FESTIVALS: Nantucket Pulls it's Shorts Up
by Carl Hansen
What do aliens, a Chinese delivery boy, and the ladies restroom have in common? All were the subjects of shorts at the fourth annual Nantucket Film Festival. Roughly thirty shorts screened at this year's event, including 1999 Oscar-nominee "More."
At a festival where the screenwriter is paramount, an obvious inclusion in the program was the Fields brothers' "Script Doctor." While only eight minutes long, a second didn't go by without laughter from the audience. A hysterical look at a clinical facility for screenwriters and what scripts go through in rewrites, the film is reminiscent of "E.R."'s fast-paced style, but the writing is not compromised. By far, one of the best written comic-shorts about the script doctoring process in Hollywood.
The other stand-out comedies at the festival were "Herd," "Stalker Guilt Syndrome," and "Ladies Room." "Herd," written by Mike Mitchell and Paul Tibbitt and directed by Mitchell, is about an alien's ploy to take over earth and is full of FBI-agents, flying cows, and general alien vs. man frivolity. It also incorporates stop motion animation - Mitchell worked as an animator on "Antz" and "James and the Giant Peach." Jonah Kaplan's "Stalker Guilt Syndrome" juxtaposes a man's internal struggle while inadvertently following a woman with his inability to remove himself from the situation. Even if some of the writing is uneven in "Syndrome," the observations from the POV of a white male New Yorker about the way society has changed the perceptions of walking down the street are quite astute and thoughtful. And then there's "Ladies Room." What can be said of a classical composition (Pachelbel's "Canon" to be exact) in urination. This one has to be seen to be experienced.
At the other end of the spectrum, the serious short line-up provided some thoughtful insights. "The Delivery," by David L.S. Lee explores the realities of a Chinese food delivery boy in the urban world of New York City. Faced with a hardened employer's expectations and the gritty truth of the city, the boy tries to survive. "Delivery" offers a stark look at the life of an immigrant and his daily struggles through life, with an emotionally powerful ending.
Lisa Collins' "Tree Shade" is an experimental film that portrays a young girl's acceptance of her family where most of the women have been jailed for one reason or another. One was wrongly accused and another was trying to buy a Christmas present for her daughter. Only after realizing the reasons behind each "crime" can she embrace her roots and be proud of the family she comes from. With little to no synchronous dialogue, the experimental nature allowed the filmmaker to work with the visual aspect of the film and complement it with relevant sounds.
In the animation genre, "More," by Mark Osborne was originally shot on 70mm, but reduced to 35mm to accommodate more theaters. Even at 35mm, it is a stunningly photographed piece (D.P. Phil Parmet also shot "Harlan County, U.S.A." and "In the Soup") with a deep seeded philosophy on commercialism and mass production about an inventor seeking happiness. Another beautifully shot short was "Madam Zander," by Patrik Milani, with a richly detailed color scheme captured almost ceremoniously by D.P. Charlie Libin.