First Anniversary - James Huang
Kate T. Billingsley and Keith Chandler play a couple divorced for a year who are meeting again a year after a shared trauma, the lingering feelings turning the meeting awkward. That's the basic plot, but hardly all there is to this lyrical short. Director James Huang, screenwriter Chin Yu, cinematographer Massimo Crapanzano, and editor Emma Arnold put together a fantasic looking short that maximizes the impact of the fantastic acting. Perhaps it is Mike Higbee's score that really shines, perfectly completng the mis-en-scene and production values. A wonderful interpersonal short that is truly heartbreaking. The question of whether love is enough is never really answered due to another question popping up - how much time will it take?
You can find out more at http://www.tentenpro.com
All Our Yesterday - Jacob Strunk
I find it amazingly complicated to interact with a film where I have nothing to grab on to other than mood. It's difficult because I find myself having difficulty when I want tell, but get nothing but show. Films without dialogue can be a very trying process for me, but All Our Yesterdays managed to do something impressive - it made me forget all that and lose myself in the tone of grief it presented. Jacob Strunk has done a remarkable job presenting us a story of loss. No, not a story of loss, an audio-visual tone poem to loss and loneliness. It it precise and lyrical in the way it allows a character who seems of a single mind, consumed by memory and pain, as she moves wordlessly through the scenario. Yeah, I lost the thread a couple of times, but I was so moved, I didn't really care.
How Not to Disappear Completely - Stuart Perkins
Every once in a while, young people have to flee their situation. Typically, fleeing only makes the participant realize what they are trying to run away from is their own damn self. Watching How Not To Disappear Completely, a story that revolves around Tom, a photographer who scurried off to India, found himself, has returned and is now looking for his half-sister. Perhaps this dropped so hard on me because of my own story of discovering half-siblings following my Dad's death. Tom's path towards self-discovery is at times lonely, but the overall journey is one that's so valuable. The performance of Damien Walsh was wonderful, and he carried much of the film, but I was completely won over by the electric performance of Emma Whittaker, who imbues every scene she's in with energy and lightens the entire film. It's gorgeously shot, well-acted, and a powerhouse film for fans of emotional journeys. You can read more at https://www.facebook.com/HowNotToDisappearCompletely/
Monsoons Over the Moon: Parts One and Two - Abstract Omega.
A dystopian future Nairobi is the setting for the struggle of Shiro, an abused girlfriend of a criminal. When a rival criminal group kidnaps her and tries to use her as a vehicle for getting to her boyfriend. She runs, and as part two starts, she is away, but her mind has been opened by an outlawed manuscript. The setting and tone of this short works to bring about the impact of Shiro's travails, and Part two moves between black-and-white and color seamlessly to add to the sensation of other-worldliness. The emotion expressed through the performance of Anita Kavuu Ng'ang'a is palpable; she is a perfect combination of frantic confusion and enlightenment over the course of the two parts. Taken as a whole, this story has elements of The Matrix and Alphaville, but is far more impressive in the ability for us to connect to our character's issue. In short, it is one of the best examples of near-future science fiction on film.
Sturgis: Rallying Back -
I only know of the Sturgis Rally from the days when WCW would run the annual Hogg Wild pay-per-view at the Rally. I had no idea that there was a Sturgis, Mississippi which had done a rally called Sturgis South. The nearly hour-long doc Sturgis: Rallying Back documents the fall and re-birth of Sturgis South. The film is well-shot, though early on, it does feel a bit stretched, with the interviews going over the same material many times. That said, it's also an impressive view of what an event like a Motorcycle Rally can mean to a small town like Sturgis. When they get to the point where the Rally preparations are being shown, and the Rally itself, it becomes a much stronger doc, making good use not only of the sights of the bikes and events, but of those who came in from all over the place. You can learn more about the film, and a bit about the rally at https://www.facebook.com/SturgisRallyingBack
Footprints - Denes Ruzsa & Fruzsina Spitzer
Comprised of held images, captures that appear to be held for a few frames before moving, Footprints gives everything a slightly disjointed look, which makes the more fluid moments in the film a bit jarring. That shows the power of the choice to create the film in that vein. The strength of the film lies in the contrast between images that are natural to our world, shots and impressions of life within the Built Environment, and of Space exploration. The imagery could have straight out of films like Wallace Berman's Aleph, or some of the better films of Robert Smithson. The evolution of human interaction, first with nature, later with the our controlled environment, and finally with space, is apparent as the meaning flows out across the film. This story of our first voyage to Mars is built on impression and metaphor more than delivery and linearity, which makes every image significant. A spider in its web has implications in the thought of humanity as a building animal, and the rest of creation (as we see it) being caught in its web. There is so much here to be waded through that multiple viewing is not only required, but strenuously rewarded. It is a worthy entry into the Avant Garde of the 21st century. You can see more at http://dokuweb.hu/en/footprints/
Four Wise Monkeys - Julija Iruskinaite
There is a new British cinema rising. It's small, underground, but you can see it starting to break through. These are personal stories, typical character studies focusing on young people, and they are typically made on tiny budgets. Four Wise Monkeys belongs in this group, and it is an interesting, if imperfect, entry. The story features Shawn, heartbroken after being dumped, dealing with his friends, family, and life in a very difficult manner. He's the focus of the film, and the performance of James Unsworth is strong, but the flaw is we never seem to connect deeply with the scenario. The scenes play out well, but there is less emotional resonance coming from the characters until the final moments. That is a feature of these kinds of films, something perhaps borrowed from New York mumblecore or the disaffected Millennial cinema that is bubbling up in LA and Austin. The skilled eye of director Julija Iruskinaite, who has produced a film with strong movement, good pacing, intelligent plotting, and wise cinematography, manages to make this a movie that seems to draw you in, but also keep you at something of a distance. You can see the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9Fy5AVrhEk