Dam Short Film Festival fosters creative movie making
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This past weekend the Dam Short Film Festival celebrated its ninth year of screening over 140 shorts throughout four days in Boulder City. The Rebel Yell was lucky enough to spend the weekend among cinema-crazed audiences who were treated to series of short films, ranging from dramas to documentaries and everything in between. The festival prides itself on being created by filmmakers, for filmmakers, which is made self-evident by the talent that’s featured year after year. For short film fans, 2013 was no different — the festival was chock-filled with cinematic creativity.
Friday’s first film block featured short dramas that were themed around the notion of love lost. A personal favorite of the block was titled Tu and Eu, or “You and Me,” written by Edward Shieh. Shieh’s short underscored the divide within relationships caused by a variety of differences. The film’s focus fell upon the polarizing capacity of ethnicity and language, which gives rise to conflict between a number of couples around the globe that grapple with conflicting identities. Tu and Eu reminds viewers that our most valued relationships can outlast the most trying of circumstances, including the sometimes restrictive ties of family, familial expectations and occasional short-sightedness when it comes to matters of love.
The afternoon carried on with a few hours of avant-garde shorts, each with a plot that bordered on the bizarre in the best of ways. By utilizing film as a platform for artistic endeavors rather than the traditional, static sense of storytelling, the handful of shorts that were shown were truly enthralling to watch. A Fly in the Room by Joey Blackburn was one avant-garde short that stood out among the others. Only five minutes long, the film was shot in black and white, allowing for shadows to be cast in ways that were reminiscent of early German expressionist films and American noir. The short opened with a man simply wishing to work at his typewriter in peace, when suddenly a peculiar buzz enters the room. The fly — which is only seen as a shadow until its up-close exposure at the end of the short — drives the man to madness. It’s incessant hovering eventually causes him to tear open walls and burn his manuscript in pursuit of the inescapable insect.
The festival then took a brief break from fiction to explore documentaries about difficult journeys. A few in the series of short documentaries were inspiring stories of the not-so-average person overcoming a variety of hardships, ranging from a courageous writer defying the odds of her cerebral palsy, to an undocumented dreamer with aspirations to someday acquire citizenship and a career in engineering. One eclectic documentary created by Anthony Sherin, Solo, Piano NYC, was a refreshing five-minute story told through still shots. Simple in its content, the short captured a piano placed on a sidewalk in New York City as it attracted curious passersby who eventually lead to the instrument’s gradual destruction.
After a brief intermission, an assortment of animated films took the screen. The genre is noted to be the most pliable when it comes to imaginary, dream-like filmmaking, which is exactly what the audience at the Dam Short Film Festival enjoyed during the hour of shorts. Shave It, directed by Fernando Maldonado and Jorge Tereso, featured a chimpanzee that flees from a rapidly decreasing, lush jungle after finding an electric razor and shaving himself bare. After choosing to migrate to the concrete jungle of a bustling city, the chimp quickly climbed to professional success, until reaching the canopy of the corporate world. Not long after, the primate is jaded with his riches and reminded that humans were the sole reason for his choice to come to the city at all. In order to reel in what he considers to be fair reparation for the utter destruction of nature by the hand of humanity, the chimp eventually runs for president, only to begin bulldozing his urban dwelling to make way for an invasion of the wild.
The festival’s comedy block was by far the most popular among the audience, and with good reason. The shorts seemed to have been meticulously chosen to fit a theme similar to drama segment earlier in the day — relationships. One that received a notable amount of hoots and hollers was a film titled Boo! by Rupert Reid that invited viewers to bear witness to an elderly couple who liked to play dead. While the pranks they’d pull on one another were both comedic and convincing, the results of such trickery turned out to be a bit more grave than either anticipated.
A showcase of Nevada-made shorts ended the night, where filmmakers and fans from around the globe were able to mingle and unwind after an entire afternoon spent in the Boulder Theatre. Following the block of home-grown shorts was a segment of underground films, or as the festival coined it, “the naughty side of the Dam Short Film Festival.” The subject of these shorts weren’t anything too suggestive, but the late-night block certainly felt like the proper way to conclude a Friday full of film.
Jury Award – Best Documentary
The Globe Collector
Directed by Summer DeRoche
Jury Award – Best Animation
Rose & Violet
Directed by Luc Otter and Claude Grosch
Jury Award – Best Sci-Fi/Horror
Directed by Jacob Scarpaci and Kerrie Scher
Jury Award – Best Student
Directed by Jenni Nelson
Jury Award – Best Comedy
Directed by Mike Lemcke
Jury Award – Best Drama
Harry Grows Up
Directed by Mark Nickelsburg
Jury Award – Best Nevada Filmmaker
Directed by Nicholas Van Devender
Audience Award – Best Documentary
The Last Days of Cinerama
Directed by Robert Garren and Mike Celestino
Audience Award – Best Animation
Directed by Thomas G. Murphy
Audience Award – Best Sci-Fi/Horror
Directed by Robert Boocheck
Audience Award – Best Student
Directed by William Stribling
Audience Award – Best Comedy
Jack to the Future
Directed by Derek Pons and Nate Daniel
Audience Award – Best Drama
Beyond the Deadend
Directed by Pouria Heidary Oureh
Audience Award – Best Nevada Filmmaker
Directed by Adam Zielinski
Audience Award – Best of the Fest
Directed by Steven DeGennaro