Everybody Should Watch Mike Gouken’s Short Films

Opinion

Visual Storytelling, visual storyteller, kill these phrases now. Unless the piece of work in question is able to convincingly allocate the sum of its parts well. These parts are the interaction between the filmmaker’s intentions, the audience’s experiences, the narrative structure and, the presentation in whatever medium photo or film. In simpler terms in such…

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Visual Storytelling, visual storyteller, kill these phrases now. Unless the piece of work in question is able to convincingly allocate the sum of its parts well. These parts are the interaction between the filmmaker’s intentions, the audience’s experiences, the narrative structure and, the presentation in whatever medium photo or film. In simpler terms in such a way that when one opens Instagram or YouTube, a string is drawn between creator and consumer where the message is passed across and leaves enough space for the consumer’s imagination to reflect. An artistic endeavour so immersed in informing, entertaining and creating comprehension in the audience. This is the work of visual storytelling, all else is naught.

Mike Gouken’s short film repository is an accomplishment in the visual storytelling ranks. I viewed three of his shorts, Bleed, Yahoo Boy and Born in ascending order of time. I don’t know Mike Gouken personally, nor his professional history. I have a minimal interaction with him, the sum total of our relationship is between computer screen and the words I am typing in this critique. Yet If I met Mike today, I could make safe assumptions about his concerns and motivations. His characters are not specially endowed with powers or perceptions. They rank in many ways, as paper people. Statistics reported from far away, then imagined and infused with the need to above all, survive.

In Blee(Sun Eje), the protagonist loses his means of income and has to resort to brutal and illegal ways to make do. The performances and dialogue are absent of any desperation even though everything about the premise pushes that forward. The most tense part of the short is its music. Everything is shot either quickly or lazily, the camera lingering on the characters then moving things forward as they go through necessary motions. The details are guarded and displayed as needed. The viewer is allowed the chance to fill the gaps, under careful guidance of the script.

Born draws influences from classic Japanese cinema. No one is in a hurry in this film. Even through the premise, and dialogue suggests a fast ticking clock. There are real stakes, again the threat of job loss, a relationship gone awry and an unavoidable problem with too limited solutions.

Yahoo Boy is a documentary, an odyssey. Films like these deserve all the credit they can get. Lost in Translation, Blue is the Warmest Color, most recently Moonlight. Films that are simultaneously about nothing yet prod out universal feelings from all who watch. It has even got humor. A short perusal of a scam artist who buys a car and associates with girls, friends, family and those who want his newfound clout.

The dialogues feature long gaps between. Even in the limited running time (the longest short stops ashy of 8:30), the characters are allowed to show skin, stretch it out test their capacity for tension and watch themselves snap back as they give in to circumstance. There are idioms and warning. He who does this will end this way. Even the occasional ridiculous demand (the fresh tongue of a woman). Again it testifies to the unending point that Nigeria has never suffered from a lack of acting talent. Only good source material. When you bless people and allow them to make the best of it, you have transformative experiences. Gouken’s shorts may not carry transformative themes, but his characters certainly benefit from his direction ergo transform themselves. Some of the actors make appearances in more than one film. It does nothing to impede quality.

On the issue of visual representation, the three shorts are not videologues to show off a city. All shot with the Sony A7S, the spaces are often contained. Not confined, there is never the sense of being physically trapped, but there is no visual evidence of flight, freedom or even expansion. Courtyards, bedrooms, garages, railings, parking lots, uncompleted buildings. Here your imagination is directed to curb itself. Even with such mundanities, you deny yourself the exercise of fantasy. Uncompleted building? Can I escape? No, I have to make life saving choices.

A lot of shorts, movies even struggle with the need to sound important, look profound. If they fail, they try to distract with spectacle or cheap thrills/laughs. Filmmaking is a collaborative effort, but is also deeply personal and should reflect to an extent the people behind the efforts. Gouken’s shorts prove that you can enjoy film without meeting either expectation, yet feel robbed of nothing.

Photo Credit : GOOGLE

Responses

  1. tafarijane
    Watched them immediately. Loved them. There’s a touch to the films that gives them some sort of edge. I must admit your write up was intriguing so much that I had to watch the videos cos I wanted to be on the same page with you and actually see for myself what you were saying. Thank you for sharing.

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