This year marks the 7th anniversary of the SF Shorts Film Fest–but you won't see that anywhere on their calendar, program, or in their literature. Like the films within, the festival is almost mercilessly direct in its presentation, from the jaunty pink poster of a cute charicature atop film cannisters apparently planning his suicide (pictographically reminding us that "life is short"), to the unvarnished program listings that cut directly to the films, dispensing with the now-ubiquitous art world priming of "programmer's notes" or "curator's statement."
And why not. Who needs a primer? These shorts are exciting. They've got murder, mystery, gunfights, love and fireworks and when you get off of one, you get to ride all over again, straightaway. Where else could a filmmaker like Jordan Baseman, showing in this year's program, tie a pretty red ribbon around concepts as broad and luminous as "the afterlife, death, paranormal activity, Michael Jackson, ghosts, psychic ability, Jaffa Cakes, Halloween?"
Shorts (when done correctly!) are, in many ways, the ideal forum for film: A proving ground for innovative ideas and new techniques that often launches the next generation of filmmakers. Although many noted experimentalists and adept filmmakers have found the form to be an end in itself, nearly every filmmaker began in the world of shorts, from the deliriously high caliber of Lynch and Polanski down to your neighbor Dan who just funded his new documentary on Kickstarter. We've made seven to-the-point picks from this year's excellent festival program, which shows at the Roxie this weekend, check 'em out:
Prora Stephane Riethauser's LBGT narrative situated in the decrepit environs of a Nazi beach resort (you heard that right) has been around the block: It played in Frameline 36, Palm Springs, Seattle Queer Film Fest and a number of other short festivals around the world. Don't let that stop you from checking it out. The view of the ruins of Prora in HD alone makes it essential viewing. Plays in Film Mix One: Push Pull on Thursday (tonight!) at 7PM. Tickets here.
Dylan's Room Layke Anderson's weed-buoyed inversion of Crossroad's Fest's 2012 honoree Laida Lertxundi tells the unexpectedly wistful tale of a grieving mother who visits her dead son's bedroom and connects with him one last time with the help of a joint left behind in his desk. Plays in Film Mix Two: Life Line on Thursday at 9PM. Tickets here.
I'm Coming Over Josh Hamilton and Six Feet Under star Lauren Ambrose star in this well-produced yarn of a "neo-luddite" (read "extreme hipster") trying to find a new home in the small mountain town to which he transplants himself. Program also shows Erik Norkroos's glowing, chaotic Birthday. Plays in Film Mix Three: Freak Flag Town on Friday at 7PM. Tickets here.
New Born (Bagong Silang) This awe-inspiring multi-director documentary teleports viewers to Bagong Silang, a town in the Philippines where residents draw not only their homes but their living from the massive graveyard that surrounds them. Plays in Film Mix Five: We Belong on Saturday at 3PM. Tickets here.
Written in Ink Martin Rath's narrative/doc hybrid about a Polish man striving to reconnect with his sister after 14 year is glowingly mesmeric and luminously lensed. Film Mix Six: Inside Outside on Saturday at 5PM. Tickets here.
El Último Hielero (The Last Ice Merchant) This ethnographical portrait of Baltazar, the last of Ecuador's ice merchants, laborers who bring blocks of freshly carved ice from the nearby Mount Chimborazo into town to sell, was a part of a group of documentary films in a particularly fruitful Kickstarter. Program highlights also include San Francisco state filmmaker Brian Emerick's black-and-white Tunnel, which showed at Cannes this year. Plays in Film Mix Seven: Do It Just, Saturday at 7PM. Tickets here.
Solipsist Describing Andrew Thomas Huang's Slamdance-winning cryptozoological rainbow head trip would take far more space that we have here–it's radical. Plays in Film Mix Eight: Nature Nurture, Saturday at 9PM. Tickets here.