Chuck Jaffee: Film festival examples of excellence
August 14, 2009
You might not think of a short film being excellent. At least, it might not enter your mind that a 10 minute film would stack up to the impact of a full length feature. In this and other ways, aspiring short films face a tougher challenge than feature films.
That said, “Birthdate,” is an excellent short amongst several inviting programs of shorts at the ninth Nevada City Film Festival, Aug. 20-23.
Throughout its 10 minutes, you care how a middle-aged woman and a young man handle themselves and where the connection will lead. You care how emotional and controversial the sparks are in “Birthdate.”
The woman has contrived to reenter the life of the son she gave away when he was a newborn. The confident college student advances what he thinks is a chance encounter with an alluring older woman.
Everything in this compact story works: Not only the casting and the acting, the story’s arc and its conclusion, but also the low key effort to travel this filmmaking edge.
Excellence is probably a harder threshold to cross in a funny short, especially in the slacker tradition that garners so much easy box office in feature length films. “Be Good” – another standout in the film festival lineup of shorts – is hilarious. It is not a small point that the filmmakers right-sized this slacker short where feature films typically stumble early or stretch unavoidably into relative mediocrity.
In “Be Good,” a party animal wakes up after his thirtieth birthday celebration and decides to turn his life into something more substantive. He decides to do good in the world. He implements his sincerely lame and shallow ideas ineptly.
True to slacker film framing, unlikely romance is in offing. However, savvy scripting relegates getting-the-girl to a proportionately incidental aspect of the laugh-out-loud fun.
Look for a variety of satisfactions spotted with excellence in the dozens of short films at the Nevada City Film Festival.