Silent film ingénue Lillian Gish battles every nightmare imaginable, a pint-sized Charles Bukowski embarks on a late-night adventure in a five-star hotel, and a petite Afghan carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. These three unlikely heroes and their unexpected adventures can be found among the seven top-notch short films selected to play the 40th Annual New Directors/New Films in New York City from March 23 – April 3, 2011.
The seven shorts at this year’s New Directors/New Films are extremely interesting and ambitious in their reach, as one would expect from a festival dedicated to the discovery and support of emerging artists. Varied in their genre and filmmaking techniques, what unites the seven is each centers around a memorable character. The result is seven films, the majority of which are approximately ten-minute long, that are dramatically just as satisfying as the features playing this year’s fest.
In the 16-minute “Night Hunter,” experimental filmmaker Stacey Steers uses a handful of Lillian Gish films and expertly animates them into a mesmerizing nightmare in which our gasping heroine is confronted with everything from handfuls of snakes to terrifying giant eggs. Steers, who teaches at the Film Studies Program at the University of Colorado, previously created the 2006 short “Phantom Canyon,” which played at ND/NF.
As the title implies, Daan Bakker’s “Bukowski” is a story about the deceased, hard-drinking, writer Charles Bukowski – or rather, his persona as donned by a teenage bookworm who wants to bond with the workers at the luxury hotel he’s staying at with his sister. This Bukowski is the male version of Eloise at the Plaza – and just as much fun. “Bukowski” premiered at the Nederlands Film Festival and will next play Aspen Shortsfest. Bakker’s previous short, “Jacco’s Film” played Berlin in 2010.
Set in Afghanistan, Shahrbanoo Sadat’s ten-minute film “One” follows a wandering girl wearing a suitcase-sized tin box strapped to her back. Her simple demand – that everyone she encounters put something in her box – has interesting results and far-reaching implications. Sadat previously made the film “Smile for Life” and was selected for the Cinéfondation-Festival de Cannes as a resident filmmaker
With 28 minutes as its running time, Nicky Tavares’s documentary “Fwd: Update on My Life” is the longest short playing ND/NF. The title comes from an email the filmmaker received during the course of making the doc. A portrait of a bipolar 60-year-old woman who dreams big, the film uses email excerpts, videotaped interviews, and animated segments with great effect to tell Deannie French’s story. This is the first documentary from Tavares, a multimedia artist and experimental filmmaker.
Shot on the Red camera in Rhode Island and starring two model-pretty Swedish blondes, Kate Barker-Froyland’s “Match” is beautiful to look at. Its surface beauty can easily distract the viewer from appreciating the well-constructed drama that plays out in a mere eleven minutes. The story of two at-odds sisters who reunite to make a very difficult decision is the kind of uniformly excellent short filmmaking shorts fans have come to expect from Columbia University grads. Barker-Froyland’s previous short, “Snapshots,” played last year’s SXSW festival.
Not too many short films identify both Cuba and Germany as their country of origin, but Simon Jaikiriuma Paetau’s 18-minute “Mila Caos” does just that. Centered around an illegal underground cabaret in Havana, the short begins with a police paddywagon filled with trash-talking drag queens and ends with a show stopping performance from our hero. The relationship between the boy and his disapproving mother, an artist herself, is the real heart and soul of this captivating story. Director Paetau is a student at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, Germany.
At nine-minutes long, Will McCord’s “Miyuki” is the shortest of the fest’s seven official selections. What makes this comedy of errors involving personal ads such a fun flick to watch is the title character’s cheerful, good-natured attitude. Dana Shiraki does a fabulous job with a character who doesn’t speak much English but says so much with her facial expressions. “Miyuki” is part of a feature-length, five-story ensemble project entitled “Casual Encounters.” McCord is another Columbia grad. The film’s director of photography, Bobby Webster, also shot “God of Love,” which won the Academy Award for live action short last month.
The seven ND/NF shorts screen in front of features during the course of the festival. “Night Hunter” is shown before “Summer of Goliath” while “Bukowski” screens with “Copacabana.” The Afghan-set “One” opens for “Winter Vacation.” Short doc “Fwd: Update on My Life” precedes “Shut Up Little Man!” Ticket buyers going to see “Attenberg” will catch “Match. “Mila Caos” is the opening act for “El Velador,” and “Miyuki” warms up the crowd for “Hospitalite.” Information on screening times and locations can be found on the ND/NF website http://www.newdirectors.org.