Tag Archives: Ann Oren


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Piaffe can be rented or purchased on-demand.


FEATURING: Simone Bucio, Sebastian Rudolph, Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau

PLOT: A woman grows a horse tail when she accepts a job creating equine foley effects for an antidepressant commercial.

Still from Piaffe (2022)

COMMENTS: Rather than hiding the horse tail growing out of her backside, as one would expect, Eva cuts a hole in the rear of her pants so it can stick out. (This is likely a fetish for a very particular audience.) She’s grown the unnatural appendage during her obsessive observation of horse behavior, after being advised to “go out and look at some animals” so that she can imitate equine noises for an antidepressant commercial. The tail looks completely ridiculous: at least, until the film’s final twitching image.

But even aside from that  mutation, the world of Piaffe is strange. It’s not quite full-fledged surrealist piece, but it transgresses the boundaries of simple magical realism. Eva shares some sort of undefined workspace with a botanist who uses an antique rotating platform of dubious scientific value to study unfurling ferns. The company commissioning her foley work is helmed by an aggressively blond man with the worst bowl haircut seen onscreen in some time; his assistants are equally blond and sport equally bad haircuts, as if they’re all members of some weird horse-sound commissioning cult. The nurse at the mental hospital where her non-binary sibling Zara is checked in goes beyond Nurse Ratchet rude, into the realm of the aspiring dominatrix. The entire world seems set up to frustrate the shy girl, who is terrified of others. She might, it seems, benefit from a dose of Equili, the antidepressant whose advertisement she’s been scoring.

Eva finds the strength to emerge from her shell by carefully observing a horse, and even more so by finding the courage to approach the botanist. He opens her up with some b&d rose play—an erotic image with a unique sense of danger. Repeated, if less memorable, bondage sequences follow, before Eva rejects him mid-seduction, without expressing a reason. Perhaps the return of Zara from the hospital has something to do with it…

Piaffe describes a woman’s growing confidence, as she becomes a competent foley artist and a sexually mature being. This trans-adjacent film traffics in an uncomfortable blurring of sexual boundaries: between male and female, consensual and non-consensual, human and animal. There are meaningful connections and memorable scenes, and yet it often feels like an overstretched premise rather than a story. That may be due to the fact that it began its life as a 13-minute short called “Passage,” which starred the androgynous Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau as the foley artist. Pateau plays Zara in Piaffe, with a long horse-like mane but no visible tail. In Piaffe‘s liminal context, it seems only appropriate that they would shift from one character to another.


“…ideologically abstract and beguilingly weird.”–Jeanette Catsoulis, The New York Times (contemporaneous)


I’m a bit old to dance the “Slam”, but I still like to keep tabs on what the young people are up to. Please join me as I dive headlong into the short-form cyberspace transmissions of SlamDance 2021. (The festival’s entire slate, shorts and features can be watched online through February 25 for a $10 pass, $5 for students).  Some films may be online, in whole or in part, in other online venues; we’ve sprinkled in the occasional link or trailer.

For those who may be overwhelmed by my thoroughness, I can quickly (and highly) recommend the following for a 1/2-hour-or-so of programming: Opera (for awe), Passage (for weird), and The Danger in Front (for fun).


Letters from Your Far Off Country (dir. Suneil Sanzgiri; 18 min.)—It is doubtlessly mere coincidence that I watched this so soon after Hitler: a Film from Germany, but their parallel structure, and even general message, sync up uncannily. This movie explores “how history moves through us, and how we move through it”; and it asks, “What is one’s claim to the past?” It concludes “How we connect, how we comprehend, is up to us.” With a combination of contemporary news footage, 8mm-style home movies, song snippets, recorded speeches, and even what appears to be a Zoom conversation, Letters primarily addresses the Kashmir uprising in 1989, though the urgency of recent events is never far in the background. A thoughtful, moving video document, which I’m guessing will be banned by the local authorities.

Morning Sickness in the USA (dir. Cristine Brache; 3 min.)—Brache’s recorded phone conversation with her mother plays over a series of alternately odd and alarming images of pregnant women undergoing various observations. The mother’s anecdote about how she was sent to a mental institution for two weeks because doctors were unable to diagnose her strange nausea (“morning sickness”, as the title indicates) is amusingly related. The unsettling  photo-video undercurrent… less so.

Passage (dir. Ann Oren; 13 min.)—An androgynous foley artist sonically morphs into the horse for which they’re creating effects, and grows a handsome tail. I can’t help but think of Berberian Sound Studio brought to its (il)logical conclusion. Passage examines obsession through observation, but also illustrates the importance of sound design for the art of illusion. After clomping softly into the “Passage” theater, our protagonist views the fruits of their labor before disappearing. What begins with human feet ends with a horse’s eye.

Rumi and his Roses (dir. Navid Sinaki; 5 min.)—Navid Sinaki tells the story of his first boyfriend using the unlikely medium of DVD menu Continue reading SLAMDANCE 2021: THE BIG SHORTS COMPENDIUM