Editor-in-Chief Alexia Mihaila shares her favourite picks of shorts from the 2022 SXSW festival.
The Voice Actress (2022)
Having won a special jury award at the Narrative Shorts Competition of SXSW, this short is eponymously centered around Japan’s voice-acting industry. While the lead puts lots of style and passion in their art, the new ‘standar’ demands of the industry drive her to the edge of their artistic identity. As the audience follows Kingyo, a veteran of this craft, one can also reflect on the power dynamics between artists and their consumers. The visuals are stunning and there are many appearances of koi-fish motifs to signal power, endurance, and strength. Those visuals are accentuated by the vibrant polarizing mixture of blue and orange that bleed into the short’s frames. Actress Urara Takano puts on a gut-wrenching performance of sorrow too, which , as audience, we can’t help but feel how meaningless passion can become to the everchanging demands of the art world’s consumerism.
We Should Get Dinner (2022)
We shold get dinner is a witty take on strained family ties that portrays the classic ‘talking to a wall’ type of argument between two ex-step-siblings Abby (played by Eliza Cossio) and Sean (played by Anthony Oberbeck). The duo try to rekindle their strained relationship at a restaurant, as Abby is getting ready to get married and needs someone from her family at the wedding. Both characters find it very hard to empathize with each others since they never tried to understand the other’s side of argument before, let alone, now, as adults, when they’re just ex-siblings. The conflict raises from how different both of their personalities are, as well as from the brother’s resistance to cooperate with his sister who clearly needs someone out there for her. The overall message is how regardless of the label a relationship has, one still needs to honour the attributes that might come with it.
One of my favourite shorts at SXSW this year, is this dystopian and absurdist, Black Mirror – esque (2011 – 2019) take on nostalgia for one’s childhood. In this world, one can pay to re-experience their childhood, the only catch being that you exist in that world as you are, an adult, just that the people that you interact with you don’t see that. You get to see a full-grown adult come out of a womb and the ending will leave you wanting more. Will Seefried’s Freudian debut manages to capture both the yearning and the grief that comes with wanting to live in the past when you’ve got a whole life ahead.
Act of God (2022)
Written and directe by disabled Spencer Cook and his caregiver Parker Smith, audience award winning Act of God follows a real-life inspired narrative of how a disabled man perceives the world and the relatiohnsips around him. Tinges of blue make the protagonist act selfish and entitled to his care-giver, and so the film is just a journey of self-acceptance, and realization that you need people in your life to help you out, regardless of how confident you feel on the inside. It’s an overall heartfelt story, portrayed through the lens of a disabled man, chasing an 100 dollar bill in his wheelchair to prove a point, only to be taught a lesson.
Aspirational Slut (2022)
It’s a fun take on trying to loosen up after being so hung up on finding ‘the one’. The film follows Rosemary (Ellyn Jameson), a heartbroken woman in her 20’s. The whole premise is to keep your options open and try to discover both yourself and your taste before settleting down. Yes, it’s just a short about sleeping around; the lead is just entering her slut era. That being said, one thing this comedy short does right is to inspire others to not take things so seriously and give themselves enough freedom to make mistakes when it comes to love.
Moshari is a dystopian Bangladesh horror scenario about two sisters, Apu (played by Sunerah Binte Kamal) and Ayra (played by Nairah Onora Saif) trying to survive a mutant mosquito invasion by hiding behind a mosquito net – also known as Moshari. This short is captivating through and through and is very good at building tension through hunting visuals. The short also relies heavily on industrial sounds and yet displays many sensitive undertones building on the sisterhood dynamic. It’s interesting to see this short in relation to the covid pandemic because both make use of a shield, whichever form it comes in, only to protect our loved ones from harm.It’s a very well produced, directed short with lots to offer and great potential for a feature.
Wild Bitch (2022)
“It was his way or the highway and I hate to drive”.
Wild Bitch is the debut of the director pair of GLOW (2017-2019) actress Rebekka Johnson and British musician Kate Nash; it also happens to be a thoughtful wild afterthought between Charlize Theron’s Monster (2003) and the Twilight franchise (2008-2012). The title lives up to the expectations; it’s wacky, it’s quirky, and most importantly it tries to portray in a hyperbolic, unrealistic way how women rage on screen. This idea developed mostly from all other women in cinema being limited in their range of emotions by past male directors. There hasn’t been a gray area before for anger: it’s either a silent or psychotic outrage. While I am not in for vilifying women, at least this time we get the “crazy woman” trope shown from a female perspective. Wild Bitch finally helps us justify all that rage.
I always wince seeing age gaps on screen, especially teacher-student dynamics. In Clare, we got our 17-year-old lead having a private and close relationship to one of her teachers, however we are never shown to what extent this relationship spirals. What we do know is that the student is really attached to this situationship, that she texts her informally, that she knows the teacher’s address and that’s important enough for her husbandn to feel the need to threaten Clare. The short format doesn’t make this script justice, since the story leaves you questioning a lot more. Overall, it’s a story that needs to be told, and this subtle way of narrating such a sensitive topic suits it well.
Awayy is a sci-fi drama that dooms to solar storm the concept of ‘waiting for the right moment’. There is no such ‘right moment’ nor fate up to whether a red car passes by in the next x seconds mark, when it comes to your dreams and desires. Ivy, played by Annelise Cepero from West Side Story (Awayy is a sci-fi drama that dooms to solar storm the concept of ‘waiting for the right moment’. There is no such ‘right moment’ nor fate up to whether a red car passes by in the next x seconds mark when it comes to your dreams and desires. Ivy, played by Annelise Cepero from West Side Story (2021), suffers from chronic indecision and blindly relies on fate even when she knows what she wants and how to go after it. She is a small-town waitress who wants to move to New York City with her friend Taz. Not knowing whether that’s right for her she even goes the extra mile of buying a refundable plane ticket just to get more time to find an excuse to abort the plan. The core message, is somewhat subtle in places, getting diluted by sci-fi subplots, but the cinematography is incredible for what I would assume is a modest budget short.