February 06, 2006

SF short film festival

Caught the first annual Science Fiction Short Film Festival at the Cinerama on Saturday. There were twenty films shown in two two-hour sessions of ten films each.

I've never seen short films in the theatre before (except for a couple of the ones Pixar slapped in front of its features). It's kind of overwhelming to see ten films in under two hours with only a few seconds of black between the credits of one and the opening of the next. Plus I have a terrible memory and didn't take any notes in the first session so it's a good thing Rachel was there and can remember things or I wouldn't have been able to put together the titles on the Audience Award ballot with the films they stood for. In the second session I was on my own and took hurried notes in the brief dark gaps between the films. (The web site for the festival (link above) includes one-liner descriptions of all the films, but the festival program unaccountably does not, offering only bios of the film makers!)

There was something to enjoy in every one of the films. Enough so that I'd have a hard time picking a top three. I stayed for the awards (based on scoring by a panel of judges), and was a little surprised by the results. Circus of Infinity and Heartbeat tied in 5th, Cost of Living in 4th, Microgravity in 3rd, Red Planet Blues in 2nd, and They're Made Out of Meat the winner. The audience award went to Cost of Living.

My favorites were (in the order they were screened) (links to the film's website for those I could find):

La Vie d'un Chien (The Life of a Dog) about a scientist who discovers a drug which will transform a person into a dog, which made wonderfully effective use of the sneaky trick (apparently pioneered by another film maker (credited in the film)) of composing a film completely of still photographs with a wonderful deadpan French voiceover and subtitles.

Heyday was a fairly straightforward time travel romance (think Somewhere In Time) distinguished by wonderful performances by its actors.

The Grandfather Paradox about a physics professor who is forced to act out the grandfather paradox (and finally create a twist on it) when he is attacked by his time travelling grandson in the middle of his lecture. Very funny.

Perfect Heat had a nearly incomprehensible story, but made up for that with gorgeous visuals integrating live action, filmed drawings, and animation in a wonderfully surreal way.

Red Planet Blues was one of only two fully animated films, and the only one using clay models. It depicted a whimsical interaction between a Martian and one of the Mars rovers.

Super-Anon was a mockumentary about a support group for family members of super heroes. Very funny.

They're Made Out of Meat is from a short-short story by Terry Bisson (who emcee'd the festival) which consists completely of a conversation between two aliens. The film sets the conversation in a diner and intersperses it with the antics of the human customers.

Cost of Living is another conversation format, this one between an aging man and a new body salesman. Excellent performances and a well written story.

Welcome to Eden was the only fully computer animated film. About the first flight of the first light-speed drive ship. I liked the (too loud in the screening) surf music and snappy dialogue paired with goofy retro modern animation.

Wireless is a well-executed film noir treatment of what might as well be John Varley's classic novella Press Enter (but isn't).

I'd love love love to have a DVD of the full festival's movies. I'll definitely plan to attend again next year.

Posted by jeffy at February 6, 2006 07:13 PM

There's a good review of the festival on Green Cine.

Posted by: jeffy at February 7, 2006 05:29 PM
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