The Venerable Short Returns
An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis
The long neglected short subject is making a comeback. During World War II when radio and movies were the sole source of news and entertainment, people loved to venture out for an evening at the movies. They settled in and were treated to a Pathe newsreel, a few short previews, a cartoon, a serial (The Green Hornet Strikes Again, Tom Mix) and a short on some subject that was always a surprise. All this followed by the feature.
And now here comes the return of the short. Is this nostalgia or further proof that the Internet has reduced our collective attention span? Whatever the reason, the high quality of the new shorts comes straight from the sharp filmmakers who know how to create with the new tools developed by the unfolding technology. If you get a chance, try to see “Best Nominated Live Action Shorts.” One or two are likely to tap deeply into some emotion sleeping quietly in any one of us. One or another will make you laugh or cry or think, and they’ll affect you in English or subtitles because they are beautifully written and filmed.
Aya (29 minutes from Israel/France). While waiting at the airport for an arrival, Aya, a Danish woman, goes along when an arriving Finnish businessman mistakes her for his driver. Their drive to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv is full of unexplained, unusual gestures that are tentative and curious. Alone in the bunch, this one needs editing.
Boogaloo and Graham (Belfast, 17 minutes). A father gives his young sons two baby chicks – promptly named Boogaloo and Graham – who play a large role in the family dynamic as they grow into chickens. This one runs along breezily on humor and charm.
Butter Lamp (France and China, 16 minutes). In an effort to satisfy his customers, a photographer lines all comers up in front of whichever wonderfully creative background screen he deems best for them – proud children with gold medals, a young couple on a motor bike, grandma with her prayer wheel. “Look this way,” as they stand rigidly against a mountainscape or a desert. This one is a lovely portrait of kindness laced with the humor that unfolds when kindness isn’t quite enough to make the perfect picture.
Parvaneh (Switzerland, 25 minutes). A scared young woman in an alien culture is trying unsuccessfully to navigate the local requirements for sending money home to her mother. Rescued from a passing drunk by a strong young girl, the two become friends. This is a moving story of an unlikely and enriching friendship, beautifully told.
The Phone Call (UK, 21 minutes). Heather is a regular on the helping end of the telephone at the Crisis Center. When Stanley calls to say he can’t go on after his wife’s death, Heather listens with kindness, patience and gentle questions. By the time he says, “You’ve been a wonderful friend to me,” you will be moved by Heather’s efforts and Stanley’s needs.