Today I’m posting about a very special short film. I discovered Fran’s Daughter in a pile of submissions back in the fall of 2010. I was immediately intrigued by this well-directed short about a woman who learns she may have been switched at birth.
The mood is set in the early frames – light creeping through a quiet house (the wallpaper a production design choice that has always stuck in my mind). The story, inspired by a This American Life episode, could easily go into soap-opera territory, but the film is excellently acted by these three women. These elements, and more, create a thoughtful drama.
Of course I had no idea at the time, but programming this short all those years ago would change my life forever. It was how I met my husband.
I am not a publicly sappy person, but as I am in Dallas on this anniversary of meeting Eric I thought it would be fun to share the film that brought us together. Just another example of how a great film changes your life course.
Grab a snack, take a break and enjoy Fran’s Daughter!
Directed by Eric F. Martin
2011 / 13 min / USA
A short film about a woman who learns she may have been switched at birth.
I’m in the weeds. Deadlines for programming one of the festivals I work for are looming. One day last week, I watched thirty shorts in one day. Not my best, but certainly no piece of cake either.
Which means, I’ll be keeping it fairly short here the next few weeks. Today, I need a spiritual time out. A cleansing of the mind and body. And what better way to do that than with a quick short+snack with Mr. Madila.
I discovered this clever and fun animated short last year while researching for a Denver program. Rory Waudby-Tolley successfully combines humor with cosmic insight. When feeling overwhelmed with life, this short is a good reminder that the universe is big. This short both grounds me and encourages me. And lets me laugh with ease – which is always helpful to reduce stress.
My go-to snack during these times is not always healthy. I reward myself with small treats when hitting certain goals (in the past, that’s been soda – Dr. Pepper to be specific) and lately it has been a bite of cookie dough. Yes, the baked chocolate chip cookies are tasty too, but sometimes the dough doesn’t make it to the oven.
What’s one of your self-care habits or edible treats when you’re stressed? I’d love to hear your thoughts. It will help me get over the finish line!
Mr Madila or The Colour of Nothing
Directed by Rory Waudby-Tolley
2015 / 9 min / UK
Mr Madila or The Colour of Nothing documents a series of conversations between the film-maker and a gifted spiritual healer, exploring the inner mind, the fabric of the universe, and the nature of reality itself, through the sacred art of animation. Oooooooh.
If you’re feeling done with the cold and wet winter weather, then today’s short is the burst of brightness you need in your day.
Directed by Michael Mohan, Pink Grapefruit, tells the story of a young married couple who bring two of their single friends out to Palm Springs for a long weekend. It doesn’t go as planned. This romantic dramedy premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win a jury prize at SXSW. Michael Mohan is a talented filmmaker and one you should have on your radar.
He’s an expert at capturing the subtleties of a relationship. I first met him through programming one of his earlier shorts, Ex-Sex. (Sadly, this short is not available online to the public, but it one of my all time favorite films.) I remember a lively Q&A following an Ex-Sex screening with one very uncomfortable old man who was…frustrated by what he had seen. The experience was great (though, perhaps, difficult at the time) and one of the reasons why the film needed to be shown to an audience. In Pink Grapefruit, Mohan explores an earlier stage of relationships.
There are many elements I love about this short: the characters, the setting, the production design, the cinematography. But what I love most is the quietness. This desert air creates a space where anything can happen, despite whatever intentions were created at the beginning. Mohan plays with sound, allowing the awkwardness and curiosity to settle in. The camera glides through the house. The imagery, not words, reveal the characters’ thoughts and secrets.
You’ve probably been there. If you’ve ever been set up you have definitely been there. The feelings of doubt. Fear. Caution. Then perhaps your heart beats faster with anticipation or confidence. Pink Grapefruit is a beautiful example of those moments and how they blur together to make something memorable. Plus, there’s just something about Palm Springs that creates a strange kind of romance, right? (Maybe I’m just speaking from experience on that one.)
As the title suggests a perfect snack to eat while your watching is one of winter’s best flavors: a grapefruit. I’m partial to the old fashion sprinkling-of-sugar on top. That first bite of tartness is vibrant enough for me. But if you want to do something a little different, then why not try a Rum-broiled version?
Have you ever been set up by a married couple before? Experience a desert romance?
What’s one of your other favorite recipes that include grapefruit? (I like to throw them into salads too.) Let’s discuss!
Directed by Michael Mohan
2015 / 11 min / USA
A young married couple brings two of their single friends out to Palm Springs for a long weekend. It does not go as planned.
*A word of warning, you may want to watch this one at home (and not in front of the kids).
In keeping with the holiday spirit here, today I’m highlighting one of my all-time favorite short films, Treevenge.
This short, directed by Canadian filmmaker Jason Eisener, made a splash on the festival scene in late 2008/early 2009. Eisener and his team take a twist on a tradition of Christmas, picking out the perfect tree, and give us a glimpse of the experience from the trees’ perspective. During this particular Christmas, however, the trees have had enough and decide to fight back.
I saw this film at Sundance seven years ago and every Christmas since, it pops back into my mind. I showed the film to my family the following holiday and now we share a laugh each Christmas as we admire the family tree. I recommend watching this with others if you can – the howl of an audience laughing and cringing together makes the film that much more fun. When festival programmers talk about searching for a film that has an original and creative idea, they are talking about a short like this one.
Treevenge is definitely NSFW. If you are not a fan of over-the-top horror films then, fair warning, this short may not be for you. But if you are in need of a good laugh (and who isn’t during the holidays?), then grab your favorite Christmas cookie, take a break and check out Treevenge below. I bet you’ll never be able to pick out a Christmas tree the same way again!
Treevenge Directed by Jason Eisener
2008 / 16 min / Canada After being cut down, shipped off to christmas tree dealers, and brought home and decorated in celebration of christmas, the trees are fed up with the humiliation and abuse, and take their revenge on humanity.
Well, did you survive Thanksgiving? Did you eat your weight in turkey and pumpkin pie? I think I was rather successful in my attempt. I have returned from my coastal escape and it’s time to get back to work. Since it’s only Monday and we’re still easing into the week, it’s ok to take a short break and have a snack I think. Perhaps some leftovers, yeah?
In that spirit (and for those of you who financially supported America’s economy last Friday), I think Casey Gooden’s short film We’ll Find Something would be appropriate for today. Indie darlings Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz star in this short about a couple struggling to find a restaurant in New York City.
Shane Carruth is one of the more mysterious filmmakers in American cinema. He broke on to the film scene with his film Primer. Years later, he appeared again at Sundance with Upstream Color. His films are complex and beautiful. Even trying to explain his work is often simplifying all the various ideas and layers present. This time Carruth is back in front of the camera while his producing partner, Casey Gooden, writes and directs.
One reason why I love this short is because most of us have been in this situation: You’re out shopping with your partner or close friend. As the day goes on, the two of you become hungry. Each place you stop to eat, there’s a problem. Everything seems to go downhill from there. Then suddenly, you realize what you’re arguing about may have nothing to do with the actual problem at hand. Gooden captures this moment perfectly.
Time to grab your favorite leftovers (I’m a fan of a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce) and enjoy We’ll Find Something. Has this happened to you before? Let me know in the comments!
We’ll Find Something
Directed by Casey Gooden
2015 / 12 min / USA
A couple struggles to choose a restaurant while visiting New York.
One more day. We just need to get through tomorrow. Then figure out the rest and how to move forward from there.
In honor of Election week, I’m highlighting one of my favorite shorts from the 2016 festival circuit: The Black Belt directed by Margaret Brown. In this short film, Brown travels to Alabama (her homeland) where the state closed 31 DMVs across the area for budget reasons. Many of these DMV closures were through the Black Belt, a predominantly African-American and poor region, impacting voter enfranchisement as the state requires photo ID to vote.
This short was commissioned through Field of Vision, a cool project of original short-form content from Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook. I highly recommend checking out their site to watch other great shorts if you have some time to spare.
Brown is an incredibly smart filmmaker – one to keep your eye on for the future. The Black Belt sneaks up on you. It showcases keen insight of a social issue, created with great care and fortitude. Brown sets the mood, capturing beautiful and rare moments of rural Alabama life. The Mobile ID unit scene is proof. That scene has been burned in my brain for months. It is an example of humor in frustration; the absurdity of systems that should be efficient. The Black Belt empowers us to continue, to move forward when it’s hard to fight. And in what has been an ugly and fairly absurd election year, The Black Belt reminds us why your vote tomorrow, and in every election, matters.
Grab a snack (I’m in the mood for fried pickles, a yummy Southern treat. See below for a recipe), check out this short and let’s all take a deep breath. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. And please go vote!
2 cups ridge cut pickle chips, pressed between paper towels
1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups seasoned panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
1. Preheat oil to 350°F.
2. Place flour, eggs and panko in three separate shallow dishes.
3. Dredge pickle chips in flour, shaking off any excess, followed by the egg and finally in the panko until fully coated. Set coated pickle chips onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
4. Remove pickle chips from freezer and fry in batches, for about 5 to 6 minutes.
5. Drain onto paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Repeat until all the pickle chips have been fried.
Bacon is on the list of my favorite foods. A no-brainer. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a bacon snack. If I can include bacon in a meal I will certainly try. The how-much-bacon-is-too-much-bacon struggle is real.
So when filmmaker Sol Friedman created his last short film Bacon & God’s Wrath, I was immediately intrigued by the title. I’ve been a fan of Sol’s work for sometime now, sharing some of his unique blend of live-action and animation shorts at festivals over the years. Bacon is a turning point for his work however. It takes a personal story of faith, throws in some creative animation and becomes an exciting piece of documentary art. The Sundance jury that year thought so too, awarding it with the jury award for non-fiction.
Take a few minutes, take out a bacon snack and enjoy this short. I guarantee you’ll never think of bacon the same way again. Feel free to share you thoughts in the comments!
Bacon & God’s Wrath
Directed by Sol Friedman
2015 / 9 minutes / Canada
A 90-year-old Jewish woman reflects on her life’s experience as she prepares to try bacon for the first time.