VIFF 2016: Nine Behind (Sophy Romvari, 2016)

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This guest-review was written by Vancouver critic Josh Hamm.

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define… [and] preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future.”

– Simone Weil, The Need For Roots

Sophy Romvari’s debut short film is a mature, fully formed contribution to cinema; a film imbuing the trivial and mundane with the weight they deserve. The opening sequence of shots almost channel a Yangian rhythm: an extended take captures a young woman, Nora, (Noémi Fabian) in her routine and establishes the mise-en-scène with a slow pan; a cursory glance at the bookshelf conjures up images of the past and present on film, of a woman enraptured by the silver screen. The soft sounds of a bubbling kettle and the slow drip from the sink into a pile of dishes as she pours a cup of tea and settles into her chair and grabs a phone, her leg an almost abstract reflection on the front of the dishwasher– there’s fully formed minutiae and sense of a person through a mere two minutes of seemingly unimportant actions. Yet they also have the steady rhythm of ritual and home-brewed comfort.

Still, Nine Behind is not a film about ritual, or the mundane, per se. It’s propelled by the woman’s conversation with her grandfather in Budapest (the title presumably referring to the time difference between there and Vancouver), a one-sided dialogue that reveals a filial ache for connection and tradition; a yearning for a nostalgia-filled future.

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Hit 2 Pass (Kurt Walker, 2014)

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Hit 2 Pass is a documentary which takes at its focus not just its subject (a demolition derby race – you have to hit to pass your opponent – and the community surrounding it), but the film grammar required to tell its story. Beginning with a surreal black & white bit with some kind of Jerry Lewis or Professor Pluggy-inspired MC that announces that the film will be presented in 4:3 and then pointing out that the image the viewer is watching is, in fact, a 4:3 image, the film explains its subject and how it will explore it. From the start, we’re conditioned to interrogate every image not just for what it’s showing, but also for what it’s saying about the people doing the shooting.

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