22 November 2009
Susan Bennett reviews The Magic Hour, a compilation of short stories by five disabled film directors. Magic Hour was made by 104 Films, leaders in disability cinema, and it was shown at FACT, Liverpool in the DaDaFest International Disability Arts Festival.
Five films, many lives and many more thoughts to carry with you for a long time. Each film, around twenty minutes long, evokes, resonates and challenges your perspective on disability; even if you thought you’d got that sorted a long time ago.
The highlight for me was Atari Withers (Elijah Muhammad), starring in Paraphernalia, a live action/animation film.
Atari is a young boy who hangs around with his robot. Typical kid, he wishes the thing would do more. It has no guns, it won’t play games, and it stares at him reprovingly. He eventually kicks it around the yard in an attempt to get rid of it.
But it is pretty useful around the house – its Marigold protected hands in washing up water have to be seen to be truly appreciated. Only don’t ask it to clean the goldfish bowl as its electrifying technique does not seem to work with fish.
It is only when Atari collapses that you realise the robot is in fact his kidney dialysis machine. The final shot of Atari, now friends and walking hand-in-hand with his robot, holding an umbrella over him whilst they do ‘Singing in the Rain’, is a killer.
Especially when the voice-over gets through to you: ‘This is my robot. He is my friend and everyday he saves my life.‘ This is a BAFTA for sure.
You are still sniffling about this when you are hit, and I mean hit, by a hard-core porn movie called Hands Solo, a comedic mockumentary about a deaf man who does just that.
No holds or hands barred in this one and you are quickly introduced to the power of Hands’ hands. His spider technique of inducing mind-boggling multiple-orgasms in Bunny, his co-porn star, comes complete with anatomical diagrams.
But it is essentially a love story dressed up as a satire on sex, disability and porn. It all ends happily ever after and great books are produced such as: ‘The Joy of Hand Sex’ and ‘The dangers of porn-related repetitive strain syndrome.’ Talk about co-production!
The fifth film is humorous but no less profound for that. The modern preoccupation with appearance is mocked comprehensively through the serious theme of Gemma’s right to die. Threaded throughout the plot are the pitiful stories of three females who all feel disabled: ‘I have brittle nails… and I can’t even use stick ons…,’ one wails. And ’My personal trainer says I have fatty upper arms …’
When Gemma, a disabled artist, is given the right to die, each female hanger-on then seeks to emulate what they think has been her suicide. They make death films, calling themselves the three Death-keteers, but only after first making sure they have bought a new dress for the occasion. ‘No body will ever be found as well dressed as me…’
It is very funny yet pathetic when they variously commit suicide in heroic and dramatic fashion not knowing that Gemma is in fact sunning herself in Jamaica……
So, congratulations to 104 films and the Magic Hour scheme, a ground-breaking UK-wide short film initiative aimed at disabled filmmakers.