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AFI FEST 2010: Previewing the Short Film Programming

AFI FEST 2010: Previewing the Short Film Programming

“We love short films here, and we wanted to go back to showing more,” declared AFI FEST’s Associate Director of Programming Lane Kneedler as he spoke exclusively to indieWIRE about the thirty-plus shorts scheduled to play this year’s festival, which runs November 4 – 11, 2010. Unlike 2009, when the festival had only one international shorts program, shorts playing AFI FEST 2010 make up four full programs, all screening at the Mann Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California.

With no emphasis on world premieres for shorts at AFI FEST 2010, programmer Lane Kneedler explained the festival’s selection process. “We found shorts in three different ways: from submissions, which totaled over 3000 this year; from traveling to other festivals; and from the web.” Regarding the international shorts coming from South Africa (Jan-Hendrik Beetge’s “The Abyss Boys”), Iran (Jafar Panahi’s “The Accordion”), Demark (Daniel Joseph Borgman’s “Berik”), Israel (Asaf Saban’s “On Leave”), and other countries, Kneedler clarified, “Some of those we got from traveling abroad, and some just came into our office on their own.”

If you only have a chance to catch one of the four shorts programs at AFI FEST 2010, aim for the more experimental Shorts Program 3 – Kneedler shorthanded it as “where the strange stuff lives.” It screens Monday, November 8, at 6:00 PM.

Among the highlights in that collection is Kelly Sears’ 7-minute piece about telephone operators and covert government plots entitled “Voice on the Line.” Kneedler praised Sears as an “incredibly inventive, talented filmmaker,” adding, “I wish that more of the short films submitted had even a tenth of her creativity.”

Another standout in Program 3 is the film with the catchiest title in the fest, “52 Takes of the Same Thing, Then Boobs” by writer/director T. Arthur Cottam. Kneedler branded the 4-minute piece “the most outrageously ‘out there’ film that we have scheduled” and promised the filmmaker will attend the screening.

Also noteworthy as an experimental tour de force is Nicolas Provost’s 14-minute Belgium short, “Long Live the New Flesh.” Provost uses digital manipulation to distort classic Hollywood horror movies. Kneedler categorized “Long Live the New Flesh” as an “original visual experience. Very unsettling.”

A selection from Program 3 that the AFI FEST programmers originally discovered on the web is Patrick Jean’s 3-minute machinima live action/animation adventure “Pixels.” A second web sensation, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp and written/voiced by Jenny Slate of “Saturday Night Live” fame, plays Shorts Program 4. “Pixels,” “Marcel…,” and several other shorts (including Sears’ “Voice on the Line”) can be previewed in their entirety online prior to their Mann Chinese Theater debut at http://www.afi.com/video/.

Program 4, which screens Tuesday, November 9, at 9:30 PM, includes Amy Grappell’s “Quadrangle,” a 20-minute documentary about two couples swapping partners. “We love short docs at AFI FEST,” Kneedler remarked, “and ‘Quadrangle’ is one of the best I’ve seen all year.”

Another Program 4 notable is Trevor Anderson’s 5-minute “The High Level Bridge,” about an Edmonton landmark. The short, which recently played the Toronto Film Festival, marks a return engagement at AFI FEST for the Canadian filmmaker. “His new film is a real step up for him, and we’re proud to have him back,” proclaimed Kneedler.

Bobby Miller’s 12-minute urban horror story “Tub” also screens in this program. “‘Tub’ had a great festival run,” noted Kneedler, “and we wanted them to end their year with a screening at AFI FEST.”

Another short that has had great success on the festival circuit is Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ 25-minute comedy, “Successful Alcoholics,” screening in Program 1 on Sunday, November 7, at 1:15 PM. “Such great performances, such great writing,” praised Kneedler. “Great character evolution, which is hard to do in short films. It has a full story arc, which you don’t see in many shorts. It’s also a very funny film, and we try to inject comedy into the festival whenever we can.”

One last do-not-miss short is “Mary Last Seen” by writer/director Sean Durkin, a 14-minute relationship piece that Kneedler said is a “great use of the short form. The structure of the storytelling only works as a short.” “Mary Last Seen” screens in Shorts Program 2 on Sunday, November 7, at 3:30 PM.

The thirty-one shorts playing AFI FEST 2010 are all in competition for the festival’s Grand Jury Prize. This year’s short film jury consists of filmmakers Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Katie Aselton, Todd Luoto, and actress Greta Gerwig.

Tickets to AFI FEST 2010 presented by Audi are free to the general public. Currently, all four shorts programs are sold out. However, last-minute tickets become available at AFI.com/AFIFEST the day before the screening, and at the festival box office on the day of.

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