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2017 Palm Springs International ShortFest: Crystal's Picks

By Crystal Harrell

Rosie, Oh (Directed by Andy Koeger and Apple Xenos)

The initially innocent Rosie, Oh takes an unexpected turn of dread and could effortlessly double as the opening to an avant-garde thriller film. Centering on a spunky young girl equipped with a polaroid camera and homemade flyers as she looks for her lost dog, the short follows the young protagonist while she optimistically searches her decrepit street and eventually ventures inside her mysterious neighbor, Magdalena's, home. The single-shot film plays like a swift memory, smoothly traversing the camera through a seemingly abandoned house and into the perspective of a lost childhood. With a quirky yet eerie atmosphere, Rosie, Oh keeps viewers suspended in a loop of curious mystery, until the most unexpected conclusion comes to light like a developing photograph. 

Poles Apart (Directed by Paloma Baeza) 

Gifted with impressive stop motion animation and phenomenal voice acting, Poles Apart definitely stands out amongst the festival submissions. The plot follows a hungry polar bear in the arctic who meets a friendly grizzly bear new to the tundra. The two must decide whether to  get along or let their opposing personalities clash. Polished and enjoyable from start to finish, Poles Apart emanates a cheerful air of adventure while maintaining an engaging script. It's also important to note that seasoned actress Helena Bonham Carter provides the voice of the disgruntled polar bear and is delightful in the role. Poles Apart is the ideal short film for audiences who enjoy heartfelt animation, charismatic characters, and the simplicity of a storybook friendship. 

Spinosaurus (Directed by Tessa Hoffe)

The ShortFest boasts a variety of different film genres with unexpected endings, and it is even more of a surprise going in completely blind, such was the case when I first saw Spinosaurus. The short highlights the close relationship between a brother and sister living in their home, and while not much else can be said regarding the plot without giving too much away, the film skillfully employs a sombre turn of events in contrast to the siblings' earnest interactions. The sister is incredibly mature for her age and does her best to look after her brother while he lives out the imaginative inclinations of a young boy with a love for dinosaurs, such as looking for fossils on the beach together. Their chemistry is extremely genuine and carries the film to a level of believability essential for its big reveal. 

They Charge for the Sun (Directed by Terence Nance)

They Charge for the Sun is one of those short films that will probably need to be watched more than once to fully grasp all the hidden messages and symbolism in its plot. Nevertheless, it profoundly fuses its science fiction elements with contemporary social commentary that will shock viewers with an illuminating power. The film follows two sisters living in Brooklyn sometime in the future where direct sun exposure is deadly to humans and sunlight must be experienced through domes and artificial sources. Those who wish to view the sunlight must pay for a selected amount of time. Reminiscent of a Ray Bradbury dystopian short story, They Charge for the Sun meshes a futuristic landscape with thematic elements that resonate within the present, making it an essential short film to see.

Consent (Directed by Clare Sladden and Jasmine Sladden)

Creating an effective horror story within the timeframe of a short film is not an easy feat to accomplish, but Consent does so more proficiently than most full-length scary movies these days. The plot focuses on two strangers who previously connected online as they meet in person for the first time in the female protagonist's apartment. For risk of spoiling the shocking premise of the narrative, Consent is better suited to be actually experienced firsthand instead of being described. Unnerving twists and turns are delivered so simply yet unexpectedly, and with a terrifying revelation that will leave audiences drowning in dread, this short film is truly a worthy addition to the Thrills & Chills category of the festival. 

Crystal HarrellComment