The Five Hottest Short Films of Summer

Summer is almost officially here, which means it‘s shorts season once again. In the month of June alone, two of North America’s largest short film festivals happen back-to-back, plus the Seattle and the Los Angeles Film Festivals and Tropfest NY.  That’s a grand total of over a thousand shorts screening in a 30-day timeframe.

Among these 1,000+ shorts screening at the Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Festival, the Palm Springs International ShortFest, and the other June fests, a select few bubble up on multiple rosters, often arriving with prize-winning pedigrees.  These high-profile shorts, which range from a hometown-shot student film to an audience-pleasing cat documentary, have already proven to be the most buzzworthy shorts of the midyear circuit. 

Here, in alphabetical order, are the five hottest shorts playing the festivals this summer:

Directed by Bryan Buckley
(View trailer here)

The title character in this touching 16-minute film is a good-hearted, 13-year-old Somali boy whose name means lion.  While everyone around him wields weapons, Asad aspires to be a peaceful fisherman. 

Benefitting from surefooted performances from the non-actor cast and a taunt storyline with a very satisfying ending, “Asad” feels like a future Oscar contender.  It’s already won the best narrative short prize at the Tribeca Film Festival, where the jury declared it “a short film that is rather large in spirit, ambition and accomplishment.” 

Filmmaker Bryan Buckley has a commercial background, having directed more than 40 Super Bowl ads.  He considers his film “a tribute to our entire cast, whom have lost their country but not their sense of hope.”   

Directed by Seth Keal 
(View trailer here)

As the title indicates, this highly entertaining 16-minute documentary involves a camera attached to a cat.  Viewing such POV footage projected on the big screen could be disorienting, but filmmaker Seth Keal wisely focuses his story on the cat’s owner, an engineer who became obsessed with his adopted tomcat’s outdoor adventures.  The result is a cat piece that has higher intentions than becoming internet landfill.  

The doc was awarded the jury prize at South by Southwest and just took home the audience award at the Seattle Int’l Film Festival.  It marks Seth Keal’s directorial debut.  Keal clearly understands cattiness, as his previous credits include producing “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.”   

“The Chair”
Directed by Grainger David
(View trailer here

Another SxSW jury-award winner, this 12-minute NYU thesis film was the only American short in competition at Cannes this year.  

Narrated by its young male lead and set in the filmmaker’s hometown of Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, “The Chair” deals with a deadly contagious disease infiltrating a small Southern town.  The narrator and his grandmother come to believe that the chair in which his mother died is ground zero for the outbreak.  Visually compelling and almost mesmerizing with its storytelling, the short feels timeless and universal while being very contemporary and specific.  

Filmmaker Grainger David recently completed his MFA and is in post on his next short, “The Edge Of The Woods.”

Directed by Kat Candler
(View trailer here)

Inspired by family stories of her uncles’ youthful misdeeds, Austin-based Kat Candler has constructed a fast-paced, hyper-male, 6-minute comedy that is super-intense and laugh-out-loud funny.  One of the best moments occurs when the furious father comes home to find his preteen sons running amok and lighting things on fire.  He barely spares a glance to the babysitter excessively duct-taped to the wall.  

“Hellion” world premiered at Sundance and has been booked solidly on the festival circuit ever since.  Filmmaker and UT film lecturer Kat Candler has written a feature version of “Hellion.”

“The Pub”
Directed by Joseph Pierce
(View trailer here)

Having already played Clermont-Ferrand and Annecy, this 7-minute animated short is officially big in France.  

Shot at the Camden Eye pub in London, the footage was rotoscoped and animated into an unforgettable, surreal, animalistic look at a typical night in the life of a female bartender.

National Film and Television School graduate Joseph Pierce already has a strong following based on his earlier work, including the short “Stand Up,” which Alan Parker praised as being disturbing, weird, ballsy and brave – words that certainly apply to “The Pub” as well.


Southern Californians can catch all five shorts at the Los Angeles Film Festival June 14 – 24 and “Asad,” “The Chair,” “Hellion” and “The Pub” at Palm Springs Int’l ShortFest June 19 – 25.

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