Review: An Eclectic Mix Delights in Sundance’s Short Film Tour

Just last week, the Chicago International Film Festival announced its line-up for their 55th edition; happening October 17-26, look for in-depth coverage on your hometown festival in the coming weeks from Third Coast Revieiw. Among the dizzying number of films that will play the AMC River East during the festivities, no fewer than 57 short films will screen across nine programs. From animated and documentary work to experimental and locally produced stories, the programs highlight short-form filmmaking at its best. sundance shorts Image courtesy of Sundance Institute If you can't wait for those programs next month, get a head start with the Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, playing this week at Music Box Theatre. A program that pares down the several dozen short films selected for the 2019 film festival, it features seven shorts that run anywhere from about five minutes to just under a half hour. Included in the mix is an animated film, a documentary and a few very intriguing, if brief, narratives. As a whole, it's an eclectic bunch, but something about its variety makes it that much more appealing. Like a bit of a cinematic buffet: bit of this, bit of that, enjoy it all. The longest of the seven films included is Brotherhood, a multinational production directed by Meryam Joobeur, about a grown son who returns to his family's home in rural Tunisia with a new wife and stories from his time in battle. It's a deeply intimate affair, with tight closeups and confined spaces plunging us immediately into the family's daily life. Malik's return is one of confusion and confrontation, and as secrets about his time away are revealed, his parents—particularly his father—don't necessarily welcome him with open arms. It's a testament to the power of a well-told story, that it need not be 90 minutes (or more) to have an impact. Two of the program's quirkier offerings are sometimes, i think about dying and Crude Oil, the former a peek into a young woman's inner dialogue and the latter a whirlwind of one very odd female friendship. Directed by Stefanie Abel Horowitz (who co-wrote with Katy Wright-Mead and Kevin Armento), sometimes is a slightly neurotic if thoroughly relatable glimpse into the everyday insecurities, musings and one-sided conversations so many of us maintain in our waking hours. Cleverly paced and edited, the sweet romance at the heart of the story makes the sometimes macabre threads easier to chuckle at. Crude Oil, similarly, finds strength in ambitious editing, though it goes in much more obscure directions as a young woman comes out from the clutches of a friend with one very weird super power. Colorful and hectic and endlessly watchable, it's a film that indicates, even in its short runtime, an artistic vision and talent. Also in the mix is Fast Horse, a documentary about what looks to be the very dangerous, if exhilarating, sport of bareback horse racing; Suicide by Sunlight, an imaginative (and at times dark) fable about a black vampire protected from the sun by her melanin; The Minors, a simple but effective slice-of-life portrait of a grandfather, his grandsons and the band they all play in; and Muteum, the program's only animated film, a whimsical journey through an art museum. The Sundance Short Film Tour plays all week at Music Box Theatre.

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Lisa Trifone