While the vast majority of the 72 short films programmed to play over the next week and half in Park City will be world premieres, Sundance has long been a pioneer among festivals by embracing online films in their lineups (though despite popular belief it really isn’t rare these days). The pattern continues this year, so even if you aren’t trekking to Utah with spec script and skis in hand, kick back and take part in America’s premier film fest virtually by checking out these 5 excellent shorts.
PEACE IN THE VALLEY
Dir: Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher
Streaming online courtesy of Field of Vision, the interesting new documentary outfit created by filmmaker Laura Poitras (Citizenfour), AJ Schnack (Cinema Eye Honors) and programmer Charlotte Cook (former head of Hot Docs), this film poetically dives into America’s culture wars, profiling the tension that arises in an Arkansas town which must balance its status as a tourist destination for devout Christians with an impending vote regarding rights for LGBT persons.
THE SAINT OF DRY CREEK
Dir: Julie Zammarchi
An entry in the remarkable StoryCorps archival audio project, Zammarchi works off a rich story source — a gay man recounts some surprisingly good advice he got from his rural, farming father back in the 50’s. Animated Storycorps shorts have long been a fixture on the internet, we profiled their 9/11 series back in 2011, but this is the first entry we’ve seen from Zammarchi rather than longtime artists the Rauch Bros. Will Zammarchi be taking over? If so, it looks like this beloved series is in good hands.
A REASONABLE REQUEST
Dir: Andrew Laurich
We profiled this remarkable and filthy comedy back in June, and it stuck with us so much that it found a spot on our year-end list. Read the review for full impressions, but this is a writing, acting and directing tightrope of the first order.
Dir: Razan Ghalayini
An investigative conspiracy doc the like of which we rarely see in the short form, Ghalayini’s film examines the case of brothers convicted of planning a terrorist attack at the Fort Dix military base in New Jersey. Premiering through The Intercept, a sister site to Field of Vision and home to reporter Glenn Greenwald, the film casts suspicion at coercive measures the government used to lure the brothers into the plot. Were these terrorists apprehended, or created?
VERBATIM: THE FERGUSON CASE
Dir: Brett Weiner
Weiner’s original Verbatim short played Sundance in 2014, and went on to be a hit for the NyTimes’ Op/Doc strand. The satirically funny reenactment of real court transcripts was such a breakout for the venerable news organization that they commissioned it as a series. This new entry shows off the concept’s range by tackling something decidedly less funny than pedantic lawyering on the fundamental knowability of a “photocopier”. This episode instead juxtaposes two grand jury testimonies in the investigation of Michael Brown’s shooting death by officer Darren Wilson, the precipitating event to the racial demonstrations in Ferguson, MO.