On Long Story Short

By Shotgun CinemaPublished on 08/10/2017

Putting together this shorts program is always a programming pleasure, and we love scouring festivals and online platforms to find beautifully crafted, fascinating stories. Films can be a mirror to specific cultural moments, and the program we curated for this screening showcases a particularly reflective and at times charged moment in our history. I try to find a balance between more straightforward modes of storytelling with challenging or unconventional nonfiction works, and as usual, there was a wealth of fantastic short documentaries to choose from.

Our current political climate is one of uncertainty, and much can be investigated to understand where we are and how we got here. Amanda Zackem’s stunningly perceptive American Psychosis features Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges discussing corporate power, totalitarianism, and the way they create illusions. Hedges’ critique of capitalism provides an intense diagnosis of what’s happening in the U.S. today. Best of Luck with the Wall, directed by Josh Begley and produced by Field of Vision, is a series of satellite images stitched together to form an examination of the U.S.-Mexico border. The simplicity of the film is what makes it such a powerful statement, and the use of satellite images adds another layer of political commentary.

Verbal storytelling is a crucial part of sharing history; Jennifer Zheng’s beautifully animated Tough shares a candid and revealing conversation she has with her mother about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, touching on what it means to be Chinese, how the whiteness of the UK has shaped Zheng’s personal identity, and her mother’s worry over failing to uphold their Chinese heritage. In 116 Cameras, Davina Pardo follows an inspiring project that seeks to share personal stories for years to come. Pardo follows Eva Schloss, Anne Frank’s stepsister and a Holocaust survivor, as she volunteers to be photographed for a hologram that will tell of her story during WWII.

And sometimes, the camera captures humanity’s stranger traits. Nathan Truesdell’s darkly hilarious Balloonfest is a found footage film about what was initially a moment of celebration. In 1986, the city of Cleveland set out to break world record by blowing up and releasing over a million balloons into the air; the situation manages to become even stranger than that. Ten Meter Tower is a psychological experiment that trains cameras and microphones on people as they ascend a ten-meter (32-foot) diving platform. We watch as participants squirm and talk their way in or out of taking the plunge in this fascinating, beautifully photographed study of humanity.

To complete our program, Patrick Bresnan’s The Rabbit Hunt takes us into the fields of Florida, where hunting for rabbits provides sustenance and income for a group of young people. Bresnan’s gorgeously lensed verité-style film captures the distinct beauty and earnestness of the South, and while I don’t like picking favorites, it’s is one of the best films I’ve seen this year.  – AC




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