“A wholphin or wolphin is a rare hybrid, born from a mating of bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus (mother), and a false killer whale Pseudorca crassidens (actually another dolphin species, taxonomically speaking). Although they have been reported to exist in the wild, there are currently only two in captivity, both at Sea Life Park in Hawaii.”
Other hybrid animals include: a Beefalo (Cow + Buffalo) , a Zonkey (Zebra + Donkey) and a Geep (Goat + Sheep). None of these cunning genetic post-modernists however, is as captivating, entertaining and unique as the Wholphin DVD (Short films + DVD format), produced by the hard working hipsters at Mc Sweeneys.
Released on a quarterly basis, with a loose imprimature to showcase short-form films, docos, animations and video art (occasionally these might be excerpts from longer features), Wholphin has maintained a high standard of programming across it’s 8 editions, and the countless screening events it has curated and programmed around the world. One of it’s great achievements to my mind, is that is provides a lasting and persistent home for short films whose lives may otherwise be limited to a series of screening at festivals, over a few short years. After which, where else would you get a chance to see such duration-challenged gems? Wholphin puts no limit on what year the work was released or made and proclaims itself a home for unseen and unknown films. It’s curatorial underpinning seems to consist of: a bit of narrative, some video art menu films, some science-y doco, some clever animation and whatever good shit they can find to round it out. Each issue has been as strong, if not a little bit stronger than the last, and it has increasingly attracted the work of big name film makers, artists and actors such as Spike Jonze, Errol Morris and Gus Van Sant.
In Issue 8, this tradition of butting luminaries up against obscurities is continued, with a smaller than usual, but characteristically strong and diverse crop of films. To begin with, the “menu films” of wholphin have always been one of their neatest tricks- initially the menu appears against a fairly static backdrop- a shot of the ocean, an empty field- or in this case, an empty bedroom. If you take your time choosing a film, or are distracted, leaving it on the menu screen- a small delight awaits- this static shot becomes a film! Like a video version of a hidden track, the menu films have sometimes been the domain of more abstract works, or as in this case, a piece commissioned and produced by Wholphin themselves. So if you linger on menu 1 on Wholphin 8, you will get the extra special treat of watching James Franco trashing his bedroom. Oh sorry, it’s performance art, and if you wait even longer, the performance turns into an excrutiatingly cute interview in which he mumblingly reveals his penchant for experimental film, video and performance art “projects”. Each menu (there are three) sees a different actor perform in the same space, now affected by the previous performance. It’s clever, simple and I guess the element of celebrity adds a bit of novelty to it. On one hand you could question why they would choose known over unknown actors, who might have more experience in the performance art field. But I would guess the motive was more driven by knowledge of the actors and their interests, and the ability to use the DVD as a medium for them.
Another highlight of Wholphin 8 is the neat, 32 minute documentary: “Kids + Money”, a frighteningly funny look at the attitudes of LA teens to wealth, aquisition, shopping, status and all things capital. There is an element of horror at play in this film- it plays up to your worst expectations of spoilt Beverley Hills brats, and at the same time reveals how insightful and self aware teens can be. In fact, it didn’t so much make me angry, as sad- that such young people could be so jaded and ruined by the time they are picking out a frock for junior prom.
Short Term 12 is a similarly sobering short set in a teen psych ward- a brief, stark and then suddenly tender look at the largely selfless toil of social workers. From Burger It Came is classic Wholphin: quirky, funny, self-effacing animation that is aesthetically innovative and micro-topical. “Love You More” is a surprising contribution by the regularly AWFUL visual artist Sam Taylor Wood. A couple of unglamorous touches in this first-love/first-time story between two suburban London punks, give it a crude-ish, unseamed edge that saved it from being an English “Wonder Years”.
A bunch of interviews with the film makers and performers in the accompanying booklet rounds out the package, giving some context to the ideas, techniques and stories on display. As with all McSweeney’s output, the design is consistently shmick, clean and simple- with a very San Francisco emphasis on retro fonts. Incredible value in it’s native currency at $19.95 a unit, probably less of a bargin in AUD.
Wholphin can be purchased from a range of music and bookstores in Melbourne (both on and off line)- its website unfortunately seems to be harbouring some kind of Trojan virus at the moment, and it’s not recommended to try your luck there…