Shadows on the Wall

To an arts centre (let’s not name it because I’m about to be a swine to it) for nine experimental short films from Japan, circa 1981.

In the event it’s only five films but that’s okay because I’m not sure how much longer we’d have been able to take it. And it’s not just our party of misery guts; half the audience is restless and squirming and quick to whisper to their neighbour about, tee-hee, maybe being the first ones to stand up and leave.

The problem is not that the films are naff (though they are naff, the point of screening not being to applaud their brilliance but to glimpse some creative acts whose points of origin happen to be a long time ago in a far-flung land) but that the screening room is so impossibly uncomfortable.

It’s hot and so poorly ventilated that we must all breathe air that has passed through the lungs of sixty other open-minded cinemagoers first, the oxygen value rapidly diminishing with every shallow gasp. I’ve suffered through many a Fringe sauna and leaky poetry tent in the name of ART but this screening room took the absolute cake.

Something does strike me about the films though and that is how pure and playful they are. They’re such small deals. Many short films now, though perhaps critically “better” than these five, exist either to launch careers or to show how sporting some famous director is to slum it in the upstart world of shorts.

But these are mere capsules of honest fun, almost like home movies. They are minor acts of affecting change in the world, like using your hands to cast animal shadows on the wall when there just happens to be a lamp at an obliging angle. Like my diary, I think. No biggie. Just shadows on the wall.

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