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by Katrina Daschner

grade: 7

Courageous, exaggerated, funny, Harbour Pearls is in every way ‘the performance we don’t expect’. A visually sophisticated and captivating short film urges us to look at the world from a different perspective.

Two women, many women

A chorus of women dressed in white is shown to us by the camera. After a few seconds, a tracking shot shows us their faces one by one. Each of them is serious and looks directly at the camera. What will happen next? Already from these first shots, we can guess that what we are about to witness is a very special spectacle. A show that recalls what has been done in the past, celebrating women, all women, but also the queer world, without (almost) ever taking itself too seriously. We are talking about the short film Harbour Pearls, directed by artist, performer and director Katrina Daschner in 2008, and the first part of the Nouvelle Burlesque Brutal project.

And, in fact, burlesque is one of the great protagonists of this Harbour Pearls. Burlesque together with not one but two artists – Harbourgirl and Glamourgirl, both played by Katrina Daschner herself – in a solemn and bizarre performance that recalls an Egyptian film from the 1940s starring Naima Akef and in which the spectator himself feels directly involved. The chorus has already been introduced to us. The set is almost completely black, except for two undefined shiny objects. Then, suddenly, magic happens. Harbourgirl, a stripper, steps onto a small stage and, to the notes of Las Chicas de la Isla, begins her dance. A few moments later, Glamourgirl also makes her appearance, dressed as a sort of femme fatale from the 1950s and, similarly to her ‘colleague’, looking seductively in the direction of the camera.

In Harbour Pearls, the two protagonists (who are often shown simultaneously looking at each other) immediately appear sensual and attractive. And yet, with their exaggerated mimicry, which points heavily at every possible cliché, they turn out to be much more ironic and self-ironic than it might initially seem. How is woman considered in the society in which we live? What is expected of women all the time? And so, with a simple and minimalist mise-en-scène that follows a precise elliptical structure, the director aims first of all to overturn all our pre-existing convictions, involving us personally in this interesting and sophisticated game of glances and gestures, in which there is no lack of close-ups and details intended to show us reality from different perspectives.

Courageous, exaggerated, funny, Harbour Pearls is in every way ‘the performance we don’t expect’. A visually sophisticated and captivating short film urges us, therefore, to look at the world from a different perspective. How ‘foolish’ have we hitherto been to consider things only on the basis of trivial clichés? This is a question we should constantly ask ourselves. Katrina Dascher knows this well. And the laughter of the chorus at the end of the short film is worth more than a thousand words in this respect.

Original title: Hafenperlen
Directed by: Katrina Daschner
Country/year: Austria / 2008
Running time: 12’
Genre: experimental, musical
Cast: Katrina Daschner, An Kaler, Frau Professor La Rose, Eva Trimmel, Marissa Lobo, Delphine Mae, Sushila Mesquita, Carola Platzek, Katharina Aigner, Erika Doucette, Marty Huber, Dominika Krejs, Bix, Dorian Bonelli, Alice Chwosta, Julia Groeblacher, Nilbar Gueres, Guelcin Koerpe, Juliane Lippholdt, Dorit Margreiter, Sabine Marte, Fanny Neuhold, Flora Schanda, Catrin Seefranz, Cordula Thym
Screenplay: Katrina Daschner
Cinematography: Katrina Daschner
Produced by: Catrin Seefranz, Lady Chutney

Info: the page of Harbour Pearls on the website of the sixpackfilm