Now that the 2009 Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Festival and the 2009 Palm Springs International ShortFest are scheduled back-to-back, June has become the best month to enjoy a broad sampling of international short filmmaking. With 295 shorts from 46 countries screening in Toronto from June 16 – 21, 2009 and Palm Springs showcasing 315 from 41 countries from June 23- 29, 2009, never before have so many shorts been shown in such a concentrated time period. With death and dogs proving to be reoccurring elements in many of the films, here (in alphabetical order) is an overview of a dozen standout shorts screening at two of North America’s largest short film festivals.
“Chicory ‘n’ Coffee” – Dusan Kastelic’s charming 9-minute animation about deceptive coffee-making is based on a song by Iztok Mlakar. It follows a pair of grandparents from the first day of their marriage to their death. The short, funded by the Slovenian Film Fund, will also be screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival this month. (Screening in both Toronto and Palm Springs)
“Glock” – Tom Everett Scott co-wrote, co-produced, directed, and cast himself as the star of this 12-minute comedy about an aspiring 007 (code name: Glock) waiting for news of his first big assignment. Don’t arrive late or you’ll miss cameos by Ciarán Hinds and Stephen Root. (Screening in Toronto)
“Danse Macabre” – This silent 8-minute Canadian experimental film about a “dancing” corpse is as beautiful as it is macabre. Star AnneBruce Falconer came up with the original idea and choreography, while Robert Lapage contributed the concept. In addition to directing, Pedro Pires was responsible for the cinematography, editing, and sound design for this film, which will also be playing the Los Angeles Film Festival and Cinema Jove in June. (Screening in both Toronto and Palm Springs)
“Horn Dog” – Bill Plympton’s hapless canine hero returns for another doomed adventure in this hysterical 6-minute animated romp. (Screening in Palm Springs. Note: CFC’s Worldwide will be screening Plympton’s “Guard Dog,” “Guide Dog,” and “Hot Dog” as part of a trilogy of trilogies from Plympton and fellow acclaimed animators Adam Elliot and Osbert Parker.)
“I Knew It Was You” – A captivating documentary about the character actor perhaps best known to moviegoers as Fredo from “The Godfather” and Al Pacino’s extremely nervous partner-in-crime in “Dog Day Afternoon.” The short’s 40 minutes fly by as director Richard Shepard incorporates footage from John Cazale’s work and insightful interviews from the stars who worked with him (Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro) and younger actors who play Cazale-like roles today (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Steve Buscemi). (Screening in Toronto)
“Mutt” – Animator Glen Hunwick gives us this funny and touching story of a happy-go-lucky dog overly fond of a red toy ball. The animation is amazing in this 7-minute comedy from Australia, which will also be playing Edinburgh this month. (Screening in Palm Springs)
six more films on page two
“Short Term 12” – Filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton took some of his own observations working at a Southern California youth treatment facility to craft this 22-minute drama about the intersecting lives of adults and teens. Strong performances from lead actor Brad Henke and his real-life daughter Phoenix Henke make the film especially poignant. (Screening in both Toronto and Palm Springs)
“Sparks” – This 24-minute adaptation of an Elmore Leonard story stars Carla Gugino as a tattooed rocker whose house burned down and Eric Stoltz as a man with a lot of questions. The short marks the impressive directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“(500) Days of Summer”), who beefs up what could be a living room-set one-act play by cutting away to stylish imagery that contribute greatly to the short’s flashy sensibility. Stay for the closing credits, which show Gugino singing on stage at the Troubadour. (Screening in both Toronto and Palm Springs)
“The Spine” – Academy Award winner and Canadian national treasure Chris Landreth (“Ryan”) is back with another signature animation piece. This top notch 2009 offering is a 15-minute story about a man whose spine is falling apart, along with his marriage. (Screening in Toronto)
“This is Her” – From New Zealand helmer Katie Wolfe comes this audacious and hugely entertaining 12-minute film about a woman in the midst of giving birth who foretells what the future holds for herself, her daughter, and her cheating husband. (Screening in both Toronto and Palm Springs)
“Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death” – Nick Park’s beloved claymation duo are back in a 29-minute adventure in which a deranged serial killer targeting bakers is on the loose. Romance and danger are in store for both man and canine. Fans of the iconic twosome are guaranteed a rip-roaringly good time. (Screening in Toronto)
“The Williams” – In this amusing 14-minute French comedy by Alaban Mench, a long friendship is tested when a bridegroom asks his best friend to take care of his newly-adopted dog. The problem is both friend and dog share a name. Needless to say, hilarity ensues. (Screening in Palm Springs)
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