Personal shared stories, a gaggle of risqué entrees, some innovative LGBTQ fare, and a look at the world in “AD 2019,” are among the standouts at the 25th annual Palm Springs International ShortFest, running June 18–24 at the Palm Springs Cultural Center.
By the time everything fades to black, festival organizers hope audiences appreciate how well this year’s offerings illuminate not only the times in which we live but also how much there is to be inspired about in the here and now.
• See relate story: ShortFest Turns 25. How did it get there?
More than 360 innovative offerings, including California premieres, light up the screen this year. Don’t fret. You’ll find your cinematic groove. Palm Springs International Film Festival Director Liliana Rodriguez, who heads into her third year overseeing ShortFest programming specifically, offers the following list of “must-sees.” Dive in:
Top 10 Films at ShortFest
The intriguing Canadian short is situated in the fest’s Higher Ground program, whose films revolve around faith, belief, and the intersection of the metaphysical and supernatural. After the funeral of her younger sister in South Korea, Hyo-Jin returns to her job as an astrophysicist in Montreal, where a staggering event tests her logical and scientific side, forcing her to confront what lies beyond. Rodriguez calls it, “a beautiful and thoughtful look at the grieving process with a touch of the cosmic unknown — an exploration of science and the spirit.”
Astres appears under the Higher Ground Program, which has films on faith, belief, and the intersection of the metaphysical and supernatural.
Screens 1:45 p.m. June 19. Canada, 19 minutes. World premiere.
Rural Tunisha is the setting. Mohamed is a shepherd, and his life with his wife and two young sons is void of “high drama.” All that changes when the couple’s oldest son returns after a long journey. On his arm: an enigmatic woman he claims to be his wife. “This is a favorite within the short film world this year,” Rodriguez notes. “It takes a look at an issue that we’re used to seeing from a new perspective. The casting in this really stands out.” The short plays in The Things We Do For Love program, which focus on family and romantic life.
Screens 1:30 p.m. June 21. Canada, 25 minutes.
“This is a favorite within the short film world this year,” says Liliana Rodriguez director of ShortFest.
Of Caterpillarplasty, Rodriguez quips: “I always like to throw in a weird one, and this one is weird — a hilarious and equally horrifying look at our obsession with perfection.” It’s fitting, then, that the short falls into a film program dubbed What.The.F**K? Rest assured, it’s not dull. Audiences are catapulted to an advanced society in Caterpillarplasty, where tech is like emotional crack, a place where — brace yourself — the caterpillar has special significance.
Audiences are catapulted to an advanced society in Caterpillarplasty.
That can only mean one thing: People are really going to crave metamorphosis.
Screens 8:30 p.m. June 19. Canada, 5 minutes.
“This film touches upon so many issues, including access to medical care, class, and the drug epidemic,” Rodriguez says. “It never shies away from the reality of the situation but is not exploitative and also allows the subjects the care and respect they deserve.” The eye-opening short thrusts audiences deep into the opioid epidemic and the bold needle exchange and free clinic that operates in the fringes sector of Fresno.
Screens 2 p.m. June 20. USA, 16 minutes.
The eye-opening short thrusts audiences deep into the opioid epidemic.
Nostalgia and, oh, so many images that seem to bind family together stand out in director Julie Buck’s short, in which she offers a brief history of her family — but with a twist. The shots are over images from a double-exposed 8mm home movie shot by her grandfather. Rodriguez notes that it’s “an intimate and personal documentary that will absolutely stick with you for many years to come — a perfect use of found footage with powerful effect.”
Screens 11 a.m. June 21. USA, 4 minutes.
The film is laid over images from a double-exposed 8mm home movie shot by the director’s grandfather.
MIND MY MIND
When you’re obsessed with German dive-bombers, you may tend stay “on-script” and keep things in order. That is, until you suddenly find yourself wanting to date a girl who’s captured your heart. That’s what happens in Mind My Mind. “This is a wonderful animation about navigating life as an adult with a brain that’s wired ‘differently,’ from the rest, a sort of Inside Out for adults, in the best possible way,” Rodriguez notes.
Screens 10 a.m. June 19. Netherlands, 2019, 30 minutes. California premiere.
“This is a wonderful animation about navigating life as an adult with a brain that’s wired ‘differently,’” says Rodriguez.
NEFTA FOOTBALL CLUB
Part of the dynamic opening-night selections, director Yves Piat packs enough captivating moments in this French offering, which, according to Rodriguez, is, “a perfectly-crafted, fun, and good old-fashioned short. There are kids, smugglers, and a donkey who loves Adele.” About that … Welcome to south of Tunisia, where two soccer-fan brothers bump into a donkey lost in the middle of the desert. The big headturner?
This film is part of the opening night lineup followed by an after party at Lulu California Bistro.
The animal wears headphones over its ears. Take Note: Following opening night film screenings, a kaleidoscopic party illuminates the sky at the Palm Springs Air Museum. DJ Gingee delivers a global mix of music and Lulu California Bistro provides food and drinks.
Screens 6:30 p.m. June 18. France, 2018, 17 minutes.
A timely offering considering that June is officially Pride month. In The Orphan, director Carolina Markowicz introduces us to Jonathas, a queer orphan going through the adoption process in Brazil.</strong> Jonathas has been rejected before because he’s “different.” Will he find the loving home that he deserves? “This film about being an outsider is heartbreaking but told with a beautiful eye and bursting with life,” Rodriguez says. The short is part of the fest’s Gay!La: Everything Under the Rainbow presentation, which explores the many definitions, struggles, and pleasures within the LGBTQ community, from identity battles and rejection to family dynamics.
Screens 4 p.m. June 20. Brazil, 2018, 15 minutes.
Have you ever heard of the life-threatening cyber-harassment phenomenon? Sit back and watch closely. In this innovative short, online players share their struggles with “swatting” whenever they partake in a game. “Hard to believe this is true,” Rodriguez says. “This short packs a punch and explores such an ugly side of humanity that’s been given rise because of the internet. Visually stunning images match the unreality of it all.”
“This short packs a punch and explores such an ugly side of humanity that’s been given rise because of the interne,” says Rodriguez.
You may appreciate some of the short’s creative turns — most of the tale takes shape through YouTube videos and wire-frame images from a video game.
Screens 3:30 p.m. June 18. France, 2018, 21 minutes, California premiere.
THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THE BATHROOM
“It’s a beautiful and sensitive look at something we’re all looking for — the universal quest for love and connection,” Rodriguez says of Things That Happen In The Bathroom. Part of the selection of films in the Getting It On program — films about love, sex, and everything in between — here we discover Jak et al. Individually, they’ve made the bathroom a refuge, the one place where they can be themselves without having to wear the mask they present to the outside world. Enter: feelings.
They’ve made the bathroom a refuge, the one place where they can be themselves without having to wear the mask they present to the outside world.
When pangs of loneliness become overwhelming, Jak invites a new hookup into this sanctuary. Pleasure, self-discovery, and even embarrassment, unfold in this journey toward queer intimacy.
Screen 4:30 p.m. June 21. USA, 2019, 13 minutes, California premiere.