Time Magazine's recent selection of "You" as the "Person of the Year" was spot-on. This year, the short film programmers at the Sundance Film Festival officially ceded control to you, the viewer. Before the festival began, the programming professionals spent months carefully considering what short should play before which feature, and how best to bundle the shorts-only programs. But now with more than half of the 71 official selections streaming for free on the festival's website, it's your turn to choose what you want to see and when you want to see it. For those who might feel overwhelmed by the extensive a la carte menu available online, here are five suggested playlists.
Future Cult Classics Playlist
"Bobby Bird: The Devil in Denim" (Dir. Carson D. Mell, USA, 2005, 7 min.) Listen to the many fascinating stories behind the tattoos that adorn our outlandish hero. For those of you who are McSweeney's fanatics, yes, you did see an interactive version of this animated character study in the Fall 2006 issue of the "Wholphin" DVD magazine.
"Little Farm" (Dir. Calvin Reeder, USA, 2006, 8 min.) Director Reeder must be a David Lynch fan. This incest/horror flick has all the Lynchian hallmarks, with a few "Jacob's Ladder" touches thrown in for good measure. Share it with others who will appreciate its mash-up genius.
"The Tragic Story of Nling" (Dir. Jeffrey St. Jules, Canada, 2006, 15 min.) Extremely talented Canadian filmmaker St. Jules unleashes a surreal society in which crazed alcoholics will turn against everyone, even talking donkeys.
Relationship Angst Playlist
"Aftermath on Meadowlark Lane" (Dirs. David Zellner & Nathan Zellner, USA, 2006, 6 min.) Two stressed-out brothers insist their mother explain why one has been treated differently than the other, a fictional tale that turns autobiographical when the focus shifts to the filmmakers' real-life parents undergoing a similar interrogation. The Zellner Brothers are Sundance vets with work in the fest three years running ("Flotsam/Jetsam" in 2005, and "Redemptitude" in 2006).
"Dad" (Dir. Daniel Mulloy, UK, 2006, 10 min.) After a very successful year with his previous Sundance short "Antonio's Breakfast," British helmer Mulloy returns with this practically dialogue-free portrait of aging lovers with an open-bed policy. Note: Not suitable for workplace viewing.
"Interview" (Dir. Charles Burmeister, USA, 2006, 8 min.) Lead actor Mark Kelly has a great sad-clown face, which filmmaker Burmeister exploits to the max in this tragicomedy about a hapless jobseeker who, according to his shrewish girlfriend, can't do anything right.
"Magnetic Poles" (Dir. Maria Rosenblum, USA, 2006, 29 min.) Even if you don't have a full half-hour to devote to this mini chick flick, check out the first few minutes because the opening nose-blowing scene is a keeper.
"The Oates' Valor" (Dir. Timothy Cahill, USA, 2006, 14 min.) Whereas many shorts in this year's collection have a very casual shooting style, this determinedly loopy saga about a longhaired teenager named Boyson Oates has actual cinematic chutzpah.
"Sophie" (Dir. Birgitte Staermose, Denmark, 2006, 14 min.) When will men ever learn? When a woman asks about your past sexual adventures, it's always a mistake to tell.
"Trout" (Dir. Johnny Barrington, UK, 2006, 10 min.) Scottish filmmaker Barrington unleashes a series of trials and tribulations on his quirky leading characters, an accident-prone, trailer-dwelling, highly amorous couple.
"Cubs" (Dir. Tom Harper, UK, 2006, 10 min.) With a background in television documentary making, director Harper gets naturalistic performances from his teen leads in this gripping drama about "urban fox hunting." "Cubs" has already won the BBC New Filmmaker Award, and its helmer has been feted by Screen International as a "Star of Tomorrow."
"Death to the Tinman" (Dir. Ray Tintori, USA, 2006, 12 min.) I shudder to think how many short films tangentially riff on "The Wizard of Oz." Tintori, a Jan Svankmajer devotee, enters into the fray with his Wesleyan thesis film.
"God Provides" (Dirs. Brian Cassidy & Melanie Shatzky, USA/Canada, 2006, 9 min.) This post-Katrina survey, which also screens at Rotterdam, lets the religious speak for themselves about this cataclysmic event.
"The Grass Grows Green" (Dir. Jesus "Chin" Beltran, USA, 2006, 19 min.) Played out against the daily reminder of how many American servicemen are making the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, this film's hero is a Marine recruiter with a troubled conscious.
"Master of Reality" (Dir. Matthew Killip, UK, 2006, 21 min.) A compelling documentary about a Dallas teenager who has been videotaping himself for years, chronicling his interest in wrestling, horror scenarios, and other boyhood passions.
"Mother Superior" (Dirs. Alex Mack & Diana Montero, USA, 2005, 22 min.) One of the co-directors is a freshman at the University of Utah, giving this doc about unexpected meth-addicts a welcome young person's perspective.
"A Nick in Time" (Dir. Be' Garrett, USA, 2006, 10 min.) A good example of a story that works best as a short, this highly accomplished film's hero is an elderly neighborhood barber working hard to calm a jittery potential customer.
"Peace Talk" (Dir. Jenifer Malmqvist, Sweden, 2006, 14 min.) A hit at last year's Outfest, this Swedish drama stars two little girls whose not-so-innocent games raise a red flag for the play-date supervising mother.
"Scaredycat" (Dir. Andy Blubaugh, USA, 2006, 13 min.) Returning to Sundance after premiering "Hello, Thanks" at the '06 fest, self-documenting filmmaker Blubaugh takes this opportunity to examine his mugging and its after effects.
"The Tube with a Hat" (Dir. Radu Jude, Romania, 2006, 23 min.) In this Romanian piece, a chirpy boy and his grumpy father undertake an arduous adventure to get their television set fixed.
"William" (Dir. Eron Sheean, Australia, 2006, 17 min.) A taxi is a location overused in short films, but filmmaker Sheean found a way to make this particular ride something to remember.
Cigarette Break Playlist
"Duct Tape and Cover" (Dir. Yong-Jin "Gene" Park, USA, 2005, 4 min.) Using the original narration from a 1951 educational film, this snarky animation ridicules the Department of Homeland Security's serious endorsement of a certain all-purpose adhesive.
"How She Slept at Night" (Dir. Lilli Carre, USA, 2006, 4 min.) The narrator of this nicely animated piece struggles to dredge up memories of his old life. The main thing that keeps on coming back to him is his partner's nocturnal habits. Spoiler alert: she slept with the fan on high.
"Ask The Insects" (Dir. Steve Reinke, Canada, 2006, 9 min.) Knowing that filmmaker Reinke is a professor of Art Theory, you won't be surprised to find this experimental film has many textures and theories pinging around.
"Black and White Trypps Number Three" (Dir. Ben Russell, USA, 2007, 11 min.)
The filmmaker's lens relentlessly focuses on zoned-out concertgoers for a brutal eleven minutes. The director previously made films about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the exploration of Easter Island, and the end of the world. Makes one wonder what the first two trypps covered.
"Der Ostwind" (Dir. Kohl Glass, USA, 2006, 11 min.) It doesn't seem fair that it took filmmaker Glass five years to make this WWI German aviator flick, yet it'll only take you eleven minutes to watch. So view this Red Baron-esque tale a second time to appreciate all the details in this amazing production.
"Destiny Manifesto" (Dir. Martha Colburn, USA, 2006, 9 min.) With over 40 films to her name, Colburn once again delivers the goods with her latest animated epic, ambitiously attempting to make sense out of the situation in the Middle East by looking at the American West.
"I Want To Be a Pilot" (Dir. Diego Quemada-Diez, Kenya, 2006, 11 min.) After working as a camera operator on "The Constant Gardener," director Quemada-Diez turned his eye to this cinematic poem, voiced by a 12-year-old living in the biggest slum of East Africa.
"Infinite Delay" (Dir. Kadet Kuhne, USA, 2006, 9 min.) A beautiful underwater piece that really should be seen on the big screen (versus the computer screen) for optimum effect.
"Light Work I" (Dir. Jennifer Reeves, USA, 2006, 8 min.) This striking multimedia concoction is the latest experimental work from Reeves, whose feature, "The Time We Killed," was in the 2006 Whitney Biennial.
"Motodrom" (Dir. Joerg Wagner, Germany, 2006, 9 min.) The ear-rupturing impact of these noise machines as they circle around the motodrom works best when you're trapped in a theater with top-notch sound blaring at you. But it's still worth checking out online.
"One Rat Short" (Dir. Alex Weil, USA, 2006, 10 min.) One guess which type of rodent is the protagonist of this highly sophisticated, cutting edge digital animation that pioneers a new genre: CG Noir.
"Phantom Canyon" (Dir. Stacey Steers, USA, 2006, 10 min.) Filmmaker Steers has assembled a mesmerizing, labor-intensive experimental film, composed of thousands of pages of female-centric collaged imagery.
"To Whom It May Concern" (Dir. Mitch McCabe, USA, 2006, 13 min.) Director McCabe proves that anyone with a camera and an interest in self-portraiture can make a film. However, not everyone with access to a camera is as talented as this Sundance alum and Student Academy Award-winning filmmaker.
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