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Sundance 2021: Short Film Showcase – Shorts 4

Out of every short film collection at Sundance 2021 this year, I am ready to declare Shorts 4 as my favourite of the lot. With all seven of these films, the lowest score any of them received was a 3.5/5. I am so excited to share these films with you and encourage you to check them out whilst you still have time at the festival.

Here are my reviews of the Shorts 4 collection at Sundance 2021.

Like the Ones I Used to Know

Director: Annie St-Pierre
Starring: Steve Laplante, Lilou Roy-Lanouette, Larissa Corriveau

Synopsis: December 24, 1983, 10:50 p.m.: Julie and her cousins ate too much sugar, Santa Claus is late. Denis, alone in his car, is anxious at the idea of setting foot in his ex-in-law’s house to pick up his children.

What a wonderful short film, and one that packs such an emotional punch within it. This is a situation that many people will be somewhat familiar with, either if they are the child going through it or the parent. The script is incredibly strong, the performances are fantastic and I adore how the film chose to end.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You Wouldn’t Understand

Director: Trish Harnetiaux
Writers: Jacob A. Ware, Trish Harnetiaux
Starring: Anthony Arkin, Jacob A. Ware

Synopsis: An idyllic picnic of one is upended after the arrival of a stranger.

Whilst I can’t say I fully understood it, I certainly had fun with this short film. It was incredibly well presented, it continued to escalate and I love the note that this film ends on. A strange watch for sure, but one that I would certainly recommend.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Unseen River

Director: Pham Ngoc Lan
Writer Pham Ngoc Lan
Starring: Minh Chau, Nguyen Ha Phong, Hoàng Hà

Synopsis: Stories told along the river: a woman reunites with her ex-lover at a hydroelectric plant; meanwhile, a young man travels downstream to a temple in search of a cure for his insomnia.

Aesthetically, this is one of the most beautiful shorts in the Sundance line-up this year. The slow pacing isn’t too distracting, as the soothing music and the themes create a meditative style, helping you connect with the story through the pacing. I do wish I got a chance to connect more with the characters considering the runtime, but overall this is a strong short film.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I ran from it and was still in it

Director: Darol Olu Kae
Writer: Darol Olu Kae
Starring: James Baldwin, Otis O’Solomon, Horace Tapscott

Synopsis: I ran from it and was still in it poetically interweaves personal family memories with original and found footage to offer a more complex portrait of familial loss and separation. Kae wades through deep emotions surrounding the death of his father and the sudden relocation of his children, repurposing intimate family scenes from his personal archive by pairing them with online media from a variety of sources to explore how the autobiographical model can potentially extend beyond the personal. ×

As someone that is a fan of the lyrical form of storytelling, this is right up my street. I love the archival footage that is used and the variety of videos that are used to progress this film forward. The editing is extremely tight and it is so easy to connect to this short film.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Touch of the Master’s Hand

Director: Gregory Barnes
Writer: Gregory Barnes
Starring: Samuel Sylvester, Samuel Whitehill

Synopsis: Troubled by an unnatural temptation, a young Mormon missionary must confess the humiliating depths of his pornography addiction.

I was surprised at the subject matter of this short and the direction that it took. It is so well filmed, down to the smaller details of being a Mormon, which is why the humour and shocking twist of the story took me aback. Another short film I would recommend.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Criminals

Director: Serhat Karaaslan
Writer: Serhat Karaaslan
Starring: Deniz Altan, Cem Baza, Banu Fotocan

Synopsis: In a small town in Anatolia, in the night, a young couple are looking for a room to make love. They are rejected from hotels as they don’t have a marriage certificate. While they think they’ve found a trick, the situation gets out of hand.

What an incredible short film. The story is so compelling, and yet it reminds us of the little things that we have luxury to. To be made to feel like a criminal for simply wanting to spend a night with your loved one seems insane, but it is a law in several countries. The short is tense, well paced and engaged for the entire runtime.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Doublespeak

Director: Hazel McKibbin
Writer: Hazel McKibbin
Starring: Angela Wong Carbone, Tony Costa, Tricia Merrick

Synopsis: A young woman grapples with the aftermath of reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.

This is a fantastic short film that highlights the fundamental problems within the system and how women are not believed. Each individual scene is so well done and you can really feel the tension. It’s such as well made short that is shot and edited well, creating the full impact of the story. One of the best shorts at Sundance.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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