Jason Reitman and Bryce Dallas Howard are among those with short films at the festival. Howard’s “Solemates,” which also screened at the Palm Springs Short Film Festival, is told through the perspective of shoes, while Reitman’s docu short “Roast Battle” chronicles the Comedy Store event.
“Nasty Baby” director Sebastian Silva and Canadian helmer Don McKellar are among other established filmmakers going the short route at this year’s fest.
The shorts selection has been home to several films that have had influential careers, including “World of Tomorrow,” “Whiplash,” “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” and “Fishing Without Nets.” This year’s lineup will include both a Midnight and New Frontier section, tying into the festival’s other programming.
“Our longstanding showcase of short films has become a home for audiences who love watching these rowdy, sweet, scary and surprising stories,” said Mike Plante, senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival. “In recent years shorts have taken on a bigger presence within the film and media industries, helping more and more people feel the power and potential of these short-on-time, big-on-ideas films.”
The institute will do more than just screen the shorts at the festival; the films will be packaged to tour through arthouse theaters through the year, and the institute will host regional short film labs in cities to help filmmakers hone their craft.
The 2016 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan 21-31.
U.S. NARRATIVE SHORT FILMS
“Affections” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bridey Elliott) — This comedy about isolation and loneliness follows a young woman who is adrift and seeking intimacy in the most unlikely places.
“Catching Up” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bill Crossland) — A physically disabled high school teacher seeks assistance from his cynical friend after falling in love with an able-bodied co-worker. This funny and dramatic examination of disability, sex, and love stars real people with disabilities.
“Dirt” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Darius Clark Monroe) — Some things must die to live.
“Dogwalker” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kim Sherman) — This dark comedy adventure is the story of a young dog walker after the unexpected death of her favorite client.
“Dolfun” / U.S.A. (Director: Sebastian Silva, Screenwriters: Sebastian Silva, Trinidad Silva, Carlos Rossi) — What begins as a love story becomes an existential crisis when filmmaker Sebastian Silva flies to Miami to fulfill his lifelong dream of swimming with a dolphin.
“Emperor of Time” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Drew Christie) — This is the story of the first motion pictures ever photographed, as told by the son of Eadweard Muybridge.
“How to Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps” / U.S.A. (Director: Benjamin Berman, Screenwriter: Aaron Bleyaert) — Losing weight and getting fit has never been easier! Shed those unwanted pounds with these simple tricks your gym doesn’t want you to know about. You won’t believe what happens next!
“Join the Club” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eva Vives) — A writer’s dilemma of whether or not to join a professional networking club takes many interesting turns as it unfolds entirely during one therapy session.
“Jungle” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Asantewaa Prempeh) — The lines between trust, betrayal, and forgiveness are intertwined for two Senegalese vendors as they try to make a living on the streets of New York City.
“Killer” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Matt Kazman) — When Dusty masturbates for the first time, something terrible happens.
“Partners” / U.S.A. (Director: Joey Ally, Screenwriters: Jen Tullock, Hannah Utt) — Work and life partners Kate and Leigh share everything, from their apartment to the bar they co-own. When a sex life slump forces them to reconsider their relationship, they must confront how intertwined their lives have become, to humorous ends.
“A Reasonable Request” / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Laurich, Screenwriters: Gabriel Miller, Andrew Laurich) — A desperate son reconnects with his estranged father to ask an unspeakable favor that will change both of their lives forever.
“So Good to See You” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Duke Merriman) — In this darkly comic take on the dual realities of friendship, a dinner party goes painfully sour when a voicemail, unknowingly recorded, exposes one couple’s true opinions of their old friends.
“Solemates” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bryce Dallas Howard) — Told from the perspective of shoes, this film tells the story of a couple’s journey through life — the ups, the downs, the passion, and the dedication it takes to share your life with the one you love.
“Thunder Road” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jim Cummings) — Officer Arnaud loved his mom.
“Too Legit” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Frankie Shaw) — After becoming pregnant from a sexual assault on campus, a young woman goes on a journey to find out if the rape was “legitimate.” This film was inspired by the statements of Senator Todd Akin.
“Verbatim: The Ferguson Case” / U.S.A. (Director: Brett Weiner, Screenwriter: Grand Jury Transcript) — Unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Using court transcripts from the case, this short film juxtaposes the reenacted testimony of two key witnesses: Dorian Johnson and the police officer himself, Darren Wilson.
INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE SHORT FILMS
“Audition” / Sweden (Director: Lovisa Sirén, Screenwriters: Lovisa Sirén, Peter Modestij) — Mika is auditioning male actors for her first feature, and they are all well-established alpha dogs in the film business. The situation turns more sour as their confidence in her reaches new lows.
“Belladonna” / Croatia (Director and screenwriter: Dubravka Turic) — Three women of different ages and backgrounds meet in an ophthalmologist’s waiting room. The mention of a tragedy that left one of them nearly blind suddenly bridges their differences and creates a possibility for closeness and connection.
“Her Friend Adam” / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Ben Petrie) — A boyfriend’s jealous impulse spirals out of control in 16 minutes of romantic doom.
“It’s Not You” / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Don McKellar) — Relationships can be an endless cycle of breakups.
“Land Tides (Marea de Tierra)” / Chile, France (Directors and screenwriters: Manuela Martelli, Amirah Tajdin) — Laura, a heartbroken teenager from Santiago, is on holiday in the southern Chilean archipelago, Chiloé, with her friends. As she wanders the lonely island seascapes, she encounters a group of women who are seaweed collectors and shares stories with them.
“Maman(s)” / France (Director and screenwriter: Maïmouna Doucouré ) — Life is disrupted for eight-year-old Aida when her father returns with a young Senegalese woman, Rama, whom he introduces as his second wife. Sensitive to her mother’s distress, Aida decides to get rid of the new visitor.
“MeTube 2: August sings Carmina Burana” / Austria (Director and screenwriter: Daniel Moshel) — After Elfie and her nerdy son August successfully proved themselves on their home webcam in MeTube 1, the odd pair venture onto the street to present the biggest, boldest, and sexiest operatic flash mob the internet has ever witnessed!
“Mobilize” / Canada (Director: Caroline Monnet) — Guided expertly by those who live on the land and are driven by the pulse of the natural world, this story takes us on an exhilarating journey from the far north to the urban south.
“Over” / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Jörn Threlfall) — What has happened in this quiet suburban neighborhood? Has there been a murder, a hit-and-run, an accident? The reality is both profound and deeply unexpected.
“Peacock” / Czech Republic (Director: Ondřej Hudeček, Screenwriters: Jan Smutny, Ondřej Hudeček) — A twisted queer romance set in picturesque 19th-century Bohemia tells the true story of the birth of one of the nation’s most influential writers, with suspense, laughter, violence, hope, nudity, sex, and a happy ending—mostly a happy ending.
“Rate Me” / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Fyzal Boulifa) — A portrait of a teenage escort named Coco.
“Seide” / Kyrgyzstan (Director and screenwriter: Elnura Osmonalieva) — Seide lives in a snowy mountain village with her humble family and her beloved horse. When she’s forced into an arranged marriage with a man from a wealthy family, she fights to save her horse from being slaughtered for food for the wedding.
“Tuesday” / Turkey, France (Director: Ziya Demirel, Screenwriters: Ziya Demirel, Buket Coşkuner) — This ordinary day of a teenage girl in Istanbul follows her encounters with three different men as she goes to school, plays basketball, and takes a bus home.
DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILMS
“Another Kind of Girl” / Jordan (Director: Khaldiya Jibawi) — Filmed during a media workshop for Syrian girls in Jordan’s Za’atari Refugee Camp, 17-year-old Khaldiya meditates on how the camp has opened up new horizons and given her a sense of courage that she lacked in Syria.
“Bacon & God’s Wrath” / Canada (Director: Sol Friedman) — A 90-year-old Jewish woman reflects on her life experiences as she prepares to try bacon for the first time.
“Beneath the Embers (Bajo las Brasas)” / Mexico (Directors and screenwriters: Verónica Jessamyn López Sainz, Andrea Fuentes Charles) — Isabel, a young woman from the Sierra mountains of Guanajuato, is motivated by the love of her family, and she has learned that she must sacrifice her present in order to value tomorrow’s success and achieve her dreams.
“Chekhov” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jack Dunphy) — “I called my sister (who’s kind of a bitch, but also really cool) and secretly recorded her reading a love letter from this girl that just dumped me. The conversation went from funny to unbearably sad—hanging up was hard.”
“Entrapped” / U.S.A. (Director: Razan Ghalayini) — The FBI claimed it exposed a dangerous group of men in a massive entrapment operation over an alleged plot to attack a U.S. Army base in New Jersey. But were they really terrorists?
“Figure” / Poland, Belgium (Director and screenwriter: Katarzyna Gondek) — A gigantic figure emerges from the snow and sits on a hill with spiders, saints, and bumper cars in this surreal tale about creating myths, religious kitsch, and the desire for greatness. Meet the world’s largest sacral miniature park resident.
“Flower of a Thousand Colours” / Belgium (Director: Karen Vazquez Guadarrama) — Flower of a Thousand Colours shows an intimate slice of the life of Emiliana, a loving mother who struggles every day with her rough environment—a Bolivian mining camp.
“Jáaji Approx.” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Sky Hopinka) — Against landscapes that the artist and his father traversed, audio of the father in the Ho-Chunk language is transcribed using the International Phonetic Alphabet, which tapers off, narrowing the distance between recorder and recordings, new and traditional, memory and song.
“I Am Yup’ik” / U.S.A. (Directors: Daniele Anastasion, Nathan Golon) — A 16-year-old Yup’ik Eskimo leaves his tiny village and travels across the frozen tundra to compete in an all-Yup’ik basketball tournament and bring pride to his village.
“Mining Poems or Odes” / United Kingdom, Scotland (Director: Callum Rice) — Robert, an ex-shipyard welder from Govan, Glasgow, reflects on how his life experiences have influenced his newfound compulsion to write.
“Peace in the Valley” / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Michael Palmieri, Donal Mosher) — Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is home to both the largest outdoor Passion Play in the United States and an important vote on LGBT rights. This film follows the town’s inhabitants as they prepare for the historic vote.
“Roast Battle” / U.S.A. (Director: Jason Reitman) — The most bigoted room is the least bigoted room. Watch one night at the Comedy Store’s Roast Battle.
“The Saint of Dry Creek” / U.S.A. (Director: Julie Zammarchi) — Patrick Haggerty was a teenager in rural Dry Creek, Washington, in the late 1950s. Here, he remembers the day he first had a conversation with his father about being gay.
“The Send-Off” / U.S.A. (Directors: Ivete Lucas, Patrick Bresnan) — Emboldened by a giant block party on the evening of their high school prom, a group of students enters the night with the hope of transcending their rural town and the industrial landscape that surrounds them.
“The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Mickey Duzyj) — Haru Urara, a Japanese racehorse, became a national icon after enduring a losing streak of epic proportions. Dubbed “The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere,” she was a symbol of perseverance and inspiration during a time of economic crisis.
“Speaking is Difficult” / U.S.A. (Director: AJ Schnack) — This film always begins in the present day. A scene of tragedy unfolds, accompanied by fear, chaos, and disbelief. As it rewinds into the past, retracing our memories, it tells a cumulative history that is both unbearable and inevitable.
“Territory” / United Kingdom (Director: Eleanor Mortimer) — This warm and lyrical film follows a group of unruly monkeys in Gibraltar and the people employed to control them with peashooters.
“A Woman and Her Car” / Canada (Director: Loïc Darses) — December 31, 2003: Lucie decides to write a letter to the man who abused her from the age of 8 to 12 years old and resolves to personally bring it to him, wherever he may be.
NEW FRONTIER SHORT FILMS
“Abendland (Hours, Years, Aeons)” / Finland (Directors: IC-98: Patrik Söderlund, Visa Suonpää, Screenwriter: Patrik Söderlund) — In a twilight world long after the age of man, a twisted ecosystem centered around an overgrown fruit tree undergoes parasitic and geological transformations as hours, years, and eons pass.
“Swimming in Your Skin Again” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Terence Nance) — This intensely musical film is about the spiritual anchorages of life in and around Miami. The story is drenched in the heat, spirit, and landscape of southern Florida.
“Voyagers” / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Santiago Menghini) — Travel along with the Voyager spacecrafts as they traverse the solar system on their planetary expedition, spanning over three decades.
“YúYú” / France (Director and screenwriter: Marc Johnson) — Beekeeper Shé Zuŏ Bīn performs a “rite of spring,” in which queen bees are placed on his body and then summon worker bees. He stands still, covered by bees, allowing the buzzing to dominate all and become a protective shield.
MIDNIGHT SHORT FILMS
“Boniato” / U.S.A. (Directors: Andres Meza-Valdes, Diego Meza-Valdes, Eric Mainade, Screenwriters: Andres Meza-Valdes, Eric Mainade) — An illegal migrant worker decides it’s time to move on from picking crops and find a better job. Little does she know, insidious supernatural forces have a different plan for her. Some borders aren’t meant to be crossed.
“The Chickening” / U.S.A., Canada (Directors and screenwriters: Nick DenBoer, Davy Force) — All pork and no chicken makes Jack a dull boy. Luckily, Jack gets a new job as senior chief night manager at Charbay’s Chicken World and Restaurant Resort, the world’s largest fast-food entertainment complex; however, things quickly get very clucked.
“Dinner with Family with Brett Gelman and Brett Gelman’s Family” / U.S.A. (Director: Jason Woliner, Screenwriters: Brett Gelman, Jason Woliner) — Brett Gelman throws his parents a dinner and tribute for their 40th anniversary with the help of legendary actors Tony Roberts and Patti LuPone. The evening soon unravels into a mind-melting comedic orgy of psychological torture and family dysfunction.
“Fuckkkyouuu” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eddie Alcazar) — With the ability to travel in time, a girl finds love and comfort by connecting with her past self. Eventually faced with rejection, she struggles with her identity, and as time folds onto itself only one of them can remain.
“Manoman” / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Simon Cartwright) — When Glen attends primal scream class, he releases something from deep within that knows no limits.
“The Pound Hole” / U.S.A. (Directors: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan, Screenwriters: Daniel Weidenfeld, Doug Lussenhop) — During a night at the strangest club on earth, DJ Douggpound learns the very real dangers of texting while DJing.
“The Procedure” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Calvin Lee Reeder) — A man is captured and forced to endure a strange experiment.
“The Puppet Man” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jacqueline Castel) — A supernatural killer stalks a young woman and her friends in a seedy, neon-lit dive bar in this short film featuring horror legend John Carpenter.
ANIMATED SHORT FILMS
“Bob Dylan Hates Me” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Caveh Zahedi) — Independent filmmaker Caveh Zahedi meets his childhood idol.
“A Coat Made Dark” / Ireland (Director and screenwriter: Jack O’Shea) — Two burglars strike it rich after stealing a mysterious coat. So begins this darkly comic tale, in which Midnight, an anthropomorphized dog, and his human servant Peter, struggle for power, courtesy of the coat.
“Deer Flower” / South Korea, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kangmin Kim) — Dujung, an elementary school student, goes to a farm in the suburbs with his parents. While his parents believe the expensive and rare specialty from the farm will strengthen their son’s body, Dujung suffers side effects.
“Edmond” / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Nina Gantz) — Edmond’s impulse to love and be close to others is strong—maybe too strong. As he stands by a lake contemplating his options, he reflects on his defining moments in search of the origin of his desires.
“Glove” / U.S.A. (Directors: Alexa Haas, Bernardo Britto, Screenwriter: Bernardo Britto) — The true story of a glove that’s been floating in space since 1968.
“The Grandfather Drum” / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Michelle Derosier) — As the balance of the world turns upside down for the Anishinabek people, the elder Naamowin builds a healing drum to save his grandson and his people.
“The Itching” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Dianne Bellino) — In this parable, a shy wolf tries to connect with a group of hip, party-loving bunnies but finds her body is in revolt.
“Life Smartphone” / China (Director and screenwriter: Chenglin Xie) — The phenomenon of increasing smartphone addiction can be attributed to today’s cutting-edge technology. Staring at glowing screens instead of exploring the vast expanse of life, people are gradually alienating themselves from the richness, depth, and loveliness of life.
“Limbo Limbo Travel” / France, Hungary (Directors and screenwriters: Zsuzsanna Kreif, Borbála Zétényi) — In a country where men seem more interested in their electronic gadgets than their peers, a group of lonely and disillusioned women take the Limbo Limbo bus. Off to a far exotic country, they hope to find happiness.
“Pombo Loves You” / United Kingdom (Director: Steve Warne, Screenwriter: Josh Blaaberg) — A distant father is forced to confront a heroic but troubled past life as ’80s TV character Pombo.
“Shiny” / U.S.A. (Directors: Spencer Susser, Daniel Cloud Campos) — A damsel in distress gets undressed when a man from the Midwest puts to rest a world that’s obsessed with “the priceless,” also known as “the shiny.”
“Waves ’98” / Lebanon (Director and screenwriter: Ely Dagher) — Disillusioned with life in the suburbs of segregated Beirut, Omar’s discovery lures him into the city. Immersed into a world that is close yet isolated, he loses track and finds himself struggling to keep his attachments and sense of home.
Pictured above: “Swimming in Your Skin Again”