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Take the short film challenge

Editors note: This is the second of four pieces reviewing films in the 10th Nevada City Film Festival, Aug. 19-22. For more festival information visit http://www.NevadaCityFilmFestival.com.

The challenge is on. Sometimes challenging yourself well away from the mainstream is in the artiness. Sometimes it’s an experiment with seriousness or subject matter. The numbers in parentheses indicate the length in minutes in a festival that proudly showcases short form filmmaking.

“The Third Letter” (15): This futuristic story grounds you with inklings that the future is the same as it ever was. The mounting desperation in the film hinges on a makeshift battery stolen from a drab, repressive workplace. It hangs on a verification code and a phone conversation with a preschool aged daughter. Just hope none of our futures finds us in a bind like this one.

“Career Day” (13): A boy needs to shadow his mom at work for a grade school assignment. Mom doesn’t want her son exposed to the nursing environment where she works. An impressionable boy discovers truth that often lives with lies. The hard and awkward and loving edge of this film realizes its short form well.

“Fluorescent Grey” (8): The title refers to the arty look of this short bedroom piece. It also refers somehow to this film’s sense of humor, to the intimacy and romance in the awkward dance of a long standing relationship. To say it takes its time to get where it’s going says something about the ambitious simplicity woven into eight minutes.

“Breaking Legs” (15): A scenario from a repressed society includes a filmmaking gimmick. Its subtitles move variously into place amidst the fearful and protective tone of the characters. Short films can more readily experiment than feature films, and there’s a special opportunity to appreciate vision and creativity that perhaps doesn’t work 100 percent.

“Waiting for the Train” (20): Toshio Hirano knows he’d be less of an attraction if he weren’t a Japanese man performing country western music. This documentary satisfies well beyond the gimmick because it treats us to a man living his passion. As a boy in Japan, he first heard those (USA) country sounds. He traveled the US more than 30 years ago, checking out where those sounds came from. He’s still traveling, still pickin’ and a-singin’.

Chuck Jaffee of Nevada City likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at http://www.startlets.com