Cinequest 2018: Mindbenders

Walk through the bureaucracy from hell… because it is hell, or at least purgatory. Or maybe purgatory is an otherworldly copy shop glowing in the darkness. Maybe this makes you remember some words from the Bible about how you treat the least of your brethren… even if that least is actually a giant blue alien with electrical powers. For Cinequest attendees, that was just a taste of the Mindbenders, the annual brainmelting collection of short films that also included the previously reviewed “Pie.”

Though science fiction and fantasy themes ran through other programs, Mindbenders is pretty reliably genre-based. Most were straightforward narratives, even as they tried to bend your mind. We had one music video, “Strangers,” which defies description, but it was cool. Superimposing overlapping repetitive actions on a mostly static set, the video definitely fit the tone that Mindbenders tries to set.

Only one narrative, “Information Superhighway,” was experimental, though it shared a touch of Philip K. Dick with “Immersion,” which I still can’t decide if it should have been turned into a feature. Maybe it still will be, with its interesting take on how to deal with criminal rehabilitation.

Not all the line-up was in English. That bureaucracy from hell was a Spanish vision, “Defunctionary,” which posits an afterlife run by aliens. If they make a clerical error with your fate, heaven help you. Though “Defunctionary” never clarifies if there actually is a heaven.

There could be a virtual one, though. The strongest of the entries, “Contact” by Teal Greyhavens, is testament to how one can tell a compelling science fiction story without using much in the way of special effects at all. Instead, it’s all on the shoulders of one actor struggling with his fate, with the implications of something much larger going wrong around him.

The line-up offered two horror pieces: “Filippa” and “Arcane.” One was a little too convinced of its coolness, and “Filippa” should not be watched at home alone. A Swedish film, it caused a lot of audience members to look around for reassurance that yes, we were surrounded by people.

Cinequest rounded out the program with “Yoshua,” which on the surface seemed like a dark Hanna-Barbera cartoon. A group of high school students drive around in their van with a magical sidekick — in this case the titular big blue monster. But it’s much darker and deeper. Though clearly their society has labeled Yoshua’s people “other” and dangerous, the kids consider him their best friend at their own risk. I can’t prove that my later interpretation is correct, but there must be something significant to the alien being named Yoshua. Some of you may be following that, and if not, at the very least — Yoshua himself was an incredible puppeteering effort. Poking around online, I found a video hosted by Adam Savage going behind the scenes. Enjoy, and hope that you can find these shorts in the months ahead.

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About Derek McCaw
In addition to running Fanboy Planet, Derek has written for ActionAce, Daily Radar, Once Upon A Dime, and The Wave. He has contributed stories to Arcana Comics (The Greatest American Hero) and Monsterverse Comics (Bela Lugosi's Tales from the Grave). He performs with ComedySportz San Jose and ShakesBEERience, in addition to occasional screenwriting and acting jobs. If you ever played Eric's Ultimate Solitaire on the Macintosh, it was Derek's voice as The Weasel that urged you to play longer. Email him at editor@fanboyplanet.com.