AFI DALLAS – Cool Ass Short Films (Round One)

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 18, 2009

AFI DALLAS – Cool Ass Short Films (Round One)

From the first moment I began doing film festival PR, I wanted to figure out a way to get some attention for the shorts and the filmmakers who made them. Some of my favorite films regardless of length have been the shorts that have played at AFI FEST and AFI DALLAS.

Among the films that have stuck with me are Moon Molson’s searing and tragic drama, POP FOUL; Leo Ricagni’s ethereal ode to the positive power of education, FEATHERS TO THE SKY; Alexandre Franchi’s brilliant vision of twisted romanticism TROLL CONCERTO and Lilah Vandenburgh’s almost perfect treatment of bitter romance in glorious black and white, BITCH. In fact, if in some wonderful world of my dreams, I was the a member of The Medici Family during the Renaissance I would sponsor anything Lilah Vandenburgh wanted to do – wouldn’t even have to be art – anything. If Lilah wanted to do a filmed still life treatment of an old pizza box next to an empty can of Mountain Dew, I’d write the check because somehow she’d figure out a way to make that pizza box rueful and surly and the soda can its distrustful partner-in-crime. I think she’s that good.

Anyway, the point is, I have seen it as a particular mission of mine to do things for our shorts filmmakers that no other film festivals do (or certainly not to extent that we do) whether it be putting them on the same red carpets as everyone else, including them in the daily interview junkets, placing them on panels, scoring radio interviews, weaving the subjects of their films in stories about the themes playing out in feature films within the same festivals, to doing features on the directors themselves (even if I have to write the bulk of those stories myself).

Because let’s face it – it will be a cold day at a major publication before someone will do a feature or any kind of significant story on a shorts filmmaker. Can’t hold that against them – as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, it’s all about movie stars or at least what passes for that these days. They literally have bigger fish with longer running times to fry.

So here’s another way for me to get the word out. This blog. I’m going to tell you about some really cool ass short films that Sarah Harris, the patron programming saint of shorts and James Faust have chosen for the schedule this year. And by the way, why aren’t the single male directors romancing the shit out of Sarah Harris? And I don’t mean in a cynical “maybe she’ll program my short if I fork over dinner and a movie AND open the car door for her”… I mean, she’s got the in-the-know smart and funny goods, can hang socially with the indefatigable Faust-about-town, and is the kind of unassuming cute that saves those guys from their worst tongue-tied nature. I know, I’ve seen that scenario play out right in front of me.

I’m just sayin’.

Where was I? The shorts… Okay, these films haven’t been announced yet. It’s the first you’re hearing about them, reading about them, getting the scoop…

That’s right – these are official selections and they haven’t been announced! Holy crap, start twittering! E-mail your friends! Look ‘em up on IMDB, and if they’ve got a site then check it out and tell someone who already got their pass they should check them out! If you know them, tell them it’s safe to get their laurel wreath on because the PR guy went nuts and he’s gone on a leak the info bender!

Okay, if you haven’t got the point by now you’re slow. And good luck with that “Palin in 2012” thing. Let’s start, shall we?

Speaking of politics, yet not really is Sukwon Shin’s animated film, UNBELIEVABLE4. Okay, let’s pretend that George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfield and Condi Rice were members of an elite squad on a super cool mission to uhmm, do something cool to stop something bad (like you know, racing around in sports cars and motorbikes and stuff) AND they were also members of a rockin’ 80s band in their own music video playing their own theme music which happens to be….wait for it…”The Final Countdown.”

It’s too perfect. I just heard a quote that you can never really know your country until you view it from another country. Well, Sukwon just saved you the trip.

How many shorts pursue the elusive pristine snapshot of a the male/female dynamic in a relationship? I won’t make you guess. The answer is lots. Too many would be an acceptable answer too – if you’re just angry by nature or someone of the opposite sex hurt you along the way. Well, Todd Luoto’s OIL CHANGE gives you a developing Polaroid of a relationship that is not just “wrong” in the first place, it steadily descends into an uncomfortable rock and a hard place with no room for polite escape. Simply, a mismatched couple go on a needlessly tension-filled first double date with another couple that gradually ratchets up the bad moments until it all reaches a point of no return.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I will say that a monologue is involved that is one of the best be-all/end-it-all out-on-a-point-of-no-return limb moments that I have seen in quite awhile.

Sometimes with a short – for me, it’s all about style. And that’s why I love both Denis Villeneuve’s NEXT FLOOR and Pedro Pires’ DANSE MACABRE. NEXT FLOOR lets us watch a decadent feast in progress that is a dual portrait in gluttony and the grotesque as channeled through Terry Gilliam. Attentive servants keep serving and dishing up the food until the entire table of people crashes through to…the next floor. The servants follow, dust off their charges and start serving it up again. Until happens again. And again. And so on…

Pires’ DANSE MACABRE is literally a dance of death – precisely executed and exquisitely choreographed. The film is so artfully done that a corpse can achieve a beauty in its movement and placement and a body in a morgue can be visually manipulated with the snap shot imagery of the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s title sequence to effectively intertwine beauty and horror.

I’ll finish with silliness. And silliness that leaves no stone unturned in the playing out of its title idea. And that film is Richard Gale’s THE HORRIBLY SLOW MURDERER WITH THE EXTREMELY INEFFICIENT WEAPON. It’s simple: The film delivers what that title promises. In sequence after sequence, Gale gleefully plays with what we have already guessed might happen once a stock movie trailer voice over presents the idea that someone has made a movie about the ultimate slowburn torment of an ordinary man being terrorized by the character of ‘Death’ as he would be presented in VH-1’s version of Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL. Oh, and I almost forgot -‘Death’ is armed with a spoon. That’s right. Voice over guy promises (and I quote) “20,000 spoonfuls of terror!”

Hard to top that…


4 Responses

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  1. Taso g. said, on February 18, 2009 at 5:00 pm


    Ingmar Bergman is rolling in his grave right now.

    • splitid said, on February 18, 2009 at 7:49 pm

      That mistake was embarrassing. Sorry about that. Although, on reflection – Demi Moore would have been great in the short.

  2. Mark Bell said, on February 22, 2009 at 3:01 am

    “Bitch” is one of my favorite shorts of all time (still have the screener dvd of that one, and often pull it out to show friends who haven’t yet had the pleasure of seeing it). I wish I had finished my short film in time for AFI Dallas, but there’s always next year.

    • splitid said, on February 22, 2009 at 7:23 am

      You need to send it to me regardless. What about AFI FEST or Lone Star this Fall…?

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