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The Red Umbrella Diaries - David Kornfield
The only ting I can say is wow. This is a project documenting a project that is amazing, important, and beautiful. It's basically the Sex Workers' version of the The Moth, where they would take over a venue and tell stories, and in some cases confessions. The event was important, and powerful, and the documentary is so perfectly constructed, telling the stories of both the Red Umbrella Diaries and the storytellers themselves using the night of performances as a framing device, but also giving us the performance, which is where we see the reality of the individuals away from the stage and the stage persona.. The camera is precise, the editing wise, the hand of director David Kornfield deft at every corner. It is a magnificent movie, and you should find out more at http://redumbrellaproject.org about the project and the documentary.
Bridgebuilders - Jordan Blazak & Alan Dembek
There is a kind of story that I have found myself a part of many, many times. I will whole-heartedly believe something, and then be presented with the appearance of something so completely contrary to that belief that I have no measured reaction. Bridgebuilders presents that scenario fairly well, with exceptional cinematography, and simple choices made to heighten the story of a barkeep living in remarkably strange times. These kinds of stories are made on the backs of actors, and while the reactions of our lead come off as fairly stiff, the setting of that flawed stone is strong. The editing, camerawork, set directions, and especially on-set lighting effects, all make an impression. A fun, well-paced film that will certainly appeal to the Conspiracy Theorists among us. And they are among us...
Help! - Mahnaz Yazdazi
There are few films that better criticize my life than Help!. The story is simple: a guy hangs off the ledge of his apartment building, but instead of helping him, folks take pictures, which leads to a funny situation. This Iranian minute-long comedy really hits home. It's easy to watch and claim you're "documenting" a scenario, but more often than not, what's needed is action, and in Help!, no one wants to miss out on what's going on, but also, no one is impelled towards taking what could be hugely significant, life-saving action. This recent journey of reviewing shorts has brought me a much greater appreciation for films coming out of Iran these days, and this tiny miracle is a really fun short.
The Last Line - Beverly Tan
Poetry. It is difficult, I believe, to tell a story poetically, though poetry, without relying on the experimentation that comes with the exploration of extremity. The bigger problem, of course, is how to keep from being pretentious when your main character is a poet, and the entire structure of your short relies on her delivering her poem. Last Line does this so well, being almost entirely a film where a poem is read in voice-over across images of a bartender's relationship with a woman, a talented woman. Every aspect of production, with the exception of one hiccup in the sound mix, is phenomenal, and it all heightens the impact of the poem, the performance, the passion. When we come to the eponymous last line of the poem, and we are greeted with a beautifully ambiguous (though strongly hinted at) truth, it both stings and draws you into yourself. In this short, as in love, as in faith, as in loss, as in memory, things are not what they say they are.