Short of the Week

Sundance 2011 Short Films Online: Program 2

Festival / January 12, 2011

In last week’s first program, Sundance reached back into its archives and issued forth a lineup of short films by four directors who are debuting features films in this year’s festival. Today, a new set of 4 short films have been made available through the YouTube Screening Room, this time by four directors who are alumni of the Sundance Labs, the teaching side of the larger year-round Sundance Insitute. These filmmakers were mentored in the Institute’s workshops and subsequently produced the works you see here. With the curation of this segment, the Sundance Institute’s commitment to developing minority voices can really be felt. Weiler’s Pandemic… is the only debut I believe, but three of the four directors have work featured again in this year’s fest. So, without further ado, let’s have a look.  Again, from the press release:


still image from the short film: Conversion

Conversion (Nanobah Becker)

In a remote corner of the Navajo nation, circa 1950, a visit by Christian missionaries has catastrophic consequences for a family. A graduate of Columbia Film School, Nanobah Becker does not have a film in this year’s festival.

still image from the short film: PandemicPandemic 41.410806, -75.654259 (Lance Weiler)

Bree and her little brother Tyler know that their parents awaken only at sundown and are capable of strange and dangerous nocturnal behaviors. Bree plots their escape, but Tyler stands in her way, unwilling to leave their family home and give up on the parents he loves so much.

Lance Weiler’s transmedia storytelling experience, Pandemic 1.0, is part of the New Frontier section of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

still image from the short film: pop foulPop Foul (Moon Molson)

A boy sees his father attacked by a local thug on the way home from a Little League game and agrees to help hide the incident from his mother.

Moon Molson will premiere his short film, Crazy Beats Strong Every Time, at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Sikumi (Andrew Okpeaha MacLean)

The story of an Inuit hunter who drives his dog team out on the frozen Arctic Ocean in search of seals, but instead, becomes a witness to murder.

Andrew Okpeaha MacLean’s feature film, On the Ice, will premiere in the U.S. Dramatic Competition section of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.


Again, another good lineup of classics from Sundance. Check below in the comment section for my mini-reviews of these four films, and check back in a week when we’ll examine the next batch. At that point we’ll be getting into films that will be screening at this year’s festival. Till then, check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

Co-Founder of Short of the Week, Sondhi lives in Brooklyn working as a Curator for Vimeo. Follow his musings on online video, direct distribution and branded content: @jasondhi.
  • Jason Sondhi

    Conversion: 9min.

    I don’t think highly of this film at all. Its central drama is an unexplained plot contrivance. The Native Grandfather meets missionaries, comes home and then lays down to die, not saying anything. WTF? This film itself has nothing to say but perpetuate a narrative of victimhood, and it cannot do that in a cogent or insightful way. See “Sikumi” in this same program for a quality perspective on Native life.

    Score: 2/10

  • Jason Sondhi

    Pandemic 41.410806, -75.654259: 9min

    Lance Weiler is the most accomplished filmmaker in this bunch, having directed a couple of well-received features in addition to being a well-regarded theorist of new media. All this shows as this is a horror film with some heart, and the craft of the film is strong: tension is held well, and the cinematography and set design are effective.

    Unfortunately this short is just a small part of a huge multimedia project that Weiler is rolling out, and I can’t really say the short stands on its own terribly well.

    Score 6/10

  • Jason Sondhi

    Pop Foul: 20min

    Moon Molson is a recent Columbia grad and I believe this was his thesis film. The film explores how violence can exacerbate intergenerational conflicts in a family, bringing them to head. With that theme is felt very reminiscent to another short I love, which interestingly won Sundance the year after “Pop Foul” played—Simon Ellis’ masterpiece Soft.

    Anytime you can be put in comparison to that film you’re doing something right, and though Pop Foul is a bit too long and its ending didn’t feel foreshadowed enough, it does enough right to merit your viewing.

    Score 7/10

  • Jason Sondhi

    Sikumi (On the Ice):

    This is a film we’ve reviewed on the site before and I think it’s pure brilliance. It missed our Top Ten this year, but through no fault of mine—I listed it #2 on my personal list. Maclean is back this year with a feature version of his 2008 Sundance winner, and I look forward to seeing it. Cinematographer Cary Fukunaga has also moved on brilliantly from this, having recently wrapped up the wonderful looking “Jane Eyre” adaptation featuring “Alice in Wonderland” star Mia Wasikowska. Check out my original review here:

    Score: 9/10

  • Andrew S Allen

    Nice coverage, Jason. I’m a big fan of Sikumi (being a fellow Alaskan myself). It’s clearly the star of this bunch. I love the subtlety to the shifting emotions—very Alaskan. It makes a film like Pop Foul seem very heavy-handed.

  • Sondhi

    Sikumi is clearly the best of the 8 films so far, which is kind of a shame since its been available for so long. Pop Foul bends over backwards to explain itself, which is a negative, but I don’t think the emotions themselves were unsubtle.

  • Sundance 2011 Online Short Films 3 | Watch the Best Online Short Films

    [...] in, supplying us with another batch of short films via the YouTube Screening Room (see Part 1 and Part 2). This week begins the wave of selections that are in-competition films for this year’s fest. [...]

  • http://- Hans J. Eiðisgarð

    Sikumi was my favorite in this program, but pop foul was good as well.

  • Jason Sondhi

    Conversion is doing really well on YouTube however, over 250k views…

  • http://- Hans J. EIðisgarð

    Really? I thought it felt long even for a short film.

  • Jason Sondhi

    I can’t explain it. It’s by far the most views of any of the films except 8 Bits, which was a viral hit even before the festival. Only a couple of others have even topped 100k.

    As a larger point, I think its criminal the half-ass rollout Sundance and YouTube are doing. I can’t get the screening room to display properly 75% of the time no matter what browser I use, and the batch releases weren’t even promoted on Twitter by any of the 3 Sundance Festival promotional accounts. The films of batch #5 are going to be lucky to break 5,000 views apiece.