Submissions to the fest soared this year
A rap version of “La Jetee,” experimental film vet Ken Jacobs’ take on the Nazis and singer-actress Brie Larson’s directing debut are among projects set for Sundance’s short film lineup, which totals 64 films.
Director of programming Trevor Groth says the fest received 1,200 more shorts this year than last, showing that “an increasing number of people are turning to short filmmaking as a form of expression and an opportunity to explore creative freedom.”
A record 7,675 shorts were submitted for Sundance’s U.S. and International narrative, docu and animated sections as well as the experimental New Frontier.
U.S. narrative film selections include “Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke,” starring 2 Live Crew’s Uncle Luke in a Miami-set homage to “La Jetee”; “The Arm,” co-directed and written by Larson, Sarah Ramos and Jessie Ennis; Benny and Josh Safdie’s “The Black Balloon”; and TV writer-producer Jill Soloway’s “Una hora por favora.”
U.S. docs include “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” from “Waste Land” director Lucy Walker, while the New Frontier section hosts Jacobs’ “Seeing the Monkey King.”
Festival runs Jan. 19-29.
U.S. SHORT FILMS
U.S. NARRATIVE SHORT FILMS
’92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card (Director: Todd Sklar, Screenwriters: Todd Sklar, Alex Rennie) – Jim and Dave are brothers who haven’t spoken in years and don’t like each other very much, but are forced to come together for a week when their dad dies in Kansas City. A limited edition 1992 Skybox Series Alonzo Mourning rookie card is a point of contention.
The Arm (Directors and screenwriters: Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos, Jessie Ennis) – In an attempt to keep up with social pressure in a technologically advanced world, Chance starts a texting relationship with Genevieve, a girl he meets at a yogurt shop.
The Black Balloon (Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie) – The Black Balloon strays from the herd and experiences what life as an individual is like. He explores New York City in the deepest way, seeing all of its characters.
Dol (First Birthday) (Director and screenwriter: Andrew Ahn) – A gay Korean American man yearns for a family life just out of reach.
Famous Person Talent Agency: Pearls of Asia (Director: Ivan Hurzeler, Screenwriter: Cami Delavigne) – Jackie Diamond is a luckless talent agent who never stops dreaming. He believes in his clients and he believes in show business. Jackie reaches for the stars from a shabby office in Queens – the Famous Person Talent Agency.
FISHING WITHOUT NETS (Director: Cutter Hodierne, Screenwriters: Cutter Hodierne, John Hibey) – A story of pirates in Somalia, told from the perspective of the pirates themselves.
The Fort (Director and screenwriter: Andrew Renzi) – On a rainy day, a young boy builds a fort in the woods when a man appears and offers to help.
FOURPLAY: TAMPA (Director: Kyle Henry, Screenwriter: Carlos Trevino) – Louis loops into a local mall to grab lunch in the food court and a quickie in the public restroom. Paranoid about his own small package and clearly nervous about the situation, he scouts for possible partners, letting his imagination take over when reality proves thoroughly unsatisfying.
Hellion (Director and screenwriter: Kat Candler) – Little seven-year-old Petey falls prey to his older brothers’ hellion ways.
Henley (Director: Craig Macneill, Screenwriters: Craig Macneill, Clay McLeod Chapman) – Meet nine-year-old Ted Henley, budding motel manager and roadkill entrepreneur.
L TRAIN (Director and screenwriter: Anna Musso) – Sunny is a self-regarding teenager fighting her way through an inner city blizzard, until she encounters someone who forces her to consider an altruistic, if not absurd, action.
Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke (Director: Jillian Mayer, Screenwriter: Lucas Leyva) – A modern Miami adaptation of the 1962 French short film La Jetee, the film recounts Luke’s (Uncle Luke, legendary rapper from the hip-hop group 2 Live Crew) rise to fame as he changes the face of hip-hop and fights for first amendment rights- and later as he ushers Miami into a golden era of peace and prosperity as Mayor.
OK BREATHE AURALEE (Director and screenwriter: Brooke Swaney) – Auralee wants a baby and will go to great lengths to get what she wants.
Rolling on the Floor Laughing (Director and screenwriter: Russell Harbaugh) – Two grown brothers return home for their widowed mother’s birthday, only to find themselves competing with a strange man for her affection.
Song of the Spindle (Director and screenwriter: Drew Christie) – An animated, humorous and informative conversation between a sperm whale and a man. Each one tries to convince the other that his brain is bigger.
spoonful (Director and screenwriter: Jenée LaMarque) – Three sisters return to their childhood home after the death of their father in order to pack up the family house. To make matters worse, the oldest sister has been separated from her baby for the first time.
The Thing (Director: Rhys Ernst, Screenwriters: Rhys Ernst, Avery McTaggart) – Zooey has spent weeks planning a road trip to a mysterious roadside attraction known as ‘The Thing’ in the hopes that she and Tristan will reconnect. Both Tristan, an FTM transman, and his fluffy cat Steven struggle to find places to comfortably pee, while Zooey learns the open road isn’t everything she hoped it would be.
UNA HORA POR FAVORA (Director and screenwriter: Jill Soloway) – A woman hires a day laborer for an hour and gets more than she bargained for. U.S.
DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILMS
AQUADETTES (Directors: Drea Cooper, Zackary Canepari) – The Aquadettes are a group of elderly synchronized swimmers from Leisure World, a retirement community nestled in Orange County, California. One of them, Margo Bauer, is fighting multiple sclerosis and using medical marijuana to ease her pain and to keep on swimming.
The Debutante Hunters (Director: Maria White) – In the Lowcountry of South Carolina a group of true Southern belles reveal their more rugged side, providing a glimpse into what drives them to hunt in the wild.
Family Nightmare (Director: Dustin Guy Defa) – A dizzy trip through the mid-1990s with a dysfunctional American family. Reliving a distracted child’s birthday party, an emotionless wedding, a Halloween in a garage and a Christmas marked with alcohol, drugs and perversion, the film is a crumpled letter from a filmmaker to his family: a shattered kaleidoscope of the destructive patterns that have trapped and wounded its members.
The Meaning of Robots (Director: Matt Lenski) – The benevolent Mike Sullivan, age 65, has been shooting an epic stop-motion robot sex film in his apartment for the last 10 years. Obsessed with constructing the miniature robot porn stars, his apartment now overflows with thousands of them.
The Movement: One Man Joins an Uprising (Directors: Greg I. Hamilton, Kurt Miller) – In 2004 Rick Finkelstein was paralyzed in a ski accident on Aspen Mountain. With a severed spine and severe internal trauma, he wasn’t expected to live. Six years, nine surgeries, and a lifetime of rehab later, cameras captured his dramatic return to Aspen and skiing.
Odysseus’ Gambit (Director: Àlex Lora Cercós) – A gambit is a chess opening in which a player sacrifices a pawn with the hope of achieving a resulting advantageous position. The protagonist is a Cambodian American guy looking for his place in the game.
Pluto Declaration (Director: Travis Wilkerson) – Restore the classical definition of planet! Bring back planet Pluto! The solar system is 12!
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (Director: Lucy Walker) – Survivors in the areas hardest hit by Japan’s recent tsunami find the courage to revive and rebuild as cherry blossom season begins. A visual haiku about the ephemeral nature of life and the healing power of Japan’s most beloved flower.
U.S. ANIMATED SHORT FILMS
Avocados (Director and screenwriter: Kataneh Vahdani) – A journey with many characters in one day through a city.
Dr Breakfast (Director and screenwriter: Stephen Neary) – One day at breakfast, a man’s soul bursts out of his eyeball. A surreal meditation on the quirky but rejuvenating nature of friendship.
It’s Such a Beautiful Day (Director and screenwriter: Don Hertzfeldt) – Bill wakes to find himself in a hospital struggling with memory problems, in this third and final chapter to Don Hertzfeldt’s EVERYTHING WILL BE OK.
Night Hunter (Director and screenwriter: Stacey Steers) – In this handmade film, composed of more than 4,000 collages and shot in 35mm color, the actress Lillian Gish is seamlessly appropriated from silent-era cinema and plunged into a new and haunting role.
Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise (Director and screenwriter: Kelly Sears) – Terrifying and strange happenings descend on a 1970’s high school.
INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILMS
This year’s 27 international short films from 16 countries were selected from a record 3,592 submissions.
INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE SHORT FILMS
Barbie Blues / Israel (Director and screenwriter: Adi Kutner) – When Mika, a suburban teenager finds a disturbing creature in her swimming pool she asks her neighbor Gershon for help. What starts off as a friendly encounter between two neighbors turns into an unexpected lesson on the borders of control.
BEAR / Australia (Director: Nash Edgerton, Screenwriters: Nash Edgerton, David Michôd) – Jack means well, but sometimes good intentions have horrible consequences.
Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared / United Kingdom (Directors: Joseph Pelling, Rebecca Sloan) – A short film about teaching creativity by This Is It Collective.
Frozen Stories (Opowiesci z chlodni) / Poland (Director and screenwriter: Grzegorz Jaroszuk) – Two worst employees of a supermarket have been ordered to find a goal in their lives.
Fungus (Svamp) / Sweden (Director and screenwriter: Charlotta Miller) – Katrin decides to face her old boyfriend, who is back to collect some of his stuff.
Girl / Sweden (Director: Fijona Jonuzi, Screenwriter: Gustaf Boman Bränngård) – Hanna, 32, randomly finds a party consisting of of five 20-year-old boys. At first she feels uncomfortable, but after a little adjusting, she soon feels like she’s one of them.
The Hidden Smile (El somriure amagat) / Spain (Director: Ventura Durall, Screenwriters: Ventura Durall, Miguel Llansó) – Following a 10-year-old kid who arrives at the Ethiopian capital after escaping from his home and his misfortunes to integrate into a street children group, The Hidden Smile constructs a realistic tale on the values that flourish in a society formed by children.
Juku / Bolivia (Director: Kiro Russo, Screenwriters: Gilmar Gonzales, Kiro Russo) – The dark mass between the screen and the room can beat again like once the first darkness did. Deep in it a man moves. He has a lamp, and the light it makes forms the rocks that will end up taking over the screen. About ten thousand people enter daily into Posokoni, the largest tin mine in Bolivia.
Killing the Chickens to Scare the Monkeys / Sweden (Director and screenwriter: Jens Assu) – Nine scenes unfold in the grey area between black and white, where national politics and strategy have unforeseen consequences on a young teacher’s life.
Las Palmas / Sweden (Director and screenwriter: Johannes Nyholm) – A middle-aged lady on a holiday in the sun tries to make new friends and have a good time.
LAZAROV / France (Director and screenwriter: Nieto) – Refusing to accept the decline of the USSR, a handful of Russian scientists work secretly to resurrect the Soviet power. Here are some new images of the mysterious program Lazarov.
Long Distance Information / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Douglas Hart) – Da always said not to talk to strangers…but you’ve got to phone home sometimes.
Moxie / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Stephen Irwin) – A pyromaniac bear misses his mother.
Playtime (Spielzeit) / Germany (Director and screenwriter: Lucas Mireles) – A seamless journey of German youth and innocence on a Sunday afternoon.
Random Strangers / United Kingdom (Director: Alexis Dos Santos, Screenwriters: Laurence Coriat, Alexis Dos Santos) – Rocky and Lulu live in opposite sides of the planet: they bump into each other in ChatRoulette and decide to stay in touch. Using video diaries, secret confessions, fictional representations of facts of their lives made with toys, dance performances and songs, they create a place where they can truly be themselves. But how real is their world?
The Return (Kthimi) / Kosovo (Director: Blerta Zeqiri, Screenwriter: Shefqet Gjocaj) – A man comes back from a Serb prison to his wife and son. Much has changed since he was declared missing and continuing where they left off four years ago may not be as easy as it seems.
Surveillant / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Yan Giroux) – It’s another quiet summer day in Park Dufresne. The neighborhood youth loiter around the park until a new park monitor appears for his first day of work. Two universes clash and a territorial struggle begins.
Tooty’s Wedding / United Kingdom (Director: Frederic Casella, Screenwriters: Laura Solon, Ben Willbond) – A young couple’s marriage hilariously hits the rocks during a weekend wedding in the country.
Tumult / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Johnny Barrington) – A tribe of Norse warriors traipse across a barren land after battle. Bloodied and wounded, their chief is near death. He is about to hand over power to his son when an army of a completely different kind descends upon them.
INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILMS
Into the Middle of Nowhere / United Kingdom (Director: Anna Frances Ewert) – The documentary is about the uniqueness of childhood and the exploration of the human mind. In an outdoor nursery based in the woods, children create their own individually constructed worlds and can test out the boundaries of reality.
Stick Climbing / Austria, Switzerland (Director: Daniel Zimmerman) – A contemplative walk leads to a bizarre climbing tour going from everyday village life to a seemingly impossible ascent.
INTERNATIONAL ANIMATED SHORT FILMS
38-39° C (Director and screenwriter: Kangmin Kim) – A man with a big birthmark on his back enters an old public bathhouse. He falls into a dream where he confronts his father who has the same birthmark.
663114 / Japan (Director: Isamu Hirabayashi) – I am a 66-year-old cicada. There was a big earthquake. There was a big tsunami. There also was a big accident.
Belly / United Kingdom (Director: Julia Pott) – Oscar is coming of age, against his better judgment. In doing so he must experience the necessary evil of leaving something behind, but he can still feel it in the pit of his stomach.
BOBBY YEAH / United Kingdom (Director: Robert Morgan) – Bobby Yeah is a petty thug who lightens his miserable existence by brawling and thieving stuff. One day, he steals the favorite pet of some very dangerous individuals, and finds himself in deep trouble. He really should learn, but he just can’t help it.
A Morning Stroll / United Kingdom (Director: Grant Orchard) – When a New Yorker walks past a chicken on his morning stroll, we are left to wonder which one is the real city slicker.
Robots of Brixton / United Kingdom (Director: Kibwe Tavares) – The trials and tribulations of young robots surviving at the sharp end of inner city life, living the predictable existence of a populous hemmed in by poverty, disillusionment and mass unemployment.
Slow Derek / United Kingdom (Director: Dan Ojari) – The tale of Derek, an office worker, as he struggles with the true speed of planet earth.
NEW FRONTIER SHORT FILMS
An electrifying celebration of innovation in filmmaking, these New Frontier shorts, through bold color and thought-provoking messaging, electrify and energize the mind.
The Conquerors (Les Conquérants) / Canada, France (Directors and screenwriters: Sarolta Szabo, Tibor Banoczki) – What exactly we need to build new civilization? Bravery? Courage? Power? Or the only thing we need is to successfully destroy an already existing one.
The Diatom / U.S.A. (Director: Chris Peters) – The diatom is the most numerous species on the planet, the basis of the aquatic food chain, produces most of the oxygen on earth, and is a key scientific indicator of the health of a water system. In order to understand our place in the world this mixed-mode ‘science film’ observes renowned Utah-based scientist Sam Rushforth and his team in the wide isolated landscape then in the lab and finally goes through the microscope to the diatom itself.
Fragments of Dissolution / U.S.A. (Director: Travis Wilkerson) – A poetic, anguished cry from the heart of a rotting empire. Four women describe their own unique hells. Children, brothers, and friends burned alive while simply trying not to freeze. Husbands and sons deployed over and over, who kill themselves rather than fighting again. From Ft. Lewis to Detroit, the empire is devouring its own intestines.
Moving Stories / Belgium (Director and screenwriter: Nicolas Provost) – Two young passengers adventure towards a mysterious future.
SEEKING THE MONKEY KING (Director: Ken Jacobs) – The film could have well been called KICKING AND SCREAMING but that only describes me in the process of making it, questioning its taste. Cut through the flashy swastikas and one sees the German Nazis were Christians fulfilling historic obligation (The Final Solution) with relatively few so well-read as to imagine themselves Nietzscheans. SEEKING THE MONKEY KING is a reversion to my mid-20s and that sense of horror that drove the making of STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH.