San Antonio Film Festival: Short Films – Part One – travel film festival reviews

San Antonio Film Festival: Short Films – Part One – travel film festival reviews

A variety of entertaining and provocative short films are being screened at this year’s San Antonio Film Festival from filmmakers all over the world. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to see about 22 of them, and I’ve been impressed with the overall quality and creativity on display.

While festival entries are typically meant to be a calling card for the talent involved in the hope of getting a foothold in the industry, the best ones also work as satisfying pieces of entertainment in their own right. Here are some standouts so far. You can click on each film’s title to be taken to its web site for more information.

Report and reviews by Kurt Gardner.

Mother’s Day

Director: Nico Raineau

Writers: Nico Raineau and Lauren Schacher

Director of Photography: Jess Dunlap

Starring: Lauren Schacher, Robert Carbo, Berlin Gremillion, Peter Welkin, and Kathryn Gordon

Mara, a hungover party girl (Lauren Schacher) wakes up in a stranger’s bed and finds herself charged with taking care of his little boy (Robert Carbo) for the day. Raineau and Schacher’s screenplay does an admirable job of bringing this character and her environment to life, throwing in some social commentary along the way. Schacher is hilarious as the put-upon protagonist, and the story concludes with a nice twist.

Catching Fireflies

Writer and Director: Lee Whittaker

Director of Photography: Elie Smolkin

Starring: Gianna Gomez, Carlotta Bosch, Stephen Boss, Eugenia Care, and Michael Edelstein

Although burdened with some clunky dialogue and clichéd situations, Catching Fireflies still manages to transform the horrors of everyday life into a magical kingdom in the eyes of a homeless child (Gianna Gomez) living on L.A.’s Skid Row. Gianna Gomez is marvelous as the young girl, as is Carlotta Bosch, who plays her addict mother. Stephen Boss displays some incredible moves as Elijah, another denizen of the street. Yoichiro Oku’s score is splendid, and the special effects are truly impressive. I’m looking forward to seeing what this talented group does next.

Falling To Pieces

Writer/Director: Chris Connolly

Co-Director: Vivian Connolly

Director of Photography: Bill Winters

Starring: Elizabeth Jamison, Dana Watkins, and Clifton Dunn

A grieving young widow (Elizabeth Jamison) sets out to meet the recipients of her late husband’s organs, but instead of giving her the closure she seeks, the encounters leave her even more bereft. In 18 brief minutes, Falling to Pieces develops an astounding level of emotion, aided considerably by Jamison’s delicate performance. The writer and co-directors bring welcome quickly humor and offbeat characters to the piece, and cinematographer Winters has opted for a sunny palate, unusual for the subject matter, but quite effective in this case.

What’s Eating Dad?

Writer/Director: Michael Goldburg

Director of Photography: Peter Olsen

Starring: Morgan Wright, Brennan Taylor, Barbara Miluski, and Joel Haberli

The horrors of meeting your fiance’s parents for the first time are taken to the furthest degree in this economically brief and agile comedy. Working with what’s essentially a single gag, writer/director Goldburg mines the humor from the situation without dragging it out unnecessarily. Wright is amusing as the distressed bride-to-be and Miluski is especially hilarious as her shrewish future mother-in-law.

Simon Says

Director/Co-Writer: Jamie Sterba

Co-Writer: Steve Storm

Starring: Brian Stepanek, Boo Arnold, Guy Wilson, and Catherine Haena Kim

An ambitious but introverted entrepreneur (Brian Stepanek) who works at a print shop has dreams of breaking into the big league by successfully marketing one of his odd inventions, but he is constantly held back by the voices that are literally inside his head. You see, there’s a little office in his brain whose employees’ sole purpose is to keep him repressed. Storm and Sterba’s knowing, Orwellian take on modern life is filled with smart satire and identifiable characters.

Mother and Brother

Director/Writer: Dustin Cook

Director of Photography: Todd Bell

Starring: Laurence Fuller, Clint Napier, Lisa Goodman, and Ashley Hayes

Two brothers have lived under the tyranny of a hateful, disapproving mother all of their lives. One of them (Clint Napier) has managed to escape the home and is about to be married, leaving his older sibling (Laurence Fuller) alone to care for the woman who is now sick and bedridden but still just as abusive. Dustin Cook’s marvelous short perfectly captures the banality of everyday misery, aided by Todd Bell’s burnished cinematography that perfectly captures the sadness of a home that’s been lived in too long.

San Antonio Film Festival: Short Films – Part Two report can be read here.

Kurt Gardner

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