Good things come in short packages! There were some great short films in this year’s Overlook Film Festival. Read on!
One of the programs I was most looking forward to at the Overlook Film Festival was the Short Film Programs, which were divided into two sessions. The first session on Friday morning did not disappoint. Several of these film were local New Orleans productions, and several of the directors showed up to discuss their productions, and I was fortunate to talk to them and their casts.
Good Morning: ★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Director: Elaine Mongeon
The opening short film was probably the most accessible of the films shown in this roster, and it was a film produced and supported by the Warner Brothers Emerging Filmmakers program. We are introduced to a young woman and her father, who has apparently been suffering from a brain tumor… and they receive some bad news from his doctor. They have an endearing relationship, with the father only able to process simple sentences, like “Yep” or “Nope” or “That thing there.” Though he clearly is able to process more complex concepts when he gifts his daughter a 12 gauge shotgun that he had repaired. Wait. What? Yep. The daughter is thrilled with this gift, and takes it gladly, also donning a raincoat and saying she’s going to get the mail. Again… wait what? Yes… it’s zombie killing time! The story has morphed from a family tragedy to a zombie fighting vignette, and though jarring, was totally satisfying. The director admitted that she had initially intended to do a movie that represented some of her recent experiences with her father and cancer, but couldn’t resist making this into a zombie flick. When I asked her whether she saw a feature film out of this, she laughed and suggested that while it might work she wants to concentrate on making a slasher movie… something with less emotional weight.
Pan ★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Anna Roller
This German short is very Euro. Studio Canal produced films have a tendency to feel like we’re snooping on a dance club, with all the blue and green hued lighting, it felt like Raw (If making a favorable comparison), or The Lure (If making a less favorable reference.) The cinematography takes center stage, and it is gorgeous. The film plays this synthetic aspect in contrast to a natural wilderness setting, as the story spins a tale of a woman who goes primal… supposedly like the satyr, Pan, but I didn’t see that in the film if not told in advance that was what it was about. Not particularly scary either. This film won the best in show for the festival, but though it is technically fantastic, I think it misses the mark narratively.
Blood Runs Down ★★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Zandashe Brown
By far the most compelling and complete short film of this roster. Zandashe Brown filmed a Southern Gothic generational tale of an African American mother and daughter, who are preparing for the daughter’s big birthday. The story infuses a ghost story with very New Orleans themes, with lots of imagery involving water, bathing, baptism, floods and storms Appropriately enough, this film was shot in the 9th ward, notoriously devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I had the privilege of meeting the young actress Farrah Martin who was making her film debut with this, and she was equal parts adorable and powerful. Idella Johnson who plays the mother, Elise, manages to convey the critical swing from adoring mother, and her sad and malicious turn when her curse kicks in. The reference to blood running down is both a metaphor for the genetic curse hand-me-down, and the pervasiveness of rains and floods that define NOLA. I look forward to posting this short as soon it becomes available.
Coyote: ★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Lorentz Wunderle
This is a gonzo gross-out cartoon about a coyote who thinks that he’s found the motherload of food for himself and his family with a bison carcass… only to be attacked and completely eviscerated by a pack of wolves. The coyote’s family is torn to pieces, but the coyote manages to get a second chance from the bison’s spirit form and he is reborn in half-coyote-half-human form… and gets his revenge on the villainous wolves. This short is a psychedelic trip, heavily informed by pop surrealism. Colorful and gag inducing at times.
Amy ★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Gustavo Cooper
The shortest of the short films. This film is a period piece (1910’s?), set during a summer heat wave. Amy is being cared for by Mary, who is tending to a number of ailing people in her residence, and as Amy struggles with the pain of sickness, she discovers that Mary has some very sinister secrets. Cooper apparently has this as the basis of a full length feature. The production values are quite high, but the storyline isn’t obvious, and to get the context you need to get read the director’s synopsis. This won for the scariest short at the festival, and they were probably right with that selection.
The Beaning ★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Sean McCoy
As a lifelong baseball fan, I loved this short conspiracy film. Do you hate the Yankees? Well, if you are a non-New York baseball fan, that answer usually is YES. Damned Yankees! The supposition in this fantastic tongue-sort-of-in-cheek take on the Yankees dynasty was that it was born out of the last time a man was killed on the diamond in Major League Baseball when Yankee submarine pitcher Carl Mays killed Cleveland Indian Ray Chapman with a spitball beaning. (Hit in the head, for those not in the know.) McCoy’s supposition was that this was the work of a demonic cabal… no wonder the Yankees won! Ray Chapman was sacrificed in 1920, and then the Yankees became the sports uber-franchise. It all makes sense, now.
We Summoned a Demon ★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Chris McInroy
Cheeky and cheesy, and lots of fun. This is the second Horror Short I have seen from McInroy, the first being his fabulous Death Metal, and this bears similar goofy dude sentiments. Two grown men still trying to be cool, well past the age in which they should be worrying about such things, attempt black magic to make themselves cooler and more attractive (with a particular gag involving cutting open a chicken for blood, that I found hugely amusing) and find instead that they have summoned a demon. McInroy’s light touch and sensibilities come through in his personality. When talking about his favorite budget saving tricks of the film, he proudly stated that by having the Demon in a hoodie and Jeans they saved a lot in makeup costs, and that one of the big gross-out scenes involved a lasagna. Brilliant!
Acid ★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Just Philippot
This film gets high marks for execution and premise. A father rushes to protect his family from an impending acid rain storm. Scary weather! The downside to this film was that it was all in French, with no subtitles! So, you would get the son crying out for mama! And papa! But you would have to infer the rest, and it made viewing this short film difficult. Good thing it was full of action, and you could infer the dialogue, but there were a couple of small scenes where knowing the dialogue would have really helped. The visions of an Earth scorched by acid rain clouds was quite powerful, enough that I would suggest you see it even if you don’t know French.
Tammy’s Tiny Tea Time (Episode 1: Strangers) ★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Peter Guilsvig
This bizzarro cartoon had the audience in stitches, including me! This film exist in the fractured psyche of a middle aged woman whose refusal to grow up has resulted in a life spent talking to inanimate objects and a dying box turtle in her parent’s house. And apparently she has really bad taste in me. Each of the tea party attendees was a hoot. And I can’t wait to see an Episode 2 of Tammy’s Tine Tea Time.
So, that’s a recap of the short films I saw on day 2 of the Overlook Festival! Keep watching for more on-site updates!