The 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival - Shorts Program 3

The cool thing about film festivals is that at any given moment, a good film could find and entertain an unsuspecting audience. 

The 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival is in full swing!

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I attended one of the five Shorts programs assembled for this year and found the collection of shorts to be both eclectic and provocative. Most are shorts that can be found with a good amount of trolling on Youtube or myspace and several are alumni of the Sundance Film Festival. I found them to be as diverse in theme as they are brief in their storytelling. I found myself quite impressed with the achievements of these filmmakers.

One of the Lat - Director: Paul Zinder

One of the Last was the only documentary among the shorts in this grouping. We meet an Italian farmer, Mauro. But he is more than a farmer. He is a man that lives off the land and loves every moment of it. It’s quite a treat to watch him prune olive trees and hoe up potatoes while listening to him lament the “dying land” suffering from the man-made solutions of ten and twenty years ago that are now having an adverse affect on the plant and animal life.

Chonto - Director: Carson Mell

Chonto is wry satire about the misspent youth of Bobby Bird, a two-hit wonder recording artist. A mix of real life back plates and animation, our rock star hero recalls the revelation that man is in need of the companionship of a dog, and since he has to do everything bigger and better, he decides to get a monkey. The adoption breeds many unforeseen complications, particularly when the chimp begins to row into an ape.

August 15th - Director: Xuan Jiang

August 15th was the only short noted to be inspired by true events. A young couple are taking the exhaustive bus trip to the young man’s home to meet his family. The ride turns tragic when two robbers board the bus and take all the passengers’ money by knife point. Then, in an even more horrifying turn, one of the robbers turns his attentions to the young woman in the couple. You can guess what happens to her next, with only one other passenger to stand up for her – a passenger who is not her boyfriend. The entire time I’m thinking, in this post 9/11 world, this would never happen. People do not standby and witness atrocities anymore. But I remember that this is not an American story, it is a chinese one. And perhaps this is meant to be a pre 9/11 morality tale. Then we do get to the end of this short, and I’ve have completely changed my mind. This finale could absolutely happen, anywhere that good people witness injustice and choose to do nothing.

Carlin - Director: Brent Green

Carlin is the experimental entry in this shorts program and I admit, I didn’t quite get it. The short was a stop motion masterpiece a la Tim Burton’s Once Upon a Nightmare. The piece feature a man reminiscing about his deteriorating aunt who can to live with his family once she was diagnosed with diabetes. The images of pseudo time lapsed day into night, season to season through rooms of a dilapidated farm house. The acoustic gutar strumming grows more and more frenetic at the piece crescendos to two stick figured meeting in that fateful room of the farmhouse, and the figure in the wheelchair being dragged about the room but poultry attached by pipe cleaners. Again, I didn’t quite get it, even if I could appreciate the painstaking filmmaking process of stop motion projects. But I will say it again: not all art is to be understood, some art is just to be experienced.

Dennis - Director: Mads Matthiesen

Dennis is a wonderfully simple story of a gentle giant with no social skills who takes an excruciating leap of fate and asks a girl out on a date. Miraculously, she accepts. We meet his emotional manipulative mother and immediately understand why he is so incredible shy and insecure, despite his formidable stature as a bodybuilding Atlas of a man. The story is simple with few surprises, but it reaffirmed every filmmakers love for film. The images caught on this Super 16mm project were truly spectacular and will surely renew the celluloid-lust of any digital filmmaker.


 

Farewell Packets of Ten - Director: Ken Wardrop

Farewell Packets of Ten was the shortest of the bunch. Two aging Lasses smoking like chimneys. The thrust of the short: the discussion between the two about how they should quit, but simply cant. Oh well. Characters. Conflict. Conclusion, all in the span of about five minutes. Now that’s what shorts are for.

 

I was very worried that I would miss out on the obligatory horror selection in this year’s review. So thank goodness for the refreshingly poignant Zombie short I Love Sarah Jane.

I Love Sarah Jane - Director: Spenser Susser

We are in Australia where we met Jimbo, a tween boy whom we learn is alone in the world and hangs out with three other roughians who on this day have set out to torch a captured Zombie in their backyard. Inside, sits Sarah Jane, watching the newcast that spouts a stream of endless information about hospitals overrun with infected and the proper way to dispose of Zombie remains. Jimbo is only interested in getting close to Sarah Jane. The two kids seem to share a kinship in their ability to retain their humanity amid the horrific circumstances. On the surface, it is a movie about Zombies, but at its core is in fact a short about humanity, our need for human contact and how easily we conveniently dehumanize the things that we fear.

This shorts program is one of five running now through June 29th at the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival.

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