Slamdance Narrative Shorts Block 2 [Slamdance Film Festival 2019]

Akeda (The Binding) (2018)
Dan Bronfeld’s drama is a disturbing but fascinating bit of meta-fiction that examines the real life brutality of war and loss of innocence. Bronfeld stages the film initially like an actual confrontation between American soldiers and an Israeli family. When the surviving son of the family emerges from his spot we learn he’s actually making a film. But is he? As we learn more and more about the filmmakers and their inherent tribalism, what we think we’re seeing doesn’t quite seem as absolute anymore. We’re left to wonder if he’s making a movie, or if he’s merely lying to himself to shield from the horrors of the war and violence that’s unfolding all around him. “Akeda” makes a strong statement about the brutality and sensationalism of war, and it’s a gem of a drama.

My Expanded View (2018)
Corey Hughes’ “My Expanded View” is a bit of abstract comedy that centers on a woman who suddenly becomes centered when something very bad happens. Staged like a youtube tutorial for yoga, the demonstrator poses and accidentally hurts her neck. Incapable of communicating her pain, she finds a sense of transcendence as everything around her gains a new kind of resonance. A bit too weird for my taste, “My Expanded View” is very light on plot and loses its direction mid-way, but the set up is kind of humorous, all things considered. It speaks to the film’s bizarre humor that it was promoted on Adult Swim in America.

Nettles (2018)
Raven Jackson’s anthology drama is a fantastic meditation on being a woman and what moments in their lives make up their perceptions and futures, no matter how big or small. “Nettles” is a six part series of short chapters about certain parts of the female body and they associate certain moments of their life. In the most striking chapter “Eye,” a young girl views her powerful dad in a new light that makes him seem so much more human than she imagined. “Feet” depicts a young girl who for better or for worse realizes that women have to display a certain caution while traveling, while “Mouth” depicts a young couple teasing one another on a date that ends in a form of bonding they didn’t expect. “Nettles” is packed with themes about vulnerability, and coming of age, while Raven Jackson brings so many tones and striking images to the screen. I hope we can see more from Raven Jackson very soon.

Tunnel Ball (2018)
I love the message about toxic masculinity and conformity that director Davis Jensen conveys in his short “Tunnel Ball.” Based on a real sport, we meet Bret, a young man who enrolls in a private school where every student is named Brett and they all look and act the same. Even worse they’re encouraged to be the same. When Bret reveals that he has a humongous penis, he’s barred from playing the sport that he knows he can beat everyone in. The only way to play and rule the game of Tunnel Ball is by conforming to the student body. With “Tunnel Ball,” director Jensen brings a bizarre but fun comedy with an actual statement to be made about the encouraged herd mentality of schools, and how sports can bring out the worst in us at times.

The Slamdance Film Festival runs every year from January 25th to January 31st.