All of the nine shorts Yahoo and the Sundance Film Festival have put on the web are pretty good. It’s an impressive crop, and I’d say more consistent than a lot of the stuff festivals have put online in the last year. Yet in any batch of films a few rise to the top. I’ve rounded up the other seven, and the oddly consistent problem they have. Here are my two favorites and some gushing about why I think they’re absolutely worth your time.
Long Distance Information, by Douglas Hart
I suppose it doesn’t reflect too well on my attention span that one of my picks is the shortest film on the list, but oh well. While it may not be excellent because it cuts out before the eight minute mark, that comparatively small running time makes the brief screenplay even more noticeably tight. There’s not a single wasted second.
Writer/director Douglas Hart’s film is one of subtle relationship shifts. That applies not only to the emotional connections between the father and son at the center of the story, but also the physical structure of the set. Are these two rooms in the same building, or are they not on the same continent? Is this a tightly-knit family, or has it been years since they’ve spoken to each other? We spend the entire film changing our minds. Continue reading
One of the more exciting projects I’ve come across recently is 99 Percent: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, a current work in progress organized by NYC-based filmmakers Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites. Given the somewhat questionable media coverage of the protests, the idea is that documentarians will team up and record the event as it unfolds, eventually turning the collaborative footage into a more representative depiction of the movement. It’s exciting stuff, and there’s some great video already up on the project’s YouTube channel.
This week, however, Jonathan Demme has jumped into the OWS documentation fray. He took his camera crew down to Zuccotti Park and got a bunch of pretty interesting stuff, which has now been edited into a 15-minute documentary short. It’d obviously be marvelous if Demme decided to team up with Ewell, Aites and their now-international band of filmmakers. In the meantime though, let’s take a look at End the War, Tax the Rich, We’re the 99%, Occupy Wall Street. It’s an intriguing short, hitting on a lot of the important elements of the protests and their place in the city. Yet as much as it effectively captures the feel of Zuccotti Park and its dedicated inhabitants, it also only begins to scratch the surface and proves the excitement and necessity of this sort of direct cinema.
The Chicago International Film Festival closes up shop later this week, but they’ve already handed out the Hugo Awards. The big feature prize went to Le Havre, which I quite like (though it isn’t Kaurismäki’s best by a long shot). Actually, I have to shout agreement with a number of the awards: The Forgiveness of Blood, Cinema Komunisto, and The Good Son are all films I raved about at Spout. But that’s hardly what I’m here to say.
Nine shorts were awarded at CIFF this year, with Hugos and Plaques alike. The Golden Hugo went to The Eagleman Stag, which I must say looks pretty fantastic. As for the other eight awards, they’re spread out over six different countries (with the notable absence of the USA). None of the winners are available on the web, and I’ve only seen one of them myself. However, I loved Caretaker for the Lord so much that it’s worth talking about anyway.
The film, which picked up the Silver Hugo for Best Documentary Short, is the best documentary short I saw at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. And there was some stiff competition. Director Jane McAllister brought her camera to dying community church St. Luke’s and St. Andrew’s in Glasgow, Scotland to capture its final days on film. The result is a quiet, elegiac piece that brings life to this aging congregation even as it faces its end. Continue reading