Whole Worlds in the Minutia: Sundance short films in summary
A quality short film can be just as impactful as a full-length counterpart. In many ways, it combines the best qualities of a 90 minute movie, but in under 15. With smaller budgets and time constraints, directors must get creative with their storytelling methods. The 2016 Sundance Short Films, sponsored by YouTube Red, all pack a sizeable punch equal to a full length movie.
This series features eight of the best short films from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, ranging from stop-motion animation to live-action documentary.
“Affections,” the first of the series, tells the story of a woman in an unfulfilling relationship searching for a better romantic partner. Her search, though, ends up taking an unconventional route. Mesmerized by a local homeless man, she offers him a ride one day. Leading to a brief fling that ends romantically on a rocky beach. The actor playing the homeless man is far too handsome and put together to be believable, but this almost makes it more entertaining. Following this hopeful and charming short is “Jungle,” a story about Senegalese street vendors in Manhattan. “Jungle” has enough potential to be extended out 80 more minutes because its story feels so original. It shows the competition between street vendors and the hardships they face, especially when taken advantage of by their “bosses.”
“Edmond Eats Everything” is a stop-motion animated short and one of the most original looking films I have ever seen. The dialogue-less story focuses on a man and his destructive habit of eating unlikely things, like friends and fetuses. Although challenging, it ends in an unusually beautiful way. “Bacon and God’s Wrath” is a short-documentary about a Jewish woman who, after 90 years, disobeys her religion and eats bacon. It’s a fun look into the cause of apostasy and its inconsequential effects on the woman. Still, it feels a bit slow and unrewarding.
Like “Affections,” the trough of a relationship is the theme in “Her Friend Adam.” The short highlights insecurity and jealousy extremely realistically. It’s like a more serious version of the “you vs. the guy she says not to worry about” meme. Then, “The Grandfather Drum” takes a drastically different pace. This visually captivating short is animated like a picture book, telling the story of a Native American family and a drum that heals sickness.
“The Procedure” is the funniest and most obtuse short in the series. Within the first seconds, a man is tranquilized while getting into his car. When he wakes up, he is locked to a chair with his eyes forced open “A Clockwork Orange”-style. When he screams, a neon sign reading “Quiet Please” lights up, accompanied by a loud horn. From the ceiling drops a butt until it hangs inches away from the man’s face and releases a fart. The man then escapes. Under four minutes, “The Procedure” is terrifying; nobody wants to have a literal ass fart inches above their nose. Everyone can feel his pain.
The series ends with “Thunder Road,” a long-take of a man giving a eulogy at his mother’s funeral. Jim Cummings ("The Lion King") gives the most heart-warming performance in the series. It combines dark humor with his ability to portray a man clearly torn apart by his mother’s death. At the end, he sings and dances to Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” resulting in embarrassment and his daughter’s shame.
All of the shorts show desperation and isolation better than most full-length movies. Decreasing attention spans are leading to a possibility for short films to become more popular. And, if they are anything like the best of 2016’s Sundance Film Festival, this is a promising, hopeful prediction.