By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood May 4, 2013 at 4:21PM
Thirteen experimental short films screened in the "Let There Be Light: The Cycles of Life" series at the Tribeca Film Festival. Each of the films was loosely connected by the "profound artistic influence of light" in film. Some of the films highlighted the power of sunlight, flickering through trees or dousing harvests. Others took inspiration from artificial light sources or the moon's glow. Each of them relied on relatively simple imagery and narration in order to tap into something mythic and intense.
The most fascinating short was "Lunatic"--which looks as if a moon phase calendar was designed as a light show for a discotheque. The Swedish filmmaker Aasa Ersmark directed the short film, which had its International Premiere at Tribeca. At just over two minutes, this black-and-white film is a simple riff on the waxing and waning moon. It's completely pared down but its hectic presentation evokes a multitude of comparison that float in and out as film pulses. Moon shadows become shadows on glasses of water, blinking eyes, and orange slices. Ersmark's ear for rhythm and eye for pace come across brilliantly.
Another notable black-and-white short, artsy road trip "Parallele Nord," was directed by Canadian filmmaker brothers Felix and Gabriel Dufour-Laperriere. The camera is angled up towards thick foliage on a country road, and as the angle of the trees changes, disorientation sets in. The sounds change from a car driving through gravel to music to empty silence. The Dufour-Laperrieres have assembled an amazing evocation of suspense that builds throughout the seven minutes.
The third highlight comes from another Canadian director, Thirza Jean Cuthand, called "Sight." Cuthand layered Super-8 footage and slashed some with a Sharpie marker. The narration provides a type of personal essay, in which she discusses her temporary blindness associated with migraines as well as one of her relative's self-induced blindness. It focuses on the intimidating idea that our natural skills and abilities, like sight, could be gone at any moment. "Sight" is heavy stuff, but its brevity helps keep it accessible.
The other films included "Star Light No.5 Bis," by Cecile Fontaine (France), "Depart" by Blake Williams (Canada), "Hermeneutics" by Alexei Dmitriev (Russia), "Light Plate" by Josh Gibson (Italy), "The Moon Has Its Reasons" by Lewis Klahr (U.K.), "Corn Mother" by Taylor Dunne (USA), "The Last Time" by Candy Kugel (USA), "Two Islands" by Jan Ijäs (Finland), "Dead World Order" by Dana Levy (France), and "Look Inside The Ghost Machine" by Peter Lichter (Hungary).
More on the "Let There Be Light" program here.