SXSW Shorts Round-Up Part Three – More Narrative
The last of our round-ups of some of the short films screened as part of SXSW 2021.
4 Feet High (
directed by Maria Belen Poncio/Rosario Perazolo Masjoan
starring Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, Florencia Licera
)A refreshingly unsentimental film taking in the trials of a teenage wheelchair user’s first day at a new school. Juana struggles to find her place in a new environment but the transformative power of music and the brother and sisterhood of others perceived as outcasts and misfits allows her to face down her fears. This engaging French/Argentinian short is the pilot to a limited series and skilfully builds a cast of characters that prompt the viewer to want to follow their story. Irigoyen as Juana is a star in the making.
directed by Polaris Banks
starring Lance Henriksen, Tasha Guevara
) Director Banks self-financed this short film over five years by working endless extra jobs, sleeping in his car, maxing out his credit cards, borrowing from his family and doing as much as he could himself right down to building the sets. Was it worth it? Well, fortunately yes. Reklaw is a very well realised sci-fi thriller with a touch of Philip K Dick about it. Lance Henriksen is excellent as the spiritual leader of a kind of clean-up crew that save the guilty from jail by removing all of the evidence at the scene of a crime. The idea being that forgiveness is the key to everything. The casting throughout is excellent and the set design and colour grading, in particular the pastel shades of the apartment where the final scene plays out, are exceptionally well done. This premise may not have the legs to be taken much further than a short but Banks demonstrates the kind of vision that could see him move easily into feature films.
The Other Morgan (
written and directed by Alison Rich
starring Alison Rich, Mary Holland, Chloe Wepper
)Morgan Yardley, content in her life as a neighbourhood pest controller, discovers her recently deceased father had a secret family and that she has a half-sister also called Morgan. The pair bicker and spar at their father’s wake until pest controller Morgan starts to question whether she or her far more successful secret sister is the happy one. This debut short film from actor Rich is a fairly broad but actually pretty funny comedy. The script is sharp and the timing of the lines spot on. In questioning the ways success and happiness are measured there’s a neat sequence where Instagram posts come alive and start to harangue the insecure exterminator and a nice set piece where she meets an ex-schoolfriend and is oblivious to the fact she has become an internationally famous and self-obsessed Gaga-esque popstar. There’s nothing really new here but what there is is a skilfully made comedy which might actually make you laugh and those are hard enough to find.
written and directed by Jess Brunetto,
starring Mary Holland, Sarah Burns
) By coincidence Mary Holland reappears in another comedy about squabbling sisters in the debut short film from Jess Brunetto. Holland has more to do in this film and is easily up to the task with her portrayal of awkward, wayward sister Andy returning home to her elder sibling and her comatose mother. Holland and co-star Sarah Burns make an effective couple whose petty bickering disguises their obvious love for each other under the shadow of their once domineering mother. It’s wryly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny and the ending is just a bit too neat and unconvincing..
Are You Still There? (
written and directed by Sam A Davis/Rayka Zehtabchi
starring Safa Tarifi, Rima Hadad, Mardy Ma
) A great example of how to tell a story with economy and style. A young woman’s car battery dies and, eventually, her mother comes to help her. That’s it. The whole film plays out in the lot of a California donut store. With this simple premise the film makers manage to tell a more resonant, affecting story that many can’t even manage to do in a two hour movie. It’s like a great Carver story or a perfectly crafted poem. Just enough and no more.
Festival Website sxsw.com
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
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