a film by Joseph Mangat

SHORT FICTION / HD / 9 min / San Diego USA / 2011

An homage to the classic French New Wave film 400 Blows, Shoes aka Kids These Days is a short film that deals with a pensive teenage girl in desperate need for a creative outlet. We get a brief glimpse into her life as we follow her on a day when she disobeys her mother and escapes the suburbs to explore the city searching for the perfect pair of shoes.



This eight-minute film is quiet and unassuming. Yet it’s delicate nature stems not from a lack of confidence, but from the filmmaker’s cheeky desire to play a game with the viewer. At every turn, Shoes seems to be asking: I know you’re watching, but what do you see?

As if playing Hide and Seek with the viewer, Joseph Mangat, the filmmaker, appears among the pasted photographs in the protagonist’s room, and more explicitly, holding a camera in the reflection of the window in the tram. These personal details hint at the fact that the logic of Shoes is in the details. And Joseph deliberately packs as many of them as he can into every single frame.

With Shoes Mangat decides to tell a deceptively simple story: a teenage girl played by Jazel Pike (Mangat’s sister) disobeys her mother and goes downtown to steal a pair of shoes. By boldly stripping the plot down to its pure essence, Mangat frees himself up to create a fresh and engaging story. He seems to draw delight and inspiration in acknowledging the superficiality of the cinematic medium. For the interiors, Mangat meticulously sets out to make things look just the way he wants them to look. With this gesture, like the protagonist who covers her room with photographs and posters, Joseph betrays his real interest: mood, rhythm and colors.

Rather than relying on words or harrowing performances, Mangat uses purely cinematic techniques to make us feel the story. Every shot becomes a living, breathing surface and a means to recapture the unique state of adolescence: cluttered, self-absorbed, confused, awkward, delirious, edgy and beautiful.

Upon my first viewing of Shoes I was really struck with the director’s way of framing the city. By focusing on the mundane reality, and sticking to his subject with an almost documentary fervor, Joseph does for San Diego what other filmmakers have done for New York, Paris, Taipei, or Tokyo.

The ice cream truck scene is particularly striking. By keeping things, simple, modest, and focused, Joseph clearly reaps the benefits of his approach. This scene captures a rare interaction between the protagonist and other kids in the park. As the kids swirl in and out of the frame on their bikes, fiction and documentary converge, offering the viewer with a fresh, living, breathing moment.

The influence of Jean Luc Godard, Hou Sio Sien, and Tsai Ming Liang is unequivocal. But by keeping things very personal, playful, and modest, Mangat manages to make something that is uniquely his own.

Shoes aka Kids These Days reveals its artistry with each successive viewing. It provokes thought and inspires discussion.