London Short Film Festival: “U Ok Hun?” Review

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London Short Film Festival’s “U Ok Hun?” series consists of 8 short films, and is described as a ‘take on broken hearts, loneliness and the tricksy dynamics of tight-knit subcultures.’ The films explore the dynamics of a changing world, where human relationships and technology come into play, and one amplifies or subdues the other. Although there have been some Black Mirror-esque aspects to it, there was less emphasis on technological advancements themselves, and more on the gaps between how we imagine life to be and how it actually is.

What was most prevalent in all of the films was the one-sidedness of communication. Talking to a camera whilst recording a YouTube video, voice-overing one’s attitude towards a masked maze of a man from a BDSM account, leaving intricately detailed product reviews on Amazon (based on real-life reviews and amusingly contrasted with the imagined lives of the reviewers), even simply tripping to acid—it all comes down to a very subjective and lonely experience. Is it explicitly connected to the escalation of cyberspace? Or is it just how we are, and technology made it come to the surface?

In If You Never Answered X, a young man is missing, and all we see are the notifications on his phone, a device without a hand to hold it. The worrying cries, the pleas for help of his friends and family, merge with apps that remind him to drink more water. Are those any different from each other, really? Haven’t our friends been programmed to care about us just as much as our apps have been programmed to take care of us?

The discrepancy between appearance and reality creates even more of a divide between the constructed narratives of life and its disjunction. In both Toni_with-an-I and Zebedy’s Cult, we see sequences from two perspectives—one from the standpoint of the main characters, and the other from those watching. In the first, the music is high-quality and so are they, dancing with joy and reveling in freedom. In the latter, the sheer ridiculousness of everything they do is portrayed, the music is only an add-in, and the searches for confidence prove to be nothing short of grotesque. The eponymous character, Toni, may have found her own little bliss after getting recognized on social media, but isn’t this in itself grotesque? The internet will save us only if we also give it an option to destroy us. It’s a Russian Roulette, and we do not get to choose our fate.

Isn’t this all pointless in the end? I’m thinking, as I’m walking back, stepping into puddles and enjoying the rare stillness of the city. Is there a destination for anything? Is there a point we reach where we truly connect with one another, where our ideals match the mundane? In the last film of the program, Acid Rain, we are faced with a character hitchhiking in between corporeality and hallucination, within the dangers of moving along with the present with no regard for the future. In the end, I couldn’t tell what was real. Has that guy really kidnapped her and used her piercings to fasten her to a radiator? Has she ever left home in the first place? And are the dangers of experience worth it? Isn’t it better to stay home, with our eyes glued to the TV? Maybe all there is to it is texture and shape, and no real difference between anything.

The entire experience was rather claustrophobic. The intimate yet distant close-ups, food crushed in one’s fingers or stained on one’s face, the constant shimmering of the sound of the bass-ness of our existence—the bass, the microwave, the white noise always catching up, making us forget the notion of silence. Even by a lake, or a beautiful Spanish landscape, as shown in Janitor of Lunacy and Pink Pool, we are not completely safe. Even if the gun we use to kill ourselves is pink, our blood will not turn to candy; our death will not turn into an event, and the words “U Ok Hun?” will not mean anything for longer than 5 seconds.

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