2014 Florida Film Festival: Shorts Program 1: Perfect Day

FFF2014LogoAs I was trying to get a handle on which films I would attend, I didn’t know what to do about the shorts. Two-thirds of the films are shorts. I never watch shorts since I do not usually have an opportunity to watch them, and so I do not care about them much. I am a bit torn between seeing shorts because I won’t otherwise have the opportunity to do so and seeing the feature-length films because that’s what I’m more interested in watching.

I knew I was going to do some research on the shorts to decide which I would see. After all, I found that one short from the Preview Party on YouTube. What if I can find all / most of the shorts on YouTube or elsewhere on the web? Then I can see the shorts on my own and see the features during the Festival. Have cake, will eat! If I am going to this degree of research, of course I’m going to share it with you.

 

A handful of shorts are played prior to a feature-length film. I will write about those shorts in conjunction with the films they precede. The majority of shorts are divided into thematic blocks and aired sequentially in 1.5 – 2 hour time slots. Each thematic grouping of shorts will have its own post. The films for each thematic grouping will be listed in the post in the same order the Florida Film Festival lists them on their website description of that grouping. I do not see a organizing principle (e.g., alphabetical) for the film order, so assume that the films are listed in the order they will be shown.

The Florida Film Festival does not give any description of the types of films that you might find in a particular grouping. I find this a wee bit annoying. Am I supposed to read “Perfect Day” literally? Or ironically? Or perhaps both at the same time? Obviously, I will have some idea after I view the films, or even as I read through film descriptions before attending, but it would be nice to have a signpost. The Festival curated this experience. They picked the films and grouped them together for a reason. I’d like a basic explanation of their thoughts!

Fool’s Day

Website The website was unavailable at the time I wrote this post
IMDB Facebook @foolsdaymovie on Twitter
Directed by: Cody Blue Snider, IMDB
USA, 2013, 19 minutes
In English
Florida Premiere

A class of fourth-graders play an April Fool’s Day prank on their teacher and she dies. Then they clean up and cover up before a police officer arrives for a scheduled anti-drug presentation. This sounds like a less than perfect day to me. I find the movie concept creepy — a feeling that is intensified by drenching a well-lit, primary-colored, happy looking classroom and children with blood and gore — and a wee bit unbelievable. I have a fourth-grade niece and have a hard time picturing a group of kids her age getting it together enough to cover up and clean up after the death of the teacher! There’s always at least one tattle tale in a group of kids that age.

This film has played at several Film Festivals. Reviews consistently say it is among best shorts of that Festival, and that it is hilarious (See here and here (this one spoils the ending; don’t click if you don’t want to know!)) Fool’s Day has won multiple Jury Awards and Audience Awards at these festivals, including the Austin Film Festival Narrative Shorts Jury Award. Winning in Ausitn qualified it to compete for the Narrative Shorts Academy Award.

Here is an interview with director Cody Blue Snider, discussing the film just before it aired during the Hamptons International Film Festival last fall. Here’s an article about the creation of the bloody visual effects. One review I read mentioned that after a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Cody Blue Snider says he hopes to turn this short into a feature-length film, so maybe it will come to a theatre near you.

Cash for Gold

Website IMDB Facebook @Cash4GoldMovie on Twitter
Directed by: Robert Enriquez IMDB
USA, 2013, 7 minutes
In English and Farsi with English subtitles
East Coast Premiere

Starring Navid Negahban (Abu Nazir on Homeland) and Deborah Puette (Quadling Baker in Oz the Great and Powerful and Jessica Andover on Revolution)

Based on the trailer, I would go to this if it were a feature-length film. How despearate does one have to be to give up the only connection she has to someone she loves? All of us balance our physical survival and an emotional survival on a daily basis. Somehow, we have to put food on the table and pay for shelter over our heads, and obtaining that physical security requires our time and energy, sometimes at the cost of pursuing the things that feed our souls. This film concentrates that experience into one moment, one decision.

In addition to acting in Cash for Gold, Deborah Puette wrote and co-produced the film. In an interview, she said two things that would compel me to see this film. First, she said that over the course of the film, Ehsan (Navid Negahban) heals himself and Grace (Deborah Puette) just a little bit, by rising above their circumstances. “They don’t solve everything for each other, but they do affect each other in a very surprising way. I loved the idea of that.” I love the idea of that, too. We can be more than our circumstances suggest, and by being more, we help each other. Second, she said that the big question of this film was, “How can we come together?” Sure we are all different and those differences are important. But, at the same time, “we are all just one. We are more alike than different at the most meaningful level of our beings.” This is something I strongly believe. All of this adds up to: I want to see this film!

Just for fun, be sure to check out the On Set Photos on the film’s website. Filming took place at an actual pawn shop and the pictures include the proprietor, setting up of various shots, and captions with trivia (e.g. Navid Negahban ended up buying the ring used in the production.)

The Bravest, The Boldest

Website IMDB Facebook #TheBravestTheBoldest on Twitter
Directed by Moon Molson IMDB @moonmolson on Twitter
USA, 2014, 17 minutes
In English
East Coast Premiere

Cast includes Carlo Alban (McGrady on Prison Break), Hisham Tawfiq (Dembe on The Blacklist), Venida Evans (Mrs. Brooks on Treme)

Sayeeda Porter’s (Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris) son is serving in the United States Army in the Middle East. She is in the elevator of her Harlem apartment building, bringing her laundry up from the basement, when two Army Casualty Notification Officers (Alban and Tawfiq) get on the elevator with her. She waits to see if they will get off on her floor. When they do, she doesn’t get off, and spends the film trying to avoid running into them. What ever they have to say she doesn’t want to hear.

There’s a great interview with the director about his filmmaking experience and process, both in general and on this film. He’s all about the storytelling, which I love. My single greatest complaint about Hollywood films is the lack of attention paid to original story. It’s as though Hollywood thinks that its art is only the visual component of storytelling and there is no need for original writing. Oops. Where did that soapbox come from?

Reviews of the film are consistently good, including one listing The Bravest, The Boldest among the top 5 must-see shorts at Sundance 2014. Also, check out an outtake on the film’s Facebook page (scroll down to January 2014; it is a couple entries before the 2013 demarcation line), in which a random neighbor in the apartment building where the short was filmed knocks on a door in the back of a shot.

ZZZZZZZ

Website IMDB Facebook
Directed by: Tarik Karam IMDB @TarikKaram on Twitter
USA, 2013, 5 minutes
In English
Southeast Premiere

This is the only film in this block of shorts that is available online in its entirety. I was not able to embed that video, so click on the website link above to be linked to the director’s website where the film resides.

Like the trailer, the film is entirely dialogue free; unlike the trailer, a haunting musical piece scores the film, punctuated with occasional sounds of the city that never sleeps. The film explores what it means to be connected to and disconnected from people. The official description of the film that appears on the Florida Film Festival website and IMDB says, “The romantic and surreal story of a couple in love, sleepwalking through the city.” I didn’t buy that they were in love. Seeking a connection, yes. Wanting more from the relationship, yes. But this film highlights how it is possible to move through life having frequent and fun interaction with another, without actually knowing that person at all. Yes, the film includes sequences we might associate with being in love — laughing, dancing, whispering, hugging, holding hands — but these are interspersed with images of disconnection — walking side by side with no apparent awareness of the other and zombie-like stares into the distance. Ultimately, I was left with a feeling of sadness and longing.

I loved this little film. Beautiful and haunting, and only takes 5 minutes to watch. Recommended

The Immaculate Reception

Website IMDB Facebook
Directed by Charlotte Glynn IMDB @jacktarfilms on Twitter
USA, 2014, 16 minutes
In English
East Coast Premiere, 2nd US Showing

I love American football. I watch more football than my husband does. But I am (a) a New England Patriots fan and (b) not the kind of fan who knows history and stats and individual players and all that. So until I started Googling this film, I had no idea that “The Immaculate Reception” refers to a specific play. There were only seconds left in the 1972 playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders and the Steelers were down by 1 point. The Steelers quarterback threw a pass, which was blocked. But the football bounced off the blocker into the arms of Steelers’ player Franco Harris who ran it into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown with only 5 seconds left in the game. Here’s a video of the play:

The Immaculate Reception short film playing during The Florida Film Festival is a story of first love, set in the home of Pittsburgh steelworkers watching the legendary game. The film was shot in the Pittsburgh home of the film’s co-producer and the Kickstarter page for the film describes the great care that went into recreating a 1970s decor. This film screened at Sundance, but has not shown anywhere else yet, so I was able to find only a couple of reviews in a quest to determine whether this same attention to detail went into the rest of the film. One reviewer called The Immaculate Reception one of the gems of the Sundance shorts and said his jaw was on the floor watching it.

 

Milk and Blood

IMDB
Directed by Markus Englmair IMDB
USA / Iceland, 2013, 11 minutes
In Icelandic with English subtitles
East Coast Premiere, 2nd US Showing

I could find nothing about this film, except the IMDB entry. No website, no trailer, no Facebook, nothing. I did learn that, at least as of December 2013, Director Markus Englmair was a current student at Columbia University School of the Arts. Perhaps this was a student project, so not marketed in the same way as the other shorts?

Since I could find no additional information, all I’ve got for you is the description on the Florida Film Festival website, which is identical to the description on IMDB: “A lactose intolerant dairy farmer takes revenge on his overbearing father after being wrongly accused of breaking the milk tank.” Make of that what you will.

 

Setup,Punch

IMDB Facebook @setuppunchfilm on Twitter
Directed by David Schlussel IMDB @DazueKey on Twitter
USA, 2013, 19 minutes
In English
Florida Premiere

Starring Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings) and Alia Shawkat (Maeby Funke / Shaman Sheman on Arrested Development)

I know nothing about boxing or about approaches to stand-up comedy. I might have guessed the title was a boxing reference, but would not have guessed, based on the title alone, that this short might be about stand-up. But that’s what it’s about. Elijah Wood plays Rueben Stein, a stand-up comic doing the most daring set of his life. Based on the trailer, I’m assuming he proposes to his girlfriend at the end of the set.

In an interview, producer Chris Leggett said this short is the first few minutes of a feature film written by Director David Schlussel. Perhaps another one that may come to a theatre near you?

 

Closing Thoughts

I expected to find many, perhaps most, of the shorts available on the web in their entirety. In preparing this blog post, I learned that this was a mistaken expectation. Many film festivals do not accept shorts that are already available on the web. Film festivals are important for shorts since many are made with the hope that they might be turned into a longer film given the necessary backing, and such deals are often made at festivals.
As I have gone through the process of writing this first post on a block of shorts, I’m beginning to have a greater appreciation for shorts. Every short that is part of this first block sounds interesting and excellent and I can’t find most of them online. I am seriously looking at how to fit this program into my schedule so I can see all of these films.

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