Optic Nerve XIII, MOCA’s annual short film festival, screened Saturday night for a crowd of, say, 100 people. In a change from previous years, which exclusively featured Miami filmmakers, the festival’s hour-long program featured the work of filmmakers from 14 different cities, including Miami, Brooklyn, NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. One entry was to be purchased by MOCA and placed in the North Miami museum’s permanent collection.
The program began with “Pile of Demon Heads” by Sarada Rauch (Brooklyn), an endearingly silly tale of good-decapitating-evil that appears to take place in a second-grader’s diorama. The short got a chuckle from a still-warm crowd that didn’t realize this was as much story as Optic Nerve XIII had to offer.
Next up was Tara Nelson’s “Hull” (Jamaica Plains, Mass.), a visual poem shot in 16mm and deliberately paced to unnerve the restless. Despite its compelling imagery — a woman’s torso dissolving into the contours of a receding seashore, a pair of disembodied hands wrapped thick in dark turquoise latex — the five-minute film moves at the speed of dripping syrup (going so far as to include a shot of dripping syrup) and hobbled the festival too soon out of the gate.
Skipping ahead, the first film I enjoyed was “Hot Circuit”, mainly due to the ingenuity of San Francisco filmmaker Christina Corfield, who manages to fabricate a serviceable living room, classroom, diner, hot rod, and gas station out of mere paper.
In “Hot Circuit”, we have a skeleton storyline: Mid-century blonde heeds chauvinistic mores handed down by her mother, gets knocked up and subsequently abandoned by inexplicably silver-clad cad, ends up abandoning newborn and hitchhiking to hell (literally) along U.S. 121. But the kitsch narrative is basically a game of hopscotch that fails (assuming it is trying) to elicit the viewer’s empathy. As for its stated aim to raise “questions about our growing dependence on new technology and myths”, that’s just a string of artspeak pulled from the paragraphs of an undergraduate syllabus.