Sundance has made available FREE 10 films from it’s Short Film Programs. The shorts will be available as downloads through iTunes stores in the US, UK and Canada beginning January 15 and running through January 25, 2009.
JAMES (2008) dir. Connor Clements (Ireland)
Live Action Short
The transition from childhood to early teenage years is hard on everyone, but for James, a young Irish middle class teenager, it’s even more complicated when he suspects he’s gay. As a result he’s withdrawn and shy. He wanders through his school, his neighbourhood and his house barely speaking to anyone. The only one he can confide in is his teacher. But when his cry for help is rejected he goes after a more dangerous form of exploration. It all makes for a highly cinematic slow burning character film. The type of approach is difficult to pull off in a short film, but director Clements’ control of tone is consistent and therefore continually intriguing. Clements is clever to time out his dramatic reveals, building a palpable suspense which pays off in the tragic final scene.
INSTEAD OF ABRACADABRA (2008) dir. Patrik Eklund (Sweden)
Live Action Short
In the vein of Napoleon Dynamite Eklund tells this wonderful story of a pathetic twenty-something magician who still lives at home without any passion other than entertaining people with his magic. When he meets a gorgeous young woman who shows an interest in his him, he’s forced to make crucial decisions with his life and career. In exchange for agreeing to take a ‘real job’ to appease his parents he’s allowed to perform at his father’s 60’th anniversary – his only shot at impressing the girl of his dreams. At heart it’s a redemption and comeback story with a well-structured and cinematically pleasing narrative arc. The visual design, quirky wideangle lenses, geek-chic costuming and décor, all seem natural. No one does quirky better than the Scandavanians. This one’s a real winner. Seriously, download this film. “Chimay”!!
I LIVE IN THE WOODS (2008) dir. Max Winston (USA)
Winston’s stop motion/live action quicky about a wildly violent hillbilly punk is told with the energetic momentum of a Road Runner cartoon, and a fresh Henry Selick meets Terry Gilliam meets Sam Raimi style. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any throughline whatsoever other than the random bombardment of manic energy, pace and bloodsplattering gore. At one point our Hillbilly hero pummels God’s head to smithereens with his boot. Proceed with caution.
HUG (2008) dir. Khary Jones (USA)
Live Action Short
In some unnamed urban downtown setting, a couple of young black aspiring musicians are chatting in their car. Drew is about to sign a record deal, but seems to have cold feet. His friend and motivator Asa is frustrated with Drew’s erratic behaviour. Drew is highly emotional and all he needs is a hug to settle him down. Khary digs deep into his Drew’s emotional motivations. Despite this we never quite get who he is other than the frustrations of his passive aggressive mood swings. We’re never sure how we’re supposed to feel by the end of it all - is it a story about male friendship, a reconciliation with his sister, or a deep character examination? The mixture of tones never quite mesh harmoniously. A feature film version would work better.
FROM BURGER IT CAME (2008) dir. Dominic Bisignano (USA)
A telephone conversation between a son and his mom reminiscing about his fears of the discovery of his homosexuality is visualized with a hodgepodge of animation styles. The man’s description of a childhood dream that he got AIDS from eating a hamburger is the entry point to this obtuse and not all too successful animation short. As the visual style moves from ‘Ren and Stimpy’ to B&W Mickey Mouse cartoons, to Gilliamesque surrealism to Wallace and Grommit, it feels more like free association of fractured memories than a satisfactory narrative piece.
FIELD NOTES FROM DIMENSION X: EPISODE B:11: OASIS (2008) dir. Carson Mell (USA)
The pretentious title will tip you off to the tone of this experimental animated piece. With a lo-fi 2-D animated style an unidentified narrator waxes poetically while sitting in an oasis in the desert. The oblique spoke word narration is just too wordy and arty to penetrate. One of the profound lines reads, “Even if the soul dies without vanity, the ego can live on bread crumbs.”
COUNTERTRANSFERENCE (2008) dir. Madeleine Olnek
Live Action Short
Therapy sessions with a meek middle aged woman is intercut with everyday banality of her dayjob. Olnek employs documentary-like visual style and dead-pan humour to show the point of view her unconfident protagonist. Olnek is clear to set her main character’s goals – to stand up to her subtly abusive boss and achieve the happiness she desires. But the unfocused comic detours with the therapist make the film feel like unstructured improv sessions with no clear ending or point in sight.
MAGNETIC MOVIE (2008) dir. Ruth Jarman + Joe Gerhardt (UK)
A unique abstract mix of science and art commissioned by Channel 4 and the Arts Council of England. As NASA scientists discuss, via narration, the findings of their studies on properties of magnetism we are treated to a beautiful abstract animated rendering of science. The animators reveal an invisible world of magnetic forces which appear to exist with beautiful choreography of colour and shape.