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Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Best Shorts of the 39th Atlanta Film Festival

One of my favorite things about film festivals is the unique opportunity to see short films. As a comic reader or TV watcher, isn't it sometimes more satisfying to read a really great single issue story or have a perfect standalone episode of a series? Short films can give this same feeling, but are nearly impossible to experience outside of festivals. To that end, I thought it might be fun and beneficial for some cinephiles out there who maybe don't get to make it to many festivals to showcase some of the best short films I had the opportunity to see at the 39th Atlanta Film Festival last week!

A word of caution: I did not see all the shorts at the festival, probably not even half of them. I'm quite sure there were some excellent shorts in some of the blocks I wasn't able to make, and I'm fully aware I'm leaving out some good ones–these are just the best that I was able to catch during the film festival.


Polaroid — directed by Lars Kievberg, Norway, 16:00 
Sarah and Linda discover an old Polaroid camera in the clearing of Sarah's house. In their own selfishness they exploit the camera, only to discover what horrible past it hides.

As part of the Other Worlds block of shorts, this expertly paced Norwegian horror short follows two young girls as they discover the secret of a Polaroid camera found in an old box. It's supremely creepy, but more importantly has a lot to say about the current culture where sometimes the number of likes on a picture is more valuable than a meaningful conversation.






Myrna the Monster — directed by Ian Samuels, USA, 14:18 
A heart-broken alien dreamer from the moon transitions into adult life in Los Angeles like any other 20-something-year-old.

Created as part of MTV(other), this bizarre and hilarious short showcases a really great use of multimedia in its excellent puppet and animation work. Myrna is hysterically and endearingly pitiable, and her misadventures of trying to make it in LA like any other twenty-something are made even sillier by her constant fear of an astronaut trying to kidnap her again. Surprisingly heartfelt, but easily one of the funniest shorts I've seen in ages.




Slut — directed by Chloe Okuno, USA, 20:48
A naive young girl becomes the target of a murderous sociopath when she attempts to reinvent herself to impress the boys in her small Texas town.


Easily the biggest budget short I've ever seen–this is the thesis film for several AFI students, who had the unique privilege to shoot on film–"Slut" manages to be both entertaining and very thought-provoking. It's funny, scary, and charming, and I could easily see this turning into a feature length film at some point down the road.





Confluence — directed by Noah Shulman, USA, 5:33
In this new film by director Noah Shulman, viewers look beyond what the human eye is capable of seeing, presenting a new way to experience the imperceptible changes that happen all around us. 
 
I love the experimental blocks at AFF every year, and "Confluence" is one of my favorite kinds of experimental shorts: it takes a wordless look at creating something that is purely visual and aural and lets viewers divine meaning. This short was filmed using ultra-close microscopic filming, and the effects achieved range from nightmarish to indescribably beautiful.
 
 

Death Songs & Car Bombs — directed by The Smyth Brothers, Indonesia, 6:24
Official Site
A place study on Bali's tourism district—the site of a terrorist attack one year after 9/11.

Shot on 16mm and edited in camera, this engaging experimental short uses time lapses as the twin brother directors roam around Bali and explore its streets and monuments. The film is scored by a ceremonial death song, and the implications that are worldlessly created are interesting and something you don't get to see every day. [note: if you go to the link to their site, it looks like you can email them for a password to watch the full short!]



cyberGenesis — directed by André Silva, USA, 13:00
 
A fantastical, animated journey (segments of which have been creatively crowd-sourced) that imagines a future creation myth crafted by humanity's online legacy.

One of the other things I love about experimental shorts is their ambition: this short aimed to be completely crowd-sourced, having others online send their own videos, recordings, animations, and more to be used in the film. The result is a really fascinating and stunningly varied look at our relationship with technology and religion, told through a series of chapters.


Bad at Dancing — directed by Joanna Arnow, USA, 10:40
 
A perpetual third wheel and awkward outsider, Joanna consistently inserts herself into the relationship of her more charismatic roommate Isabel, resulting in a surreal and jealous rivalry.  
 
Shot in classic indie-film black and white, this silly and R-rated short played appropriately before Female Pervert. Arnow stars as the infinitely awkward roommate, walking in, having a seat, and starting a conversation while her roommate has sex with her weirded out boyfriend. It's got shades of Dunham, but falls on the correct side of hipster-ism where Girls has miserably failed after its first season. Certainly one of the laugh out loud moments of the Atlanta Film Festival, this one is definitely worth checking out–you'll probably find someone familiar to you in its characters and charm.
 
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