This year’s Beneath The Earth short film competition was an undoubted success – just check out the quality of the entrants and short list of films to choose from. While perhaps not achieving the same broad-spectrum appeal as, say, Tropfest, BTE gave us some truly extraordinary short films this year, each with a style and individuality unique to their respective filmmakers. That’s the thing about short films, I guess: the filmmaker responsible has the ability to tell the story he/she wants without the constraints of studio interference or hindrance.
The two winners, one winning the judges prize and the other voted for by the public, are equally deserving of their place, although only one of them (I believe) is truly the best of the bunch. You can click here to see all the entrants and learn who won, but I’m about to cast a critical eye across both of the winners and let you know what I think, without prejudice.
Judges Choice: Photographs – Directed by Brendan Clogher & Christina “Kiki” Manrique
This short film tells the story of an elderly woman traipsing around a town taking photographs of herself. Sounds boring if you say it fast, but this is one hell of an elegant short film, a heartbreaking, wonderful, uplifting essay into loss, memory and revelation. Stunningly animated, Photographs is one of those shorts that transports you to your own childhood via the parallels of its own narrative, capturing the essence of time passing by with consummate ease. The old woman, taking photographs around town, is trying to recapture the memories of her younger days, as seen in one of the final sequences of the short, and it’s this that brings the moving elements of the short into focus (small photographic pun there!).
If there’s one thing any aspiring filmmaker can take from Photographs, it’s that animation doesn’t always have to be Pixar level quality or even realistic – the crux of a good animation is the story you have to tell, and Clocher/Manrique have got a good one. Simple, well told, Photographs is a short film that’ll stay with you long after you’ve watched it.
Audience Vote: After Ever After – Directed by Jeff Pinilla
While this film didn’t connect with me emotionally, at least compared to the other films on offer, I did appreciate the attempt to dissect a relationship breakdown. I felt After Ever After was a solid effort, even if I didn’t appreciate the story it was trying to tell. Visually, it’s quite modern, with abrupt angles, focus and color enhancement adding to the stylish, often claustrophobic nature of the imagery. I think Pinillia has tried to give the film a sense of emotional grandeur to which it’s unable to achieve, but I commend him for trying.
If I could be so bold as to mention my own personal favorites, they would have to be 2 Ambassadors and It’s Natural To Be Afraid – two exemplary examples of the short film genre. 2 Ambassadors is funny as hell (well, it struck a chord with my sense of humor) and Be Afraid is slick and stylish and so sexy-cool. It would be great if you could also check them out.
I’d like to thanks to organizers of BTEFF for asking me to participate in the judging, I had a great time watching and enjoying all the selected films, with special thanks to Antonia for her hard work behind the scenes. I do so hope to be a part of it next year!