Calgary International Film Festival 2013 - The Dark Side of Stardom

Posted on Friday, September 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Review Type: Festival

Short Film Series: The Dark Side of Stardom

Review by Anh Chu

As denizens of the real world, it's admittedly hard to commiserate with the lights, glamour and perceived fabulousness which sashay alongside the spotlight of fame. That doesn't, however, negate our curiosity for backstage, insider access.

This series of shorts explores fame in a variety of iterations, revealing the underbelly of gymnastics, ballet, standup comedy, fashion and film via glamorous, dark, and ultimately redemptive shorts.

Cold Warrior is an unsettling account of Anna, a young Romanian gymnast in 1980. As her coach faces pressure from the “suits” to get Anna up to par in time for the Olympics, we follow her solitary journey, wondering if she has what it takes. Both the strongest and the darkest short, Cold Warrior takes a sinister turn, hitting the jugular unexpectedly.

Dancing Deaf takes a documentary approach, detailing the story of Simone Botha, a South African ballet dancer who cannot hear music. It's a shame that the production value doesn't match the truly inspirational story.

Callback (a term used for actors when they get called back for a second audition) is the shortest of the lot. Unfortunately, this short ends too abruptly, leaving much to be desired.

Setup, Punch stars Elijah Wood as a standup comedian honing his craft. When he decides to pop the question to his girlfriend on stage, it feels as if I am in the club witnessing the scene unfold. A solid contender.

Eat details a German fashion model's battle with food, an oft-known fact about dietary restrictions manifesting in a surreal manner that left me satiated.

Beauty Mark showcases junior miss pageants, as young Annabel and her stage mom prepare for the state finals. Predictably creepy, this film is conventional, but well executed.

Method, a film about an aging actor who flubs his lines, ends the shorts with a bang. Seemingly straightforward, the story ends up being hilarious and meta.

Quick-moving, compelling, funny, and the opposite of envy-inducing, the shorts featured in The Dark Side of Stardom inspire empathy, and perhaps a bit of relief, in even the most cynical of hearts.

Reviewed at the Calgary International Film Festival 2013.

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