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San Francisco International Festival of Short Films

Something for Every Film Lover

The inaugural San Francisco International Festival of Short Films (SFIFSF) kicks off its first year with 56 short films from around the world. Selected from more than 900 submissions, the shorts are grouped into eight different programs, four general programs, one presented by The Onion, and three more specific programs (e.g. comedy, documentary, and experimental). The SFIFSF will have something for everyone and anyone interested in the unfettered creativity and imagination that often accompanies the short film format (albeit with micro-budgets). Here are write-ups of five shorts selected by the festival’s organizers for pre-festival screening, varying in length, subject matter, approach, and, not surprisingly, quality.

Samantha Reynolds’ documentary short, "Back to Life", explores taxidermy from the perspective of three individuals, Tia, an eccentric amateur taxidermist, Keith, a professional taxidermist who handles game animals and family pets, and Becky, a not-quite-elderly woman who’s decided to have her dog, Mike, stuffed by Keith’s taxidermy service. Tia’s house is crammed full of fairy-tale dioramas, some that she’s made, and some that she’s collected. The Brothers Quay would enjoy sifting through Tia’s collection. "Back to Life" is definitely not for the easily offended, but it’s also insightful, darkly funny, and easily the most watchable of the five shorts reviewed here.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In Rachel McIntosh’s "Don't F*ck With Love", The Sad Little Stars, a New-York City-based duo, provide Elliot Smith-inspired vocals, lyrics, and music to a cautionary tale about romantic love gone wrong. McIntosh complements The Sad Little Stars’ music with animated cut-out figures staged against a 20s backdrop (with clothes to match). In other words, "Don't F*ck With Love" is the rarest of short films, a music video. At two minutes and forty seconds (including credits), "Don't F*ck With Love's" dazzling imagery requires more than casual attention from viewers. Festival programmers would do well to show it twice and/or give audience members a heads up on the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it (well, not really) running time.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

In Jeremiah Zagar’s "Coney Island, 1945", an elderly artist sitting in a diner, Isaiah Zagar (presumably the director’s grandfather), sketches a bird on a sheet of white paper while he reminiscences about a revelatory childhood experience in Coney Island, New York. Zagar acknowledges the problems inherent in reconstructing subjective memories, and how we reconfigure them to suit our own conscious and unconscious needs. At just three minutes, "Coney Island, 1945" feels like a teaser for a more expansive project (one this reviewer would welcome seeing).
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

John Butler’s narrative short, "George", takes a darkly humorous, seriocomic tour through the tragic life of the titular character, as unlucky a man as you’ll find on film. George’s bad luck or accident-prone nature (take your pick) leads to frequent hospital visits, each one worst than the last. Missing all-important depth perception (a childhood accident robbed him of sight in one eye), George stumbles through life, hoping against hope that something good will happen. One hospital visit later, George meets a nurse whose presence might signal a change in fortunes. Bookending "George" with a primary-colored fantasy world, Butler and an offscreen narrator have different ideas for George. Unfortunately, "George’s" one-note, one-joke premise barely sustains its relatively brief, 13-minute running length.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

In writer/director/performer Dave Laden’s "The One", a 32-year old, single New Jerseyian-turned-San Franciscan, Dave, decides to keep a daily video log of his dating life. Why now? Dave has just met a woman who might, just might be “The One”, the woman he’ll settle down with in wedded, lifelong bliss. "The One" chronicles Dave’s progress from early optimism and exuberance through self-doubt, borderline obsession (e-mails, voicemails, and text messages play a significant part), and on through crushing disappointment. "The One’s" simple direct-to-camera style implicates us as voyeurs who can’t and won’t look away at Dave’s emotional disintegration. Kudos to Laden for sucking his viewers into a last-minute major head fake that makes us question everything we’ve just seen.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The inaugural SFIFSF runs from August 10 through August 12. Interested readers can visit for a complete rundown of the festival’s programming, including venues and ticket information.