Sundance: A “Short” Review

January 21, 2014 : 2:25 am | by Hailey Escobar

The silver hills, all sleet and snow, lit in wait across the heart of the homeland, untamed and unchanged by the passing of time, a constant in it’s mighty rein over the realm. The peaks, oh the peaks that cut through the clear blue heavens, casted long, chilled shadows over the earth. Nothing could deny their majestic wonder, no even the might of the blistering sun which hung in the sky, pale in their very presence.

These were the mountains that greeted me as I flew through the sky on the wings of an S80, American Airlines. there was no doubt that I would embark on an adventure that I had worked towards for over eight months. My face was warm, more than likely painted red from the pressure of an almost 3 hour flight and a short nap that had called to me. I stretched and yawned, my ears still popping as our plane skidded across the tarmac.

It was done. I was here. The Sundance Film Festival.

This is what I first wrote as we landed in Salt Lake City four days ago. A lot has happened since then. I’ve gotten to see several people from the industry including Lena Waithe (the producer of “Dear White People”, Katie Moest (Production Designer of “Republic of Rick” at Slamdance and YouTube series “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”), Aaron Paul, Rose McGowen, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Robert De Niro. I’ve seen several panels from YouTube and explored Park City.

I’ve also seen five short programs in that amount of time representing 33 different films. All of them were interesting and, in many cases, extraordinary. Here is a short review of my favorite shorts.

  • Allergy to Originality (Drew Christie) I now bow down to director Drew Christie (okay, not really) for his blunt, yet creative film that focuses on the lack of originality in mainstream media. By using dialog directly from Wikipedia, it almost contradicts itself while also showing us how ridiculous this repeated information has become.
  • A picture of me and Rose McGowen after seeing her film Dawn.

    A picture of me and Rose McGowen after seeing her film "Dawn".

    Dawn (Rose McGowen) This was a glorious, edge of your seat film that develops from a sweet romance in the 50s to a cold murder film that had be jumping out of my seat in shock of it’s ending. A wonderful ┬ápiece from McGowen that makes you think twice about the human psychology.

  • My Sense of Modesty (Sebastien Bailly) One of my favorite films in the short programs I have seen, the film follows a young muslim girl in France studying art. When she is forced to take off her hijab for an exam, she uses her struggle between faith and career to inspire herself and show her professors why she sticks to her morals.
  • The Bravest, The Boldest (Moon Molson) Also one of my favorites for the emotional power that it possessed. I believe that this is a wonderful look at the families who suffer at home while our men and women are fighting on the front lines.
  • I’m A Mitzvah (Ben Berman) “I’m A Mitzvah” is a dark comedy that’s able to capture a balance between humor and the mourning of a relative. A fantastic short film that will have you laughing and crying.
  • Dig (Toby Halbrooks) I would say that this is probably the cutest film of the short programs with a young cast of extraordinary talent. I was especially impressed by the young girl who plays the lead and possessed a talent beyond her years.
  • Me + Her (Joseph Oxford) Director Joseph Oxford has created a highly creative and interesting world of cardboard where a couple are parted by death. This tragically romantic tale sparks the imagination of the audience and shows what some hard work can achieve.
  • Crime: The Animated Series (Alix Lambert, Sam Chou) A small piece in a larger series about crime, this animated film tells the true tale of Marcus McGhee after he had his car stolen only to be ignored by the police. The film gives a hilarious look at the truth in smaller, more impoverished communities where crime is high. Will have you thinking and laughing hysterically at the same time.
  • The Last Days of Peter Bergmann (Ciaran Cassidy) A truly curious true story that will the audience with more questions than answers, this film follows the final days of a man known only as Peter Bergmann who left a footprint on street cameras in Sligo, Ireland while trying to keep his identity secret. A brilliant remembrance to someone who didn’t want to be remembered.
  • The Lion’s Mouth Opens (Lucy Walker) A brave,courageous film that follows a young woman who gets tested for a genetic mutation that could change her life forever. With the support of her friends and family, she looks this choice dead in the face and is willing to go through the experience for the betterment of others in her situation.
  • The young cast of Dig.

    The young cast of "Dig".

    Dig (Toby Halbrooks) This wonderful film is probably the cutest film in the programs, capturing the child-like wonder we all once experienced. The film is highlighted by it’s young, but wildly talented cast, particularly the lead who acted beyond her years with subtle facial expressions and determination.

  • Notes on Blindness (Peter Middleton, James Spinney) By far, my favorite short film of the short programs. Inspired by the audio diary of John Hull after he had gone blind in the 1980s. The directors not only used the original audio through the length of the film, but they also recreated the dream images that Hull described in his entries with beautiful detail and cinematography. A fantastic piece of film that captures the human spirit against adversity.

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