Fri, Apr 24, 2009 - Page 13 News List

‘Wholphin’ fishes for the rarely seen

By Catherine Shu  /  STAFF REPORTER


Wholphin is a DVD magazine of short films launched in 2005 by Brent Hoff and Dave Eggers, the author and founder of the literary journal McSweeney’s. Shorts from the publication will be screened next week during the Urban Nomad Film Fest …

… but wait. What exactly is a wholphin?

The magazine’s namesake is the extremely rare hybrid of a bottlenose dolphin and a false killer whale. Hoff read about the sea mammal in a science journal while working on the magazine’s first issue and was immediately taken.

“I thought that there are these amazing things out there that nobody has ever heard about before. How many weird hybrids are out there in the ocean that we have no idea about?” says Hoff. “Seeking out these amazing, unseen things was what we were planning to do with the magazine, things that no one has ever looked for before.”

“Television won’t program [the short films] because they aren’t exactly 22 minutes and movie theaters won’t put them anywhere,” he adds. “It seemed like the perfect name that symbolized what we were doing.”

Published quarterly, each issue of Wholphin gathers short films, animation and documentaries from around the world.

The diversity of subject matter is evident on The Best of Wholphin. The compilation DVD includes documentaries about a group of Scottish preteens whose heavy metal band is co-opted by their stage-managing parents; a Yemeni girl who refuses to wear a hijab; and two Native American grandmothers locked in a struggle with the US government and gold mining corporations over control of their land in Nevada, a case which made its way to the UN.

According to an interview with the film’s makers in the DVD’s liner notes, the topic of the last film, American Outrage, had been explored by 60 Minutes, but the news program’s piece never ran because it was deemed too “political.”


WHAT: Wholphin at Urban Nomad Film Fest

WHEN AND WHERE:Screening of Wholphin short films tomorrow at 8:30pm at Paris Night Club (夜巴黎舞廳), 5F, 89, Wuchang St Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市武昌街二段89號5樓), above the IN89 (Hoover) movie theater in Ximending; screening of American Outrage with talk by Brent Hoff afterwards on Sunday at 3pm at Taipei Artist Village (台北藝術村), 7 Beiping E Rd, Taipei City (台北市北平東路7號), near Shandao Temple MRT Station (善導寺捷運站)


ADMISSION:Tomorrow’s screening is NT$700 or NT$500 for advance tickets and includes short films that start at 7:30pm before the Wholphin screening begins and entry to the party afterwards. The April 26 screening and talk is free. Check for ticket sales locations

Wholphin, however, doesn’t shy away from controversial subject matters. American Outrage will screen at Urban Nomad on Sunday and Please Vote for Me, in which a miniature democracy in a Chinese classroom runs askew, with hilarious and eye opening results, was shown yesterday at the festival’s opening. In an interview with the Taipei Times, Hoff talked about some of these short films, as well as the importance of having an outlet for filmmakers.

Taipei Times: Can you tell me about Please Vote for Me? I haven’t seen it, but I’ve read a little bit about it, and I think that it is something that audiences at Urban Nomad will find interesting.

Brent Hoff: Oh God, it’s such an amazing, hilarious, exciting film. You will love that film. It’s about a democratic election for hall monitor, which, as it turns out, is sort of a big deal, a bigger deal than something like student council president would be here in the United States. Very quickly, within five minutes, the entire class is bawling and there are dirty tricks, backstabbing, underhanded tactics — and these are all young kids. The very process of democracy has brought out the inner politician in these sweet, innocent students. It’s so hilarious and just so incredible that, somehow, the system encourages this kind of behavior — any system of government, for that matter — and it is just really profound because of that, not to mention that it’s also a very captivating film.

TT: I watched American Outrage and was really amazed that there hadn’t been more attention paid to it, especially since the case made it to the UN.

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