Slamdance Film Review: Experimental Shorts Block
Slamdance Film Review: Experimental Shorts Block
The techniques used in experimental filmmaking border between pure arthouse poetry and unmitigated mind-fuckery. Sometimes, it’s a provocative airstrike on all five senses. Other times, it’s a sheer work of art. No matter how abstract or avant-garde the methods of madness are, no one does experimental filmmaking better than the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival. Witness, if you will, six deviant directors and writers dispatching a visual display of 100% free-wandering consciousness. While bending between realities due to altitude sickness and miniature snifters of Underbergs, I thought there was no better time to descend into a short film netherworld.
Goddess of Speed
Director: Frederic Moffet
Pop art pioneer Andy Warhol created nearly 400+ short films during his cultural career at the Silver Factory. One in particular depicts the idiosyncratic stylings of dancer and choreographer Frederick “Freddie” Herko. That actual short, however, has gone missing with the flower power of the 1960s…until now. Goddess of Speed is a reimagined shot of the lost footage. Its split screen framework and the almost cloud-napping music of Mozart’s “Coronation Mass in C Major” draws back to the simplicities of early filmmaking. While it’s an excellent tribute to Warhol and his work, the short also pays homage to Herko’s final moments on Earth.
Welcome to the Enclave
Director: Sarah Lasley
4chan is shitposting in the Metaverse—God help us all! A humorous look at older generations and the technological gap of the World Wide Web, Welcome to the Enclave follows two sisters as their comfortable, digital paradise is vandalized and mangled by online trolls. The sweet spot for this short film comes in its Microsoft inspired design. The uncanny valley of 3-D rendered villas and world-devouring glitches takes viewers off guard, but sucks you in with drawn out takes that nearly take up half its runtime. When IRL seems mundane and the internet is a vast galaxy of “possibilities,” maybe it’s time to shake the pixelated ant farm.
Director: Rajee Samarasinghe
Deriving its inspiration from the risqué Sanskrit poem “Caurapañcāśikā,” Lotus-Eyed Girl spins a gothic web of mortality and social status. Not a single word is uttered, but what it lacks in dialogue is made up for through frightening black-and-white visuals. With our faceless leading lady (which is unclear if she’s dead or alive), a mouthful of pomegranate pits, dreary sunsets to darkening dusks, weathered photographs of funerals and weddings—all that’s missing is a Nine Inch Nails single. This short is a manifestation of innocence lost, as time drags on and systematic power changes a society’s perception for things to come. It might be the shortest short with its six minute playtime, but damn, it’s hauntingly beautiful.
Director: Teresita Carson
As one of the most mixed media of short films in this list, Monolith commixes all filmmaking modus operandi to question the nationalist legacy of archaeology and the archival process. Carson’s fusion of storyboarding is like colliding the tools of the Stone Age with the advancements of the Silicon Era. Indigenous artifacts and landscapes clash against 3-D scans and Google Maps. Found footage is intercut with animation. Video essays and history lessons distort into surreal analytics. Whether you’re needing an educational seminar or a brain trip cross-breeding nature and technology, Monolith is the aesthetic shade-changing chameleon of both modern and old, which makes it a must-see.
Director: Calum Walter
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then unseeing that picture is trickier than holding down backspace. Entrance Wounds is the dark side of daydreaming, where the possibilities of disaster and devastation are almost perceptible. Think of the sleep paralysis demon in the corner of your bedroom or a swinging stoplight dangling above the public below—a “what if” contemplation in pending danger. The short’s snippet technique of filming segments calls back to viral video making, like on Vine or the early age of YouTube. However, the overall idea of unseeing an image seems a bit…paranoid? Diabolical to have such intrusive thoughts? Almost like Final Destination with a limited attention span.
Light of Light
Director: Neritan Zinxhiria
On a desolate island of Mount Athos, away from the streamlined globe of the 1930’s, a series of photos and film reels were captured by monks. It was only a century later when Balkan filmmaker Neritan Zinxhiria began a restoration project that bridges the nomadic past to the present. Light of Light’s rawness tells a tale that’s stranger than fiction. Through the actual glass photo panels and grainy Super 8 rolls taken on the island, the narrative feels less of storytelling and more of preservation. If it wasn’t for Zinxhiria, the incomplete legacy of these monks would disappear with the turning tide. –Alton Barnhart