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SXSW: The Best Narrative Shorts

April 5, 2010

Bacon Scone!

One of my favorite things about short films is – and this is obvious to the point of being almost silly to mention - they are short.  As a viewer, your commitment is brief and fleeting, so even in the worst case scenario – that being that the film is le suck - at least only a fraction of your precious time is spent suffering through the bad.  The short film presents a different set of challenges but has the potential to bring all of the pay off and satisfaction of a feature length film if it is played correctly. A great short film can be a revelation and leave you wanting more, which is a wonderful way to feel.

I was able to take in a series of narrative shorts at the SXSW film festival last month (as well as partake of a delectable treat served at the Alamo Drafthouse which goes by the apt, if a tad misleading name “Bacon Scone”.  Be not afraid, my dears, this savory breakfast item is DELICIOUS).  I saw some stinkers, but I was fortunate to catch some really fantastic pieces as well – the following is a list of my personal favorites, I definitely recommend viewing them if you get the opportunity.
-Teleglobal Dreamin’ directed by Eric Flanagan.   A darkly funny short about an American corporate-trainer/part-time actor visits a call center in the Philippines and is taken for a night out on the town by one of his trainees.  Excited by her boss’s Hollywood acting experience, the trainee misleads her friends and family into believing that her escort is Brendan Frasier – setting off a chain of events which have unexpected consequences.
Cigarette Candy directed by Lauren Wolkstein.  A young Marine returns home after a traumatizing experience in Iraq.  During his homecoming party, he dispels misgivings regarding his status as a war hero and connects with a rebellious girl.  Though the premise is a tad cliched, I really enjoyed this short – it was shot beautifully, well-acted and completely engaging.
-Storage directed by Nadia Tabbara.  I wouldn’t have guessed that a short film about two Lebanese men wandering around Brooklyn in search of a storage facility would be so interesting – and yet it was.  This character study was completely charming and funny.
-The Hardest Part directed by Oliver Refson.  An aging, out of work, t.v. actor auditions for the role of a tough criminal in a feature film.  We watch him as he prepares for this while performing the mundane tasks of getting dressed, being in transit and chatting with people who recognize him.  It would be a disservice to this fantastic character-driven film for me to divulge much more about it, suffice it to say – it was one of the best movies I have seen, short or otherwise, at the entire festival.
-Kelp directed by Benjamin Dohrmann and Seth Cuddeback.  This was  hands down, my favorite of the narrative shorts.  The story is so strange, a man has a life-changing swim in the ocean and connects to kelp in a profound -  and marriage-ending – way.  The film is gorgeous to look at and has a lovely score – both of which enhance and play into the humorous aspects of the piece.  I just loved it.

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