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!

2016 was quite the year - one full of turmoil and disappointments. Sadly, 2017 has basically been exactly like last year except x1000000 in craziness. We have to do what we can to find any glimmer of hope possible. This is exactly what filmmaker Sean Wang’s sparkling indie gem “3,000 Miles” offers - a filmic glitter of touching beauty and hope. At only 5 mins, this sweet doc chronicles, via a visual montage of snippets of a city in motion and voicemail audio, Wang’s year living and working abroad in New York City. The story is told through voicemail messages left by his mother, from July 2016 to just recently, checking in on him over the course of a turbulent 12-month period in modern American history. Scenes of the city, reminders of the Trump administration, the feeling of simultaneous opportunity and oppression of being in a foreign country all emotionally seep through a beautiful concoction of words and images. Please take 5 minutes out of your day to experience this moving portrait of time, history, place and family…and hey, why not give your loved ones a ring afterwards! 

Hard to believe that the 2nd annual Indie Street Film Festival started almost a month ago already! The good news is that this means only 11 more months until the 2018 edition! While we are already excitedly counting down the days until next year, it doesn’t hurt to start collecting and watching some awesome indie films to bide our time. A good place to start? With some of the best short films of this year’s fest - one's that are already available online! This week we are proud to feature filmmaker Caitlyn Green’s short AUGUST - an experimental mediation on a woman waking from a fever dream, deep in Lousiana’s swampland, where it has been August for 16 years. An audience favorite, AUGUST had a superb run on the festival circuit, including playing at Slamdance Film Festival, and was recently featured on Short of the Week. Kudos to an innovative short that we were proud to program and share with NJ audiences! If you missed out on watching in Red Bank last month, check out the poetic narrative now on Vimeo!  

Featured Short: ISFF 2017 Award-Winner BUSINESS

Oftentimes, I jump into a film without first consulting a synopsis. Other times, I’m hungry for a foundation of understanding going into a story. Now, with a vague title like “Business”, this is a short I definitely felt I needed relevant information on going into screening it. Well, here’s what I was met with: “A terrified young man gets caught up in a surreal and demoralizing "business opportunity." Will he make it out alive?” Nope, that synopsis didn't really help. But boy, the intrigue born after reading it made me beyond glad for the continued confusion I felt upon pressing play. This is one film that you’ve got to just let go of all rationality and logic to watch! Sound bizarre? Well, that adjective would only scratch the surface in describing filmmaker Kati Skelton’s aforementioned award-winning short film, "Business". Skelton’s display of “comedic vision” is such a special type of “comedic vision” that even the Narrative Jury at the 2017 Indie Street Film Festival created their own special award just to honor that…wait for it…."comedic vision”. This year's jury gushed over the unique brand of storytelling, acting and visual style on display. If quirky, funny, kooky, abstract, absurd, just plain weird (I could consult a thesarus and keep going with this....), is your cup of filmic tea, this hilarous short should be right up your alley. And let me tell you, it's a twisted yet fun little alley worth going down if just for the wild 8-min ride this film presents. I could go on, but let me not ruin the experience. And if you like what you see, you MUST watch Skelton's other short “Door on the Left” - just as absurd, just as enjoyable, just as comically perfect. Let go of following the rules of film and fall head first into a love rush with a very special brand of story! 

Featured Short: BALLOONFEST

In 1986, Cleveland had the totally rational idea of attemping to break the world record for the most amount of balloons released at one time. 1.5 million balloons to be exact. Seems fun, right? Well, this so called “fun” concept was declared Balloonfest 1986 and it really happened. As one would expect, at least in the year 2017, the release of well over 1 million balloons didn’t go as planned….at all. But really - when weather, simple fate and millions of unnatural pieces of floating debris are at play, what WOULD one expect? Imagine: an otherworldly mass of floating rainbow delight, overtaking skyscrapers, littering the sky, and then the water, with simultaneous happiness and questionable dread. A release of helium and good intentions with horrifying results that seems too ridiculous to be real. Welcome to America, folks. And welcome to BALLOONFEST, a real life story and masterful display of stellar storytelling using spot on researched, sourced and edited archival news footage. If you’ve not heard of what happened on that fateful day in 1986, I won’t spoil it for you but boy does it make a great film. I will just urge you to watch this short documentary NOW. With a running time of under 7-mins, I promise, you’re gonna feel a lot of things in a short amount of time: childlike nostalgia, whimsical thrill, and….what the f*ck?! Filmmaker Nathan Truesdell proves you can create a simple yet jaw-droppingly impressive story using only the archive. One of my favorites of the year, BALLOONFEST is a low key hilarious and depressing feat that is a total MUST WATCH if you’re a lover of great film, balloons, the 1980s, craziness, or just….human stupidity.   

Featured Short: The Heart-Stopping CURVE

Nightmares: often things we personally fear that creep into our dreams at night or circumstances that, across the board, threaten the fragility of human nature. Spiders. Monsters. Psycho clowns. Teeth falling out. Things of this sort. One of the most common threats to a decent night sleep? That recurring theme of falling, jolting you awake, back into reality - helpless and hopeless, if only for a split second. Tim Egan’s 10-min film CURVE (either a horror, thriller or experimental film depending on how you choose to watch it) perfectly portrays this feeling through a real life (though slightly metaphorical) scenario. Our physically doomed protagonist is bloodied, injured and clinging on (to pretty much a smooth, curved surface) for dear life. As far as we can tell, there’s simply no escape - no way out alive and no answer found within the abyss below. But endurance in the face of total destruction can surprise you, and we are left with one of those open-ended conclusions that will either leave you gasping or cursing at the screen. But only in that pleasurable way watching a good film seems to conjure.Egan was actually inspired to make this film after learning about the emotional struggle of a grieving friend, where “the only good moments of her day [were] the seconds after she woke up”. As long as you are human (and have inherent flaws from being such), CURVE will make you feel something. Whether fear, disgust, tension, hopelessness, you are left with no relief, even at the end. It’s that heart-stopping, stomach-churning feeling you get when you momentarily forget the pain and then reality comes rushing back. There’s so much to find within this film, but the best way to enjoy it is to simply just press play and go all in for the experience. Be the protagonist - feel what she feels, think as she thinks, and ask yourself - what would you do in the face of your own inevitable end? 

Featured Animation: HATE FOR SALE

Every so often I come across a short film that I will silently pass on to my fellow film loving friends. Key word: silently. I don’t need to try to sale the film or wax poetic about this or that, over using filmic language with my signature heavy-handed verbosity. No, sometimes I come across a true gem that doesn’t require my word vomit explanations. It takes just a simple: “Watch this. Trust me.”  This is exactly what I did after watching Anna Eijsbouts’ stop-motion cut out animation “Hate for Sale”. Created for the 2017 Visible Poetry Project using an original poem by Neil Gaiman, this short manages to sum up the world we live in, in just under 3 minutes. Eijsbouts’ chaotic, multi-colored style mixed with Gaiman’s honest text creates sheer, gorgeous magic. It’s cruel, unique, and brutally true. It’s beautiful and arresting. The harsh words about the state of society and our sadly inherent lust for hatefulness in contrast with narrator Peter Kenny’s theatrical yet comforting voice and the film's visual puppet master controlled carnival-esque world is pretty much perfect in a way you have to watch to totally grasp. Just a few days before discovering this film, I spent a morning at a puppet theater. It was like disappearing into a totally different world, full of strings and illusions. Like the 20+ other 3-year-old audience members, I was entranced, fooled even. Now, after a few viewings of “Hate for Sale”, I feel like I finally get it. I see the control that societal expectations have over us. It took a 2.5 min short and a Park Slope puppet theater to truly open my eyes. We all need to cut some strings.  So, yes, it seems I’ve run away again with my words! Neil Gaiman himself tweeted that he watched and “was floored”. And that’s enough for me. Just: Watch this. Trust me.  

Featured Short Film: "At the End of the Cul-de-Sac"

Sometimes technical achievements trump story and creativity. Sometimes story and creativity win out over said technical achievements. And sometimes, just sometimes, in very rare, magical moments, creativity, story and technical prowess align and produce a mind-blowing filmic experience. Case in point: “At the End of the Cul-de-Sac”, the newest short film taking both the film and internet world by storm.  Imagined and pulled off by seriously impressive filmmaker Paul Trillo, this recent Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere is a force to be reckoned with. And why? Because the entire film is a single take shot entirely from a drone. Yes, a drone! Even more insane? The take that became the actual film was the very first official take of production. A daunting task, sure, but one that produced something that is sure to dazzle pretty much everyone. The skill on display in this film is seriously off the charts (and literally in the sky)!  Not only does “At the End of the Cul-de-Sac” show off some fine eye-candy aerial work, the short also navigates one man’s total and complete meltdown in an interesting way. In the film’s one continuous shot, we become like voyeurs, taking in the public insanity happening right in the middle of a suburban neighborhood cul-de-sac. As the neighbors gather and watch this emotionally unstable man “perform” for them, things turn dark as their almost cultish shaming is pushed to extreme heights - no pun intended! You’ve got to see this film in order to believe how it was made as well as enjoy the story it tells. If you haven’t already, make sure to set aside a few minutes to watch Trillo’s mini-technical masterpiece now!  

Featured Short: Jim Cummings' "The Robbery"

Fresh off its premiere at Sundance Film Festival as well as follow-up screenings at this year’s SXSW, Jim Cummings’ one-take dark comedy “The Robbery”, presented as part of the Minutes Collection series for Fullscreen’s SVOD service, is now available to watch online for free. The short paints us the rollercoaster tale of Crystal, a down-on-her-luck young woman simply seeking to well…rob a convenience store. Easy enough right? Wrong. As these things tend to go, nothing is as simple as it seems. Crystal’s own fate is intent on introducing bad scenario after bad scenario, in only the most painful and hilarious of ways. Starring a magnetic Rae Gray as a girl way out of her league, “The Robbery” is a perfect intro to the rest of the series. True dark comedy at its finest, this one-take short is also a stylistic follow-up to Cummings’ widely successful 2016 award-winner, “Thunder Road”. It seems this is one filmmaker who has found his filmic forte. Watch the ill-fated robbery attempt on Vimeo now!   

Featured Short: Ross Hogg & Duncan Cowles' ISABELLA

Haunting, with a unique touch of beauty and fragility, filmmakers Ross Hogg and Duncan Cowles’ “Isabella” is a short hybrid creation that employs elements of documentary, animation and narrative film, jumbling them together in order to produce an exploration of memory and time that will likely stick with you long after viewing (the irony)! The concept of memory can be quite abstract and absurd. As we age, all of our thoughts, words, and past situations become elusive to our process of both digesting information and recalling it. “Isabella” studies those inevitable consequences of aging through the introduction of, well...Isabella, filmmaker Ross Hogg’s own 92-yr old grandmother. The outcome of watching and listening to her try to recall and recite once vibrant memories is surreal, heartbreaking and yet profoundly human.  The message plugged into “Isabella”, with its complementing animation style and camera work (a flawless collaboration between the filmmakers' two talents), is strong. It comes together in a way you wouldn’t expect and yet can’t look away from. I, for one, can sadly relate. Personally having had a blind grandmother battling alzheimer's disease towards the end of her life, I was taught a lot about the human condition after watching it slowly and desperately wither away. A word of advice: cherish your own thoughts and talk with your loved ones before everything gets lost in time. And then watch this ironically memorable official 2016 Indie Street Film Fesival selection below! 

Featured Short: I think this is the closest to how the footage

There will always remain traces of the deceased, elements that testify that a life did exist, that deeds were enacted, and struggles engaged in or evaded. Archives are born from a desire to reassemble these traces rather than destroy them.- Achille Mbembe As a medium capable of manipulating and being manipulated, film simultaneously boasts an ability to portray reality while also having a knack for fictionalizing fragments of truth. Archival film/video, a source of falsities and actualities used to materialize past stories and nostalgia, is a good example of the bipolarity of the moving image medium. Things remembered are kept in the light; things forgotten are pushed into darkness. Without light, we have no ability to create or experience film. We have no ability to be enlightened by its complexity.Most archived film/video is conserved, preserved for an unknown future. However, in the insanely affecting and haunting experimental short doc “I think this is the closest to how the footage looked” the footage [in question] recorded of filmmaker Yuval Hameiri and his family on what was to be his final day with his mother, was supposed to be instantly cherished. It was created in order to offer the family the ability to revisit a memory that could never be relived. Or could it? We learn, through the use of inanimate objects, that the final footage was lost in an accident that could never put any person at fault. A badly timed rewinding of a tape - just unfortunate happenstance. Because the footage was lost, Hameiri makes sure that every minute is relived, recreated with random objects, possibly to find some tangible moment or fleeting feeling that has been missing for years. He struggles. We are passive. The audience merely watches a new type of performed archive created for the sake of healing and understanding. We watch silently, comprehending the pain through a multi-layered sense of analog creation. The video tape, the reenactment - all analog, all real. A truly physical sense of trying to put your finger on a life no longer there. It’s hard to describe a film of this type simply because I found it hard to watch. I constantly felt like I was in a place I shouldn’t be. A Peeping Tom. Yes, it’s beautiful and yes, you should absolutely find a quiet, peaceful moment to watch, but be warned: the film is unforgiving in its grief. Truly, Hameiri's film is as real as it gets. Feelings stripped raw. I’ve never experienced anything like it. You’re there and yet you’re far away from it. I’m thankful for this film. For the way it made me feel, cry and understand my own past grief as well as that of the one’s around me. Go, hug your loved ones and reflect: is it better to record every moment and possibly lose it or truly live in the moment and never have the chance to visually relive it again?