I’m going to preface by saying this is some of the best shorts programmings I’ve ever seen, as far as consistency, interest, and substance go. I was wholly enamored by a majority of these films, which I certainly can’t say for all shorts programming, even for the larger festivals. Do give this chronological list of reviews a read and then head over to the platforms to scour these babies out for fun, gorgeous, thought-provoking viewings. Cheers!
Title: Circus Person
Director: Britt Lower
Starring: Britt Lower, Phil Smithey, Jess Marks
What it is: When an artist is coping with the idea that her ex-fiance is with someone else, she resorts to the life of a circus person in order to find peace within herself.
What We Think: I love, love, LOVE this film. There’s an incredible sense of risk and personal sensibility to it, as our director/writer/actress opens up and performs in ways that bring you to a place where you yourself are allowed to feel vulnerable. It almost feels real, like a diary–though in reality, I’m not sure whether or not this was based on a real story. Nonetheless, the themes of forgiveness, acceptance of self, and sisterhood are overwhelmingly affecting. The delivery is inviting and deeply honest, making it a riveting watch as we watch this woman try to navigate through a jarring heartbreak.
Our Grade: A+, as therapeutic and transformative for the audience as it is for our brave lead, I’m sure. This short was sweet, beautiful to look at, and ultimately, truly good-natured, inspiring humanity within. I hope to see much more from the filmmakers and am excited to see what else Lower will create in the future.
Title: The Gift
Director: Jacintha Charles
Starring: Cassandra Lyback, Sierra Anne Murphy, Drake The Raven
What it is: A girl in an earlier century struggles with her self-image as she is teased at her schoolhouse for having large ears. Her only escape is her peaceful exchanges with a strange, shape-shifting crow person in the woods.
What We Think: This was a very nicely done piece. Atmospheric imagery paired with folklore-esque storytelling makes for an interesting concept with even better execution.
Our Grade: B, A melancholic and to-the-point little short that’s something you might see making the rounds on platforms and collecting many well-deserved views.
Director: Kate Mitchell
Starring: Margaret Tappan
What it is: A woman stuck in a suburban-idealist rut explores her sense of physical expression in order to escape in this dance short film.
What We Think: It started off well with the setup with a woman squarely, robotically dancing as she routinely works in the household kitchen, peanut butter sandwiches piling up surreally. The filmmaking is quite neat. From there it progresses, but not as far or fast as I thought it would go, resulting in some repetition and inevitably lost interest.
Our Grade: C-, Could have been sharpened up in the editing room as well as have more choreography to it–not that there was any, but there wasn’t as much depth to the transformation and revelation as one would expect. An overall lack of progression.
Director: Isabella Hicks
Starring: Cèsar Hernandez, Emanuela Boisbouvier, Andrés De La Fuente
What it is: A mysterious card-reader interprets the cards that describe the life and expression of a man as he crosses over into death.
What We Think: Though at first vague and a relatively simple concept, I found myself really enjoying the spirit of this film. The cinematography upon the well-dressed or whimsical settings, whether in-studio or on-location, was pleasant in showcasing the beauty behind either. The performers created something that felt akin to dance and as a whole, is a lovely expression framed by good photography and lively editing.
Our Grade: B, Fun, expressive, and colorful, this was a nice watch that squares up to if not beats out a majority of highly-produced music videos out there.
Title: Midnight Rose
Director: Vanessa M. H. Powers
Starring: Calli Medley, Lee Fillingsness, Abigail Rose
What it is: A teen superheroine battles to protect her family, experiencing incredible sacrifice as a side-effect.
What We Think: This was a really exciting glimpse at a character that delivers action, heart, and humor. Another way to describe it is an IRL magical girl meets Kick-Ass (I saw you, Madoka Magica jacket). The editing is keen with energetic transitions, the style is saturated and moody… the acting is fantastic, with a reliably endearing lead that makes you want to see more from this character.
Our Grade: B, Funny, precisely delivered, and cheeky in delivering a story about adolescence interrupted by the dream of being a super-crime-fighter. I very well know I would have greatly enjoyed this if I had seen this as a teen myself.
Director: Adda Elling
Starring: Line-Gry Hørup, Rosie L.L. Eveleigh
What it is: We observe as a couple enjoys their time at a peaceful house and have lunch, re-creating different scenes from old movies using a film camera.
What We Think: I adored this film. It was gorgeous all around, its subjects cast in sunlight and glowing humanity as they carry a natural and curious conversation. I wanted to hear everything they had to say about anything, great intelligence, and expression behind their plot to use themselves to film the scenes. There was an observed intimacy not only by their actions as a couple, bathing and kissing and eating with each other, but intimacy in shared thought as well, the bravery and vulnerability of two women being able to talk with each other about their opinions or insecurities as they shift from one activity to another, it was nearly surreal. The leading duo was of course lovely to watch, I could probably watch them forever as if they or their story was itself an entire organism. The filmmaking was amazing as well, I loved the intention as well as the boldness of it, the ability to juggle different techniques as well as mediums between film and different types of cameras, ringing as almost found-footage-esque in some scenes or shots. The editing was out-of-this-world good, letting you continue to be curious as the film goes on, never letting a scene or moment overstay its welcome or otherwise. The music and musical cues were different and made a point to be just as expressive, paralleling the subjects’ emotional beats in a way I haven’t really heard too often in such a forward manner, nearly experimental. The experience kept you so close to this particular human expression, it felt sort of ethereal. You observe relationships, character, behavior, and compatibility in such close comfort; it’s playful as well as considerate and candid.
Our Grade: A+, I want more, I want more, I want more. I fell in love with this short and recommend it to those of all genders and ages 13+. Overall, it was just gloriously human and expressive in all possible means.
Director: Layne Marie Williams
Starring: Joette Waters, Deanlís Resto, Jasmine S. Sims
What it is: In a senior community home, a spunky group called “The Pastel Girls” reside and attempt to win over the mysterious and odd old man Scutly who appears to carry around a ghost with him as well.
What We Think: If you need to brighten up a little chunk of your day, this silly and trippy short is the way to go. The sound design is punchy and expressive, the colors bright (I mean, for a group of characters named after a color palette, you’ve got to), the production design was FANTASTIC, and the filming overall perfectly polished for smooth viewing.
Our Grade: B+, This is an odd one, a mellow iteration of the likes of Jim Hosking’s filmmaking. The acting was solid, never crossing the line into annoying although it could have. The movie overall was playful, weird, and endearingly, passionately goofy. I can’t help but enjoy that.
Title: We Are Fighting You Now
Director: Gretchen Hasse
What it is: An animated music video expressing on behalf of activism.
What We Think: There are some cool visuals, a Kate-Nash sort of mood, and Dresden Dolls kind of nostalgia.
Our Grade: C, Rallying and overall hopeful in tone, though can be a tad repetitive.