At SXSW I was able to catch some excellent short films. There were a bunch of great women-centric ones including: Dotty a funny and touching look at an elderly woman struggling to send a text message to her daughter; Community’s Gillian Jacobs was hilarious as a woman whose boyfriend begins to literally drive her insane in It’s Not You, It’s Me, and the gorgeously shot and supremely heartbreaking Mobile Homes about a young mother who is involved in human trafficking and is determined to get her and her son out.
The Shorts programs were also filled with excellent women-directed films that explored a wide range of topics from the toxicity of reality television to taxidermy. Here are some of my favorites:
Sequin Raze – Written and Directed by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, Starring Anna Camp, Ashley Williams and Frances Conroy
Sequin Raze is a behind the scenes look at the unsurprisingly toxic environment of reality television–specifically dating shows ala The Bachelor. Goldberg (Williams) a producer on the hit dating show, and works as the closer the person who psychologically tortures female contestants into having on-camera breakdowns. She meets her match in beauty queen second runner up (Camp) who refuses to cave. It’s a fascinating look at reality television, feminism and the psychological warfare between the two women. Enhanced by great performances by Camp and Williams, Shapiro’s short left me riveted and wanting more.
When We Lived in Miami – Written, Directed and Starring Amy Seimetz
Amy Seimetz’s When We Lived in Miami drops the viewer into a portrait of a woman who is desperately trying to keep her family together amidst the backdrop of a looming hurricane. The fascinating thing about Seimetz’s short is the way she holds back from the viewer. She keeps the state of her marriage and even her character’s mental state almost uncomfortably ambiguous and smartly allows the audience to make their own interpretations.
Weighting – Written, Co-Directed and Starring Brie Larson
Brie Larson’s Weighting focuses on the end of a relationship. She needs to leave to figure out what she wants. But he wants her to stay. While it sounds like a tired concept, Larson’s script unfolds the action almost in the form of a poem instead of straightforward dialogue. Also, as her character gathers her things from their shared home–all in one bag–the short has a distinctly surrealistic feel.
Skin – Co-Written and Directed by Jordana Spiro
Skin, written and directed by Jordana Spiro, tells the story of a child taxidermist, an outsider in his backwoods small town. He has a massive crush on a girl at school and when she takes a liking to him and his work, the two become fast friends. But something happens that causes everything to fall apart. Skin is beautifully shot with excellent performances from these two child actors and it is also deeply sad and upsetting.
Ellen is Leaving – Directed by Michelle Savill, Written by Martha Hardy-Ward
Michelle Savill’s Ellen is Leaving won the Narrative Shorts Grand Jury Award. The gorgeously directed (reminiscent of Miranda July) short is about Ellen who is about to leave to travel around but has to leave her boyfriend, Hamish, behind in order to do so. As she makes her final arrangements, she decides maybe the best going-away gift for Hamish would be a new girlfriend. When her plan goes a little too well, Ellen has to decide if she can actually go through with it. It’s a funny and touching look at how our endless abilities to pick up and leave whenever we feel like can affect our relationships. Aesthetically, it was also one of the most beautiful things I watched while at SXSW.