short film review

Reviews and news about short films, short film festivals, reviews, links and guides to short films online,images from short films,directors,writers,cinemaphotographers. Copyright 2005, 2006 by Allan Maurer. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 25, 2008



The Nevermore Horror film festival in Durham, NC, has always presented excellent programs of horror themed short films, but the 2008 crop of entries surpassed even those of previous years.

Horror and science fiction short films are probably the single most viable of the short film genres following comedy shorts, which of course have been part of filmmaking from the start. All films were short films back in the beginning, and filmmakers can still learn plenty from silent short films about telling a complete genre story in short form.

Comedy horror, particularly Zombie comedy, is a subgenre of this short film subgenre that's increasingly notable at film festivals in both the short film and feature length entries. Short films, though, lend themselves particularly to comedy treatments.

"Prombies," a black and white homage to many other horror films as well as an accurate satirical take on what boys really want on prom night, as our reviewer, Nicole Black noted, is one of the cleverest takes on the whole zombie idea we've seen so far. Zombies, it turns out, provide a rotting canvas for metaphors of all types. George Romero's latest feature length "Diary of A Zombie," has been criticized for pounding home its idea that media has become our reality, and he pioneered the use of zombies to satirize modern life, such as consumer society ("Dawn of the Dead," the original version).

"Prombies" achieves this quite effectively, managing to throw in filmic homages to producer Val Lewton's shadow haunted B films of the 1940s ("Cat People,"), other zombie films, and the whole slasher genre. The jokes work extremely well. A line such as "He's eating her alive!" takes on double meaning in a laugh provoking context, for instance. The empty high school halls, shadowed and echoing, are a suitable horror setting. Fans of old 1950s TV shows such as Superman and B movies will recognize the much over-used stock suspense music, but it is quite appropriate here, its familiar rise and fall evoking the same sort of feel as the moody black and white images.

Still, "Prombies," manages about all the screen time it could sustain at this short length (briefest of the films discussed here).

"Gay Zombie," and the multiple-award-winning "Zombie Love," a musical with send-ups of Hollywood and Bollywood musical conventions, all work as short films, but lack enough substance to sustain feature length. They could actually benefit from judicious cutting even at their current lengths.

But I'm guessing that of all the short film genres, again, save comedy short films, the horror and comedy horror shorts will find real markets earliest. Today, the chance to see them, especially collected in group programs, remains one of the best reasons for attending film festivals internationally.--Allan Maurer

Comedy Horror Shorts at Nevermore

Nicole Black reviews the “They're Coming to Get You, Barbra!” program at 2008 Nevermore Horror Film Fest in Durham, NC:

The Nevermore Film Festival at the Carolina Theatre showed four comedy-horro-shorts. Included were: French film maker Guillaume Tunzini's Fathers-in-Law, Florida State University Film School and Frederick Snyder's Prombies!, Michael Simon's Gay Zombie and Yfke van Berckelaer's Zombie Love.

In the eight minutes it takes to completely view Fathers-in-Law, you'll find yourself both laughing at the stupidity of the scene and cringing at the absurd explosion of blood that follows. It does manage to surprise.

The zombie action begins with the seven-minute showing of Prombies!, a clever take on what high school boys really want on prom night. While the the acting and music may appear overdramatic in the beginning, they are a part of the film's charm, and the witty dialogue makes up for it. The idea that sex turns teenaged boys into one-track minded zombies is a hilarious concept on its own.

Gay Zombie can be hard to watch if your vision is not up to par. The lack of lighting in the film causes scenes to be murky, dark and blurry. Digital projection and digital filmmaking both leave something to be desired compared to 35mm at times. But if you can stick it out, the 20 minute short has an inventive twist on zombie existence. Viewers will follow the sexually confused and undead protagonist on his journey to fit in. The movie does have parts that reek of a dumb high school flick with the typical girlie makeover and clothes modeling scenes. Overall, the film is fun.

The 37-minute Zombie Love short takes the audience through a zombie and human's quirky quest for love. From the time Claudia finds the finger of the zombie-poet, Dante, who saved her in the graveyard, she is obsessed with meeting him again. Dante tries to become more human to win her affection, not realizing its the zombie in him that she loves. The musical's whacky lyrics and dialogue will make you laugh the way only something so nonsensical can. References to the films of Bollywood will have the audience in an uproar of laughter. The film is fantastically original and the most entertaining of the four.

Written by Nicole Black


Friday, February 15, 2008

Oscar nominated shorts show "astonishing creative revolution."

The venerable New York Times, reviewing this year's Oscar nominees for short films, notes that the genre is no longer restricted to the amusements that used to precede feature films.

Now, the times points out, they run up to 40 minutes and include sophisticated and technologically advanced work that has "sparked an astonishing creative revolution."

The Times' piece also notes that of the films nominated this year, none were made in the United States, let alone Hollywood.

Shorts reviewed include: “Madame Tutli-Putli” (from Canada); Aleksandr Petrov’s “My Love,”; Hugh Welchman’s version of “Peter and the Wolf,” which uses the Prokofiev score sans narration or dialogue; “Even Pigeons Go to Heaven” from France, "in which a greedy priest tries to sell an old man a machine that will take him to heaven," and “I Met the Walrus,” a Canadian film that animates a short interview with John Lennon in 1969..

Among live action shorts,the Times' Steven Holden sees Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth’s life-and-death drama “At Night” (from Denmark) as the most compelling.

He says, "Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown’s western “The Tonto Woman” from Britain is the visually austere but pretentiously executed story of an itinerant cattle rustler who befriends the socially outcast wife of a rancher."

“The Mozart of Pickpockets” from France, which Holden says is "the too-cute story of a deaf-mute child who attaches himself to professional thieves."

Finally, he mentions Andrea Jublin’s “Il Supplente” (“The Substitute”), from Italy.

Here's a link to the review (registration may be required)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Journal of Short Film Releases Vol. 8

The Journal of Short Film releases Volume 8 (Summer 2007)
in July. The JSF is a quarterly DVD featuring exceptional,
peer-reviewed short films. To date, the JSF has published over 80
filmmakers from 10 countries. Volume 8 includes the Journal’s first
films from Romania and Iran.

Volume 8 covers more ground than most previous volumes, walking through
fields in Romania, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in 1899, busing the
streets of San Francisco, and touring a prehistoric site in Mexico.
But before a theme can take hold, the collection of 11 films continues
the Journal’s policy of diversity. Other settings range from urban
Iran to a sheep farm to a morgue to a birthing room full of surprises.

The Journal was pleased to host Chicago-based filmmaker Deborah
Stratman as a guest editor for Volume 8. She is known for her work
through her production company Pythagoras. She was highly praised for
her short work In Order Not To Be Here, and she recently completed
Kings of the Sky, a feature documentary about Muslim Uyghur tightrope
walkers in western China.

The Journal continues to have a free and open submissions process.
Submissions should be sent to The JSF, PO Box 8217, Columbus, OH
43201, USA. The Journal also remains ad-free, committed to independent
and underrepresented work, and insistent that art and entertainment are
not mutually exclusive.

Following is a list of the films in Volume 8:

1. LAMPA CU CACIULA (THE TUBE WITH A HAT) – Radu Jude [Romania] (2006,
23:00) A father and son carry their TV set to the city to have it fixed
before the afternoon movie.

2. THE BOY IN THE AIR – Lyn Elliot (2005,
2:00) An enigmatic advertisement inspires a letter. The corporation
writes back.

3. MANUELLE LABOR – Marie Losier (2007, 10:00) A
collaboration with Guy Maddin leads to a birthing scene unlike any

4. ART/WORK – Avram Dodson (2006, 5:00) A realistic look at
the relationship between the artist and the day job.

Ellen Ugelstad and Alfonso Alvarez (1999, 1:05) A staccato peek at San
Francisco from the inside of a bus. Made in the tradition of Biograph’s
1890 Mutoscope.

UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER) – Marjan Alizadeh [Iran] (2007, 8:00) Two men
and a woman: it seems men understand each other better.

FIELDS – Brandon Walley (2006, 9:00) During a hot summer weekend in the
country with my family, I tried to capture an odd sense of
interconnectedness yet isolation.

8. OUTERBOROUGH – Bill Morrison
(2005, 8:30) A split-screen extrapolation of a film taken while
crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in 1899.

9. NOTHINGNESS – Arzu Ozkal
Telhan (2005, 2:55) Nothingness is about resignation; an unwilling
state of existence under the weight of insatiable humanity. 10.
MARTIN – Bill Basquin (2004, 5:00) Martin is a poetic portrait of a
sheep shearer and his philosophical musings on rural life. 11. TO THE
SOUTH WAS 72 – Sabine Gruffat (2005, 11:00) “A personal guided tour of
the largest prehistoric city north of Mexico.” -Anonymous
For more information:

UK short Free Speech intrigues at Atomfilms

There's such a wooly wide world of really fine short films available on the Internet, through film festivals, dvds, and mobile media, it's impossible to keep up with all the action.

We just enjoyed a short (five minutes, 13 seconds) little UK film from 2005 on called "Free Speech." A husband and wife in a cramped bath fantasize about other lovers, but their imaginary menage-a-trois go wrong.

Both the actor, Danny Dyer, and actress, Jacqueline Oceane (what a great name!) are completely believable in this, restrained despite the emotional intensity, seductively voiced, and do it all sexily without showing any significant amount of flesh, although the language is talk-dirty-to-me vulgar, yet without offense. Until they take offense. Bitta bing. Play hits hangups.

More than 400,000 people have watched this film since it appeared in 2005, 3,000 plus this week.

And really, the only sex in it is verbal.

Skillfully written, acted, and directed. 24 on our 24 frame meter.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Con-Can, an International Online Short Film Festival

Con-Can is yet another online venue which accepts short films for its annual film festival. Short Film fans can also view entries from the current and past festivals.

It's a well designed site featuring the work of international directors particularly heavy on Japanese and other Asian, but also Russia, Germany, the UK, and Australia, among others. The site offers a Japanese version.

"Robota" (see photo) is an offering from the 2nd Con-Can Festival of shorts. It gets a four star rating from viewers. Director Marc Beurteaux films Lego robots using stop motion animation techniques. Canadian Beurteaux won first prize for his previous film, "Tous Les Deux," at the Morbegno Film Festival in Italy in 2002.

"Robota" tells its quirky little story quickly and manages to include two robot battle scenes, one of Lego dinosaurian robots our wheeled hero bets on and the robot melee afterward which owes as much to Warner Brothers as to Ray Harryhausen (who used the same stop-motion technique in his 50s-70s classics such as Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers and Jason & the Argonauts.

The whole thing has an oddly futuristic feel, more "Blade Runner" than "Star Trek" because it's dark, but convincing in a strage way. The humor is decidedly clang-bang thank-you Robby-the-Robot, but it made me laugh several times and I bet an audience gets some real real guffaws when this is show on the screen. There's even a few sorta-scary special effects. The ending is perfect, not entirely predictable, and offers a real conclusion perfectly logical within this Lego robotland logic.

Beurteaux has talent, although in the time it takes to build Lego robots, go through the laborious stop-motion technique of shooting tiny movements so that a minute of motion on screen may take hours to film, as well as coming up with a script this good, he could probably shoot a feature. We hope he sticks with the shorts genre for a while, though. This is among the better animations we've seen this year.

21 on our 24 frame scale for "Robota."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Throw Impresses Charlotte Film Fest Audience

That's James Drew, who co-wrote and co-produced the fine short film directed by Rick Fisher called "Throw." We caught both Drew and his movie at the very first Charlotte (North Carolina) Film Festival earlier this year. Photo by Renee Wright (copyright, Renee Wright, 2006)

We attend a lot of film festivals, especially in North Carolina and the Southeast U.S., our own territory. We seldom agree with the various "best of" picks at these festivals, particularly the short film winners. The judges' choices often remind us of Academy Award choices--oriented toward meaningful message films, not infrequently with a pseudo-artistic bent.

At the recent Charlotte, North Carolina film festival, we found the judges' choice of the short film "Lucas" a travesty. Watching this self-indulgent and weakly scripted piece with its lingering mirror shots of its mentally and physically challenged hero (anti-hero?) we tittered at its need to fill its already minimal screen time due to lack of real script. It had its moments, funny, tragic, and briefly interesting, but it didn't hold a patch to the short we found most moving and effective: "Throw."

We love real art when we encounter it. Real art is not the sort of pretentious BS of "Lukas," it's built on real experiences about real relationships such as those in "Throw." It also had the virtues of strong, moving performances from Michael Hardy, Robbie Lutfy, Catherine Smith, Cody Harding, and Steven Handy and of solid film-making. This isn't a film school calling-card, this movie stands on its own.

"Throw," which is based partly on the real experiences of the filmmakers, presents an admirably concise and dramatically powerful look at the choices artists must make between their love for creating and their need to pay rent and buy a new stove. In this case, the artist is a potter with a father who is more interested in seeing his son learn to paint a room than make a carefully crafted piece of pottery.

Or so it seems. The short film leads to a dramatic climax that is perfect in its revelation of the full meaning of what went before--although we are given strong forshadowing hints of it--and leaves the audience with a visercal understanding of what it all meant.

Drew says the father-son relationships of the film-makers played a role in shaping "Throw."

Many short film makers could learn more than a little about structure from "Throw."

In dramatic completeness at a short length, it reminds us of the work of Danica McKellar, the actress who portrayed Winnie Cooper in the TV show "Wonder Years," among many other roles on shows such as "The West Wing." McKellar appeared at the Riverun Film Festival at the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem earlier this year, where we saw her short film "Broken." Like "Throw," it manages complete, powerful and effective story-telling in minutes. Very impressive and up for one of our First Short Film Review Awards this year. That's Danica on the left in a photo by Allan Maurer shot at the Riverrun Festival. (Copyright, 2006, Allan Maurer).

"Throw" is also on the nominated list in several categories. If you get a chance to see it or McKellar's short films, do so.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sundance Seeks Cell Phone Short Films

The Sundance Institute will unite with the GSM Association to create a pilot film project for its annual U.S. film festival.

Partnering with the international mobile phone company, the Sundance Institute launched ae Global Short Film Project as a way to extend the film genre to millions of GSMA customers worldwide, according to a Sundance Institute news release.

"Cell phones are fast becoming the 'fourth screen' medium, after television, cinema and computers," Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford said. "We feel this experiment embodies fully, our quarter-century dedication to exploring new platforms to support wider distribution of independent voices in filmmaking."

"The emergence of mobile as the fourth screen is already changing the way people are educated and entertained," said GSMA Chief Marketing Officer Bill Gajda of the project. "This will explore the potential of the mobile medium to deliver compelling, cinematic entertainment...on an unprecedented scale."

The Sundance Film Festival: Global Short Film Project will premiere its introductory six works at Spain's 3GSM World Congress in February.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ringo Pits John Wayne Against Roy Rogers

"Ringo" pits cowboy stalwarts John Wayne and Roy Rogers in a brief cinematic duel created from more than 20 public domain films by the two stars.

Directed by Dave Monahan of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, it unreels to the tune of Don Robertson's story-song of the same name. Monahan said at the screening that Robertson graciously permitted them to use the song in the short, which has been making the festival rounds.

Ringo is cleverly cut and paced, with the iconic images of Wayne and Rogers spliced into an artificial conflict not a lot less convincing than most of the "B" westerns they made. It's interesting that those old cowboy images can still arouse a tingle of emotion in those of us who grew up with them, but they entertain everyone.

Westerns don't hold the American imagination they once did. But for baby-boomers like me, who caught all those "B" westerns on tv at an impressionable age, there's a place in our psyhe where these images once reigned.

Even without the psychobabble, though, this short works for audiences.

It's five mintues and 30 seconds fly by as fast as Wyatt Earp on the draw. The song and the images mesh perfectly. This is purely an inspired gimmick, but it's one that works.

22 of 24 frames on our short film meter

Friday, November 17, 2006

Short Film Festivals Seek Entries

Short Film Festival Oberhausen
Germany, May 3-8, 2007
Entry Deadline : January 15, 2007
See their site for submission info:

Oberhausen Short Film Festival

Tampere Short Film Festival, Finland

Finland, March 7-11,2007
Entry Deadline : December 1, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tahiti Film Festival seeks short romantic films

Bora Bora is the place to be beginning Dec. 6, 2006 for the first ever Tahiti Romantic Film Festival. If you can't make it to the islands this year, you can still participate: The Tahiti Online Film Festival is seeking romantic shorts, maximum length 10 minutes. Entries are open thru Dec. 31, 2006, and FREE. The prize - very worth it - a trip for 2 to Tahiti.
Go here for more details:
tahitifilmfest's blog

The Journal of Short Film releases Volume 5

Columbus, OH-- The Journal of Short Film released
Volume 5 (Fall 2006). This volume celebrates the one-year
anniversary of the Journal and maintains its commitment to diversity,
experimentation, and independent work.

The JSF is a quarterly DVD providing its subscribers collections of
exceptional, peer-reviewed short films. It was the first DVD
publication to make the Top 10 list of BEST MAGAZINES in 2005
in TheLibrary Journal.

The biggest news surrounding Volume 5 is the JSF’s focus on a single
location of vibrant filmmaking—Philadelphia. Many of the volume’s
filmmakers come from Philadelphia, and the collection demonstrates that
exciting work is happening in different communities all over the world.

Joining the editorial board for Volume 5 was Lucy Raven, NYC-based
filmmaker and co-creator of The Relay Project. The volume’s ten films
come from veterans, students, and a variety of artists in between.
Genres like “narrative” and “documentary” fail to describe the
diversity of visions found in this collection.

1. LITTLE THINGS – James Twyford and Alex Feakes (2005, 4:45)
Everything’s a game when you’re four. Until you get caught. 2. DIRT
Chel White (1998, 4:00) A fractured tale of one man's strange
obsession. Dark and humorous, DIRT is an ecological parable for the
21st century.

3. GRAND LUNCHEONETTE – Peter Sillen (2005, 5:00) This
film documents the final days of Fred Hakim’s unforgettable 42nd Street
lunch counter. 4. THE LEGEND OF BLACK TOM – Deron Albright (2005,
16:00) When a freed slave fights for the British bare-knuckle
championship, he faces not only his opponent, but an entire nation. 5.
NOEL – Hope Tucker (2005, 5:00) A songwriter’s identity remains as
obscure as his motives for penning an American holiday standard.

6. THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF EXILE –Sara Zia Ebrahimi (2006, 12:00) A
contemplation of the connection to family in a globalized world where
fewer people live where they “came from.” Filmed in Iran.

7. YOU,STARBUCKS – Jennifer Levonian (2006, 2:05) Set in the mundane
environment of a Starbucks, a couple engages in unspoken communication.
8. Something Rubber, Something Glue – Jen Schneider (2006, 14:30)
Sibling warfare erupts over the only bathroom in the house: a private
theater for role-playing, mirror confessions, and practicing for the
“real thing.” 9. BAND OF SISTERS – Joel Fendelman (2005, 8:00) A group
of 1.15 million women and men march through Washington, D.C., in the
largest march in U.S. history. 10. REVERIES FROM CISTAE MEMORIA –
Phillip Hastings (2005, 10:35) A delicately woven dream-journey through
fragmented and reconstructed memories. Nostalgia for what may or may
not have ever happened.

The JSF continues its open submissions policy and will welcome Sam
Green as a guest editor for Volume 6 (Winter 2007). Sam’s Academy
Award-nominated film The Weather Underground sometimes overshadows the
fact that he is a renowned short film maker. The Journal is happy to
have him on board and is excited to enter its second year publishing
great independent filmmakers.

For more information go to The Journal of Short Film

Here's a good review of an earlier volume of the Journal from Curt Holman of Creative Loafing: Review of The Journal of Short Film

King of Doc Contest Offers Great Prizes for Shorts

TOKION Magazine and Dewars White Label present the KING OF DOC! Contest

Call for Entries
Send us your own 3-5 minute documentary inspired by the following

Some people are always looking for new kinds of mistakes to make.

Talk is cheap until it gets into love letters.


A man's reputation is that which is not found out about him.

All submissions will be judged by TOKION editors as well as by a panel of our celebrity judges including:
Jonathan Caouette, Filmmaker - Tarnation
Ondi Timoner, Filmaker - "DiG!"
Bruce Sinofsky, Filmaker - Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

The Winners:
We will be flying the three winners to NYC to screen the winning films with us. We will screen your film, have a party in your honor, as well as give you the opportunity to be questioned by an audience of
your peers regarding the creative process that was involved in creating your film.

The grand prize winner will be offered a $5000 contract with Dewars White Label to produce Dewars White Labels next brand-education film. Were also throwing in a new Apple MacBook Pro laptop and a copy of Apples Final Cut Pro 5.1 production suite. The second and third prize winners will receive a complete software prize package from SONY worth over $1800 - including SONY Vegas Pro and Cinescore.

Eligibility and Details:
All entrants must submit at least three copies of their film on either DVD, Mini DV or VHS format. You must be at least 25 years old to submit a film into the KING OF DOC contest. All entrants must include return address and contact information including current phone number, email and photocopy of valid ID (drivers license, non-driver state ID, passport) stating age. TOKION/Dewar's White Label is not responsible for returning any submissions.

Submissions must be postmarked no later than Dec 11th 2006.
Submissions should be sent to TOKION KING OF DOC contest C/O TOKION
Magazine 341 Lafayette Street, Suite 587, New York, NY 10012.
Winners will allow films to be screened by Dewars White Label at Dewars White Label events.
Winning films may also appear in additional future Dewars promotional spots.
For all contest info log onto