The visuals of the Polish documentary "Object" are breathtaking: Director Paulina Skibinska follows an underwater rescue unit as divers go under the ice of a frozen lake. Another documentary short, director Kitty Green's "The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul," is a heartbreaking series of auditions by young girls trying to embody the Olympic figure skater and Ukrainian icon.
Writer-director Atsuko Hirayanagi's "Oh Lucy!," filmed in Japan, is a sly comedy of manners centering on a mild-mannered office worker (played with awkward hesitancy by Japanese star Kaori Momoi) who has an inner transformation when she takes an English-language course and receives a blond wig and a new name from her American teacher (Billy Scott).
The French animated film "Storm Hits Jacket" didn't work for me in terms of story, but the colorful cutout animation of writer-director Paul Cabon's film is eye-popping.
The best of the lot, and the final short in the show, is "World of Tomorrow." Hertzfeldt works alone on his surreal stick-figure animated tales, and he outdoes himself here. (If you haven't seen his shorts, you may have seen his work on the strangest couch gag in the history of "The Simpsons.")
Without giving away too much, "World of Tomorrow" begins with a 4-year-old girl, Emily, receiving a surprise visitor: a clone of her from 200 years in the future. What follows is a strange, haunting and utterly beautiful discourse on technology, loneliness and love to the end of the Earth. It's indescribably amazing and proves what Sundance has long espoused about how the best stories are bite-size.