For the past few years, one of my Dam Short Film Festival highlights has been reconnecting with a certain eccentric couple in their 60s. They park their RV behind the Boulder Dam Hotel and make their way to as many programs as possible, chatting up filmmakers from around the country and the world.
Sadly, they were nowhere to be seen at this year’s festival, but the DSFF is full of people like them, who help build a friendly community around this celebration of the under-appreciated short film format. Those loyal patrons, mostly older Boulder City locals, packed the Boulder Theatre for many of this year’s screenings, and the festival programmers tend to cater to them, favoring films with gentle, often sentimental messages (those films also typically win the audience awards).
That can be a good thing, as this year’s many programs focused on romance and relationships were some of the strongest, with sweet and funny entries like “Peter and Betty” (about a frustrated older couple), “Forget Me Not” (about a man with very specific amnesia), “Birthday Box” (about an unfortunately timed birthday surprise) and “New” (a sci-fi short about a couple reincarnated in the future). Even the late-night Underground program, with selections deemed too “naughty” for earlier in the day, had its share of sweetness, in the entertaining “Dad in Mum,” about a pair of little girls discovering some uncomfortable truths about their parents’ relationship.
The audience winner at this year’s Nevada showcase, Adam Zielinski’s “Rule of Love,” was another relationship story, albeit one with a slightly darker edge. Zielinski’s well-shot and creatively edited short was the best of a mediocre bunch in a fairly underwhelming local program. Although films like Tobin Herringshaw’s sci-fi epic “After” had polished, professional looks, they were mostly lacking in narrative. Still, supporting local filmmakers is one thing that the DSFF does best, and it’s always heartening to see such a strong turnout from the Vegas film community. Even if a couple of my favorite community members were absent this year, the overall support was tremendous, and I hope to see all of the festival’s supporters return next year.