My experience at the Wisconsin Student Short Films screening in Monona Terrace on Saturday almost started out disastrously. I thought it started at 2:30 p.m., though 2 was printed clearly on my ticket. Fortunately, I got in right at the beginning of the first short, Connor Owens' Dante.
And I'm glad I did. I love the shorts collections. There's always something for everyone, like having a remote in the theater to flip channels, and this collection didn't disappoint. From the frantic to the funny, the poignant to the paprika, it was 130 minutes of really good cinema.
Dante is described as a "presentation of a haphazard collection of bold personalities" and indeed it was. Perhaps it was my rushed entry, but I found it confusing to follow. That didn't, however, detract from the characters encountered.
Next up was The Decaying Self Film from Levi Stair. Featuring startling imagery and very fast moving, it took me until after the beginning of the following short to realize what I had just seen. We witness, in three minutes, the slow destruction of a hooded prisoner. Probably intentional, it was disturbing yet timely sensory overload.
Farmer John from Megan Katz, centered on Farmer John (of course) who went from engineer to marijuana farmer to prisoner to dairy farmer and who describes those years in a straightforward and amusing way. I wasn't sure if it was fictional or a documentary. Either way, the film worked since I found that I liked Farmer John (the person as well as the film).
Easily the most emotional of the selections was I Have A Sister from Amrys O. Williams. She tells the story of ayounger sister who, at two months old, suffered brain damage from an adverse reaction to the DPT vaccine. The on-camera interviews with her parents as well as Williams' own recollections gave Vali the voice she never had during her short 18 years. Although the audience wasn't purposely led down a maudlin path, the idea that such destruction from a simple immunization was quite sobering.
The Moral from John Soat was the shortest entry clocking in at only one minute. I have to say that I didn't understand it at all even after reading the film's short description. But the animation was vivid.
The winner for comedy relief has to go to Oh, Paprika from Anna Krutzik. Paprika is a cat that seems quite normal as far as cats are concerned; Krutzik seems to know what Paprika demands, which makes her delusional as far as I'm concerned. Funny.
In Otto's Day, Ji-Sun O introduces an old man living alone in a quiet apartment building with a front stoop that he likes to sit on for the short times he leaves his bed to venture forth.
Imagine being told you were probably going to die within three years. Then imagine that 20 years had gone by, your life was getting tougher and yet you still existed. Jonathan Bothun's Passing Through tells the story of Raymond Rosenberg who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987 but still lives on. And he doesn't know why. And doesn't know if he wants to.
The Shadow Of The Night from Justin Daering gives us an old fashioned vampire movie with updated costuming and backdrops. And no dialogue. It's a fun film, even though the vampire still gets it in the end.
If Woody Allen did a movie about a laundromat, Spin Cycle by Michael Anderson and Andrew Napier might be it. One washing machine is available, and two people vying for it and ruining each other's clothes in the process. A happy and potentially romantic ending? What more could you want?
Them's Trying Times To Be A Canine from Joseph Kraemer finished up the afternoon with this animated short about a downtrodden mutt who bites off more than he can chew after a chance cocktail meeting.
Exiting once more into daylight, I wondered about how the order of these films was programmed. I would much have preferred to have left with Passing Through or I Have A Sister still on my mind instead of the animated pooch. But perhaps that is the nature and the charm of the short film -- enjoy them quickly while they last. And I did.