Shorts Round Up of the Week – Cannes Contenders

This week we have seven stellar short films from around the world including Asia, Hungary, and The Ukraine, as well as one from prolific indie filmmaker Patricia Chica. Some of the shorts featured have competed in Cannes this year, and all deal with some kind of interesting and very widely discussed social theme including LGBTQ Pride Month. Look for these excellent films when you can. If you’d like to submit your short film for review consideration, submissions are always opened to filmmakers and producers

Anna (2019)
In competition a this year’s Cannes, Dekel Berenson’s “Anna” is a weird, satirical look at middle age and the absurdity of match making in a war torn Eastern Ukraine. Svetlana Alekseevna Barandich plays Anna, a middle aged single mother who lives in a small industrial town, and works at a meat processing plant. Dreaming of a better life for her and her teenage daughter, she reluctantly agrees to take part in a dating party for foreign men interested in marrying foreign women. The results are bizarre and actually quite funny, as Anna works toward finding a husband and realizes that the idea of normal differs in other countries. There’s a particularly hilarious moment where Anna is meeting with a Southern man who is talking to her through a translator, and things go a bit awry. The whole illusion of peace is ruined in the pretty hysterical final scene where one action sets off a chain of events that indicate the inherent tension and pressure in what is supposed to be a fun, romantic event. Berenson’s comedy drama is weird, and funny in the realm of Wes Anderson, and I hope to see more from him soon.

Favourites (Favoriten) (2019)
Writer/Director Martin Monk’s “Favourites” reminded me a lot of “Broken Flowers.” Rather than look from the perspective of the absent male presence, we get a glimpse a young girl whose life has been pretty much altered by not having a dad around. Competing at Cannes this year in the Cinéfondation category, “Favourites” is a great tale of Sofia, a young traveler who is hitchhiking to Italy in a quest to find her biological father. After battling with her mother, she takes off in haste and now anxiously looks for a way there. While hitchhiking, she grabs a ride with a middle aged man named Michael who gives her a lift.

Along the way through the Austrian South, the pair forms an interesting bond where Michael almost immediately begins to care for Sofia and empathize with her dilemma. The performances here are fantastic with newcomer Lia Wilfing offering a very relatable and top notch turn as this confused young girl who wants to find her father in an attempt to make some sense of her life. Christian Dolezal is very good as Michael, a man who builds a maternal empathy for Sofia, building up to a climax that’s incredibly ambiguous and suggests perhaps there is more to this meeting than mere coincidence. I loved this and I hope we can see a feature someday.

Halwa (2018)
Gayatri Bajpai, and Nirav Bhakta’s drama is fantastic and one I would have watched for at least two hours. It’s a wonderful tale of sexuality, true love and the expectations of domesticity on some culture. With an older woman looking on the eve of her wedding anniversary, Sujata looks for little joys in an abusive marriage. When she learns that her childhood friend Premila’s husband passed away, she reaches out to her over facebook. While they get back in touch, Sujata remembers the very intimate relationship the girls spent, expressing their love over making the dish Halwa. But when Sujata’s husband begins to notice what she’s been up to, things get serious for the housewife.

“Halwa” is a great drama about repressed sexuality and rekindled love as the directing team deliver a very tender and sweet romance set amidst the horrible domestic abuse Sujata suffers from her husband. Vee Kumari gives a stellar turn as the utterly unhappy but dutiful wife bound to her husband who finds a way to finally reclaim happiness with her childhood companion and true love. “Halwa” is now available for viewing on HBO and all of its streaming platforms. I strongly recommend it.

Jumper (2019)
A competitor at Cannes this year, Ayman Samman’s drama is a great bit of exploration at cultural pressures and how much life can push us in to a corner expecting us to follow certain standards. In “Jumper,” we follow Jack Salama, a crisis negotiator who is called by his partner to talk a jumper off a ledge. Salama is on the verge of committing suicide after a night of binging on alcohol, but the meeting with a fellow Middle Eastern man who is confronting his own feelings about his sexuality, helps him to re-think his life and confronting his obstacles head on. The performances by Ayman Samman and Mico Saad are pretty fantastic, as they both represent various states of domesticity with a life that has burdened them with an obstacle that will be virtually impossible to overcome. “Jumper” is highly recommended

Morning After (2017)
After touring For two Years in nineteen countries, Patricia Chica’s short drama about self realization is online for viewing in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month. Released by The Two Gay Geeks (TGGeeks.com), Patricia Chica explores the idea of sexuality and the evolution of human relationships over the course of one night. After spending a few years traveling, Michael comes back to a welcome party thrown by Edward, in his honor. As Michael gets to know the rest of the group, he becomes involved in a very kinky game involving chocolate tasting through a mystery kisser.

As the game progresses, the conversation transforms in to what’s considered sexually normal, and how much human dynamics have changed in modern times. “Morning After” doesn’t approach the whole idea of sexuality with blacks and whites, but uncovers how fluid it can be. In the end, it’s not a scary prospect, but a means of connecting with people, and learning something very positive about our own lives. Chica delivers a very entertaining and enlightening coming of a drama filled with a collective of strong performances, and wonderful direction from beginning to end. 

Ovum (2018)
With the increasingly harrowing and terrifying controversy involving abortion and Roe v. Wade in America, Cidney Hue writes and directs a gut wrenching and depressing science fiction drama that might be reality if we allow it. Michelle Beck stars as Rosalyn, a young woman who is considering having an abortion. But before she goes through with the procedure she has to endure another experience that promises to destroy her mentally. “Ovum” is a creepy dystopian nightmare, especially one that raises alarms in a world where the battle for womens’ rights is raging even harder than ever. Writer/Director Hue creates this terrible world where a woman has to face immense torture to retain some sense of autonomy over her body, and it’s a sad narrative that reflects a growing state of mind with the illusion of preserving life. “Ovum” is an important film that I hope everyone gets to see.

Riding with Sunshine (2017)
Now available to rent at Amazon Video on Demand, Kristian Comer’s drama is a poetic and very interesting statement about how quickly events can spiral out of control these days. Comer plays Vikki, a student who goes out with her best friend Mario for the day. After what seems like a normal day of riding around turns in to a harrowing and unnerving confrontation, as the pair are stopped by two cops demanding Mario’s identification and license. “Riding with Sunshine” is a great message with a very politically and socially relevant moral about how deeply rooted prejudice is and how utterly hopeless the situation can seem. The way Comer puts Vikki in a color filter standing out from her black and white world is a bit on the nose, but still pack a good emotional punch once the short comes to a close. All in all, “Riding with Sunshine” is sad, profound, and highly recommended.