Directed by Zuxiang Zhao, Rosa Salazar, Shola Amoo, Lizzy Sanford, Andre Santos, Marco Leao, Lucas Leyva, Jillian Mayer, and Luci Schroder
Grade (for the collection as a whole): Two stars
The festival’s shorts programs are like those boxes of assorted flavor chocolates. Some you’re going to love, some you’ll find interesting, and some you’ll wish you hadn’t bitten into.
There’s some from every category in Shorts Program 2, which has the normal mix of hits and misses. The sensibilities and ratings of the seven films all vary wildly, which provides an interesting if sometimes scattered mix of narrative experiences.
The best of the set is “Dear Mr. Shakespeare,” a powerful spoken-word piece exploring the intersection of racism and Shakespeare’s “Othello.” It’s performance art in the best way, combining arresting visual images and words that both flow like poetry and have the ring of truth. It’s only six minutes long, but it’s the most powerful six minutes in the entire collection.
Almost as fascinating, however, is “Kaiju Bunraku.” Japanese puppetry imagines a husband and wife living in a world where Godzilla’s monsters ravage through the countryside every day, but instead of humor the short tips into surprisingly psychologically profound territory. I never thought a show that name-checked Mothra would make me think about what it means to have control over your own life, but Kaiju Bunraku pulled it off.
“GOOD CRAZY” is an entertaining journey through one woman’s strange afternoon, but the plot is too vague even for the short form. When the audience can’t figure out a key plot point until they see a character’s name in the credits, you’re not doing a good enough job. “Pedro” and “Kao Shi (A Test)” were both melancholy but quietly moving.
Further down on the scale was “Rubber Heart,” which depicts a painfully awkward one-night stand with a healthy dose of honesty. Still, it takes too much time to say too little. “Slapper” evokes some of the same hopelessness, though in a far deeper and more pervasive way, and though the short includes far more plot than “Rubber Heart” it’s a painfully bleak 15 minutes of film.