Sundance Shorts are in for a heyday | ParkRecord.com
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Sundance Shorts are in for a heyday

Nan Chalat Noaker, Record editor

There was some joking around at the Sundance Film Festival’s opening-day press conference that the current surge of interest in short films might be part of a worldwide epidemic of shrinking attention spans. But sitting through a collection of groundbreaking short films by the likes of directors Spike Jonze and Rory Kennedy is not for the feeble minded.

Thursday evening the Sundance Film Festival broke with tradition and included a program of four shorts in its opening night premiers. To make it official, festival founder Robert Redford appeared on stage at the Egyptian Theater to give the makers of short films their due.

According to Redford, a short film can carry a potent punch and new technologies are fueling their distribution.

"We felt that category should be encased in its own program and that there would be a marketplace for them," he said prior to the screening.

Festival programmer Trevor Groth also addressed the full house. "I think I am the only person on the planet who has seen every short film Sundance has screened and they are some of the best films I have seen at any length."

He added that the four films chosen for the premier – an American documentary, an American narrative, an international animation and an international narrative — represented the wide range of subjects embraced in the shorts category.

The group, referred to as Shorts Program 1 in the festival catalog, offers audiences an invigorating mental workout

"I’m Here" directed by Spike Jonze (28 minutes)

Not much was revealed about "I’m Here" prior to the film’s unveiling at Sundance on Thursday. Jonze, who has received recent acclaim for his film adaptation of "Where the Wild Things Are" said he had just finished editing it a couple of days earlier.

As it turns out, the film is a simple tender story about two robots who fall in love. The film’s strength comes from the imaginative and convincingly costumed robots and vocals by Aska Matsumiya.

Jonze creates a stark world where robots, at least most of them, know their place and do not dream of things like art or music or love.

"The Fence" directed by Rory Kennedy (36 minutes)

Audiences who see Rory Kennedy’s mini documentary "The Fence" will likely leave the theater shaking their heads, once again, at government folly. Her cameras examine the efforts to fence the border between the United States and Mexico in the name of homeland security. With obvious irony she shows how the 700 miles of intermittent fencing along the 2,000-mile border has failed.

Kennedy has a knack for finding regular folks who seem to have a clearer understanding of the issue than most legislators, both Democratic and Republican. In one short stretch the fence is comprised of a double concrete wall topped with razor wire and automated motion sensors while a few miles down the road it abruptly ends.

"The Fence" also underscores the irony of a country that exhorted Berlin to tear down its wall and is now building one of its own. The film made its point and also drew chuckles from its first Sundance audience, especially one character’s final quip suggesting that the fence is "not so much an insult to Mexico as it is to the United States."

"Logorama" directed by Francois Alaux, Herve de Crecy and Ludivic Houplain (17 minutes)

"Logorama" is one of those ground-breaking visual experiences that changes the way you view the world forever after. The filmmakers labored for four years to create a comic book-style world made completely of logos. In their fully-realized adventure Ronald McDonald is a Joker-like villain who kidnaps Big Boy, and is chased by two Michelin-men cops through a sea of high-rise logos. It is easy to read a message into the filmmaker’s vision, but the film is also easy to enjoy as an artistic romp through a surreal landscape.

"Seeds of the Fall" directed by Patrik Eklund (18 minutes)

Everything about "Seeds of the Fall" is odd. The circus side-show characters, the lopsided house and the plot. But under Patrik Eklund’s direction the peculiar people and their entangled situation are strangely endearing, not off putting.

While it is hard to describe this 18-minute gem without giving away its secret, suffice it to say Eklund successfully pulls off a delightful trompe-l’ il. The humor is perhaps a bit foreign to most Americans’ funny bone (Eklund is Swedish) but it fits in perfectly at Sundance.

Shorts Program 1 screens:

Saturday, Jan. 23 at 11:30 a.m. at the Park City Library Center Theatre

Saturday, Jan. 30 at 8:30 a.m. at the Park City Racquet Club

Saturday, Jan 30 at 10:30 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Broadway Centre Cinemas IV


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