Short films tend to get overlooked easily at film festivals, but one of the great things that CineVegas does is make sure that doesn’t happen. This year’s festival includes two regular shorts programs, plus screenings dedicated to shorts from local filmmakers and from students at UNLV and CSN. There are also a substantial number of shorts playing before festival features, which is a great way to make sure that people who wouldn’t ever bother going to the shorts programs see at least one or two short films during the festival.
Probably the best short I saw today was one that preceded a feature: David Lowery’s A Catalog of Anticipations, which played before Wellness, is an eerie and strangely beautiful story told via still photographs and a bit of stop-motion animation. Lowery manages to mix an arty coming-of-age tale with creepy fantasy elements to create a very memorable result.
The films in Shorts Program 1 were, as is to be expected, a mixed bag, but for every puzzling misfire, there was at least one minor success. The best of the group was Samantha, by Liliana Greenfield-Sanders (daughter of photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, whose feature documentary The Black List is playing in the festival), a sharp little domestic dramedy with strong performances and an almost unexpectedly powerful message about the lengths people go to in order to please their families.
I also liked Benny Safdie’s rough, low-key The Acquaintances of a Lonely John, which played a little like a tougher, grittier version of Clerks at times, and the hilarious Goldthwait Family Home Movies (Anniversary Edition), in which comedian Bobcat Goldthwait sends up the idea of DVD commentaries by recording a completely absurd voiceover for his family’s actual home movies from when he was a kid. It was totally surreal, and a spot-on parody as well.
I’ll be checking out Shorts Program 2 as well as the Nevada Filmmaking Shorts later this week, and I’d recommend anyone else do the same. Films like these are the definition of material that you’ll only get to see at a festival.