Featured Animated Short - ei: emotional intelligence

"As E.I. units, we are doomed to love."  Poignant words from the narrated thoughts of an artificial lifeform. But in "ei: emotional intelligence", filmmaker Dennis Sungmin Kim's first year film at the University of Pennsylvania, we aren't just dealing with the simple concept of artificial intelligence. No, this is about something much deeper than that - going beyond what you would expect from the normal concept of A.I. on film. "ei: emotional intelligence" is a seriously impressive feat that succeeds so beautifully within its uniquely delicate animated style and story. And how does it manage to stand out? By injecting the A.I. concept with something novel yet really, very simple: emotions.  Representing far more than robotic and lifeless technology, this animation follows the story of Arthur and his female companion, two E.I. units - AKA Emotional Intelligence units - that try to live and feel beyond the confines of their created existence. Going a step further than their otherworldly IQ's, mathematical way of thinking, and futuristic, virtual landscapes, their story plays out like a love letter to humankind and where we may be headed. And it does so in such a honest way, with words building a world around the colors and lines of sweet, colorfully stylistic animation. Complementing the impressive gadgetries of A.I. are real emotions - the ones that challenge us, make us weak and eventually give us strength.  Like a rhythmic poem or a finely crafted classical tune, "ei: emotional intelligence" relaxes its viewers through its narration - covering a wide spectrum of thoughts and feelings along the way. We promise you those feelings will keep echoing long after the last frame. With his pulse on great personal design and unique narrative style, Dennis Sungmin Kim's ten month endeavour turned into a first year film that ) he should be extremely proud of and ) you should watch right now!  And while you're at it, why not check out more of the best short films on the web! 

Featured Short: All Eyes Peeled on "The Procedure"

“A man is kidnapped and forced to endure a strange experiment.”  Kidnapping? Strange experiment? Sound enticing? Well, I’m sitting here staring at my computer screen, thinking about where to begin on this review of “The Procedure”. Sure, there are thousands upon thousands of adjectives in the dictionary. A thesaurus can also come in handy quite often. And yet, I can’t find that one perfect, all-encompassing word to describe filmmaker Calvin Lee Reeder’s…how can I put it?…insane, genius, disgusting, fascinating, peculiar, hilarious, bizarre, curious and well, extremely polarizing, description-defying short film, “The Procedure”. Winner of this year’s Short Film Jury Award for U.S. Fiction at Sundance Film Festival, this oddball little short exists in a filmic world all its own, employing a kinda genreless plot of proportions beyond epic. An official Indie Street Film Festival selection this past summer, a few “butts” may have gotten up from their seats during the screening. Do I blame them? In some cases, no. But did they miss out? Absolutely. Isn’t that the challenge (and half the fun) of challenging your audience? Make them squirm, laugh, feel disgusted - just make them feel something and have them remember that feeling for some time after the credits roll. That’s what the genius of “The Procedure” offers.  ISFF’s own Artistic Director, Jay Webb, described the film as “one of the craziest, funniest, awesomest, sickest, can't stop laughingest films of the year“. If that doesn’t sum it all up, I don’t quite know what will. It’s like that one friend we all have - you can’t take them anywhere but you know, in the end, they will always be the life of the party in their own weird little way. Love to hate, hate to love. We could sit here all day trying to wrap our minds around the on-screen procedure that is featured within “The Procedure”, but you know what? We’ll stop here. Best to go in blindly on this one, guys. Get ready to take your usual film tastes on one heck of a visual adventure. At just under 4 mins long, what could possibly go wrong?! Watch the recent Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere “The Procedure” NOW!  

“Movies don't always go as planned but no matter what, people talk."  While that's the synopsis for this week’s featured short film, it sorta seems relevant to life in general, no? While not everything always goes according to plan, sometimes, just sometimes, you can count on people to be themselves...whether that’s a good thing or bad thing. When filmmaker/cartoonist Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell returns to her hometown neighborhood to make a film about the locals as they hang out and shoot the shit, she finds the normal conversation and hustle and bustle that attracted her there to make the film in the first place….well…gone. However, though the usual activity seems to be in hibernation, the genius of these neighborhood personalities peeks out from underneath the covers and gives us a pleasantly delightful and quirky little film in a genre all its own. An official selection at this year’s Indie Street Film Festival, you better believe “Small Talk” walks the walk and talks the talk in only the biggest ways.  “Small Talk” first gained attention on the festival circuit this year when it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance Film Festival’s Digital Bolex Fearless Filmmaking Showcase Awards. If there was ever a short doc to adore and root for, it would be this one. And why? Because it’s simple, unpretentious and fun - with a personality that is anything but small. The bumps along the way only add more character for the audience to eat up. The voice, the layout, pretty much everything stumbles and manages to land gracefully scene by scene. Also a talented artist, Campbell’s unique attitude makes this little ol’ film a lot more enjoyable knowing that a good-hearted independent, female creator was on the other side of the camera. In addition to all of this, it also helped me to realize that the families reminded me a lot of my own flesh and blood, so it’s relatable in a way - and whether that’s a positive or negative indication of my own personal life, well, that's a discussion for another day. Randomness and spontaneity meet in the middle and create a filmic spark that you should totally watch. “Small Talk” is available now on Vimeo - see what all the Indie Street Film Festival talk was about and watch now!  

Featured Animated Short: Minha Kim's SEA CHILD

To put it simply, filmmaker Minha Kim’s “Sea Child” plays out like a visually stunning, animated fever dream. Produced over a span of 9-months while Minha was studying at the National Film and Television School, the short was created by painting 9,000+ images onto 1x1m boards and then adding color by painting directly on glass and using an overhead projector to reflect those colors onto the boards. A bizarre yet crafty, somewhat antiquated approach to animation, this (as she called it herself) “analogue” direction helped to create the chaotically beautiful and unsettling emotions all present within this film. And on what narrative stage are these very real, very raw emotions set upon? Well, on the verge of becoming a woman, our watercolored protagonist Sora wakes up from a nightmare and subsequently follows a group of men into the city in hopes of finding her mother. At only a little over 7 minutes long, the lush, evolving ’colorscape’ carries a surprisingly dark and defining journey into womanhood. The style and colors of the film almost transform themselves into characters, both creating and following Sora as she goes. As beautiful as it is overwhelming, this rendition of the age old story of growing up is refreshingly affecting. Try leaving this film without reflecting upon the imagery and journey you’ve seen - I dare you. A festival favorite this past year, it’s no wonder "Sea Child" traveled so well on the international circuit. It takes a narrative that’s sometimes difficult to tell and makes it, at its basic core, a must-see coming of age story that translates across almost all borders and languages. By inserting Sora into a seedy, dark yet vibrant, vivid world of paintstrokes and texture, the plot and visuals find a way to explode into an unforgettable, arresting experience for the viewer. It bleeds watercolors into your memories, leaving an impression far beyond the final frame.  

  Watch Mihna Kim's "Sea Child" now on Vimeo! And while you're at it, watch more of the best (and free!) short films online now on Indie Street

While video artists have experimented with moving colored liquids flowing beneath a macro lens before, Russian artist and photographer Ruslan Khasanov has shook things up with his new video “Neon 4K” - a psychedelic mix of neon liquids floating and interacting with each other in mesmerizing ways. The video was shot 4K, hence the title, and creates an effect that almost seems like it all came from an old scifi film. Definitely check out this cool piece of video art and get ready to become hypnotized by the swirling, dancing liquids! 


Featured Short: All Your Favorite TV Shows!

Chances are, you’re probably reading this on a smart device. Even if you’re not, technology has brought you here in some form, whether via laptop, desktop, or any internet enabled outlet in between. Let’s face it. It’s almost impossible these days to go without some type of online media consumption. News, videos, photos, social media. We are surrounded and surrendered with our hands up, still looking for the next like, follow, viral story, etc. Ornana’s 2015 animated short “All Your Favorite TV Shows!” is a highly imaginative and insanely energetic construction of our desire to consume. The film’s mission, through a mix of animation and slickly edited, repurposed pop-culture footage, is to showcase this need through a young boy's unhealthy obsession with (moving image) media via his tablet. As the line starts to blur between his reality in front of the screen and what's happening on screen, the short begins to play out like a fast-paced, action-packed, psychological thriller. And though there isn't a lot of action or thrills happening within the boy's actual life (at least until the very end), we can't look away. A sort of hybrid-animation, director Danny Madden and team's brilliant usage of editing is the stand-out star in this film. The juxtaposition of memorable scenes from television, film and branding from the past few decades against Madden's signature style convey so much without having to say much. You’re guaranteed to watch this film and have an “a-ha!” moment, whether it’s about the deeper intent of the film or just from recognition of a quick cut. By the time the credits are rolling, you may also be rolling in memories. However, it’s not long after that, that the message of the film hits. Sitting in front of the screen from day to day, hasn't it all gotten to be a bit normal and part of our routine? We feed ourselves the convenience of fast-paced consumption, like this young boy, to the point where it's commonplace.  I sit here typing this in front of two computer screens, a smart phone to my left and a television to my right. Oh, the irony! "All Your Favorite TV Shows!" makes things even more ironic because I enjoy watching it, craving more after it ends. But I guess that's just it: we continue to be in awe every time we revisit one of Ornana’s films, whether animated, live-action, or a mix of both. So, pick up your smart device and watch to your heart's content! You can revisit “All Your Favorite TV Shows!” here and while you’re at it, you can also check out a few more of their innovative shorts, such as “(notes) on biology” and “Confusion Through Sand”! Starting this week, you'll also be able to watch Ornana’s first full feature film “euphonia” for free via Indie Street! So much to watch! Enjoy!

One to Watch: the Olympic-Size Short Doc NZINGHA

As the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio wrap up today, we will all return to our regularly scheduled broadcast and lock away our interests in sports we otherwise only think about every four years. However, that chapter doesn’t have to end quite yet! There are still some amazing Olympic and sports-related documentaries popping up that are well worth your time. Anderson Wright’s fencing doc NZINGHA is one of those films. Nzingha Prescod is the number 2 ranked women's foil fencer in the US. She also became the first African-American woman to win an individual medal at the Senior World Championships in 2015 and would have been the first to win a medal in her sport at the Olympics. As part of Team USA in Rio, Prescod didn’t quite claim her sought after medal. However, her skill and level of sportsmanship is undeniable and her legacy will hopefully continue to grow. With such an inspirational, incredibly shot profile doc as part of her calling card now, hopefully the world will know of Nzingha, Olympic medal or not. Fencing is an underrated sport that also deserves some attention - and this film shows why! Send the Rio Summer Games off in style and watch the Olympic-sized short doc here!

Featured Short Film: "We Keep On Dancing"

Usually attracted to a more straightforward approach to either the drama or comedy genre in narrative film, it’s hard for me to be truly impressed by something that tries to be both emotional and unique. It’s difficult to find a perfect balance between those qualities without getting too sappy or too weird. Color me shocked when I watched “We Keep On Dancing” and had to almost wipe a stray tear from my still smiling face. A surprising little film with an all male cast, this film turns your typical masculine roles on their head while never getting too gimmicky - it stays honest and real in such a fun, touching manner. The film follows a distinct mix of characters, from your typical car mechanics to a lonely old man, and brings them together over a Volkswagen Beetle that has seemingly reached the end of its life. Unfortunately, it's not just the car that this old man has recently lost and this is where the film switches gears (no pun intended)! Featured on Short of the Week as well as winner of ‘Best Live Action Narrative Under 15 Minutes’ award at Palm Springs International ShortFest Film Festival, “We Keep On Dancing" is a sweet, charming little beaut of a film that I couldn't recommend enough! With a crew that was restricted to using a single 18mm lens to shoot the film, you can almost reach out and feel the shifts in emotions playing out on screen from shot to shot. Don't quote me, but it's probably the loveliest film about car trouble you will ever find! Watch writer Rhys Mitchell and filmmaker Jessica Barclay Lawton's film here!  Want to watch even more amazing short films? Make sure to check out some of the best right here on Indie Street!

The Secret World of Foley Artists & Their Sound Magic

Foley Artists are, sadly, often forgotten in the grand scheme of looking at the final product of a film. But when breaking down its construction, we often realize their role is quite magical in a way. Short documentary film "The Secret World of Foley" follows foley artists Pete Burgis and Sue Harding and creates a whimsical, quirky little portrait of them at work. From using clay to mimic the sound of fish to tinkering with all sorts of knick knacks to create everyday sounds, this doc is an enlightening watch for film lovers and everyone in between! Check out more about the sound magicians at work here

"Doorcuts": Exploring Infinite Portals

As we all know, doors are portals to places that can be both good and bad. In filmmaker/artist Zak Tatham’s new short “Doorcuts”, a young girl navigates a world of various doors that lead her through physical and virtual type spaces. It’s all fun and games until door upon door leads her into an unnerving, never ending world of real and imagined spaces and places. The goal of the film was to explore our online identities and how they can define our real life identities. These portals control us, in a way. A scary (but fun in short film form) truth, indeed! A fascinating, relevant watch, be sure to read Tatham’s interview over at The Creators Project and watch the short here.

1500 Words: Stick & Stones May Break My Bones...

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Or so they say. But what if the key to both your survival and inevitable death were...your own words?! What would you say? This is the internal battle that talented filmmaker Andrew Chaplin attempts to show us in his brilliant, witty new short film "1500 Words".  With an exceedingly inventive premise, the plot of "1500 Words" focuses in on Stanley as he copes with the fact that, like a disease, he has been diagnosed with only 1500 words left to live. What happens after word 1500 is spoken? Well, no surprise here: he will die.  Playing with the concept of terminal illness, this film, while still rather dark, creates something ironically humorous that you can't stop watching. It's like a psychological soap opera into the waning moments of one man's sanity in his final days he accidentally brings upon himself because of his five stages of grief: anger, desperation, thirst, suicide and resignation. His final tipping point? His desperate attempt to make sure, not only his life, but his relationship with his wife stays going as long as possible. How can he logically explain and exist while also saying as little as possible?? Sure, it sounds like serious fare, but Chaplin delicately transforms this concept into the most unexpected but fitting form of black comedy. It'll definitely have you thinking: What would you do if you only had 1500 words left? What would you say? Find out how Stanley copes with his diagnosis and watch the film now!  Love this film? Be sure to check out some more of the best free shorts on the web now on Indie Street!