The Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) concludes its 33rd edition this weekend. More than any other FLIFF in memory, documentaries and short subjects are overshadowing the fictional features. Each category is very competitive and the subjects vary. While the best documentaries are science based, the short subjects vary in tone from serious to whimsical.
Shot in the Cayman Islands, Hotel features a sad man and a happy woman who meet in the hallway. Being out of towners, both people find they have much in common. It should be noted that the female ingenue is portrayed by Taylor Burrowes, an actress with a PhD in counseling who goes by the moniker, “Doctor Babe.”
An Italian short subject based on a true story, Magic Alps looks at immigrants entering Italy and being separated from their pets.
United Kingdom’s The Vest is a seven minute nightmare about a suicide bomber who seeks redemption.
From Life is an eight minute short subject from the United Kingdom. A complete story with a solid beginning and middle with a surprise ending, this movie provokes thoughts about art, history and the nature of being. From Life is easily the best short subject of the festival, though Animal Cinema deserves special recognition for a science short subject. Told from the perspective of wild creatures operating video cameras from 2012 to 2017, the video footage was found on all seven continents.
Directed by Teresa Tico, Keely Shaye Brosnan and executive produced by her husband Pierce, Poisoning Paradise looks at the conflict between native Hawaiians and corporations developing genetic pesticides for corn crops. With a dramatic opening and close celebrating the Hawaiian Paradise, this film bogs down in the middle by relying on television interviews and stock footage of protests.
In contrast, Secrets of a Frozen Ocean is a minimalist documentary about a 75-year-old scientist who makes one last trek to the Arctic to find evidence of a meteor landing there millions of years ago. Avoiding editorial drama and a musical score that would make Marlon Perkin’s “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” so cheesy, this film strives for truth and is very humane.
Sharkwater Extinction is easily the best documentary of FLIFF. The narrative is strong and the cinematography captures the oceans, landscapes and sunsets in Gods crowning glory. Adventurer Rob Stewart’s life mission appeared to have been to change the negative perception of sharks as a killing machine. When viewed rationally, sharks are necessary predators of the food cycle to prevent population surplus.
[Stewart showed his first 2006 film Sharkwater at FLIFF and he was presented a Humanitarian Award by FLIFF in 2012 when his film Revolution was showing at Cannes]. Tragically, in 2017, he died while diving in The Keys [possibilty from equipment malfunction]. His last film, Sharkwater Extinction will be screened this Saturday night at 8 p.m. at Bailey Hall at Broward College (3501 Davie Rd, Davie, FL 33314). Even if one separates the emotional connection to this young man’s last film, Sharkwater Extinction deserves to be seen on the BIG SCREEN to appreciate the visual beauty of the world of which we live.