Shorts Round Up of the Week – 4/15/19

For this week’s edition of “Shorts Round Up of the Week” I check out some rich dramas, a few ambitious fantasy films one of which involves bullying, and a pitch black revenge movie co-starring M. Emmet Walsh.

If you’d like to submit your short film for review consideration, submissions are always opened to filmmakers and producers.  

Abroad (2018)
Director Zayn Alexander’s “Abroad” has a lot to say about people of color and their opportunities and lack thereof in America. Mostly, there’s their lack of options in the entertainment industry and how the media embraces them, even during a time where diversity is being pushed in pop culture. We meet Jad and Rania, a Lebanese couple living in New York City, both of whom are struggling to achieve their shared dream of breaking into the entertainment industry. But as Rania auditions for the role of a Muslim hostage in an action movie, Jad begins to question his life when he proposes to her. As he is faced with more stable domestic opportunities, the two clash about their role in America. “Abroad” is a stark statement about the entertainment industry and the difficulties of minorities to achieve their dreams in an art form where they were stigmatized decades ago. It’s an important short I hope people check out. 

AEA (2019)
Dustin Nowlin’s short fantasy is a great epic survival film and one I’d love to see transformed in to a feature somewhere down the line. At fifteen minutes, most of “AEA” is based around sights and sounds and not so much dialogue, and it manages to convey a very unique and engrossing tale in such a short time. A Sumerian Noblewoman fights for survival in the wake of a massive global flood. When she washes ashore an island, she begins exploring the new terrain. “AEA” is only fifteen minutes but conveys a rich world with some bold cinematography. I admit though the final scene is cryptic and a bit too up in the air to be deemed a satisfying resolution, otherwise though “AEA” is a beautiful taste of a remarkable epic, and one I’d love to see more of.

Bullies (2018)
I really liked Director and writer Daniel Bydlowski’s short fantasy drama about a boy thrust in to a fantasy land while being bullied. Eugene is a young boy who is being viciously bullied in his school. One day while fleeing from his tormentors, he winds up in a cave below the school. There he finds four old men hiding out in their own play room, they’re four former students that built their own dream world in an attempt to escape the outside world. What seems like a great club house at first gets quickly tiresome for Eugene, especially as he realizes that his mother is looking for him and is desperate for his return. “Bullies” is a sweet fantasy tale about the effects of bullying and how it can impact us to where we want to escape and hope for some ease of pain. Bydlowski paints the world Eugene finds himself in as a metaphor for suicide, and he has to choose whether he wants to leave his world behind, or go back and face the hardships. The short is a rich and entertaining fantasy drama and one with a very good message.

Foyer (Hearth) (2018)
You just never quite know who you’re renting your house out to, do you? Even when you think you know the people you’re working with in Air Bnb, there’s always that air of mystery with just about everyone. Told with a clever flashback device that allows the past scenarios to unfold with the present, director Sophie B Jacques takes us through a single house that is the unwitting hunting ground for a pair of serial killers. After Emilie rents her house out to a married couple while she travels, she returns to a pristine house. She is oblivious though that the house was the scene of a vicious and horrific crime, and she may probably never really know the weight of what had unfolded while she was gone. “Foyer” is a creepy and slick horror thriller with a great sense of editing and a creepy final scene. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this premise imagined again soon. Sophie B Jacques is director to look out for.

Here & Beyond (2018)
Colin West’s “Here & Beyond” is a touching and wonderful science fiction drama that examines the haunting prospect of dementia and losing one’s cherished memories. When we meet Mac he is a man who is still living on his memories of a happy life with his wife Ruth, who used to host a popular kids science show once upon a time. Now a widow, Mac is diagnosed with dementia and is warned by his doctor he should tuck away everything that reminds him of his wife lest he make his process harder than it will be. As Mac prepares to make his final days as happy as possible, he meets a troubled young neighbor who takes a fascination with him. She soon decides to help Mac say goodbye, and fulfill one of his biggest dreams. “Here & Beyond” is a gripping and beautifully made movie with a great eye for humanity, and how daunting the loss of his only worthwhile element of life can and will be for Mac. I loved Colin West’s directorial style and I hope to see more from him soon.

Maniac Landscapes (2018)
Matthew Wade’s experimental animated movie is a both creepy and beautiful look at the evolution of life and the reconciliation with death. Using a single setting to unfold the silent tale, “Maniac Landscapes” implements excellent sound design to create a visual and auditory experience that is haunting, even when the screen fills with bright shades of reds and pinks. Wade’s animation and direction are remarkable with much of what occurs left up to interpretation. Regardless of how you perceive it, it’s a great, spooky experience with a fantastic rush of various emotions. It premiering at the San Francisco International Film Festival on April 16th; It’s also premiering in Scotland at the amazing Alchemy Film & Arts Festival on May 5th.

Sorry, Not Sorry (2018)
Director Monique Sorgen’s pitch black revenge comedy is so mean but I loved it. A young working couple (Wallace Langham, Jessica Oyelowo) living with their relentlessly demanding and insulting old father engage in a back and forth of revenge. After the husband eats his wife’s bowl of plums in an effort to find pleasure in the midst of his dad’s badgering and insults, she awakens one morning and decides to retaliate two fold. Soon the pair is dueling to see how awful they can be as they get back at one another, all before we’re given a big twist of the knife in the climax. “Sorry, Not Sorry” is a great and clever short film, and I enjoyed the sharp wit and dark tone. It’s also always a treat to see M. Emmet Walsh. Screening at the Florida Film Festival on April 17th.