstrative, exciting dynamic. Dre Swain plays the titular Bitch, a liminal street fighter who pummels men in underground car parks to the edification of a baying bunch of blokes. A veteran of indie films, Swain’s own website describes her as an athlete/dragon trainer, although this reads as something of an understatement regarding Swain’s impressive physicality in the short proper; the woman is built. As The Bitch beats seven shades out of various chancers, or chins an opportunistic groper, her hard sinews catch the light like chiselled marble. While she fights (the camera fetishising the violence in deliberate slow motion), we find out in flashback that The Bitch is somehow in obligatory hock to the creepy boss who runs the show and therefore needs to fulfil a fight club quota for him, much to the chagrin of her lovely girlfriend at home (Brix, played by Alex Marshall-Brown, also a stuntwoman). Back at the fight, we find out that there is a ‘new fighter who has been talking shit all night’…. what could happen next in order to unite these disparate narrative threads? The denouement may well be slightly daft, but as an example of precisely represented violence displayed for visual pleasure, Brix and The Bitch fulfils its promise with superb stunt work and realistic, ferocious thrills.




Condemned

In Condemned we focus on the awful consequences and fateful aftermath of violence. A convicted killer (Daniel Wyland) on San Quentin’s death row relates the tragic details of his life and crimes. Told in claustrophobic close up, with minimal bleached out flashbacks to the convict’s childhood, Condemned is a riveting performance piece: Crime and Punishment through the lens of Beckett’s Not I. Legrand McMullen’s script traces the convict’s disadvantaged upbringing, to his initiation into violence and the eventual imprisonment. Wyland is fantastic, utterly convincing as he matter of fact recounts the awful things he has done and the sanctions waiting for him - for half of the film I was under the impression that it was a documentary, and that ‘the convict’ was simply telling the camera what had actually happened IRL, such is the veracity of his performance.

Any violence in Condemned is kept off screen and instead verbalised, with the entreaty to picture it also encouraging us to consider the provenance of such actions. In keeping with this conceit, the film ends with a sensory description of execution that sidesteps the visual set, invading our imagination with specific and lyrical detail. The definitive success of Condemned may rest on your own politics; whether you believe a man who slaughtered a family in cold blood deserves ultimate punishment, or if you prefer to choose the pervasive prospect of change and hope. Watching the gripping Condemned you will be stirred to consider both paradigms.



Home

And what is the opposite of violence? Love, of course. Kosovan writer/director More Raςa’s Home centres on an unmarried woman, Hava (Xhejlane Tërbunja), and the patriarchal systems she is subject to. Following the death of their parents, Hava's brothers set about dividing the ancestral property. In line with custom, the right to inheritance belongs to male descendants only. If Hava is to receive a portion of her parents' estate, then she must be married: with her eldest brother obligated to find a husband for his sister. And, as if this situation - the privileging of male offspring, Hava potentially having little choice in her brother’s selections - was not disheartening enough, Hava is forced to supress her relationship with another woman, in fear of reprisal of the intolerant community which would outlaw their love.

Home’s origins as a true story are honoured by the cinéma-vérité stylings of Raςa’s film: the world is vivid, with authentic performances and evocative use of location, such as the backstreets Hava is forced to retreat to in order to meet her lover for simple conversation. The film makes the female role in heteronormative relations clear as we see Hava intensively taught how to roll dough, while the muted colour schemes of the short reflect the imprisoning misery such enforced repression would entail. However, Hava is no passive character. She attempts to fight back against the expectations of her society, but this proves near impossible as she has no money and the system is entrenched.

LGBT rights in Kosovo have only very recently improved, with the government graciously declassifying homosexuality from its former status as a mental disorder during the last decade. The rights of women are still subject to certain oppressions. Aside from being beautifully made, Home is a brave film, the very existence of which serves to highlight antiquated systems and the subsequent quiet suffering of hundreds of Havas. If the systems that repress Hava and her sisters are entrenched, then it is films like Home that challenge such hegemony, and promote the understanding and empathy necessary for change.



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