An emerging film festival isn’t complete without a shorts program, and Pendance has a few of them. I managed to catch the Masters of the Camera program. It promises both great writing and craftsmanship behind the camera. These shorts tackle dysfunctional power dynamics within small groups, like unconventional workplaces and families. And just like many shorts programs, they vary both in origin and quality.
The program does start very rough with Carl Bird McLaughlin’s Human Sun. It’s about a public chance encounter between a motivational speaker, Corey Forsythe (McLaughlin) and a super fan, Zach (Brian Ioakimedes). I already dislike motivational speakers so this short is on a slippery slope. Zach’s story is also more compelling but McLaughlin unfortunately prefers to show it in slivers both on script and on camera.
Things get much better with the Palme D’or winning short All These Creatures. Writer-director Charles Williams evokes Chekhov, smarting small with a description of nature before zooming out to show Tempest (Yared Scott). He deals with his father Mal’s (Mandela Mathia) mental illness. This is a side of Australia that audiences haven’t seen before. It’s rich in detail as it tells a personal and relate-able story, and I hope to see more from this cast and crew.
This program follows that up with 93 Miles, in which writer-director Noah Canavan uses economical storytelling. He only uses three locations but he makes us feel that we’ve traveled the titular distance with his characters. I’d assume that Danny Boyce, who plays Cuban baseball player Miguel, is not a native Spanish speaker. But he performs the hell out of Miguel anyway.
The best shorts are always in the middle. And adorableness is the closest way to my heart. Jonas Reimer’s Mascarpone takes us back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s about Francis (Yannick Fisher) who works the projection booth at a movie theater. And of course, he has big dreams. Reimer uses cardboard for all of his sets. I’m rooting for the guy.
Melissa Farman’s Ready feels truncated in telling the story of a poor little rich boy (Elliot Decker). He lives with a mother with a mental illness. One or two good lines can’t save this short.
Zac Shields plays the titular protagonist in Nenad Cicn-Sain’s Samuel David. Shields probably has one of the most attractive faces to ever hit a movie screen. He’s also the other half of the band Dead Man’s Bones with Ryan Gosling and he’s the hotter one. Anyway, Shields is capable of evincing exasperation as a soldier with a questionable past, elevating a bare bones script.
This program began with a bad short and it ends with a bad short. Mateusz Motyka’s The Woodkin is about a dad who shows up in his teenage son’s life after what we’ll assume is a messy divorce. His idea of bonding with his kid who hates him is to have a hunting party. A character giving a literal Chekhov’s gun to another character who hates him is the first of this short’s terrible ideas. The end.
- Genre: Animation, Drama, Family, Short, Thriller
- Release Date: 2/1/2019
- Directed by: Carl Bird McLaughlin, Charles Williams, Jonas Riemer, Mateusz Motyka, Melissa Farman, Nenad Cicin-Sain, Noah Canavan
- Starring: Carl Bird McLaughlin, Danny Royce, Elliot Decker, Yannick Fischer, Yared Scott, Zac Sheilds
- Produced by: Brian O'Hare, Elise Trenorden, Johannes Schubert, Ludovic Dardenay, Noah Canavan, William Day Frank
- Written by: Carl Bird McLaughlin, Charles Williams, Matt Sweetwood, Melissa Farman, Noah Canavan, Patrick Christell
- Studio: Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf, Neon Diesel Finishing, Simpatico Films, Symington Talent Management