By Haley Patterson
As a both a Spanish and English major, this event had an unparalleled appeal for me. Watching five Spanish short films, one after the other, followed by a rousing, analytical audience discussion? Yes, please. I drafted my roommate to accompany me—she had nothing else to do, she told me, but still was not sure why she was going. The festival started at 7:00 and we were both wholly rapt in the event throughout the entire evening. When the festival ended, we stumbled, disoriented, into the night, unaware of the passage of hours yet eager to extrapolate every meaningful bit from the productions we had just seen. Despite her prior reticence to attend even one night, she now lamented the fact that she could not attend both. If, in this scenario, you identify primarily with me, I know you enjoyed the event—you doubtless went. If, to the contrary, you align with my gloomy roomie, I know you also enjoyed the event, providing someone dragged you there. For those who fall into a third category of neither interest nor presence, I regret to inform you that, contrary to your instincts, you would have adored the Spanish short film festival. This review is dedicated to the likes of you.
This is not a uniquely absurd UNG event; the festival has been to Kennesaw State, the University of Georgia, and many other southeastern institutions, as it is currently in its eighth cycle. Dr. Austin Riede, a self-described cinephile, moderated the event which offered critical insight into the genre of the short film. On Thursday night Dr. María Calatayud provided the cultural framework. One of the many benefits of this event is the interdisciplinary aspect: film, literature, Spanish, English, sociology, psychology, anthropology, the list goes on. According to Dr. Riede, “Cinema can be as challenging as art and literature. Films should never be an invitation to turn off your mind and accept what you see.”
In the interest of time (and because I know my audience’s limits), I will only review one piece, “Sub.” In the utopian… no, dystopian… ok, futuristic, world created in the film, people are able to purchase a service giving them translatable subtitles appearing in the ether below them. There are at least seven languages represented in this piece, and while all can be heard distinctly, English subtitles appear below the faces of each character. To be clear, this is not because the DVD was captioning the film, but because in this society the “subtitle” service was almost ubiquitous. All employed it, except for one—the main character—an African woman. Without the service, no one could understand her, and no one tried. Russians, Germans, French, and Saudis all conducted life without language barriers, but the woman was swept aside as unintelligible. In a world where ethnic boundaries like language are erased, where is the demarcation of “culture” redrawn? The necessity of being understood has pigeonholed humanity into only interacting with members of respective tribes, even today. With this need a sad fact of the past, where will the new blending lead? In a world where the old denotation of culture is insignificant, it becomes newly redefined as a socioeconomic standard with those who can afford the service on one side and those who can’t on the other. Watch the film to discover the ending; it is worth your time. And, the next time this event is offered, go!