Sonoma Valley Film Festival 2004:
The Best of Shorts
year's crop of shorts at the Sonoma Valley Film Festival was
outstanding. While smaller than most of the other shorts programs
I am used to, but they made every short count. I should start
by mentioning that I didn't get to see every short, as I missed
the Student Shorts program, and missed a few of the ones that
played before features, but these are the top of the crop
as far as I am concerned.
Spirit of Gravity by Victor Bellomo and David Pace
Photo manipulation in all its forms was big this year, and
The Spirit of Gravity was one of the best. Essentially
a music video, The Spirit of Gravity is an ecstatic
piece of work, with Victor Bellomo singing the role of Friedrich
Nietzsche in the song. It's got a very neo-1920s thing going
on, and the animation is exuberant. How many times can you
say that something inspired by Nietzsche is exuberant? Bellomo
and photographer David Pace (who I once helped out on a photo
shoot), both of whom grew up in Sunnyvale, CA, combine to
make The Spirit of Gravity into a wonderful short.
You can find more info at http://www.batnet.com/vbellomo/index.html.
Yang by Adele Uddo
There has been a movement of short films that take traditional
gender-based stereotypes and reverse them. It's a simple method,
but when it's done right, it can be hilarious. Adele Uddo's
Yin Yang does it almost exactly right and the result
is an audience favorite. The lovely Adele sits watching Apocalypse
Now (Redux, of course) while her would-be boyfriend
and his compadre discuss the whole affair over chai. It's
funny, brilliantly timed, and just a great little nine minutes.
Profundo by Gustavo Loza
Cuba is a very photogenic island. While we tend to see either
the slums and standard communist dwellings or the beautiful
seaside areas, we are seldom showed both. Silencio Profundo
does both with cinematography that is almost as striking and
heartbreaking as the story. A young boy tries to set out for
America to find his father, who may be Robert DeNiro. On the
trip, his best friend is lost at sea and the boy has to come
to grips. Tragic, with fantastic performances all around.
A fine international short.
and Tears by Shashwati Talukdar
Let's talk about weird for a moment. I would say the definition
of weird is when a yoga instructor and her former student
turned waitress end up obsessed with Victor Casablanca, a
middle aged and Vespa crazy belly dancer at the restaurant,
Tahini and Tears. The film was made in two weeks and written
by playwright Olga Humphrey. Tahini and Tears is weird,
fun, funny, and smart. Man, I wish I could be Victor Casablanca.
by Terri Edda Miller
I first came across Dysenchanted while viewing shorts
for the Cinequest Film Festival. It's an interesting concept:
a bunch of faerie tale princess-types and one regular chick
go to the same group therapy. Jim Belushi (Curly Sue, Destiny
Turns on The Radio) plays the psychologist who helps them
on their path. It's a star-studded short extravaganza, featuring
Laura Kightlinger as Cinderella, Alexis Bledel as Goldilocks
and Jamie Bergman (Son
of the Beach) as Alice of Alice in Wonderland. Yeah,
it's gimmicky, but it's funny. You can find a highly amusing
website at www.dysenchanted.com.
Gaze by Sam Chen
Alberto Giacometti was an artist who did those statues that
looked like elongated versions of Calista Flockhart. The work
of Giacometti is sparse and effective, and a perfect subject
for a short film. Sam Chen's 100% CGI Eternal Gaze
is fantastic as art commentary and subtle fantasy. It's a
great short, with beautiful animation and a wonderful score.
As an art geek, I loved it. As a film nut, it was inspiring.
As a computer nerd, I really wanted to know what programs
he used. You can find out more at http://www.eternalgaze.com/.
the Best of Fest
Music Video- The Fine Art of Poisoning by Bill
This is easily one of the most Goth pieces ever to hit the
silver screen. Ever type of animation you can name as employed
to make this stunning piece of work. The music is Jill Tracy
is as beautiful and haunting as the animation. The entire
piece weaves together threads of Edward Gorey, Edgar Allen
Poe, early twentieth century photography, and funeral music
to form an amazing piece of cinema. I can't recommend this
highly enough. For more, look at http://www.bdom.com/main/animation.html.
Drama- Tell Me Who Ruby Was by Carolyn Coal.
This is a piece of work, shot in beautiful black and white,
that chronicles the final birthday dinner party of Ruby Wells,
former child star. Paula Killen gets to play the tragic queen
of the castle and is fantastic. Her performance is so dead
on through Ruby's highs and lows that it's even more crippling
when we come to the end. The film was shot in three days following
three weeks of in-character, improvisational rehearsal. The
actors and these rehearsals all came together to write the
script in an organic way which explodes as every character
is so fully formed that you are crushed as they move through
the scene their host has brought them to. You can see Tell
Me Who Ruby Was at atomfilms.com.
Documentary Short- Freestyle by Elena Elmoznino
I've said it before, I'm sure I'll say it again: find a subculture,
get some cameras, and shoot the hell out of their existence.
Freestyle does just that with a little world of Canine
Musical Freestyle. You might have seen it on an episode of
King of the Hill, but Canine Freestyle is a real sport
where people dance with their dogs. The camerawork is wonderful,
and there are more kooky characters than in a David Lynch
/ David E. Kelly co-production. The star is 15 year-old Michelle
Cope, the Junior Champion who is adding a new level of athleticism
and sass to the world of dancing with dogs. It is a hilarious
short, and you can find out more at http://www.ccny.cuny.edu/cityvisions/freestyle/index.html.
Comedy Short- Out of Habit by Robin Larsen.
A Lounge short that would be called a Mindbender at some festivals,
Out of Habit is a story of revenge as can only be dished
out by nuns. That's right, take the story behind three-quarters
of the westerns ever made, move it to Ireland (I think) and
make the cowboy into a nun and you've got the idea. It's hilarious,
brilliant and it has some great performances. John Astin (The
Addams Family, father of Sam Gamgee) plays an old priest
who turns a confession scene into a moment of true comedic
bliss. Rachel Larsen as Sister Finbar is genius, as she walks
a fine line as both actress and director in making the character
into something more than a lady of the cloth out for blood.
It's brilliantly paced and timed, and the ending is both satisfying
and twisted. You must see this film, though it's ending its
festival lifespan and there's no website!
In Fest- Bid 'Em In by Neal Sopata.
Repeating from its win at Cinequest, Bid 'Em In is
still the most powerful piece of filmmaking I've ever seen.
Mixed in with animated shorts, the style comes across even
stronger. While watching it at Sonoma as the final film in
the program, there was an amazing stunned silence that lasted
almost ten seconds after the short ended. No question that
Bid 'Em In is the animated film currently making
the circuit. You can read more here.
eye out for more reviews of the fantastic Sonoma Valley Film