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 3. The DVD had almost 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: Birdbeat - Geoff Adams: USA: 2002: 4:08: This short was more directed at the auditory than visual senses although it had both in mind. It used birds in unison as a sort of orchestra.
Two: Historia del Desierto - Celia Galan Julve: 2001: 6:00: This short told a story about a killer in Mexico, forty years after her disappearance (she was, I recall, something of a boogeyman). The animation used was pretty weird but well done.
Three: Home Road Movies - Robert Bradbrook: UK: 2001: 11:33: This was an interesting short that took the family car, in terms of it's status in the family for transportation on vacation trips, and made it almost a silent member of the group. It combined animation, live action, and old pictures to tell it's tale (quite well I might add) in a way that brought back some of my own memories of similar road trips.
Four: Japanese Tradition (Sushi) - Junji Kojima: Japan: 2002: 8:02: For all the anime I review, I wish I had access to more shorts like this one on Japanese culture. It was inventive, if less than filling, and an hour later I wanted more. The way the material was presented with a straight face made it all the more funny.
Five: Jubilee Line - Tim Hope: UK: 2000: 4:45: This was a computer graphic short that looked at a future world by means of a couple different technical means. I'm not sure I understood what was going on but it looked pretty neat.
Six: The Littlest Robo - Richard Kenworthy: UK: 2001: 9:15: This short told a story about a boy and his robot in terms of how much he didn't get along with his father. It was cute and I wondered if the director might've fleshed it out a bit too much.
Seven: Protest - Steve Katz: USA: 1999: 2:30: This short told a tale about the loss of elephants in the near future by means of seeing them falling off buildings. Apparently, the director is familiar with the concept of "out of sight, out of mind" which made his story ring true.
Eight: Rail Rode - Brian Garnell: USA: 2000: 1:30: This short focused on a trip along a railroad track. I thought the camera work was a bit like the Blair Witch Project but otherwise it seemed okay.
Nine: Starched - Cath Le Couteur: UK: 2001: 6:00: This short was a comedy struggle for power between a maid and an executive in a hotel. I thought it had more humor than a lot of mainstream projects and certainly was better than many television sitcoms.
Ten: The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal - Matt McCormick: USA: 2001: 16:00: This short was a satirical look at a daily reminder of big city life all of us city folk have to live with, graffiti. If I hadn't thought it was supposed to be funny, I'd have thought the narrator was nuts.
Eleven: Terminal Bar - Stefan Nadelman: USA: 22:00: This short used a lengthy collection of photographs to tell the life and times of a bar in New York City. It was owned by the grandfather, run for years by the father and the documentary made by the son. This was by far the most interesting short film of the DVD and if you'd like to read the absolutely best description of it anywhere, check out Gil Jawetz's Cinema Gotham column from last year.
I liked this one, on average, as much as The Best Of Resfest 2, and think it is also worth a rating of Highly Recommended for all the quirky short films included (not in spite of them as some would suggest) as well as the more solidly produced efforts. A lot of hard work, creativity, and inventiveness went into this DVD and film makers as well as those who appreciate the numerous media employed will find the series enjoyable. In short, it's a treasure trove of well-made film shorts from some up and comers that should be given the resources to continue their careers.
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 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) a few behind the scenes shorts from the releases, which included some deleted scenes, and director biographies. There was also a paper insert that listed the film shorts and basic information about them.
Final Thoughts: Resfest is a great resource for those of us that want to see, or be seen, in terms of the short film format. I'm no director, nor do I aspire to become one, but as a guy that likes seeing cutting edge films, I can honestly say that there were far more hits than misses here with lots of material worth checking out. The director commentaries alone made most of the shorts worth watching at least twice and I'd strongly recommend this collection to anyone looking for something other than a date film.