WLSS 2012 crew
The Pride Festival wasn’t the only place to peep some decent short shorts this weekend. Just up the hill at the Post Theatre, the Who Likes Short Shorts? Film Festival brought its own blend of community, artistry and passion to the Wasatch Front.
At first glance, the WLSS Film Festival is a place where one can enjoy a barrage of short films from all over the world. Once inside, however, one quickly learns that it’s also a place for local filmmakers to rub elbows with each other and gain an audience with some important players in the Utah film scene. This is exactly what show founders Jack Diamond and Chase Weston want. Both of them have done their time as starving filmmakers in Utah, but they have also demonstrated how persistence, creativity and optimism can pay off. The festival began back in 2010, and it has only gotten bigger. This year, they received such a large number of submissions—many of which came from different countries—that they expanded the event into a two-night short film marathon that included giveaways and panel discussions.
Though each of the films represented a variety of different genres, styles and plots, they all shared a common thread of honesty—pure and unspoiled. That’s not to say that every film I saw was mind-blowingly awesome, but each film was made with so much blood, sweat and tears that the audience couldn’t help but feel like they had experienced something rather than just watched it pass by on screen. They might be misunderstood. They might be rough around the edges. But damn it, so were the Goonies. And Goonies never say die. Here are some of the films that caught my eye and made me want to buy the filmmakers a drink.
Submitted by Arev Manoukian
4 min 38 sec
This is a perfect example of how to use the short film medium. In four-and-a-half minutes, Manoukian uses slow-motion photography to capture an explosive moment in the lives of two strangers. The film’s achingly slow pacing strings the audience along for every second until the characters meet within a shower of broken glass. This film feels like a mash-up between The Artist and The Matrix, and that is a beautiful thing.
Submitted by Chris Tomkins
6 min 12 sec
It starts out in a familiar place—two burglars raiding an unoccupied house. Just as they enter the living room, both criminals are staggered by the enormous movie collection that towers over them. For a fleeting moment, the pair forget their heist and find themselves critically discussing the quality of the original Ocean’s 11 versus the remake. The two thieves play extremely well off of each other, and their conversations about popular movies belong in a Tarantino film. Plus, it’s all done in melodious accents that make your ears feel like they’ve been swabbed with velvet Q-Tips.
Life According to Penny
Submitted by Ali Barr
18 min 48 sec
Filmed against the rural backdrop of Kamas, Utah, Life According to Penny tells the story of the Blightworth Home for Girls and its twisted headmaster. Penny is inspired by the Biblical tale of David and Goliath, which prompts her to make a getaway with her mentally disabled roommate. After speaking with Ali, I learned that this film was a family affair—her daughter Stefania both starred in the film and composed its music—and they hope to evolve this story into a feature film, which would provide ample opportunity to explore more of this dark and unexpectedly heroic territory. Given the fact that their film took home the Best Utah Short award, I’d say they’re off to a good start.
Submitted by Ahmad Saleh
3 min 52 sec
Saleh’s stop-motion animated short condenses the history of the Palestine-Israel conflict into a hauntingly dark allegory. Ulrich Fuchs’s world-weary voiceover tells the story of a family who owned a house that is eventually overtaken by a guest and his new way of life, which resulted in the family’s exile to the roof. It made me realize how little I knew about the conflict between these two groups of people, and the film’s stripped-down narrative sheds light on a situation that is akin to the colonization of America and the displacement of the Native American population.
A Taste of Love
Submitted by Chase Weston
3 min 39 sec
In a twisted reinterpretation of Lady and the Tramp’s iconic “spaghetti scene,” A Taste of Love finds two cannibalistic denizens of a post-apocalyptic wasteland sharing the bloody entrails of a weaker mortal. I don’t think eating a corpse has ever been sexier.
Submitted by Francesco Filippi
8 min 2 sec
This Italian animated short tells the story of an adolescent boy who is born without bones in his legs. Naturally, his classmates find it endlessly amusing to tie his legs to stuff and watch him try to escape. The boy handles it all with a light heart, and as he grows older his infatuation with a classmate leads him to discover that though his legs are useless, his arms have become strong enough to take him places. Endlessly adorable.
Submitted by Eric Fisher
16 min 30 sec
There’s a streak of darker-than-dark humor that permeates this film about two scientists who create a time machine powered by orphans—yes, I do mean children with no parents—and use it to kill baby Hitler. How do they know this baby they’ve found is the real Hitler? Because he cries when they speak Hebrew, that’s how. I appreciated the frenetic and unabashedly shameless humor that this film injected into the festival.
Submitted by Robi Levy
Kids in the Hall alum Scott Thompson stars in this bizarre tale of a man’s never ending nightmare about aging past fifty. It’s a head-trip to watch different characters slip in and out of Thompson’s dream, as if they’re all sharing one massive nightmare orgy. Which reminds me: My favorite part was when Thompson’s dentures slip out during a passionate make-out session with a younger dude. Damn, I miss Kids in the Hall.
Submitted by Quek Shio-Chuan
Guang carefully guides the audience through a few days in the life of a boy with autism, and it does so without being heavy handed. It’s just a beautiful story that explores the relationship between Guang and his brother as they both struggle to take care of each other in a world that still has a difficult time understanding autism. The audience evidently shared my opinion, and it got the Viewer’s Choice award for the evening.
Ben Whitman Hears Voices
Submitted by Eric Fisher
3 min 57 sec
Maintaining the same vein of darkly comic storytelling that Fisher demonstrated in Offing Adolf, Ben Whitman Hears Voices is the kind of film that makes you laugh at tragedy and feel guilty about it later. Ben Whitman is a schizophrenic who indulges the sarcastic voices in his head by kidnapping a man whom they suspect is a murderer. The voices in Ben’s head steal the show without actually being in the film, and it’s hilarious to see how easily Ben submits to their will.
All in all, the WLSS Film Festival was a great way to spend a weekend. There was delicious food provided by the Bento Truck, the lovely volunteers were helpful and the films were entertaining and unique. For a movie nerd such as myself, I enjoyed seeing films that were conceived, created and distributed locally, holding their own with films from all over the world. WLSS has something special, and I don’t see it going anywhere but up.
Check out our interview with co-founder Jack Diamond here.