Phoenix Film Festival Review: World Cinema Best Shorts

The short film is one of the most underrated mediums around. They take the essence of film, condense it into one brief little package, and if they're good, they leave you thinking about it for likely longer than you would a full length feature.

Because of constraints in length, every scene, every shot, counts for something big. Little back story is ever given. The point comes much faster. When it's over, you're left to consider it's symbolism, and the immediate way it makes you feel because it's raw, and still fresh on you when the film is over.

Last night was the screening of World Cinema Best Shorts at the Phoenix Film Festival. Okay, the name may be a bit misleading. What that actually means is that at the festival, World Shorts are broken up into two sessions -- A and B. The short film that wins then makes its session a "winning session," and that whole series of films is screened again. If you've never been to a film festival or a screening of short films before, because of their brevity, you actually get to see a whole handful of films at once. Usually anywhere between four and nine, depending on their length.

Last night's showing featured six films from all over the globe. The winner was one set in India titled Andheri. It's about a girl named Anita who works as a live-in maid for a lonely, bitter old woman. When Anita is sent out on an errand one day, she plans to run away, and embarks on a bus trip where she meets and quickly befriends another girl, who was recently married. As they travel together, the bus trip comes to an abrupt halt and Anita is forced to think about her life's path. Ultimately, she must decide between the safety and comfort of convention and unambitiousness, and the risks of venturing out beyond her working class life.

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Without knowing ahead of time which was the winner in the set, this one was indeed my favorite. While it left me slightly depressed, it was a good film to end the session. One of the challenges I find with short films is that the order in which they are presented is often very important. While you don't want to end with something that will drag you down for the next few days, sometimes putting an upbeat or comedic one at the end leaves you talking about that instead of remembering how touched you were by the others. (One of the funniest films I have ever seen was a 3 1/2 minute Australian short titled, The Pain of the Macho. It was followed by a 20-something minute Rwandan film about genocide. They were both great films, but I couldn't keep from laughing at the end of the first one as the second one began. I nearly had to leave the theater.)

This year though, they were all enjoyable, and were a good mixture of highs and lows. I'd always recommend seeing shorts at a festival. It's one of the very few times that you actually can. Well worth it.

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