These films identify the boundaries of who we are as a nation, right now, at this moment, while comparing this to other countries.

Apple Pickers (5 min, New York)
Directed by Alex Schmidt and Nick Douglas

I really couldn’t find myself interested in this short narrative that follows a couple of men who wander around the park on a day date drinking autumn-inspired drinks while coming up with autumn-filled activities and arguing about autumn-themed topics. If there was some sort of autumn-product they were trying to promote, though, this could work well as a commercial.

Needle (21 min, Iran)
Directed by Anahita Ghazvinizadeh

We’re all too familiar with the mom-trope of an overbearing germophobe wrapped up in her own world with paranoia over controlling situations, and we often see that paired with the child that becomes distanced and quiet in response. In an attempt to be a good mom for a day, she promises her daughter to get her ears pierced, and we soon find the two in a hospital, meeting up with a doctor that the mother is obviously familiar with, perhaps from him being her lover, current or past. Before the doctor can complete the procedure, however, the mom interjects with an insistence on the placement of the dots, which escalates into a petty argument that leads the daughter to the bathroom. The daughter’s first step of rebellion comes in going to the bathroom in the men’s room, and ends with a final act of a “Fuck you mom!” when they go to a retail store and she gets her ears pierced while the mom is outside on the phone. With recurring references and close ups of the hands, the final scene leaves us wincing as the needle gets stuck in her ear. We know that if the mom was around she would have flipped, but instead the girl takes it quietly, and after the struggle of pulling the needle out, we can sense a moment of triumph within the girl, despite her expressionless face.

When He Comes Home (3 min, Massachusetts)
Directed by Ben Phillippo

A retro-style short based on a nuclear family from the ’50s, this film begins with a Stepford wife vacuuming the house only to find a pearl that she knows isn’t hers. In response, she throws a soiree and invites the neighborhood over and, as a doo-wop girl band sings in the background, the wife walks out to the center of the room as everyone is laughing, smoking, and having a good time, holding a covered platter like you would hold a giant turkey dish, but once uncovered reveals the chopped off head of her husband. After following the girl into the garage, we find that she’s tied and gagged his mistress to a chair, letting everyone in that suburb know that this is one bitch not to mess with.

Drops of Smoke (22 min, Brazil)
Directed by Ane Siderman

An older and younger woman live in the same building, and when the older woman hears intense screams and struggles above her, she decides to call an ambulance. We walk in to the apartment to see her on the floor in a pool of blood, as the ER dismisses the older woman to take her away. While the younger woman is gone, the older woman decides to clean up her apartment, and when she returns, the two dine and talk. As soon as it’s discovered that the two smoke, they break the initial awkwardness and start to express their shared emotions of grief over a lost loved one. The plot-twist at the very end will get you good, and the imagery, structure and performance from these actresses make this one of my favorites in the festival.

Crucivixen (5 min, West Virginia)
Directed by Holly Siders

Good god, I couldn’t stand to watch the entirety of this music video. If you’re into Prodigy or Evanescense, though, you could probably get into this.

#DEMOCRACIA REAL (6 min, Spain)
Directed by Chedey Reyes

Five friends create their own democratic society in a microcosm, and in the process learn truths about the fallacies of what should be an ideal form of solving and talking through problems. This lighthearted tale had me laughing out loud, mostly since an ultimate failure in their process stems from the friend with an itchy fanny.