Short Focus – Narrative Shorts Competition
Narrative Short Competition Films, by Alex Gadway.
My Left Hand Man
As the title suggests, MY LEFT HAND MAN shows a twisted tale of unhealthy co-dependence and tumultuous relationships. Samuel, 17, Beckett, 19, and their father, Warren, are living in a world of debt controlled by loan sharks. They are constantly trying to play catch-up, performing Shakespeare in the street as a means to scrap by while still finding time to escape their dismal lives; Samuel secretly reads his “Cardinal Comet” comic, and his father drinks and gambles. The aesthetic of the shots alone make this film successful. Having previously dabbled in photography and oil painting, writer/director Antonia Bogdanovich’s intuition and creativity shine. This short also stars Thomas Drodie-Sangster, who is unbelievable in this film, and who I am sure you’ll recognize from LOVE, ACUTALLY and NOWHERE MAN. Despite the film’s dramatic genre, it is still accessible to everyone. Bogdanovich teaches us that we always have hope and can learn to persevere onto better things. See it in Shorts Program 3 – Postcards from the Battlefield at the Hideout Theatre, Sunday, October 21 7:15pm, or Tuesday, October 23 9:30pm.
This film is a fantastic coming-of-age fable about one Somali boy, Asad. Writer/director Bryan Buckley made it his mission to tell this story after coming across thousands of displaced Somalis in Kenya during his work on a short subject documentary (NO AUTOGRAPHS) in 2010. While the Somalis’ stories of escape and survival were harrowing, Buckley and his crew found their sense of pride and humor astounding. This film’s entire cast is composed of Somali refugees who fled to South Africa. Harun and Ali Mohammad, the two leading boy actors in the film, come from a family of sixteen children. Before the start of this film they had never attended school. Imagine being completely illiterate and having to memorize nineteen pages of dialogue in front of a camera crew and for a director who only knew how to say “yes” and “no” in Somali! ASAD has already screened at multiple festivals, and has won the “Audience Award” at the Los Angeles Film Festival as well as “Best Narrative Short” at the Tribeca Film Festival. See it in Shorts Program 6 – The World Comes of Age at the Hideout Theatre, Saturday, October 20 4:30pm, or Monday, October 22 5:30pm.
Peter at the End
This film is universally relatable because it takes place at home during a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving. Peter (Jon Heder, from NAPOLEON DYNAMITE) returns home after an unexplained absence. As Peter looks for ways to connect with those he left behind, the audience can undoubtedly feel anxiety and frustration as his friends and family don’t realize that there is an “end.” Director Russ Lamoureux allows Peter’s “end” to remain somewhat abstract and ambiguous, but what’s important is that there is an imminent one. Overall, this film gives a hard look at the flaws of humanity. As much as we have experienced our own “ends,” we may never truly grasp something’s significance until it’s truly gone. Like the end of this film, with or without concrete resolution, the end inevitably always comes. See it in Shorts Program 2 – The Search for Ourselves at the Hideout Theatre, Friday, October 19 7:15pm, or Thursday, October 25 6:30pm.
In short, Yardbird tells the tale of a small girl who takes on the town bullies that come to torment her dad. But the way this film came to fruition has an even more rewarding back story. Director Michael Spiccia (who studied design at the Western Australian School of Art and Design) and writer Julius Avery met through mutual friends and colleagues at Cannes (Julius Avery’s film Jerrycan screened at Cannes in 2008). Both hail from Western Australia. Both are the same age. Both have uncannily similar upbringings. That is, neither considered himself a “cool” or “tough” kid, and so both were inspired to use their childhood as a means to focus on themes like control and bullying. Main character Ruby (Mitzi Ruhlmann) portrays a perfect mix of both, without using a single world of dialogue. Yardbird was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. It is Michael Spiccia’s first film at Cannes. Even better? It’s his first film. Period. See it in Shorts Program 2 – The Search for Ourselves at the Hideout Theatre, Friday, October 19 7:15pm, or Thursday, October 25 6:30pm.
Struggling to come to terms with his mother’s tragic death one year later, FRIDAY is an emotional, intense, and thrilling short. This is no cookie-cutter plot. Director Sebastian Rice-Edwards starts the film with many things left unsaid. It’s what makes this film so intriguing, and it’s what allows us to put the pieces together as the plot unfolds. Just like the main character’s emotions, our feelings toward him fluctuate between sympathy (for his mother’s death) and hatred (towards his own intolerances). But despite our own judgments, this piece remains very current and relevant. See it in Shorts Program 6 – The World Comes of Age at the Hideout Theatre, Saturday, October 20 4:30pm, or Monday, October 22 5:30pm.
This fascinating film transcends Western media’s portrayal of war to show that life continues beyond. This film focuses on the lives of unlikely friends: a charismatic street boy, Ahmad, and a defiant blacksmith’s son, Rafi. Director Sam French inspires his audience by showing the boys’ determination to realize their dreams, despite their chosen destinies and despite their war-torn country. This film was shot entirely on location in Kabul, Afghanistan, by an alliance of Afghan and international filmmakers. It was produced through the Afghan Film Project, a non-profit foundation that tells Afghan stories and builds its country’s film industry. Through the creation of this film, more than a dozen Afghan filmmakers learned new skills and techniques in which they have been able to continue building their film industry. See it in Shorts Program 6 – The World Comes of Age at the Hideout Theatre, Saturday, October 20 4:30pm, or Monday, October 22 5:30pm.
La Vitesse du Passé
Translated as THE SPEED OF THE PAST, here writer/director Dominique Rocher toys with our concept of time in a completely new way. While some films show time through a series of non-chronological events, this film portrays it at varying speeds. While Margot and Joseph are renovating their countryside home, Joseph’s sense of time freezes as he’s falling off the roof. On the other hand, Margot’s life continues on normally. This scientific phenomenon is bizarre, imaginative, and thought-provoking. Rocher’s shots and editing are aesthetically pleasing and put the past, literally, right in front of us. While such a loss would stay with us emotionally, in this film it is physically present as well. Rocher succeeds in showing the mortality of humans, and more importantly, the fleeting (or not) nature of time. See it in Shorts Program 1– The Space Between Us at the Hideout Theatre, Sunday, October 21 9:30pm, or Tuesday, October 23 5:30pm.
When N.A.S.A. closed its shuttle program on July 8, 2011, the last launch (Atlantis) brought about a public audience unseen since the days of the Apollo moon missions. In this movie, specifically, we see “hope” as two people — a photographer and a 10th grade science teacher (played by Kate French and Jason Ritter, respectively) — come together. ATLANTIS strongly portrays nostalgia using a grainy aesthetic and black and white images. The film’s informative and inspiring nature transported me back to my middle school days where I dreamt of becoming an astronaut. The film also portrays the N.A.S.A. Program itself as well as the unknown future of Titusville, previously a thriving factory town. I found ATLANTIS to be enjoyable and also accessible to all audiences. See it in Shorts Program 1– The Space Between Us at the Hideout Theatre, Sunday, October 21 9:30pm, or Tuesday, October 23 5:30pm.
DAMAGED ONES suitably describes the story of these teenagers. The plot is relatively simple; the beautiful Bella has a new boyfriend, but her friend Cissi always finds herself one step behind. However, it is Bella who makes one bad decision and is completely unaware of the terrible consequences that are to follow. Director Johanna Paulsdotter allows the audience to harshly judge these teens. But what we all must remember is that being a teenager is really a game of survival filled with angst, confusion, and frustration. Never forget, we’ve all been there too. See it in Shorts Program 4 – Dirty Laundry at the Hideout Theatre, Thursday, October 18 9:40pm, or Monday, October 22 9:45pm.
PRAY exists in an alternate reality, where a girl can be sentenced to be buried-alive. Everything writer/director Theylia Petraki portrays is realistic. Everything, that is, except that this death sentence is so commonplace. Petraki places heavy emphasis on the inevitability of her looming death, and the girl seems to be the only one with the common sense and desperation to save herself. Even though the girl is able to escape home to research survival tactics, inevitably her hearse arrives to take her to the cemetery. It’s like a nightmare: no matter how fast you run (always in slow motion, of course), the person chasing you always catches up. You can try and escape, but Petraki successfully lures you into this bizarre reality that you can’t help but experience. See it in Shorts Program 2 – The Search for Ourselves at the Hideout Theatre, Friday, October 19 7:15pm, or Thursday, October 25 6:30pm.