Last week I spent 30 provocative, eye-opening minutes immersed in the visionary work of Norwegian filmmaker, Henry K. Norvalls. One of those rare artists that completely forgoes spectacle and oversimplification, in favour of nuance and inspiring intense debates among his audience members. Be warned: Norvalls provides no answers in his shorts. Instead, all his work offers up are questions upon questions and a whole lot of grey areas. And the three films he chose to bless Short of the Week with, represent this in beautiful abundance – Shower, Sweet Things and Taxfree. While individually each film concerns itself with a unique subject matter; collectively they possess real subtleness and awareness.
First of the trilogy is Shower, a short that explores what happens when a hyper-masculine, religious gym bunny finds himself in an unexpected homosexual encounter, and the grizzly outcome when he’s found out. The spontaneity of violence that underpins this short is both alarming and sickening in equal measure. However, it perfectly encapsulates the irrationality of homophobia and the senseless violence born out of it.
Then we have Sweet Thing, about the discomfort of a budding photographer during an interview with her prospective boss; a man far more interested in her looks rather than her talent. Against the #MeToo movement and in particular, the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Sweet Thing seems all the timelier and needed. Initially, the scene may seem harmless, innocuous, and dare I say it… pleasant. However, upon repeated viewing, its delicate nuance slowly unfurl itself as you become increasingly aware of the suggestiveness and leery undertones thinly vailed by the boss. Thus, helping to remind the male half of the audience that sex and objectification are ever-present spectres in women’s lives.
However, most arresting and provocative of the three is Taxfree which explores the theme of Human Trafficking, in particular, an Eritrean immigrant being touted in Norway. What makes the short so effective is its effortless ability lull you into a false sense of security. As in, you almost convince yourself that what you are seeing is consensual, that the (Selome Emnetu) woman wants to be there… chooses to be there. In truth, it’s far from it. She may be consenting at the moment, but only because her options are limited, and these richer, Whiter individuals are only too ready to exploit that desperation. The film only becomes more provocative when you consider the current controversy around Oxfam, and how senior aid workers have been found exploiting vulnerable people for nefarious gain.
Henry K. Norvalls is one of the most exciting and interesting voices on the current short film circuit. So, if you have a spare 30 minutes at hand, I strongly urge you to take a seat and allow his exceptional oeuvre to provoke and expand your mind. Ultimately, in life, things are rarely just black and white. More often than not, as Norvalls work has shown, there are a whole lot of grey areas in between.