Movie: All directors start off their directing careers by directing short films of one sort or another. These days, most of them seem to go to film school, where they learn the basics of story telling and the technical aspects of film/video (although we could all point to a few directors that must've slept through major amounts of their academic careers); typically directing/producing some short films along the way. Other directors start off as hobbyists, making such movies as a labor of love. Whether the shorts are made to explore a particular idea or theme, or whether they are made for the director to experiment with a technique is almost irrelevant in that all of them typically give us an insight into the mind of a creative person. Compare that to the bulk of movies released by Hollywood each year, most, if not all, of which are made by committee, rather than the singular vision of one person. As the forums promoting such shorts increase, I hope more devote themselves to releasing them on DVD. One of the best such organizations is Resfest.
Resfest is a film festival with a twist. Rather than staying in one geographic location, it travels around the world in order to showcase a host of very talented directors via their short films. The group also releases a bi-monthly magazine that samples a number of the best projects but their premiere series is one that I'm reviewing today, The Best Of Resfest 2. The DVD had a dozen short films of varying lengths as well as some decent extras. I'm not going to treat each short like a separate film and write a book on it (virtual screenplays are not interesting to me) but will instead opt to summarize a sentence or two for most of them. Keep in mind that most of the shorts are under ten minutes long and to write extensively about them wouldn't make sense. Here are the shorts included in the second volume of the series by title, director, country of origin, date of production and length:
One: Bad Animals - David Birdsell: USA: 2000: 4:40: This was a weird start for me on the series since it looked at a bunch of people following a man on a bus ride. I don't think it was supposed to have deep meaning given the director's commentary.
Two: Bike Ride - Tom Schroeder: USA: 2000: 6:35: This short told a story about love and loss. I thought it was an interesting and original use of animation technique.
Three: Copy Shop - Virgil Widrich: Austria: 2001: 12:00: This was a bizarre little short that grew on me each time I watched it. It dealt with a man who accidentally photocopies his hand and the chain of events that come of it. On a technical level, this one had some of the roughest edges but also some of the most inventive ideas.
Four: Counterfeit Film - Brett Simon: USA: 2001: 2:00: This was too short to appeal to me but it dealt with the idea of counterfeiting in a way I bet few others have thought about to date.
Five: Delusions in Modern Primitivism - Daniel Loflin: USA: 2000: 17:00: Tattoos and body piercing seem to be all the rage and there'll always be someone willing to expand the boundaries of what comes next. I liked this one a lot and only wish it had been expanded on a bit.
Six: Dog - Suzie Templeton: UK: 2001: 5:00: This short told a compact story about a boy whose mother died, as told in a form of claymation. This is another short that I'd like to see expanded although she did a great job in telling the story (in a minimalist way).
Seven: Headcleaner - Alessandro Bavari: Italy: 1999: 1:23: I suppose this one could be called "mental floss" of a sort. It didn't work for me.
Eight: Helicopter - Ari Gold: USA: 2000: 21:00: This short used a mixture of animation and live action to tell a story about the death of a loved one. While I'm not sure it was the best I've seen on this topic, it was very well done within the confines of an independently made short film. It also proves the adage that a personal memory can serve well as the basis for a story.
Nine: More - Mark Osborne: USA: 1998: 6:00: This one was an allegory about the meaning of one's life against the limitations of past success. I first saw this one on the defunct Film Fest series and think it was nominated for an Oscar. To sum it up, it was a triumph of substance over style.
Ten: Sweet - Elyse Couvillion: USA: 2000: 4:00: This little short told a semi-story about a couple of people who fantasize about one another but don't act out their desires for fear of ruining the fantasy.
Eleven: Telling Lies - Simon Ellis: UK: 4:20: This was a minimalist animation that showed what people were thinking as they often said something different. While a bit of a gimmick, I thought it was funny.
Twelve: Zen and the Art of Landscaping - David Kartch: USA: 17:00: This one played a bit like a sitcom in how it presented a string of coincidences about unfaithful people. The acting and writing were solidly mainstream with a twist.
Okay, a lot of these short films had rough edges, (okay, all of them) but that doesn't belittle the intelligence and creativity that went into them. This is not a DVD made for casual audiences as much as those of us who love the whole idea behind alternative media and people who want to communicate ideas. For such people, I think a rating of Highly Recommended is not unfair although if you prefer the latest Blockbuster movie, you might want to pass this one up. The mixture of shorts between ones solely trying to focus on technical exploration of the media and those who were more interested in pushing an idea was enough to give me plenty to think about. I think a lot of people will gain from watching this one as well.
Picture: The picture was usually presented in 1.85:1 ratio widescreen but this varied with each short. The picture quality on each one varied as well with some looking very clear and others looking somewhat weak. The range of productions varied from those shot on digital video to 8 mm to all the other choices possible and with shoe string budgets, it's tough to suggest they should've looked better. Most had grain or other visual flaws but there weren't a lot of problems with the DVD transfer.
Sound: The sound was presented in stereo English with most of the shorts being in monaural. For the most part, the sound was easily heard and clear although the limitations of the various budgets were heard here.
Extras: The extras included a set of trailers, a short on how not to record an audio commentary, a short based on a contest by Perrier in which director Stefan Nadelman shows a road trip across the country, a plethora of audio commentaries (most of the shorts had one) and a few behind the scenes shorts from the releases, which included some deleted scenes and earlier films, as well as biographies for all the directors.
Final Thoughts: I'm going to check out the Resfest magazine (it has a DVD included) to get a more frequent fix of these short films and that should say it all in terms of how enjoyable the series has been. I'm waiting for the first volume to come in (they aren't expensive) and I'll review the third volume later today. While the acting varied a lot and the quality of work varied even more, nearly all of these short films interested me. Check it out if you have any interest in this type of show.