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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

DC SHORTS FEST 1

The Barrows
Tori Garrett, Australia

Plot Synopsis: No matter how dark their pasts, Mr. and Mrs. Barrow share a bond no walls, or even mortality, can break.
Best Female Director-The Barrows; Tori Garrett (Australia)

Of all of the films that I feel could and should be expanded into feature length, this is the one. It left me aching for more! In ten short minutes we grew to love this couple. We didn’t care what they had done to get into their current situation. Their love for one another was all we cared about, and our hearts were aching with theirs.

I know that my eyes weren’t dry at the end of this, and I heard an audible sniff from my filmmaker companion as the credits rolled. More Barrows please, Ms. Garrett!


The Little Gorilla
Harry Kellerman, USA

Plot Synopsis: Beneath the looming NYC skyscrapers, and in the shadows of an older brother, the Little Gorilla must unchain the King Kong within.
Family Film Showcase-The Little Gorilla; Harry Kellerman (USA)

This film was a field day of imagery and influence from the obvious King Kong, but also from a bit of Star Wars, with a most Obi-Wan like elder brother guiding Little Gorilla toward his challenge.

I have no idea how Kellerman got such strong, driven, and focused performances out of Little Gorilla and his older brother. This film hinged upon these two children and the enormous objective meeting obstacle and action overcoming repeated obstacles. This trio truly worked brilliantly together and allowed us to watch as though the camera were merely picking up the brothers’ thoughts…while some spectacular imagery was winking at us in the background.

On top of everything, this is a family-friendly film, as witty and strong as Craig Hammill’s The Cleats of Imminent Doom from 2005. It deserves to get picked up and seen as widely.

The Run
Shawn Costa, USA

Plot Synopsis: Jack’s life is turned upside down when a shadowy figure begins running after him, yelling terrible screams of agony.

God love the festival committee for putting this film exactly where it was during each program! It was very well shot from beginning to end, suspenseful, and the payoff was dynamite. I have always been a fan of (and continue to be) titles that reflect the theme of a film on multiple levels. I’m still having a field day with this one!!


When I am on the Moon
Joseph Hicks, USA

Plot Synopsis: There were robots everywhere. Really.

Oddly, this film that was full of robots was very, very human. One poignant quote from it that I felt hit the nail on the head was, “…so that being alone will not feel so much like being lonely.”

During the Q & A afterwards, Director Joseph Hicks confirmed that he basically crafted this film around the theme of how lonely he was while spatially separated from the woman he loves. He really got this one right.


A Man in the Attic
Ali Imran Zaidi, USA

Plot Synopsis: An American Muslim ponders, discusses and ruminates on his position in America, and the decline of his people in western civilization.

I will start by saying that this lovely and heartbreaking film was my favorite of Program 1, which I felt was the strongest of the three programs I attended over the weekend.

Ali Imran Zaidi in seven and one half minutes beautifully articulates where so much has gone astray in our country in the last six years. Aren’t we as human beings by nature supposed to be at our best when things are worst? Then why instead have so many of our minds closed and we have begun to lash out at anyone who we assume must have the worst qualities in common with the miniscule minority who lashed out at us?

In this film, we view beautiful, peaceful images of our fellow Americans worshipping in their manner of prayer (it happens to be Islam) adjacent to a U.S. flag. And we hear voice over words as we watch: “What did I do for them to hate me?” and “…stripped of my humanity because a tiny piece of us caused harm.” These words are so universal and could easily come from so many minorities who become victimized due to ignorance. Of course the attic reminds us of Anne Frank, specifically. Human beings are so universal… we really don’t change.

This is a film that needs to be seen in wide distribution…particularly in schools.


Do You Have A Minute?
Erik Gernand, USA

Plot Synopsis: Conservative Christian George and liberal feminist Liz are sidewalk activists who find that they might actually have something in common. But can love overcome their differences?

In this political town where one sees characters exactly like these two daily, it is fun to see a film that focuses on two political extremists who quickly deflect their focus toward their similarities instead of their differences. I particularly enjoyed Gernand’s choice that Liz and George seem to lack passion for specific causes, but instead find their purposes from generic laundry lists of every cliche extreme cause. It makes one think about how many people are out there sticking their noses in someone else’s business, or bedroom perhaps, because they are lacking something genuine in their own lives.


Fortune Hunters
Thom Harp, USA

Plot Synopsis: When a writer at a fortune cookie factory accidentally sends a love letter intended for his ex-girlfriend to the printing press, every cookie at every restaurant reveals a piece of his broken heart.

Program One ended strongly with Fortune Hunters. Our poor hero says in exasperation, “I’m Chinese and I work at a fortune cookie factory! Confucius say: “I’m a walking cliché!”

Through the vehicle of a man dumping his girlfriend for one of those arbitrary reasons that seem like such a good idea at the time, we get to explore what just might happen if one’s personal email messages got out to the public in the form of fortunes. Brilliant!

Suddenly, complete strangers think the messages are meant for them and read untold deep meanings into them. Think about that the next time you email your boyfriend…”You know what you did!”….under the right context, someone might reflect upon that for days and it could be life changing!

Very strong performances in this film about people getting on with their lives and doing what they need to do to change them…even if they just need a little nudge by a fortune cookie.


Knife Shift
Jim Hudson, New Zealand

Plot Synopsis: Welcome to Room 110: Check in with your luggage; check out in a body bag.

This film was a visually rich one, and we were taken on a wild ride through this tale through the point of view of the ultimate mark. Although a bit predictable, Knife Shift was nonetheless engrossing to see how everything unraveled.


Missed Connections
Jes Therkelsen, USA

Plot Synopsis: Ever wondered about the places you never went to? The friends you never got a chance to know? The love you never made the effort to discover?

Director Jes Therkelsen said in the post Program Q & A that this film was inspired by the “I Saw You” section that from the local DC City Paper. Similar experiences are available in dozens of brother and sister columns nationwide if not worldwide. If you’ve ever been the subject of one of these particular ads, or the author of one, this piece may be of particular interest. It explores a big “what if” factor. What would happen were people in our contemporary society not quite so afraid to take risks and actually put themselves out there and explore their impulses to connect with others to whom they feel compelled to reach out?

I had begun to make negative feedback notes for this review when someone posed a specific question for the panel of directors inquiring about who was interested in expanding his or her short into feature length. Therkelsen converted me into an instant fan when he very candidly volunteered that his film was too long already. This was my only issue with an otherwise terrific film, which captured bare honesty of subjects with whom so many of us can identify. With a bit more selective editing this will be a jewel.


Public Art, Private Parts
Brandon Bloch, USA

Plot Synopsis: When law firm tenants of the building demanded the removal of Ming Yi Sung’s unique crochet sculptures, she responded with a creative compromise that drew media attention and won the praise of artists and knitters throughout the country.

This frolicsome film featuring a whimsical woman’s playful art actually brings up some deep issues. At the top of the list is, of course, censorship in the year 2007. Why is it again, that simple male and female body parts, that the last time I checked we all have, (although mine aren’t crocheted, dammit), are considered so offensive that highly educated adults (i.e. supposedly not ignorant ones) demanded their removal? The beauty and simplicity of Ms. Sung’s solution was so marvelous, that perhaps we can all take a lesson. Instead of taking offense, she merely used her creativity.


Robin Williams Has No Top Lip
Paul Haber, USA

Plot Synopsis: What begins as a light-hearted bit of eavesdropping turns bad for two single guys.

As this was based on actual overheard public conversation, it was all the more fascinating. One often forgets that anything said in a public place is fair game to be overheard and emotionally responded to…The two performances by the mustached actors were priceless. Were this not an actual overheard conversation, I’d be sending out kudos to the script writer for brilliant stream-of-consciousness dialogue between the overheard women. Somehow, I feel like I know them…


Shuteye Hotel
Bill Plympton, USA

Plot Synopsis: As police investigate gruesome murders at a rundown hotel, they become victims of an evil force.

This was a roller-coaster thrill ride of a film! It was witty, suspenseful, and elicited audible responses of surprise from the audience. We actually connected with animated characters, black and white ones at that. There was a splash of red hue here and there to pull our focus, but this was an intense seven-minutes on the edge of our seats!


Soft
Simon Ellis, United Kingdom

Plot Synopsis: In order to preserve his fragile sense of masculinity, a father is forced to deal with problems that he hasn’t had to face since leaving school.

Audience Favorite, Show #1Soft; Simon Ellis (United Kingdom)

In much the same way David Mamet’s Oleanna has done for me live, this intense short film left my peace-loving jaw agape at how I could possibly be rejoicing when pent up victims tire of turning the other cheek and at last explode into standing up for themselves by speaking the only language a crowd of bullies understands…violence. In his 14 minute film, Ellis connects us to the characters so deeply and quickly, summoning such empathy for them, I wonder what other behavior we might have thought justified.

Carolan

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