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From thousands of entries, Sundance picks 66 short films

Published December 11, 2013 9:29 am

Film fest • Slate covers drama, documentary, comedy and animation.
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Another record year for submissions means programmers for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival have had their work cut out for them selecting the festival's short films.

Festival organizers announced Tuesday the 66 short films that will play at Sundance this year, chosen from 8,161 submissions — 59 more than were submitted for the 2013 festival.

A filmmaker from Utah made one of those 66 films, "Person to Person." Dustin Guy Defa grew up in Salt Lake City's Glendale neighborhood, relocating to Brooklyn in 2004 to pursue his film career. He returned to Utah to film his 2011 feature "Bad Fever," which was inspired in part by his Glendale upbringing.

Other notable filmmakers among the short-film selections:

• Actress Rose McGowan ("Charmed," "Grindhouse") has directed a short teen drama, "Dawn."

• Documentarian Lucy Walker, a frequent Sundance visitor (she had last year's Salt Lake City Gala film, "The Crash Reel"), is back with a short doc, "The Lion's Mouth Opens."

• Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Jenny Slate has co-written (with her husband, Dean Fleischer-Camp, who directed) the dramatic short "Catherine." Slate also stars in "Obvious Child," a feature set to play in Sundance's Next program.

• Playwright and activist Eve Ensler has co-directed a documentary, "One Billion Rising," based on the campaign to create a worldwide day of raising consciousness — and dancing — to end violence against women.

• Musa Syeed, who took the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance 2012 for "Valley of Saints," has a dramatic short called "The Big House (Al Bayt Al Kabeer)."

• Canadian animator Chris Landreth, who won the Oscar for his 2004 animated documentary "Ryan," directed, wrote and stars in the short "Subconscious Password."

Sundance announced its competition and Next programs last Wednesday, followed by the Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, New Frontier and new Sundance Kids programs on Thursday. The festival announced its Premieres and Documentary Premieres slates on Monday.

The 2014 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 16-26 in Park City, and in venues in Salt Lake City, Ogden and the Sundance resort.

Here are the titles and descriptions (provided by Sundance) for the 66 short films selected:

U.S. Narrative

"130919: A Portrait of Marina Abramovic" (Director: Matthu Placek; U.S.) • This one-take, 3-D film majestically documents legendary performance artist Marina Abramovic, capturing the breadth of space in infinite detail: the life of an artist, her keen sense of transition, a space's decay, and the ripeness of rebirth.

"Afronauts" (Director/screenwriter: Frances Bodomo; U.S.) • On July 16th, 1969, America prepares to launch Apollo 11. Thousands of miles away, the Zambia Space Academy hopes to beat America to the moon. Inspired by true events.

"The Big House (Al Bayt Al Kabeer)" (Director/screenwriter: Musa Syeed; U.S./Yemen) • When a young Yemeni boy ventures out of his cramped apartment and finds a key to the empty mansion down the street, he lets himself and his imagination run wild in the big house.

"The Bravest, the Boldest" (Director: Moon Molson; Screenwriters: Eric Fallen, Moon Molson; U.S.) • Two Army casualty-notification officers arrive at the Harlem projects to deliver some news to Sayeeda Porter about her son serving in the war overseas. But whatever it is they have to say, Sayeeda isn't willing to hear it.

"Catherine" (Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp; Screenwriters: Dean Fleischer-Camp, Jenny Slate; U.S.) • Catherine returns to work after a hiatus.

"Chapel Perilous" (Director/screenwriter: Matthew Lessner; U.S.) • "Chapel perilous" is an occult term describing a psychological state where people are uncertain if they have been aided or hindered by a force outside the natural world.

"Cruising Electric (1980)" (Director/screenwriter: Brumby Boylston; U.S.) • The marketing department green-lights a red-light tie-in: 60 lost seconds of modern movie merchandising.

"Dawn" (Director: Rose McGowan; Screenwriters: M.A. Fortin, Joshua John Miller; U.S.) • Dawn is a quiet young teenager who longs for something or someone to free her from her sheltered life.

"Dig" (Director/screenwriter: Toby Halbrooks; U.S.) • A young girl watches her father dig a hole in their backyard. Mystified about his purpose, the neighborhood comes to watch.

"The End of Eating Everything" (Director/screenwriter: Wangechi Mutu; U.S.) • "The End of Eating Everything" traces the journey of a flying, planetlike creature navigating a bleak skyscape. This sick soul is lost in a polluted atmosphere without grounding or roots, led by hunger toward its destruction.

"Funnel" (Director/screenwriter: Andre Hyland; U.S.) • A man's car breaks down and sends him on a quest across town that slowly turns into the most fantastically mundane adventure.

"Gregory Go Boom" (Director/screenwriter: Janicza Bravo; U.S.) • A paraplegic man leaves home for the first time only to discover that life in the outside world is not the way he had imagined it.

"Here Come the Girls" (Director/screenwriter: Young Jean Lee; U.S./Norway) • An examination of the life of Joe Truman, an aspiring musician, father and drug user. This unsettling paradocumentary investigates Joe's private life through invasive snapshots of his environment and relationships and is a painful pleasure to watch.

"I'm a Mitzvah" (Director: Ben Berman; Screenwriters: Ben Berman, Josh Cohen; U.S.) • A young American man spends one last night with his deceased friend while stranded in rural Mexico.

"The Immaculate Reception" (Director/screenwriter: Charlotte Glynn; U.S.) • It's 1972 in the hardworking steel town of Pittsburgh, Pa. Sixteen-year-old Joey has the chance to prove himself when his crush ends up at his house to watch the infamous football game between the Steelers and the Raiders.

"Jonathan's Chest" (Director/screenwriter: Christopher Radcliff; U.S.) • Everything changes one night for Alex, a troubled teenager, when he is visited by a boy claiming to be his brother — who disappeared years earlier.

"Kekasih" / (Director/screenwriter: Diffan Sina Norman; U.S.A./Malaysia) • While pursuing his late wife, a botanical professor encounters a divine presence that will transform him forever.

"Master Muscles" (Director/screenwriter: Efrén Hernández; U.S.) • Veronica and Efren go on a trip.

"Me + Her" (Director/screenwriter: Joseph Oxford; U.S.) • In a faraway world, tucked away in a small fold of land behind an enormous willow tree, exists the tiny city of Cardboard. After a tragic event, Jack Cardboard goes on a journey to mend his broken heart.

"Person to Person" (Director /screenwriter: Dustin Guy Defa; U.S.) • Waking up the morning after hosting a party, a man discovers a stranger passed out on his floor. He spends the rest of the day trying to convince her to leave.

"Rat Pack Rat" (Director/screenwriter: Todd Rohal; U.S.) • A Sammy Davis Jr. impersonator, hired to visit a loyal Rat Pack fan, finds himself performing the last rites at the boy's bedside.

"Verbatim" (Director: Brett Weiner; Screenwriter: Court Document; U.S.) • A jaded lawyer wastes an afternoon trying to figure out if a dim-witted government employee has ever used a photocopier. All the dialogue in this short comes from an actual deposition filed with the Supreme Court of Ohio.

International Narrative

"2 Girls 1 Cake" (Director/screenwriter: Jens Dahl; Denmark) • Two girls reunite after a traumatic near-death experience, which occurs in 10 central minutes of 24-year-old Julie's life. She stands face to face with unbearable injustice.

"Best" (Director: William Oldroyd; Screenwriter: Adam Brace; U.K.) • With his wedding only moments away, a man and his best friend confront their future.

"Black Mulberry" (Director: Gabriel Razmadze; Screenwriters: Gabriel Razmadze, Tinatin Kajrishvili; Georgia/France) • In a small, remote mining town in the Republic of Georgia, Nick and Anna, two teens from vastly different backgrounds, come together for an idyllic moment in time.

"Burger" (Director and screenwriter: Magnus Mork; U.K./Norway) • It's late night in a burger bar in Wales.

"Butter Lamp" (Director/screenwriter: Hu Wei; France/China) • A photographer weaves unique links among nomadic families.

"The Cut" (Director/screenwriter: Geneviève Dulude-Decelles; Canada) • The Cut tells the story of a father and a daughter, whose relationship fluctuates between proximity and detachment, at the moment of a haircut.

"Exchange & Mart" (Directors: Cara Connolly, Martin Clark; Screenwriter: Cara Connolly; U.K.) • Reg is a lonely girl at a remote Scottish boarding school where paranoia about rape is rife. Her unorthodox self-defense class provides the human touch she craves so deeply. When she is attacked in the woods, she knows what she has to do.

"Here I Am...There You Are..." (Director/screenwriter: Dikla Jika Elkaslassy; Israel) • Domination emerges during foreplay between a married couple. As the film evolves, the gray areas between controlling and being controlled cause confusion for both partners. When reality eclipses their imaginary game, they realize what is controlling them.

"Life's a Bitch" (Director: François Jaros; Screenwriter: Guillaume Lambert; Canada) • Love. Grief. Choc. Denial. Sleeplessness. Bubble bath. Mucus. Masturbation. Pop tart. Pigeons. Toothpaste. Hospital. F___. Bye. Hair. Sports. Chicken. Bootie. Kids. Rejection. Squirrels. Cries. Awkward — 95 scenes, five minutes: life's a bitch.

"MeTube: August Sings Carmen 'Habanera' " (Director/screenwriter: Daniel Moshel; Austria) • George Bizet`s "Habanera" from Carmen has been reinterpreted and enhanced with electronic sounds for MeTube, a homage to thousands of ambitious YouTube users and video bloggers, and gifted and less gifted self-promoters on the Internet.

"Mi nina mi vida" (Director/screenwriter: Yan Giroux; Canada) • Jack and his giant stuffed bear move through the bustling crowds and noisy rides at an amusement park. In this strange world he can no longer relate to, he searches for a reason to smile.

"More Than Two Hours" (Director: Ali Asgari; Screenwriters: Ali Asgari, Farnoosh Samadi; Iran) • It's 3 a.m., and a boy and girl are wandering in the city, looking for a hospital to cure the girl, but it's much harder to find one than they thought.

"My Sense of Modesty" (Director/screenwriter: Sébastien Bailly; France) • Hafsia, an art history student, must remove her hijab for an oral exam. To prepare, she goes to the Louvre to view the painting she has to comment on.

"Mystery" (Director/screenwriter: Chema García Ibarra; Spain) • They say that if you put your ear to the back of his neck, you can hear the Virgin talk.

"Pleasure" (Director/screenwriter: Ninja Thyberg; Sweden) • Behind the scenes of a porn shoot, the actors practice various positions. The rumor is that one of the girls is doing an advanced routine that requires someone extremely tough. "Pleasure" is a startling film about workplace intrigue.

"Syndromeda" (Director/screenwriter: Patrik Eklund; Sweden) • Leif wakes up on the road — naked and bloody — with no memory of what has happened. No one believes him when he claims he was abducted by aliens.

"Wakening" (Director: Danis Goulet; Screenwriter: Tony Elliott; Canada) • In the near future, the environment has been destroyed, and society suffocates under a brutal military occupation. A lone Cree wanderer, Weesakechak, searches an urban war zone to find the ancient and dangerous Weetigo to help fight the occupiers.

Documentary Shorts

"Choreography" (Directors: David Redmon, Ashley Sabin; U.S.) • Donkeys gaze at those who gaze at them.

"Fe26" (Director: Kevin Jerome Everson; U.S.) • Two gentlemen make a living hustling metal in Cleveland, Ohio.

"Godka Cirka (A Hole in the Sky)" (Directors: Alex Lora, Antonio Tibaldi; Spain/France/U.S.) • Young Alifa looks up at the Somali sky and thinks about her daily life as a shepherdess. She knows the day that will change her life forever is about to come.

"Hacked Circuit" (Director: Deborah Stratman; U.S.) • This circular study of the Foley process portrays sound artists at work constructing complex layers of fabrication and imposition.

"I Think This Is the Closest to How the Footage Looked" (Directors: Yuval Hameiri, Michal Vaknin; Israel) • A man with poor means re-creates a lost memory of the last day with his mom. Objects come to life in a desperate struggle to produce a single moment that is gone.

"The Last Days of Peter Bergmann" (Director: Ciaran Cassidy; Ireland) • In 2009, a man claiming to be from Austria arrived in the town of Sligo, Ireland. During his final days, Peter Bergmann went to great lengths to ensure no one ever discovered who he was and where he came from.

"The Lion's Mouth Opens" (Director: Lucy Walker; U.S.) • A stunningly courageous young woman takes the boldest step imaginable, supported by her mother and loving friends.

"Love. Love. Love." (Director: Sandhya Daisy Sundaram; Russia) • Every year, through the endless winters, her love takes new shapes and forms.

"Notes on Blindness" (Directors: Peter Middleton, James Spinney; U.K./U.S./Australia) • In 1983, writer and theologian John Hull became blind. To help make sense of his loss, he began keeping an audio diary. Encompassing dreams, memories, and his imaginative life, "Notes on Blindness" immerses the viewer in Hull's experience of blindness.

"Of God and Dogs" (Director: Abounaddara Collective; Syria) • A young, free Syrian soldier confesses to killing a man he knew was innocent. He promises to take vengeance on the God who led him to commit the murder.

"One Billion Rising" (Directors: Eve Ensler, Tony Stroebel; U.S.) • In 2013, one billion women and men rose and shook the earth through dance to end violence against women in the biggest mass action ever. The event was a radical awakening of body and consciousness. This is what it looked like.

"Remembering the Artist, Robert De Niro, Sr." (Directors: Perri Peltz, Geeta Gandbhir; U.S.) • Robert De Niro, Sr., was a figurative painter obscured by the powerful pop art movement. His work has returned to the spotlight because of his son, who happens to be one of the world's most famous actors.

"Tim and Susan Have Matching Handguns" (Director: Joe Callander; U.S.) • Love is swapping clips with your spouse in the middle of a three-gun problem.

"Untucked" (Director: Danny Pudi; U.S.) • This documentary explores the iconic "untucked" jersey worn in 1977 when Marquette University won its first and only national college basketball championship. It was designed by one of Marquette's players, Bo Ellis, under the fearless leadership of Coach Al McGuire.

Animated Shorts

"Allergy to Originality" (Director/screenwriter: Drew Christie; U.S.) • A humorous, animated "op doc" explores the rich history of adaptation, plagiarism and other forms of appropriation in art.

"Astigmatismo" (Director/screenwriter: Nicolai Troshinsky; Spain) • A boy loses his glasses and can only see one thing in focus at a time. With his sight shaped by the sounds around him, he must learn to explore a blurry world of unknown places and strange characters.

"Blame It on the Seagull" (Director: Julie Engaas; Screenwriters: Julie Engaas, Cecilie Bjørnaraa; Norway) • An animated documentary about Pelle Sandstrak and the way he showed the first signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and Tourette's syndrome as a teenager.

"Crime: The Animated Series (Marcus McGhee)" (Directors: Alix Lambert, Sam Chou; U.S./Canada) • When Hartford teacher Marcus McGhee has his car stolen, the police refuse to assist him. Directors Alix Lambert and Sam Chou mix humor with stark reality in this animated documentary short.

"Marilyn Myller" (Director/screenwriter: Mikey Please; U.S./U.K.) • Marilyn maketh. Marilyn taketh awayeth. Marilyn is trying really hard to create something good. For once, her expectation and reality are going to align. It will be epic. It will be tear-jerkingly profound. It will be perfect. Nothing can go wrong.

"The Obvious Child" (Director/screenwriter: Stephen Irwin; U.K.) • Somebody broke the girl's parents. The rabbit was there when it happened. It was an awful mess.

"Passer Passer" (Director/screenwriter: Louis Morton; U.S.) • An animated city symphony celebrates the hidden world of background noise.

"Phantom Limb" (Director and screenwriter: Alex Grigg; U.K./Australia) • James and Martha narrowly survive a motorcycle accident. During the aftermath, however, James begins to experience Martha's phantom pains.

"Piece, Peace" (Director and screenwriter: Jae-in Park; South Korea) • Psychological changes among different characters lead to a more and more extreme situation.

"The Present" (Director: Joe Hsieh, Screenwriters: Joe Hsieh, Ching-Chwang Ho; Taiwan) • A married man on a business trip checks into a hotel. The hotel manager's daughter falls for him at first sight. Rejected by the man, she embarks on a journey of revenge.

"Subconscious Password" (Director and screenwriter: Chris Landreth; Canada) • Chris Landreth, the director of the Academy Award–winning short "Ryan," plays Charles, a man paralyzed by his inability to remember a friend's name. Thus begins a mind-bending romp through a game show of the unconscious — complete with animated celebrity guests.

"White Morning" (Director/screenwriter: Paul Barritt; U.K.) • A short film about the violence of little boys and little men.

"Yearbook" (Director/screenwriter: Bernardo Britto; U.S.) • A man is hired to compile the definitive history of human existence before the planet blows up.


Coming soon

To read the full rundown of the Sundance festival's 66 short-film titles announced Tuesday, plus the 118 feature-film titles previously announced, go to http://www.sltrib.com/entertainment.