The Calgary International Film Festival: End of Days

Shorts program, round two.  “The End of Days” was an eclectic program coordinated around the theme of Armageddon.  I sadly missed the first film (featuring Martin Freeman of Sherlock fame) due to a hanging out in the wrong theatre until the wrong time,  but the rest of the films were a strong selection tied clearly together.  In the first half of the program, the films ranged between alien abductions, zombie plagues and biblical end-times, with films that were all entertaining and showcased strong production values.  However, the second half of the program was where it really captured my imagination.  Circling my favourite film in the program, “Exit”, the films started to question reality and the way our belief shapes it.

The conceptual turning point of the program kicked off with “Last Supper“, a film I personally found a bit over-the-top and cheesy, but was fun none the less.  It approached the idea of the Revelation by featuring two couples discussing religious fanatics and their belief that the end was neigh.  The discussion devolves into self-fulfilling prophesy when they consider the idea that it might actually happen and a terrible chain of events ensues.  The next film “Exit“, was for me was the highlight of the program.  The basic narrative follows a collection of Victorian-era upper-middle class Brits, as they sit in a drawing room and have vapid conversation after a wedding ceremony.  The couple discuss their honeymoon plans until the bored and narcissitic best man decides to antagonize the group.  He picks on a quiet, older gentleman and pushes him to tell a story of his youthful escapades.  Finally convinced, the man talks about his work in the dark arts, and his interest in de-creationism, or the act of erasing a person from “the pages of human history.”  Asked for an example, the man complies and through selfish boredom and wilful disregard for morality, the group erases one of their compatriots.

What was most interesting about this film for me was the idea of talking something out of existence.  I’ve always been interested in the power of language (as per Jacques Derrida) to control our reality and shape the world around us.  To some extent we use language as a tool, but it is also so much bigger than us that it acts as an organism unto itself.  We are never in complete control of words because meaning shifts depending on context and the way we use it.  In this film, the man uses langugage as a type of hypnosis to essentially convince a member of the party that they do not exist anymore.  Once you stop believing in your reality, and can no longer describe it, you fade away.  This work was part of an MFA program thesis, and certainly showcased a lot of richness and room for critical thinking that was not so readily available in the other works.  At the same time, the richness of “Exit” bled over to the other films, and added some additional context to them that would not have existed if they were just viewed in isolation. (SIDE NOTE:  YOU GUYS!  IN REFERENCE TO MY LAST POSTING, DANIEL ZIMBLER IS ORIGINALLY FROM SOUTH AFRICA.  GO NATIONALISTIC PRIDE.)

Yeah Rite Teaser Trailer from Michael Penney on Vimeo.

The next work was “Yeah Rite“, a work where an excorcism is led by an atheist and a blind priest.  The essence is that the duo could rid the possessed by simply not seeing or believing in the demon.  It’s a funny play on the idea of the reality of beliefs, and that if you can’t see something (either due to physical or wilful blindness, it can’t exist for you.  I think that insistence on reality based on belief linked it perfectly to “Exit”.  This thread is also followed through into the final film “Armadingen“.  This work closed off the program with an actual armageddon, while remaining focused on the relationship between a grouchy old farmer and his wife.  At first he treated her quite badly, and only changed his treatment of her when he found out he was doomed.  Through the entire film, he tries to protect her from the knowledge of their immiment death, and she continues on, blissfully unaware.  Once again we come up against the idea of knowledge and belief as a tool that shapes reality.  His day is terrible and focused on the end of everything, while hers is peaceful and focused on the future.

End of Days screened on Saturday September 22 & Monday September 24 at the Calgary International Film Festival:

ARMADINGEN Trailer (Intl. Version) from bildundtonfabrik on Vimeo.


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