In the era of YouTube, the short film has taken quite a blow to its respectability on account of the multitude of utter crap that’s posted on the Internet ad infinitum (“Charlie Bit Me” notwithstanding). That being said, it’s refreshing to have a reputable short-film outlet right around the corner in the Little Theatre’s Emerging Filmmakers Series.
Now in its 46th installment, this monthly program offers a smorgasbord of short films directed by filmmakers from across New York State on the last Monday of every month. In the latest edition, eight films were screened, including two from some of UR’s very own talented filmmakers.
The program began with “ABC Movie,” a quasi-experimental collage in which letters from a typewriter are turned into various images and sounds. Short and sweet, this film by local Visual Studies Workshop student Elisabeth Tonnard provided a promising start to the evening.
The next film was “Fallen,” made by UR film major and junior Jon Noble. The film follows a group of students who are trapped underground after the outbreak of an infectious disease that has left most of the population as ravenous zombies. When one student bravely decides to go “top-side,” he is faced with more than he can handle.
While it could have benefited from better sound recording and tighter editing, “Fallen” nonetheless had fine actors, was well-written and featured an ending that will send chills down your spine. It is a mature work from Noble, who is currently finishing up his next film project – a thriller entitled “48 Days.”
If I had to tell you what the next film, “Last Time in Clerkenweell,” was about, I’d say it was something of a mix between Communist propaganda and a Richard Scary cartoon. Don’t take this convoluted description to be a bad thing: this animated music video by Brooklyn filmmaker Alex Budovsky was quirky and humorous with vibrant graphics and a catchy melody to accompany the images.
“The Can Man,” a film by SUNY Binghamton student Sean Cunningham, was the most mystifying film of the bunch. If Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch smoked crack together, I’m pretty sure that this would be the end result.
“The Can Man” tells the story of an imagined country in the midst of a depression, as individuals seek out the mysterious Can Man to supposedly cure them of their woes. Despite the confusing subtext, the cinematography is very advanced and the unnerving mood of this film is superbly executed through deliberate pacing and eerie visuals.
Kingston, N.Y. native Joy Reed’s comedic farce, “Boxed In,” was my personal favorite. Sharp and witty, the simple plot follows a phone conversation between a woman and her mother as the woman feebly attempts to share the news that she’s gay and moving into an apartment with her partner. Aside from being hilarious, “Boxed In” was the best-acted and most visually pleasing film of the evening. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reed’s name in a more commercial setting someday.
The second film from a UR student was from sophomore Eva Xie. “Untitled” was an experimental film about females maturing into adults and saying goodbye to childhood. The screen is split into three frames, as single words appear to describe subtle actions. Poetic and beautifully shot, this film showed the great potential of Xie, a studio arts major.
The final two films, both by filmmakers from New York City, were “SNEW,” by David Lachman and Jody Oberfelder, and “Loose Ends,” by Rachel Gordon. Despite being made by supposed professional filmmakers, these were easily the weakest.
“SNEW” was more or less a performative dance involving words and letters, as the actors licked each other and smiled into the camera. The few laughs it did manage to garner were more awkward giggles than belly laughs, leaving me to wonder if the film was attempting to be funny or not.
“Loose Ends,” which was nothing more than a “Sex and the City” rip-off, fell flat in its attempt to explore love and relationships in a comedic light. The quality of sound and image may have benefited from the aid of professionals, but the script clearly did not.
If “Loose Ends” was any indication, money and experience mean jack when it comes to making a good film. Rather, it is the spirit and imagination of emerging filmmakers like Noble and Xie that result in films that are both promising and beautiful, and I for one am excited to see where their passion takes them next.
Milbrand is a member of the class of 2008.