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Thanks Smokey (2013)

June 17, 2018 0 comedy, music

A quirky little short that has been doing the rounds for a while but only recently came to the attention of the SFW team. Without giving anything away, this short shows us the world through the eyes of someone with – to put it euphemistically – a niche interest. The music is insanely catchy, and we just love the costumes. Enjoy!

Steam (1992)

April 3, 2016 0 music

The music video for Peter Gabriel’s hit single Steam (1992) was made by Stephen R. Johnson, a director of immense creativity. Peter Gabriel was known for his innovative, experimental music videos, probably the most famous being Sledgehammer (1986) also directed by Johnson, which scooped nine MTV Video Music Awards, which stands as a record today.

6 years on, computer technology had developed and whereas Sledgehammer used claymation and stop-motion techniques (with Peter Gabriel lying under a pane of glass for 16 hours as the video was shot one frame at a time) Steam uses the nascent but cutting-edge CGI effects of the time. In parts of the video we see exactly the same sort of ‘virtual reality’ effect used in the film Lawnmower Man, which came out the same year.

In Gabriel’s words “the song is about a relationship in which the woman is sophisticated, bright, cultured, and knows everything about anything and that the man knows nothing about anything, except, he does know about the woman, and she doesn’t know much about herself”.

Steam didn’t do quite as well as Sledgehammer, but it scooped a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 1994, as well as two MTV Video Music Awards in 1993, for Best Special Effects in a Video and Best Editing in a Video.

Of course the video would be nothing without the music behind it – Peter Gabriel was a gifted musical innovator. The effects might be dated by today’s standards but that doesn’t detract one bit from the experience. The accompanying track, Steam, is a brilliantly funky backdrop to this surreal, colourful, humorous and very  enjoyable visual treat.

Metachaos (2011)

January 2, 2015 0 animation, music

Created by Alessandro Bavari
Music by Jeff Ensign aka Evolution Noise Slave

Metachaos, by ‘Digital Artist’ Alessandro Bavari, is more like 8 minutes of visual and sonic art than a short film. Intense, overwhelming and immersive, it uses state of the art camerawork and CGI special effect technology to create what could be seen as a visualisation of judgement day itself. A series of amorphous figures, vaguely human in appearance, descend from the sky and take over a blocky fortress. This ‘building’, the scene for the rest of the film, looks similar at times to the steel and concrete frame seen when a modern building is midway through construction.

Exactly what is going on is open to interpretation – but throughout the morphing figures appear to be variously fighting, having sex, multiplying – as particles and matter rain down and swarm around them. The ambient, atmospheric soundtrack soon turns into furious, industrial intense, bassy beat, musically redolent of the Prodigy, visually of an Aphex Twin video.

Citing the apocalyptic visions of Bosch and Bruegel as inspiration, Bavari describes the beings in Metachaos thus:

“They exist confined in a spaceless and timeless state, an hostile and decadent hyperuranium where a fortress, in perpetual movement, dominates the landscape in defense of a supercelestial, harmonic but fragile parallel dimension. In its destructive instinct of violating the dimensional limbo, the mutant horde penetrates the intimacy of the fortress, laying siege like a virus.”

Whether you find Metachaos an exhilarating futuristic ride, a monochrome, multi-dimensional nightmare, or both, the impact can’t be denied. This should be ideally be experienced on a big screen, using headphones or quality speakers for full effect. More info on the maker’s website here.

This Land is Mine (2014)

August 4, 2014 0 animation, music

This Land is Mine is a remarkable animation set to a song in the style of a musical by artist Nina Paley. Beginning with the very first settlers in the land over time variously named Canaan, The Levant, Israel and Palestine, we see a succession of warriors and colonialists laying claim to what has proved to be one of history’s most disputed and conflict-ridden territories on the planet. From early cavemen to Assyrians to Macedonians, Ottoman Turks and many more, right up to the Hamas insurgents and Jewish Israeli settlers currently battling each other, this bloody cartoon is like a (admittedly simplified) compacted history of the region’s conflicts.

With numerous territorial wars currently causing death and misery across the globe, this film couldn’t be more relevant. A depressing look at humanity, or human history, perhaps. But if those leading and perpetuating today’s conflicts could step back and take an overview like this (noting in particular the film’s sober conclusion)  they might realise that no amount of time, or coming and going of empires will ever quell the human urge to subjugate and kill for territory. Justified by claims of entitlement and ownership, the cycles of violence go on and in the long run, nothing really changes.

The Exodus Song (AKA This Land is Mine) by Andy Williams provides a fitting backing track. For more information about Nina Paley, the creator, along with a guide to the different peoples represented in the film, check out her blog. But don’t read it before seeing the film, or you’ll spoil the twist!


Yama (2010)

March 15, 2014 0 music

Music written and recorded by Dead Skeletons (Ryan Carlson Van Kriedt & Jón Sæmundur).

Dead Skeletons are an Icelandic psychadelia band. Yama is a song from their debut album Dead Magick, recorded in 2010. The official video for Yama doesn’t really have a narrative as such – rather it’s a montage of imagery, mostly of Tibetan monks engaged in various rituals, prayers and meditations. Parts of it are repeated, looped and spliced with other images, such as driving along a desert road. We end up with a video that combines with the music to take us on a journey, the images and sequences well matched to the droning, hypnotic rhythm of the song. There is something genuinely striking about the faces of these young and old monks – a serenity and detachment that suggests perhaps a different way of thinking, a different way of life.

Yama is the Hindu deity of death, and closely related to the concepts of karma and reincarnation. The Sanskrit word Yama (यम) can also mean self-restraint, self-control and discipline. Yama also features in Buddhism and Chinese, Korean and Japanese mythology.

Sunlight (2010)

January 10, 2014 0 comedy, music

‘Sunlight’ is a music video for the song of the same title by music duo Bag Raiders, formed in 2006 by Jack Glass and Chris Stracey from Sydney. The video was directed by Fleur and Manu and produced by Division.

When a beautiful girl develops a crush on a chimpanzee, she releases him from captivity. We see their relationship go through various stages, all to the rhythm of a fantastically catchy and cheerful song. The video humorously explores numerous relationship themes including love at first sight, trust, jealousy, separation and loss, reconciliation, taking loved ones for granted – even inter-species love. Okay, don’t take that last one too seriously. Enjoy!

Cold Star (2011)

October 17, 2013 0 music

Director: Kai Stänicke.
Director of Photography: Thomas Schneider
Music: Cold Star by Din A Tod (Out of Line Music)
Starring: Dieter Rita Scholl

Cold Star is a striking music video. Based in a public swimming pool, the action centres around two protagonists – a teenage boy who is at the pool with his friends, and an older transvestite (played by a memorable Dieter Rita Scholl – undoubtedly the star of this piece) who shows him something he has apparently not experienced before. Inspired by the crossing of boundaries in this unexpected encounter, the spirit of sexual experimentation affects nearly everyone else, and the video ends with a watery love-in.

Not everybody in the video is willingly part of this action – there are dissenters and disapproving faces – but the message seems to be that the liberation of shedding of barriers is more powerful than any prejudice.

However you may feel about the theme and content of this video, there’s no denying that it’s a captivating watch. The cinematography by DOP Thomas Schneider is superb, and the slow-motion footage works very well with the music, a catchy, pulsing electronic number by producer Din A Tod.

Cold Star has screened at scores of film festivals around the world and picked up several short film awards.