Sundance Art House Shorts 2010
Sundance Art House
Short films offer a weird combination of earnestness, artiness, and weird ideas that won’t sustain a feature film but are still worth a look. There’s no money to be made, so many become a labor of love or part of a director’s portfolio, and the audience tends toward mom, a significant other, and a few diehard film freaks. That leaves little chance of breaking even on a short, and even the best ones tend to disappear even if the fans go wild. Catch these while you can.
We begin with a New Zealand offering from Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland. The Six Dollar Fifty Man follows an awkward boy reminiscent of the feral child from Road Warrior. He doesn’t fit in or even read properly, but he finds some acceptance with his skill in jumping off high buildings and sketching monsters. It’s got heart; every kid wants his superhero fantasy to become reality.
Short film Veteran Don Hertzfeldt offers a truly sick pass at Scandinavian existentialism with Wisdom Teeth. Two of his jumpy balloon figures are speaking pig Norwegian as one of them pulls out an endless stitch attached to a baby. While attempting to return this slightly born child to its gummy hole womb, they are attacked by knife-wielding fundamentalists spouting subtitles. No sign of Satan or a chessboard.
The enigmatic Young Love from Australia’s Ariel Kleiman begins with a man jumping over hurdles as he grasps his wounded gut. He collapses in a field as a partially dressed woman arrives on a motor buggy and screams at him in Esperanto while waving a hatchet. Did she wound him? Will she help him or finish him off? And what of that herd of curious alpacas that surround the couple as they make out? Someone bring me a side order of symbolism, please.
Mr. Okra takes us to a slowly rebuilding Ninth Ward in New Orleans where a fruit peddler cruises the streets bringing fresh vegetables to the locals. T. G. Herrington paints a portrait of true American character, even if the film ends a bit abruptly.
A pathologically shy boy discovers an invisible friend who tries to make him confident enough to talk to his parents in Pablo Larcuen’s My Invisible Friend. Dance and subtitles bring the boy to the very edge of conversation with his parents before the friend is fired. It’s a touching story with a happy ending and a great MTV-era soundtrack.
Anthony Lucas and his family get together for My Rabbit Hoppy, a kid’s DIY film for Show and Tell. Hoppy lives in the backyard and grows to enormous size, leaving ever larger poo and eventually escaping to terrorize the neighborhood. Pets can teach so much to the young.
The most involved film explores a complex relationship between two women who are attempting to have a child by artificial insemination and approaching the dread 40. Shot by Jenifer Malmqvist with a Polish-Swedish crew, Birthday looks at what happens when a man makes his presence felt and nearly tears the couple apart. The film has a crisp, clean look and an absolutely gorgeous wood strip canoe.
Possibly the best and certainly the funniest film comes in the form of Drunk History: Douglas & Lincoln Director Jen Kirkman downs two bottles of wine and explains the time Abe Lincoln met Freddy Douglass to discuss slavery. As she stumbles through this one-person party, Don Cheadle and Will Ferrell lip synch her words and she wonders if she forgot to wear pants. Educational films like this would eliminate high school dropouts.
We wrap up with the beautifully shot Rob and Valentyna in Scotland. Rob reunites with his hot Ukrainian cousin Valentyna when he joins the Peace Corps to teach English in Kiev. They take a vacation to the Isle of Skye where a very awkward missed communication pushes them back to separate corners of their lives. Inappropriate, but touching.
While each of these films has its merits, this year’s program feels more down and introspective than previous art house packages from Sundance. Maybe it’s the submitters, maybe it’s the mood of the times, but last year’s program seemed brighter and more colorful both visually and emotionally.
Sundance Shorts: www.sundance.org/support-us/art-house-project