Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Short Films at SXSWFilm Festival Thrilling Entertainment by Sandra Kent

If  you want to be thrilled and entertained go to a film festival and watch short films.  Shorts different categories are; documentary, narrative, animation and experimental.  They are usually eleven minutes long and pack in a narrative with power by the force of a story.  I am overwhelmed by the amount of talent seen.  The filmmakers were chosen by a sea of five thousand submissions.  Length can be a tricky issue when it comes to short films. Some narrative shorts have been as long as forty minutes and as little as fifteen seconds.  The filmmaker  only has so much time to tell their story so they do it with passion.

Most of the films I saw had a conflict that needed to be resolved.  In the Shorts Film , "The Mutt," the conflict was confronting a family member about their addiction to alcohol without offending them.  The film starts with the sister trying to help in her usual way but what got the alcoholics attention is when she said, "I'm not coming back."  His eyes revealed fear and abandonment as if to say I can't do this alone.

A short film's character usually has a choice to make.  For example in the film, "Submarine,"by director Mounia Aki,  Hala had to decide whether she was going to leave the town she loved in Lebanon.  She clinged to what remained of her home after garbage was piled so high it looked like a wall of waste.  Yet she had relationships in the town that made her want to stay.  The window in her home fell down but she didn't give up, she looked for a new one.

Single moments are played out in a short story., but they usually have a ticking clock.  In the story about a shooter at a school the secretary had to talk him out of it.  She acknowledged his pain and treated him as a human being.  The actress who played the office worker was so believable, I cried when she cried because it was over.  I wanted to take her photograph to remember her performance. The writer took the story from a 911 phone call.  A short story should have a hero with a goal or obstacle/antagonist in the way.  The office worker was truly a hero in a real life situation.
Special Jury recognition for acting went to Tarra Riggs in DeKalb Elementary Short Narrative Film.

Documentary Short films also tell a story.  In the Documentary Short film, The Watchmaker, by director Marie Cecile, the story was a portrait of a Persian watchmaker who weaved his philosophy of life as he repaired watches.  Marie Cecile had to gain his trust as she filmed in his home to gain a sense of who he was.

The story of Nidal, was compelling about a fourteen year old dealing with the effects of conflict.  Nidal is one of 4.8 million Syrian refuges who have been displaced by war. Tarek Turkey, the director, did a masterful job of interviewing family members who were trying to survive after an attach killed all of the male members. The women had to gather together to pick crops for a dollar an hour so they had food to eat.

 In the Documentary Short Film, "The Collection," by Adom Roffman, he located two friends from a newspaper article in Omaho, Nebraska.  The two friends stumbled upon 40,000 Printer Blocks used to make newspaper advertisements for movies.  The practice was stopped in 1980 so the collection became very valuable,worth more than a million dollars.   I loved how the artistic creations of movie advertisements were weaved into the story.  Many would have been forgotten without the discovery.  There are so many creative people that go unrecognized.

The winner of the shorts documentary division went to, "Little Potato" Director,  Wes Hurley's autobiographical tale of growing up in Soviet Union Russia. Nathan M. Miller, Cinematographer and Director filmed interesting interviews of Wes's mom who was a mail order bride to a man living in Seattle.  They wanted to find a better life for themselves.  Wes and his mother discuss their love for American film.  It was a driving force on their journey.

In the Documentary Short Film, "Perfectly Normal," Jordan is a middle aged  man with Asperger's Syndrome who lives in Los Angeles.  He has found a stable job with routine which makes him feel comfortable.   But he reveals his inner feelings as he eats in the workroom, sometimes alone.   love the filming of his relationship with Toni as they go on adventures together.  They seem to both need each other.

So if you go to a film festival don't forget the Shorts Division.  They are the heart of the film industry where creativity is revealed.

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