What It’s About: “A repressed woman does away with her domineering father, freeing herself to pursue her heart’s desire. Using a local folk magic called “root-work”, she conjures a demon to aid her in creating the man of her dreams — but soon finds herself in a waking nightmare.” — Bree Newsome
Why I Like It: This short hits the perfect tone from minute one, with Charmaine’s opening words, “Everybody knows if you’re fixin’ to GOSSIP, you gotta have a little dirt on somebody. And everybody knows if you’re fixin’ to BURY, you gotta throw a little dirt on somebody. But don’t everybody know that if you’re fixin’ to CONJURE, it’s best to take a little dirt from a body…” This story of southern folklore and a woman going after her own desires is brilliantly acted and compelling from start to finish — with an ending that gave me chills.
What It’s About: “A single mother battles her son’s fear of a monster in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.”
Why I Like It: “Monster” is the short film that was later extended into the feature length Babadook — both of which are great. In both, a woman is harangued by her overactive son and his imaginative fears. How this develops into revealing the supernatural force at work is a bit different in each, with the condensed narrative of the short adding to the dark fairy tale tone. It’s able to build a story without needing to explain much — the monster is a monster andcan be defeated. In other words, it’s possible to master one’s fears by giving them a stern talking to. I also admire the beautiful black and white cinematography with its stark shadows.
Friends, it is February and that means that it is Women in Horror Month. I’ll be participating by consuming books, movies, and short films written and/or directed by women — and highlighting as many as I can here on my website.
What It’s About: A 13-year-old girl and her grandpa struggle to survive in a zombie infested world.
Why I Like It: The zombies are situated into the background, as such the violence and scares are subtle with the relationship between the grandfather and granddaughter being at the forefront. The writing in this regard is excellent with believable dialog and some genuinely moving moments, and Frankie Faison and Saoirse Scott both do a great job of bringing these characters to life. Every scene is well utilized, so that when the truth about the zombies is revealed, the story delivers some chilling realizations.
Short films (usually defined as films 40 minutes or less) can be powerful, delivering an impactful story in a short timeframe, with every scene, every moment carrying weight. As a fan of the short film form, I want to highlight some examples of the medium that I love and hopefully bring more attention to the creators. I’ll be sharing narrative shorts in a multitude of genres: horror, action, comedy, romance, animation, and so on. Other shorts (like the one I’m presenting today) may be in the form of poems in which the visual medium of films complements and uplifts the language. And as I discover more of them, I may throw in some short docs and video essays that I find Bpartculularly compelling.
What It’s About: A poetic contemplation on the value of solitude.
Why I Like It: Uplifting and beautiful, this short presents a poem that an instructional style that narrates the potential of solitude as a state to seek, rather than avoid. The imagery, music, editing, and animation come together with the words (sometimes scrawled across the screen) to express the full, soothing impact of the piece. Every time I watch How to Be Alone, I find myself calmed. It’s lovely.
I love short films and am fascinated with how they are able to tell compelling stories in tiny spaces. I’ve been wanting to watch the Oscar nominated short film showcases that play every year, but haven’t had people to go with or the timing was off. This year, I made it happen, taking time to see both the Animated and Live Action selections, and it was fantastic. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to also see the documentary shorts and I don’t think I’ll be able to this year. But I’m making it a goal for next year.
As a quick note, it was interesting to discover that all of the live action shorts were significantly longer than the animated shorts (with one exception), being 15 minutes to 30 minutes in length. I tend to think of short films as being in the 3-15 minute range, maybe due to the number of shorts I’ve seen through YouTube of Vimeo. I’m sure cost and time is a part of the reason why the live action movies were longer, with animation taking more time to create cell by cell. The differences in length might also have to do with how people connect with animation compared to live action. I’m not sure. But it’s interesting that the animated shorts were often able to provide as complete and moving of stories as the longer pieces in a shorter amount of time.
My thoughts are below, with links to trailers provided. .
The Animated Shorts
Blind Vaysha, directed by Theodore Ushev (8 minutes/Canada) – Blind Vaysha is a strange folk tale about a girl who is born with a strange infliction, in which she can see only the past out of one eye and only the future out of the other, essentially making her blind to the present. It’s a bit more talky than most of the other animated shorts, but the art is beautiful with a heavy-lined graphic style and strong-toned colors. I loved the way some images overlapped, stretched into impossible shapes, or presented sketchy, swirling images. A little more intellectual than emotional, but it’s my favorite of the animated films.
Pearl, directed by Patrick Osborne (6 minutes/USA) – A girl and her dad tour the country in an old hatchback, busking and making music and facing life. Although the animation is somewhat blocky and not as dynamic or perfect as some of the other offerings, this is a moving story filled with music telling a sweet story with almost no dialog.
Piper, directed by Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer (6 minutes/USA) – This story of a baby piper bird facing his fear of the ocean is funny and adorable in that predictable Disney/Pixar way. The animation is technically perfect and beautifully rendered, worth watching for that alone.
Pear Cider and Cigarettes, directed by Robert Valley and Cara Speller (35 minutes/Canada/UK) – There are parts of Pear Cider and Cigarettes that are gorgeous, the animation slick and stylish with hard angles that reminded me of certain comic book drawings. In the story, which is based on a real human, a man describes the dynamic personality of his friend, Techno, who eventually became a hardcore alcoholic. This is the most adult of the animated films, presenting a complex and straight look at sex, drugs, alcohol, and the fall of a friend. It’s also the longest out of any of the short films I watched. Although the last third of the film was moving, the first two-thirds were a little slow going for me and I think it could have been cut down a bit while still maintaining its powerful effect.
Borrowed Time, directed by Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj (7 minutes/USA) – A sheriff returns to the site of his father’s death. The CGI animation is good, but the story didn’t connect with me, despite a few genuinely surprising moments.
Due to the adult nature of Pear Cider and Cigarettes, the screening showed three additional animated films in order to give parents time to bring their kids out of the theater, if need be.
Timecode, directed by Juanjo Giménez (15 minutes/Spain) – One of my favorite shorts of the night, Timecode is the story of two parking lot security officers who begin communicating with each other in an usual way. This utterly delighted me. It’s wonderful and a bit weird. It probably is not going to win, but it’s the one I’d watch again and again without hesitation.
Sing, directed by Kristof Deák and Anna Udvardy (25 minutes/Hungary) – A girl comes to a new school and is delighted to join the school’s award-winning choir — only to discover that the choir is not what it seems. It’s a wonderful story about friendship and people coming together in quiet revolt against unfair systems.
La Femme et le TGV, directed by Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff (30 minutes/Switzerland) – A bit of a quirky tale and almost-but-not-quite romance in which an older woman set in her routine. Every day she waves a flag at the passing TGV train, which leads to a mysterious answer from one rider. It’s sweet, even if the ending felt a bit abrupt.
Ennemis Intérieurs, directed by Sélim Azzazi (28 minutes/France) – An educated, Algerian man applying for French citizenship finds himself confronted with a young immigration official whose examinations grow more and more invasive. This is essentially just a movie of two men sitting in a room talking, but the writing and acting are stellar, making this intense and captivating as each man tries to gain control, although the power is clearly skewed in favor of the young immigration official. There’s a lot going on in this, reflecting the current issues surrounding immigration and prejudice against Muslims. I’d like to watch it again and think about the layers some more.
Silent Nights, directed by Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson (30 minutes/Denmark) – A woman working at a homeless shelter begins a romance with a homeless refugee from Ghana. Although the acting is great and it’s well done, there were aspects of this that annoyed me in terms of how the young woman approached him, more as someone to save instead of as a whole person. I also really didn’t like the ending (which I won’t talk about because of spoiling).