El plan en Brooklyn

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"I have no doubt Brooklyn will become Hollywood East in the years to come," beamed Marty Markowitz to the crowd at the opening of The Brooklyn International Film Festival (BIFF), which ran last week at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The Borough President cited as evidence the new studios being built here and festivals like BIFF, a well-funded festival now in its 8th year and headed by Marco Ursino. This year’s festival, entitled "Opinion8", showed 143 films from 25 countries between June 3 and June 12.

A good showcase of the often-undervalued art of the short film, BIFF presented, among a handful of Ibero-/Latin America-related films, El plan (2004), a 16-minute film from director Eduardo Martinón of Spain’s Canary Islands. This film, which won the Premio del Foro Canario at el Festival de Cine de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in March, tells an endearing fable about Felix and Tono (José Manuel Cervino and Antonio Cifo), two homeless men in search of a comfortable place to spend Christmas eve. The local shelter torn down and the hospital decrepit, the two plan to break into a store, let the police catch them, and spend the night safe and warm in jail. But things just don’t work out that way.

The first few minutes of the film serve as an introduction and appear in the form of a dark and well made animation. The film then slides into live-action, although in an almost sepia-toned color palette. The colors enter normality only during Felix’s Broadway-musical-style hallucination in which cops arrest the two men and tuck them sweetly into bed in jail with a bottle of booze and a kiss on the head, while a lively song plays with the help of backup girls. It’s hysterically funny and contributes to the fable-like nature of the film, which provides the film its winning quality.

 Adding to this is film’s voice-over narrator, whose warm tone recalls children’s stories — but for a few tongue-in-cheek lines like "His great love for abstract art took his life". In addition to the narration and the faded color palette, the film’s fable nature comes from the actors’ only-slightly-over-the-top acting (which is almost spot-on the entire time), minor slapstick humor, and old film techniques like the iris (think of that closing hole Porky Pig used to poke out of at the end of Looney Tunes shows). All of this recalls the days of silent films like those of the original Little Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) and creates a sweet, sad little tale and a well-made short film.