Sarasota Film Festival 2009 Shorts 1 Reviews

Second Guessing Grandma (dir. Bob Giraldi)
This was about a young Jewish guy coming out to his family and focuses primarily on the reaction of his grandmother. The dialog is witty and comedic and story has some heart to it, but the scene cuts are fast and the camera is a bit too close up on the subjects with a lot of hand-held camera bobbing. ■■■□

Trece AƱos (dir. Topaz Adizes)
A very short story of a young man who returns to Cuba to visit his family after spending most of his life in New York and the familial conflict that surfaces. The presentation of both sides―struggle, tears and a mother's broken heart―is sincere and well done and the shots of Cuba are impressive, though the subject itself is depressing. ■■□□

Countertransference (dir. Madeleine Olnek)
A brilliantly-acted comic character study of Carla Carthrop, a fidgety and reserved woman trying to change her circumstances. We watch her personal battles against her domineering boss and totally insane therapist. I guess you would call this surreal absurdism. The dialog was weak in a few places leaving me to wonder how much was scripted versus improvised, but overall the short is hilarious and highly recommended. ■■■■

Nowhere Kids (dir. Eric Juhola)
Nowhere Kids follows a homeless teenage girl and her dog as she tracks down her mother. Along the way she falls in with a small group teens in the same situation and the audience gets a view of their grim existence with little hope and no real home or connection to the world, emotionally broken. With costuming a little too stylish and makeup a bit too gritty the realism gets hindered, but overall the storytelling is good and the acting and subject matter commendable and evocative. ■■■□

The New Yorkist (dir. Dana O'Keefe)
I'm not sure what to make of this short. It's what looks like an abstract first person delusion of grandeur. The story is told silent film-style as Alexander studies history, fights ants and eventually becomes Alexander the Great as he "conquers" Kyrgyzstan (represented with a disused airport terminal) by simply showing up. Strange stuff. ■□□□

I Am So Proud Of You (dir. Don Hertzfeld)
This new Don Hertzfeldt short was the main draw of the short film collection and didn't disappoint. For those who don't know, Hertzfeldt is known for his stick figure drawing style and his 2000 comic short Rejected. Over his past three short films he's been shifting from comedy to drama, or a kind of "dramedy". The second chapter in what Hertzfeldt has said will be a three part series follows Bill one year after his recovery from an undisclosed illness in Everything Will Be OK (trailer). The story starts with memories of Bill's childhood and a pastoral look at his (comically) mentally ill family's past. The funny and creative presentation works towards profound ruminations on time and death. Meanwhile Bill learns that at the same time he is improving, everything is not ok. The core of the story is the one certainty in life, "You will only get older."

Hertzfeldt has a real focus on sound and music in his short films, for example see the shot of sound files used in the 2005 short The Meaning of Life above. In Proud Of You you can hear this focus in the family history portion, and in the impact of Richard Wagner's "Vorspiel" near the end. As for animation he really surpassed himself. Hertzfeldt has always strictly limited his films to hand-drawn effects and animation with no computer assistance. In Everything Will Be OK he experimented with some animated photography and does even more here to great effect. There's a lot of humor and philosophy packed into this 22 minute short, most of it subtle but all of it pleasing and worth a look. ■■■■