North America’s largest festival dedicated to short film returns next week. For the second year organizers have created an online component to supplement the proceedings. You can check out last year’s coverage here.
I love Palm Springs for their encyclopedic focus on short film, but any festival that features over 300 short films beckons questions about its editorial taste. These ten films that comprise the online fest represent a good cross-section of the festival I think—a few standouts, some festival veterans, but some filler too. Read our thoughts below.
COLOUR BLEED: dir. Peter Szewczyk | 9min | Poland
An idealistic young girl’s fate is sealed when she crosses paths with a scheming and enigmatic old woman.
The synopsis hints at fairytale territory and the film tries hard to get there, with a story about an innocent wounded by an old crone, but despite the special effects wizardry, involving splashes of colour in an otherwise dreary urban landscape, this film never rises above the level of technically impressive calling card. Without real characters or a coherent story, we’re left to admire the technical aspects of the filmmaking but nothing more.
7/10 : James McNally
IT AIN’T OVER: dir. Caleb Slain | 11min | USA
After being informed he has 2-5 years to live, Ed begans examining what hope can look like in a situation where clearly none exists.
And just like that, a film goes 180 degrees from the one before. Ed Dobson is a Christian pastor who has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This degenerative disease will certainly kill him, but in a very simple and effective way, this short documentary allows him to share why he hasn’t lost hope. Incredibly moving and intimate, It Ain’t Over strips things down to the bare essence, with Ed’s voiceover carrying us along as we watch his daily routine. Here’s a film where the filmmaker doesn’t call attention to himself, although his choices are all impeccable.
9/10 : James McNally
KITCHEN SINK DRAMA: dir. Nicholas Clifford | 5min | AUS
Slacker Aaron serves up pregnant girlfriend Stacey the worst marriage proposal ever.
This falls into the category of short films I like to call “punch liners.” There’s nothing special about the filmmaking, or even the performances. Instead, the whole thing feels more like a sketch from a comedy troupe. It’s not even particularly funny, with our protagonist insulting his pregnant girlfriend en route to a “just kidding” moment.
6/10 : James McNally
LOST & FOUND: dir. Sam Washington | 4min | UK
Things go very awry for a young woman having a very bad day.
Made for a “48 Hour Challenge,” this film is another “punch liner” but does use camera angles to convey the unease of a woman in an empty parking garage who seems to have lost her car. When she finally finds it, she sees a man trying to break in and, against all logic, confronts him. The punch line is cute, but I’m still not a fan of these “skit” films.
6/10 : James McNally
(NOTES ON) BIOLOGY: dir. Ornana Films | 6min | USA
A bored High School student turns his Biology notes into a wildly adventurous flipbook.
This is a personal fave. Winner at SXSW, Vimeo Award shortlister, and certifiable viral hit, this entertaining film got a previous writeup on the site from Craig Downing.
10/10 : Jason Sondhi
ONE DAY: dir. Daniel Junge | 17min | USA
Oscar-winner Daniel Junge (Saving Face, 2012) interviews a diverse group of incredibly impressive children from around the world who share their dreams for the future.
This is an optimistic and adorable doc supplemented by animation, where kids share their vision for the future. Naturally I hated it. Constructed well, but very blandly, this is one of those puff pieces that corporations always seem to commission. I half expected to see Exxon’s logo at the very end, and sure enough, the film was commissioned for a company called Steelcase.
5/10 : Jason Sondhi
THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF YOUR JUNK (WILL BE TELEVISED!): dir. Ronnie Butler Jr. | 5min | USA
A spoken word artist satirizes our social media dependent celebrity obsessed culture.
Actor/Comedian Ronnie Butler Jr stars in and directs this music video of a satirical spoken word track denouncing social media dependent celebrity obsessed culture. Shot in a live performance, jazz club style, Butler Jr’s short showcases his witty lyrics and cleverly constructed verse well, but Photos of your Junk ultimately lacks any real kind of innovation and ends up doing exactly what it says on the packaging.
6/10 : Rob Munday
A SENIOR MOMENT: dir. Michelle Davidson | 5min | USA
Three ‘hot’ elderly women living in a retirement home fumble with modern technology as one of them makes the mistake of using the wrong letter in a text message she sends to a man she has an interest in at the center…
Just like the previous film is an unfortunate runner-up to Tiffany Shlain’s Yelp: With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, this film has the unfortunate luck of being on the fest circuit at the same time as a vastly superior short covering the same topic, Friend Request Pending, which stars Dame Judi Dench. Even without the unflattering comparison, there isn’t much to enjoy here, another of James’ “punch liners”, without the charm or filmmaking prowess to supplement.
4/10 : Jason Sondhi
SWIMMING POOL: dir. Alexandra Hetmerova | 6min | Czech Rep.
Two lonely souls meet up one night at a public swimming pool at a nearby park, and suddenly love is in the air. But these are not just any two lonely people, and when a park guard insists they get out of the pool, their idyllic swim may be over for keeps…
Another lovely film recently added to the SotW collection, with Craig Downing on the review again. Read what he has to say, but in summary, this is a very appealing short animation with great design and truly interesting twist.
9/10 : Jason Sondhi
UNA HORA POR FAVORA: dir. Jill Soloway | 13min | USA
In this comedic story, a lonely single woman hires a day laborer for an hour and winds up getting much more than she has bargained for…
This was in the 2012 Sundance Online Program as well, so I’ll copy and paste my thoughts from that time:
Featuring good performances by Michaela Watkins and a nearly unrecognizable Wilmer Valderrama, this is a sex and relationship comedy from a female perspective, centering on a pretty Jewish lady looking for love. She finds it, for a time, in the form of a hispanic day-laborer she picks up at the local hardware store. The setup is fertile material, playing off of tensions between gender, race and class, and goes for an Apatow-style blending of emotional discovery with crude sexuality. But, despite a couple of recognizable attempts, the comedy is tame by modern standards, and the emotional discovery ends up explicated rather than discovered. Still, while critiquable, rather enjoyable too.
7/10 : Jason Sondhi