New York Film Festival Shorts

By Maribeth Thueson

Tiger Strike Red

In Tiger Strike Red Qatari-American artist Sophia Al-Maria explores the relationship between Western art, history, and the legacy of colonialism. Four young people of color cavort through London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, talking in echoey voice-overs about how their interpretation of the meaning of various objects in the collection is different from the traditional Western view. Al-Maria throws in everything from Boudicca to the East Indian Company to British army “redcoats,” juxtaposing them with film snippets of pop culture from A Man Called Horse to Red Dwarf to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to make her point, which is that the truth of history depends on who you’re talking to. 

After all, the Celtic queen Boudicca is used as a symbol of British imperialism, and her statue is outside the Houses of Parliament, but her major act was to rebel against a world empire. History forgets, but that history can be reclaimed. “I am the possessor of history,” the voiceover says. “My story is my property.” According to Al-Maria, it isn’t just the “winners” who get to write history. All of us do.

Peak Heaven Love Forever

Still from Peak Heaven Forever

Artist Jordan Strafer used a real incident as the basis for her short film Peak Heaven Love Forever – her father became ill on a cruise and was flown home on an air ambulance. The plane was a former private jet, and the flight attendant served chardonnay and sushi. In the film, the characters are indeed served wine and sushi, but that’s where reality ends and the surreal begins. 

Artist Jordan Strafer used a real incident as the basis for her short film Peak Heaven Love Forever – her father became ill on a cruise and was flown home on an air ambulance. The plane was a former private jet, and the flight attendant served chardonnay and sushi. In the film, the characters are indeed served wine and sushi, but that’s where reality ends and the surreal begins. 

The characters are real and not real at the same time. They all have makeup that makes them seem masked, so a young woman has a horrible rash, a man is sunburned, and the flight attendant has grotesquely large lips. At times they wear masks, and at times they turn into actual mannequins. 

The invalid, an elderly man, meanwhile, lies on a couch, unable to speak or move. But no one speaks – there’s only one whispered line of dialogue in the entire film. The characters mope around, or suddenly break into lip-synced song, or go on a violent shooting binge. Why are they doing these things? That’s just what Strafer wants you to ask, and if there’s an answer, it’s that Strafer wants to depict the world the way she sees it, with people who are depraved and with violence everywhere, even within families where people supposedly love each other.

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