Festival Film Poems

There is a lot of poetry in these films.

Cinema Project gives a fair shake to short film in Space Time Being at PIFF.

On Tuesday night at Whitsell Auditorium, Cinema Project and Northwest Film Center co-presented Short Cuts VII: Space Time Being for the 39th Annual Portland International Film Festival. Six short films, not one of them exceeding 25 minutes by directors from all over the world, screened with just enough pause in between for brief applause.

The program and press release introduces the films like this: “Parallel universes, bi-location, auto-hypnosis, alternate dimensions, and past lives.” And a member of the volunteer-run collective that is Cinema Project, Mia Ferm, introduced the night by saying that short films don’t get the attention she thinks they deserve. “You wouldn’t blame a haiku for being short would you?” The turnout of about 140 people at the 8:30 show laughed at this. “It is what it is,” she added. She advised us to sit back, and to relax and enjoy the shorts, especially for those that haven’t been exposed to much avant garde film. I include myself here.

So I sat and relaxed and absorbed the sounds and visuals. My attention oscillated; I focused through a tunnel and then I’d zone out. I sensed a headache coming on during a phase of spasmodic light, alleviated by casting my eyes into the dark theater for a few moments. There is a decompressing and sensory experience offered here. If you give in to the suggestion put forth that you cut cerebral strings and unlatch the mind, letting it drain, time becomes irrelevant. You no longer look for a linear story or meaning, and it does become hypnotic.

My digestion of the show is following suit. I can’t think of a way to describe these films, but nor do I see the sense in summing them up for you. Poetry lets time, visuals and rhythms overlap. It compiles and collects without asserting meaning. I’ll use that here, and as Mia Ferm also pointed out in her opening, “there is a lot of poetry in these films.”

So here are six poems (two haikus!) in response to each short.

Towards the Possible Film  by Shezad Dawood (Morocco/UK, 2014)

You’re an alien!

Of gold, on blue and red shores,

Dance! you’re an aged stone.

Deep Sleep by Basma Alsharif (Greece/Malta/Palestinian Territory, 2014)

The bell slices its drone through the scene

how beautiful the blues were in that first film,

the turquoise shining like embedded eyes in red earth.

The silence of these ruins is violent.

Cinema Concret by Makino Takashi (Japan, 2015)

25 minute image of white noise.

Snow is what we called it as kids.

Or a channel we didn’t get. HBO. Showtime. With the good movies.


I don’t think you call this White Noise. Not here, at a film festival of abstract avante garde films.

I look closer and see

Gold pellet rain drops

I float where they fall

in the puddle, looking up.

Imagine that view.

Mad Ladders by Michael Robinson (US, 2015)

Triangles hover

above the child’s voice and bed

framing dreams of spectacles.

Bunte Kuh by Ryan Ferko, Parastoo Anoushahpour, Faraz Anoushahpour (Canada/Germany, 2015)

A man with a backpack, caught looking at the camera.

Or he caught the camera looking at him.

He’s on a trip. The footage is grainy. He has a brow like yours, which crumples in the sun.

I think of love, and wind.

the flipping pages of a photo album.

I have only one picture of you, none of us. So it’s memories that flip, not their remembered tangible counterparts.

Which tells me

it was pure for us,

how much time we spent looking up and out.


A Distant Episode by Ben Rivers (UK, 2015)

This one is cool.

We are back at the start.

We are at the golden beach, where the water and sky are bright blue.

Except the color is drained now, in this film.


The empty beach, with stones like jewels embedded in the sand and red rock, is in Morocco.

It becomes a behind-the-scenes footage scene.

A man with a baseball cap is there, on screen this time.

Make-up is applied to our queen, who shines like the jewels, who avenges the aliens, who is of the rock and sand.

Who wears the make-up to reflect the sun’s glow.


We never left that beach. I didn’t know it was make-believe.

I didn’t know she didn’t really strike the alien’s head.

The prop, the bag that she beat instead of the head, was off-camera.

And I saw the wounded alien, in the arms of her counterpart. He held her, bleeding. She had red blood on her blue alien skin. Her face was free to breathe the Moroccan air.

The guy with the baseball cap shows her how to strike a bag, like she would a head.

His baseball cap looks like litter, like a Starbucks cup on the sand.


A congregation of black silhouettes, a pack of boys, stands on a mound, back-lit at sunset.

The film ends soon after this. Our beach woman screams from a pointy headland on the beach.

I am there. One with those boys. Screaming with her.

I will believe anything you show me, I think now.

It’s impossible to learn from Deja-vu.

I relive this time and time again.

By Kathleen Dolan

I studied writing and English at Purchase College in NY State and graduated from PSU with an English degree. I contribute content, edit, and brainstorm at THRU.

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