Top 5: Standout Shorts from SDIFF

So it has been over a month since the San Diego Film Festival granted a slew of talented, hopeful directors a stage for their art. This year focus felt more in tune with the current climate and brought forth human conditions, both comedic and serious, for the audience’s delight.

5 of the entries still stand out for me amongst the 68 plus entries; either for my hope that they will be expanded on or simply because their short screen time seemed concisely perfect with their storyline. Noted: I did not have the pleasure of watching every short film, but of the 40 or so I did get to watch, these are my choices.

Bag Head
Director:
Alberto Corredor
Writer: Lorcan Reilly
Stars: Oliver Walker, Natalie Oliver, Julian Seager

Brooding from the death of his young wife Lisa (Natalie Oliver), Kevin (Oliver Walker) turns to paranormal help to resurrect her spirit, and ask her some pretty pertinent questions.

I found myself entranced by the storyline and visual effect of it all, but the punchline drew the entire audience into a “yup” moment simultaneously as if we all wished we could do the same. Julian Seager as the gatekeeper seemed to inhabit us all with his shock, and comedic agreement to the whole situation. This short is proof that an idea does not need complicity, nor special effects to be both original and compelling. The fact that Kevin’s plot resonated with all of us proves that a lot can be packed in 15 minutes of screen time.


Too Long At The Fair
Director:
Jessie Barr, Lena Hudson
Writer: Jessie Barr, Lena Hudson
Stars: Chris Messina, Jessie Barr, Lena Hudson

Charlie (Jessie Barr) and Val (Lena Hudson) find themselves nearly at the end of their LA adventure after being fired from an entertaining job. Struggling and falling short of their expectations, the ladies happen upon divorced Father Lee (Chris Messina) who shares a day, and inner demons with the two young LA hopefuls.

The struggling actress/demur female has been a stigma of Hollywood for years, forming ideals far beyond studio walls; Barr and Hudson’s short counters it with Feminism packed into a dress. Charlie is unapologetic about her status in life while Val reflects on the path that was expected. The twist in the tale only seems to bring home the very real darkness waking up from a dream brings. Val’s distress as she walks along the beach, her naivety stripped away by the collision of reality and her available choices, seems to embody it’s title perfectly. For life is a grand stage, till the curtains are pulled back.

Check out my interview with the lovely co-directors Jessie Barr and Lena Hudson.


Your Call Is Important To Us
Director:
T.J. Power
Writer: T.J. Power
Stars: Wade Briggs, Sarah Roberts, Richard Davies

Somewhere in the Universe exist the call center people that seem created simply to drive us insane, this is their story.

The laughter that filled the room was not one of joy, but of empathy as every single person around me seemed related to the Hell that was occurring on screen. As the poor caller is transferred from desk top to desk top, each character specially trained to drive out as much inner frustration as possible from its victim, we can’t help but relive our own call experiences. Each level, from the “Please enter your information” to “Let me find you someone that can help you with that” to even the on hold music seems a rip off from someone’s own terrible experience. The sheer enjoyment taken from the caller’s anger and later desperate resolution seems to match up with my past experiences at least. Perhaps the story is a true glimpse in the call centers that we weren’t meant to see.


Laboratory Conditions
Director:
Jocelyn Stamat
Writer: Terry Rossio
Stars: Marisa Tomei, Minnie Driver, Paulo Costanzo

Dr. Emma Holloway (Marisa Tomei) searches for a body taken from her emergency room only to discover something much more chilling, and inhuman occurring on the same university campus.

Delving deep into the idea of the Human Soul, and the choice of where we truly end up when we die makes for a chilling question. Minnie Driver and Marisa Tomei are perfect counterparts, making one wonder why we had to wait for a short to see them together, as they argue the idea of existence rooted in science and faith. We watch as their argument materializes and then turns horrific as Holloway demands Marjorie Cane (Driver) release the spirit only she can see. The visual specter crept into my daymares as I hope for an extension of what could only been described as truly terrifying.


Bumper
Director:
Nirina Ralanto
Writers: Julien Ralanto, Nirina Ralanto
Stars: Christian Abart, Marie-Pierre Casey, Hugues Jourdain

When Max’s interview doesn’t earn him a job, he turns his focus to his roommate, AKA grandmother. He’s determined to teach her enough to pass her driving test, and earn her freedom.

As someone that was practically raised by my Grandmother, Max’s relationship with his hit me right in my heart. It’s organic and enduring watching the somewhat entitled Max soften and ultimately battle win behalf of his Mame. The film stands out for its honest heart, not pandering to heart strings but in the way that reminds us to call our grandmothers.


Honorable Mention:

The Dishwasher
Director:
Jordan Jacinto
Writers: Jordan Jacinto
Stars: Sean Burgos, Juan Carlos Flores, Ian Inigo

A sinister moment between an innocent family, and the local cartel in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, stays engrained and later forms the mentality of El Lavaplatos (The Dishwasher).

This year the SDFF was granted not just English speaking shorts, but films that focused on some of our greater disenfranchised populations. Lavaplatos gives us a glimpse of the violence that affects the innocents in our southern neighbors. The family strains to deal with a situation they know they have absolutely no power to counter, and thus must make a decision to choose a life as victims, or a death as innocents. It strikes deep for me as a first generation Hispanic, and plays on identities often attributed to our culture. The father truly digs within himself to find the best outcome for his family, not wanting to be a dead hero. Lavaplatos ends with a glimpse of how long hate can carry from violence, and we are left with a hint of a possible extension.

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