Thematically, the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival’s Spirited Away shorts program is an apt title to describe a set of works that deals with spirituality. It’s a topic few understand when they are about philosophies from smaller regional areas.
Udval Altangerel is a Mongolian filmmaker whose works explore anthropological subjects, and to introduce this group of films, she wrote for the program guide, “Guided by shamans and ancestral spirits, we traverse the line between the living and the dead, tradition and transformation, fiction and nonfiction.”
This unique set of eclectic works do more than define humanity’s relationship with Nature. There’s spirits, wisdom and counter-culture to be found in each. Fans of slam poetry will like Hinga. This piece argues for change. Unlike the fight to keep Fairy Creek pristine in my neck of the woods, this performance theatre is captured onto film and explores the complexity of what the Filipinx people in the Bay Area are passionate about. They want a utopia that transcends political and geographical barriers. Their message isn’t hard to follow, but it’s the rhythm which sets an unusual pace.
Anyone who has followed the media reports about the discovery of a mass grave on the grounds of a residential school in Kamloops, BC, may find Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics disturbing. Children from local tribes were plucked away from their families because someone thought it was best to teach them a different way of life. These places were operated by the Catholic Church, and it didn’t change hands until much later. The Canadian Government never knew what went on, and was left holding the bag.
This stop motion animated work by Terril Calder is evocative, powerful and moving. The story she constructed is an eerie look at what may have happened back then. Thankfully, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in this tale.
Dash Shaw‘s Cryptozoo is a kind of animation that fans of this genre would expect to be released by The National Film Board of Canada rather than Adult Swim. The art style used in this film is something I’d expect from this digital media producer who encourages independent arts. I can see this creator further his trade with more shorts and daring narratives.
Lauren Gray (Lake Bell) is trying to save Baku, an eater of dreams, from the black market. It looks like a tapir from afar, but there’s more to this animal’s snout should it meet a sleeping human. This creature is lurking somewhere in the veil between worlds, and she can’t help this cryptid because it’s unwilling to be caught. Some people fear it and others will embrace it. This creature sucks nightmares (fears) away.
Seder-Masochism is an animated film that’s not easy to classify. In one level, it’s a very loose retelling of Passover Seder, and in another, it’s an animated Broadway musical! One part developed to entertain and another part attacking the patriarchy within organised religion, I’m not certain if I should worry. I have my own opinion about following the light and never patronise how others follow God.
With this work, the events from the Book of Exodus are retold by Moses, Aharon, the Angel of Death, Jesus, and the director’s own father. The Goddesses, humanity’s earliest deities, are well represented. Presented are effigies of Lilith, Catal Huyuk, the Venus of Hohle Fels and the Venus of Willendorf. Great Isis is just as important, and a lot of time is spent interpreting what this ancient Egyptian culture’s spiritual path is like. Much of it is accurate, including the roles she played in Greco-Roman times. With these character designs, the way these Egyptian figures look suggests a sense of worry because of what’s looming.