A mouse who wants to fly like a bird. An athlete uniting the spirits of a Jamaican neighborhood. A father inviting his daughter in running away from his marriage. Your mouth as it consumes all your wants and needs. These are just some of the subjects being explored by the short films presented at this year’s San Francisco International Festival of Short Films.
With over 60 films and music videos from 19 countries, they are a diverse range of films telling universal stories in live-action, computer animation, stop-motion, documentary and experimental methods.
From the 9th to 12th of September, the Red Vic Movie House in San Francisco plays host to four nights of short films as gathered and programmed by documentary filmmaker James Kenney.
Without favoring any one over the other, the four-day festival mixes all styles and genres in their six programs, categorizing them into themes instead of aesthetics. With any one program, you’ll find entries with wildly different tones all converging on a similar point. Themes like escape, ambition, sex and urban life.
This diversity is represented nicely in its Jury competition films, consisting of 7 short films competing in cash and prizes in excess of $15,000.
There’s Fast as She Can, a documentary about Jamaican Olympic sprinters who overcome modest beginnings to make the world notice their potentials, which in a short period of time conveys the global scope of the competition and at the same time personalizes the achievement of 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser by visiting her Jamaican neighborhood and talking to her proud mother. There’s also All Animals, a US short depicting the conversation between a father and daughter discussing the idea of escaping to the big city, made more intriguing by her disability and the way they communicate an important topic with each other. In a wonderful experiment on the audience, All Animals has an extended moment where the daughter goes into a long monologue in sign language—without subtitles—and we are invited to decipher it from her expressions.
To illustrate what a diverse collection the programs are, in The Mouse That Soared, we see the inventiveness and cuteness of Pixar in the story of two birds teaching a mouse how to fly. Then in the same program you’ll find my pick as the best of the seven, Andheri, a clenching drama from India that follows a young live-in maid’s courage to break free of a life of servitude. Gripping from start to finish, it spins a sad and harrowing tale of being alone—but not independent—in a bustling city like Mumbai.
Out of competition, there are experimental works like the grotesque but oddly fetching Feeder from Netherlands, where the filmmakers attach a camera inside the mouth to show us what your throat sees as you eat, drink, smoke, puke and french kiss. This one grabbed immediately and mesmerized me for its entire duration.
You can watch each of the six program individually for a regular ticket price ($10) or buy a festival pass ($35) to see all of the films.
PROGRAM ONE: FLIGHTS OF FANCY, 74 min.
A mixed-genre program of light fun films about innocense, animals, friends and family.
Bonefeather, Canada, Animation
In a forest of corduroy and felt, the splendid bird of paradise 'Bonefeather' and his beedy-eyed neighbor sing, dance and battle for the chance to mate with a beautiful female.
Dark Room, USA, Drama
The passion for life of an old lady inspires a socially introverted young man to step out from his photo processing dark room.
Skylight, Canada, Animation
An animated mockumentary about the ecological plight of penguins in the Antarctic, possibly foretelling cataclysmic results for the rest of the world.
All Animals, USA, Drama
An elliptical mysterious scene between two characters that asks the question: Where between sound and silence does communication appear?
Love Child, Sweden, Drama
A young girl enjoys the perfect life of being the only child, when one day a new family member arrives.
Mama, L'Chaim!, Germany, Documentary
61 year-old Chaim attends his 95 year-old mother 24 hours a day. Lively and humorous, they share both the light-hearted antics of daily life and the tears and memories of the Holocaust.
Princess Margaret Blvd., Canada, Drama
An introduction to Isabelle, as she defiantly confronts the frustration, confusion and loneliness that are the effects of Alzheimer's.
A'Mare, UK, Drama
Andrea and Felice are two kids whose lives center around the sea. One day during a fishing excursion their usual routine is disturbed when something unexpected appears from the water. Will their friendship survive the turbulent events that follow?
PROGRAM TWO: DESTINATION UNKNOWN, 72 min.
A mixed-genre program in pursuit of escape, transition and fulfillment.
Meltdown, USA, Animation
Fridge leftovers fight for their lives when an invading block of ice threatens to absorb them all into a frozen tomb.
The Mouse That Soared, USA, Animation
A famous flying circus mouse reflects on his humble beginnings in this high-altitude adventure in aerodynamics.
Andheri, India / USA, Drama
In Mumbai, the most densely populated city in the world, lives collide and, in an instant, can change forever. Anita is a live-in maid, who after years of a quiet lonely existence, finds the courage to run away in search of a better life.
Goodbye Canarsie, USA, Drama
When Sal, a mob hitman in training, is sent to kill his childhood friend, Warren Winkler, he is faced with the decision of his life.
Nowhere Kids, USA, Drama
A teen runaway's search for her biological mom is derailed when she becomes involved with a group of gutter-punks.
The Sound Of One Tree Clapping, USA, Animation
A wind rustles the leaves on a grand old tree as it applauds the rising sun.
PROGRAM THREE: IMBEDDED, 72 min.
A mixed-genre program of ambitions and fortitude.
Fast As She Can, Jamaica/USA-SF, Documentary
The film explores the sudden emergence of Jamaicans as the fastest Olympic sprinters and follows young women as they run for their lives to put their country on the map.
Gaining Ground, Germany, Drama
A young illegal immigrant couple spends their time furtively avoiding the German authorities, until the well-being of their young son dictates that they resolve their untenable situation.
JSY, UK, Experimental
Mix Obama's ''Yes We Can' with the Reagan administration's 'Just Say No' and you get 'Just Say Yes': a modern-day call to arms on the world and the environment.
Team Taliban, USA, Documentary
A look at the War on Terror... through the World of Wrestling.
The Veiled Commodity, Canada / USA, Animation
A concise history of slavery and the problems of its present day counterpart: the trafficking and victimization of people around the world.
Prayers for Peace, USA, Animation Doc
A stop-motion animation drawn entirely on a chalkboard, the artist confronts the memory of his younger brother killed in Iraq.
Change, Austria, Animation
In the history of mankind often big changes were required, planned and announced.
PROGRAM FOUR: HELLO, MY NAME IS ( ), 74 min.
A mixed-genre program of love, lust and sex.
The News, Australia, Drama
A young couple madly in love meet for lunch - each with exciting 'news'.
Trash Day, USA, Drama
A woman longing for the affections of her garbageman flirts with him through her trash.
Eiko, Austria/USA, Drama
Alex is no stranger to life on the road, but his life takes a sharp turn when Lili, a mysterious young hitchhiker obsessed with sex and suicide, appears in the back of his truck.
I Have It, USA, Drama
Emily and George meet for the first time after finding each other on an online dating site.
The Strange Rebirth of Andre Weil, USA- SF, Drama
Boy meets girl... Boy gets shot in head... Boy turns to God. Inspired by a true story.
Janusz, UK, Drama
When Janusz, a Polish immigrant, meets Lydia on the train, they each get a glimpse of the other's world.
PROGRAM FIVE: BLIGHT, 74 min.
A mixed-genre program of urban boundaries.
A City to Yourself, USA, Documentary
Detroit is a city that has lost a million people since the 1960s. Today, less than a million people remain. This personal documentary from a life-long Detroiter looks at the plus side of having a city to yourself.
Close to Home, USA-SF, Documentary
Brian Marquez was murdered on a San Francisco street corner in 2005--since that day his father Luis, has been on a quest to find the killers that took his son. During the traditional Mexican holiday of Day of the Dead, the film portrays a father that has yet to deal with the death of his son, and a daughter who is looking for the father she once had.
Drugs, USA-SF, Documentary
Four young drug users discuss the motivations and complications of their use.
Killer, USA, Documentary
A short 'documentary' set in 1989 NYC, the film is a glimpse into an urban rite of passage defined by all-night stakeouts, the rush of adrenaline, and the recklessness of adolescence.
Free For Girls, Canada, Drama
A young woman uses the dangerous world of internet hook-up sites to remedy her problem with intimacy only to find that nothing comes for free.
PROGRAM SIX: TRUTH AND DARE, 76 min.
A mixed-genre program of shocks and extremes.
Lazarus Taxon, Spain, Drama
The feared consequences of global warming are at its peak when one man crosses the New Sea trying to save his daughter from the clutches of death.
Rite, USA, Drama
A young girl faces an unsettling ritual.
The Girl With Liquid Eyes, UK, Animation
A rhyming tale about love and loss.
The Trade, USA, Drama
Two guys face upheaval in the post-apocalyptic West, when a female stranger pays a visit.
The Black Cat, France, Drama
In the deep heart of a blurry, cryptic summer, Anthelme gradually loses his mind waiting for a package that will finally allow him to complete his model train circuit.
Brotherhood, USA, Drama
On the short drive from the bus stop to his house, Jared learns that his older brother Kief has fallen onto hard times, but Kief remains unwavering in his determination to bring his little brother home.
Feeder, Netherlands/UK, Experimental
We want it. We buy it. We eat it. But what does your body see when we swallow it.
Meatwaffle, USA, Animation
Using pixellation, stop-motion and traditional hand-drawing, the animation recalls the bizarre memories of an old man.
WEDNESDAY THE 9TH
7:30 PM PROGRAM 2: DESTINATION UNKNOWN
9:30 PM PROGRAM 6: TRUTH AND DARE
THURSDAY THE 10TH
7:30 PM PROGRAM 1: FLIGHTS OF FANCY
9:30 PM PROGRAM 5: BLIGHT Followed by Q&A
FRIDAY THE 11TH
5:30 PM PROGRAM 5: BLIGHT
7:30 PM PROGRAM 3:IMBEDDED Followed by Q&A
9:30 PM PROGRAM 4: HELLO MY NAME IS ( ) Followed by Q&A
SATURDAY THE 12TH
3:30 PM PROGRAM 3: IMBEDDED
5:30 PM PROGRAM 6: TRUTH AND DARE Followed by Q&A
7:30 PM PROGRAM 1: FLIGHTS OF FANCY Followed by Q&A
9:30 PM PROGRAM 2: DESTINATION UNKNOWN Followed by Q&A
Tickets are available at the door or online at www.SFshorts.com.