As part of our continuing coverage of SXSW, Street checks out what five up-and-coming directors could achieve in 15 minutes or less.
Bear – directed by Nash Edgerton
When Street interviewed Aussie director Nash Edgerton two years ago, he mentioned that he wanted to make a sequel to his massively popular and entertaining short film, “Spider,” (which can be watched here). That sequel has finally arrived and screened at SXSW last week.
“Bear” follows the same protagonist, who still hasn’t learned his lesson after his immature antics nearly cost his first girlfriend her life. While the sequel lacks the surprise and unpredictability of “Spider,” it still manages to build suspense, win laughs and greatly raise the stakes.
**Edgerton’s masterful neo-noir crime thriller, The Square, is available on Netflix Instant.
The Black Balloon – directed by Ben and Joshua Safdie
After a man accidentally lets go of a 100-balloon bouquet, one black balloon travels around New York City and observes various people, helping them through troubled times.
The lone balloon becomes a delightful character of its own. Whether by using an internal motor or strings that were digitally removed, the directors were able to control the balloon’s motions with remarkable precision, having it follow and respond to the human characters. The result is a playful yet emotionally poignant compilation of vignettes, culminating with the balloon’s hilarious attempt to save its own kind.
**The Safdie’s critically acclaimed feature film, Daddy Longlegs, is available via Netflix DVD.
The Chair – directed by Grainger David
“The Chair” won the Jury Award for best short film at the festival, and the recognition is well-deserved. It uses a voice-over narration to brilliant effect, telling a Gothic and almost mythical tale of a poisonous mold that killed many people in a southern black community.
Featuring stunning cinematography, the short, set decades ago, brilliantly captures the feel of its small-town setting, depicting its stunning beauty without romanticizing it. The result is a subtle exploration of racial inequality and a thought-provoking look at death from the perspective of a young boy.
**Grainger David’s first NYU short film, “George and Karl,” can be watched here.
Little Dad – directed by Noah Pritzker
“Little Dad” showcases the strongest writing and acting of all the shorts screened at SXSW. It starts off with a man nervous about going to a party at his in-laws’. He displays Woody Allen-like neuroticism, obsessing over his outfit and what kind of wine to bring. His wife tells him to chill out and waits outside in the car.
However, the real source of his anxiety is revealed when his son walks downstairs in a pink dress. While the dad is completely supportive, he worries about how others will react; he doesn’t want his child to be bullied, laughed at or hurt. The brilliantly-scripted conversation between father and son is humorous yet remarkably complex. At a time when bullying is being given national attention, this short is extremely timely and engaging.
Pitch Black Heist – directed by John Maclean
The audience went into these shorts knowing nothing about them, so when Michael Fassbender unexpectedly popped up on screen after a few moments, they died. The film follows two professional theives who try to rob a safe. The catch — the room is light sensitive, so they have to execute the job in total darkness.
The pitch-black heist is a creative solution to a low budget, but the entire film is engaging and entertaining. The early scenes are especially strong, featuring extended takes, beautiful black-and-white cinematography and strong performances. Let’s hope more famous actors lend their talent to short films, a challenging and rewarding form completely overlooked in this country.