New from Solzy at the Movies by Danielle Solzman: Sundance 2019: The Shorts Program

These six titles are among several narrative and documentary shorts selected to screen during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Fran This Summer comes from writer-director Mary Evangelista.  The film takes place during the summer when Fran begins her gender transition.  This is one of those short films where we can probably learn more about the characters if expanded into a narrative.  But for a short film, it gets straight to the punch.  Zenobia Teague and Emilly Bessa star as Fran and Angie, respectively.  Give credit where credit is due because the filmmakers went with a transgender actress for the role.

I do feel the need to issue a warning for anyone exploring their gender identity and beginning hormone replacement therapy.  I say this because Fran takes birth control at the beginning of the film in hopes of sparking changes to her body.  I’m no medical doctor but when it comes to HRT, this is not how you should pursue it.  Aside from this, we get to see how Fran and Angie react when they finally go outside of the house.  I had the opportunity to discuss the film with Mary Evangelista to gain more insight into this direction.

The nine minute film held its world premiere last March during the Outfest Fusion film festival.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER:  Mary Evangelista
CAST:  Zenobia Teague, Emilly Bessa, Leyla Ulerio

Isabel Shill and Collin Kelly-Sordelet appear in The Rat by by Carlen May-Mann, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Isabel Shill and Collin Kelly-Sordelet appear in The Rat by Carlen May-Mann, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The Rat comes from writer-director Carlen May-Mann.  I generally don’t watch horror films because I’m prone to nightmares but there’s something that’s different about May-Mann’s second short film.  Even though the film runs some 12 minutes, she is able to bring something new to the genre.  As with any horror film, the music helps to great extent so I give credit here to composer Todd Slant.

The film is well-acted by both Isabel Shill and Collin Kelly-Sordelet as Renee and Jim, respectively.  The Rat truly captures the horror on Renee’s face when Jim mysteriously disappears during the night.  It’s only a matter of a few minutes but the horror is captured in a way that is truly horrifying.  While there are some things in this film that play to the general requirements for horror, there are other aspects that aren’t really featured in the horror films I do watch.  Not to get too spoilery but there’s a sex scene in the film but it’s as if all the life has been erased out of Renee–with good reason, too.

I think that The Rat has a lot of potential here and believe there’s enough material that it could very well work should it be expanded into a feature film.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER:  Carlen May-Mann
CAST:  Isabel Shill, Collin Kelly-Sordelet

Katy Wright-Mead appears in sometimes, i think about dying by Stefanie Abel Horowitz, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Katy Wright-Mead appears in sometimes, i think about dying by Stefanie Abel Horowitz, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Matthew Pothier.

sometimes, i think about dying comes from director and co-writer Stefanie Abel Horowitz.  This is a dark comedy based on a play called killers by the film’s co-writer Kevin Armento.  Another co-writer, Katy Wright-Mead, takes on the lead role of Fran.  As the film’s title suggests, she thinks about dying.  So what happens when Robert () takes an interest in her?  It leads to dates, a weekend getaway and whatnot but can she learn to think about living?  This is hard to say.

I think there’s potential here to tell an expanded story.

DIRECTOR:  Stefanie Abel Horowitz
SCREENWRITERS:  Stefanie Abel Horowitz & Katy Wright-Mead and Kevin Armento
CAST:  Katy Wright-Mead, Jim Sarbh

Jessy Hodges appears in Sundowners by Lisa Steen, an official selection of the Shorts Program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Jessy Hodges appears in Sundowners by Lisa Steen, an official selection of the Shorts Program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by John DeMenil.

Sundowners may be among the most political films to screen during Sundance that isn’t a documentary.  Ali (Jessy Hodges) driving back from the store to visit her parents (Peter Friedman and Hodge’s real-mother, Ellen Sandweiss).  One thing leads to another in an argument between Ali and her dad over sexim and the 2016 president election between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump.

Even though it’s only nine minutes long, Sundowners is well directed by Lisa Steen.  Hodges and co-writer Anna Greenfield previously co-wrote Games for Girl–also directed by Steen.  The trio certainly have a knack for humor and I’d love to see what they could do together with a feature film.

DIRECTOR:  Lisa Steen
SCREENWRITERS:  Jessy Hodges and Anna Greenfield
CAST:  Jessy Hodges, Peter Friedman, Ellen Sandweiss

Andre Hyland appears in Old Haunt by Andre Hyland, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Andre Hyland appears in Old Haunt by Andre Hyland, an official selection of the Shorts Program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Shane Bruce Johnston.

Old Haunt blends a few genres.  This is a film that offers quite the suspense.  There’s a thing I’ve learned while speaking with a number of actors over the years about what attracts them to a screenplay.  The most frequent answer I hear is that the character is different from the last one they played.  This film couldn’t be more different from The 4th (Sundance 2016).  Andre Hyland essentially does everything here while starring as AirBNB renter Mike Mayfield.  The previous owner died so the family is renting out the place until they decide what to do.

Honestly, Old Haunt is a film that plays best knowing as little about it as possible.  There’s too much to say about this film that would come off as a spoiler.  Even discussing the genre is hard because it blends a trio of comedy, mystery, and thriller.  Meanwhile, former SNL cast member Noël Wells has a blink-and-you-miss it cameo.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Andre Hyland
CAST:  Andre Hyland, Paul Erling OyenBrent Weinbach, Becky Garcia, Brandon Len, and Noël Wells

Emily Mortimer appears in One Cambodian Family Please for My Pleasure by A.M. Lukas, an official selection of the Shorts program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Emily Mortimer appears in One Cambodian Family Please for My Pleasure by A.M. Lukas, an official selection of the Shorts program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Isabelle Vosmikova.

One Cambodian Family Please for My Pleasure is a very personal film for writer-director A.M. Lukas as she brings her mother’s story to the big screen.  Emily Mortimer carries the film as Hanka, a woman who relocated from Czechoslovakia to the “hometown of dreams, that is Fargo.  Hanka watches the news and wants to bring a Cambodian family to Fargo.  She says as much while writing a letter to the Lutheran Refugee Services.  One also can’t help but notice the film’s importance during these trying times when it comes Trump’s rhetoric refugees.  This film makes for a striking addition to Refinery29’s Shatterbox anthology series.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER:  A.M. Lukas
CAST:  Emily Mortimer

One Cambodian Family Please for My Pleasure screens in Shorts Program 1.  Old Haunt screens in Shorts Program 2.  The Rat will screen in Shorts Program 4.  Fran This Summer and sometimes, i think about dying will screen in Shorts Program 5.  CHICHI screens in the Midnight Shorts program.  Sundowners screens with Sister Aimee.  All films are official selections of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

The post Sundance 2019: The Shorts Program appeared first on Solzy at the Movies.

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