DRAMA

Featured Short Film: FILL YOUR HEART WITH FRENCH FRIES

Sometimes you judge a book by its cover. Sometimes you judge a film by its title. And with a short film like “Fill Your Heart with French Fries”, let’s just say: guilty as charged. But can you blame me?! With such an intriguing moniker, I knew there was no way I could be disappointed - and was I ever on point! While “Fill Your Heart with French Fries” may be a grab bag of online millennial references (Instagram, going viral, sponsored apparel, even a buzzfeed shout out!) it doesn’t have the pretentiousness that often comes along with the subject matter. A few minutes in and the film finds that fine balance between being too relevant and becoming timeless. Filmmaker Tamar Glezerman’s story of a break-up and the resulting heartbreak in these modern times of general romantic confusion is hilarious and yet still a quiet, low-key, eye-opening examination of simply being…human.  Based on the true story of a Chinese woman who stayed behind at a KFC for SEVEN full days after her boyfriend dumped her, Glezerman keeps the heart of the narrative but changes a few details. In her rendition, the dumped girl is American, a lesbian and the location is a fictional fast food restaurant named FryBaby's, totally created from scratch! Imagine being too sad to go home, never leaving the confines of a restaurant that prides itself on its fried “cuisine”. And somehow becoming a viral sensation after eating fries for a full week - without a shower or change of clothing. Is this a life low point or a life high point? Well, this is what is beautifully explored in the sad-comedy “Fill Your Heart with French Fries”. Commit to the full 20 minutes of the film (and stay for the surprise credits!) and you’ll be rewarded. A super sized order of comfort watching at its finest, with a side of heartbreak, viral catchiness and of course….fries!   

Featured Short Film: UNREMARKABLE

Many films are just okay. Some are great. The rare few: jaw dropping. The even more rare few: *insert profanity/colorful vocabulary of choice* amazing. Other films are just bad. Really terrible. Downright horrible. Unwatchable. “I must clean my eyes of this filth immediately” level bad. And then sometimes, sometimes there are films that are simply unremarkable … and yet, ironically, end up being some of the best films you’ve seen all year. “But how?!” you exclaim incredulously in your head. This strange concoction of style, story and substance (in this case: showing the audience an everyday occurrence turned into something not quite so mundane on screen) is exactly what filmmaker Jared Anderson has brewed up with his new short “Unremarkable”. This is one AFI thesis that goes above and beyond what you thought a student film could be.  “Unremarkable” plays out almost orchestral. Tiny movements strung together to build up into a melody…to die for. A song of death, performed visually: an unnamed woman, clearly in fear, gets out of her car and proceeds to immediately fall to the ground, dead. In a city parking lot. Before we get any answers, Anderson shows us the process of well, basically dying in the most honest, straightforward way. From a 911 call, police presence, an autopsy, funeral preparations (WARNING: beware graphic scenes of dead woman having her innards taking out), a chatty forensic team member, the wake - the everyday process of dealing with the base level of death plays out. 1 dead woman of many. Unremarkable? Maybe on paper, but on film, anything but. The inevitable faces us as a (beautifully shot!) visually dissected reminder that we, too, will one day go through the same motions our unfortunate protagonist is put through. We just won’t be alive to enjoy the science and beauty that goes into the process of finality.  In the end, when we get our answers as to who this woman was and what happened to her, it almost doesn’t matter anymore. We already starting caring about her some time between when her body was sliced open, makeup was applied to her lifeless face and her grieving family looked down upon her dead body in a casket. A truly remarkable film that proves, while we are just one of billions, we all have a story. 

Featured Short: Lance Edmands' STRAYS

How can a physical place change or impact things? Change or impact us? When we attempt to escape our problems by physically running away, is anything ever truly solved? This is what is explored in Lance Edmands’ quiet, patient little short film “Strays”. After getting some life changing news, a young woman from Brooklyn attempts to flee her responsibilities and relationship troubles by running away to her late grandmother’s neglected upstate home. Unfortunately, she discovers she’s not the only one seeking refuge in the old house. As strays of both the human and canine variety make an appearance in her life, we, as a curious audience, are left wondering: who is really the stray here? Who is really free?  Edmands’ beautiful, low-key drama instantly draws you in with its 16mm look and feel. If you find yourself fatigued and/or overwhelmed from consuming too much online media, sometimes all you need is to watch a great film (inherently already gorgeous in terms of story and substance) shot on film to fall back in love with the medium. And “Strays” is the perfect one to lull you into a much needed peaceful state of 16mm indie film loving!  

Featured Short: The Lovable "123... You Please."

Many things come in threes: good stuff, deaths, triplets. It’s all about the “rule of three” - a magically (and literally) odd yet satisfying number. A wise owl once said it takes 3 licks to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop. See, magic.  You know what else is magic? Josh Close’s new short “123… You Please.”, a story that gives the number 3 a whole new meaning. We follow a blue-haired, perpetually frustrated Jesse as she struggles to maintain the normal routine of her daily life while also navigating her severe OCD. Her stability comes from rituals based around the number 3. But with a recent break up leaving her emotionally bruised and her OCD out of control, will a new and accepting relationship not only save her from that triple-doomed spiral but also help her learn self-acceptance in the face of insecurities?  Though it’s quirky with its Jean-Pierre Jeunet circa "Amelie"-era vibes and "Punch Drunk Love" fueled instability, “123… You Please.” still carves out its own place in the film world. Josh Close inserts many of his own experiences with the disorder, turning this story into a lovely and personal rom-com. Sweet as pie yet just as eye-opening, there’s such an abundance of necessary humanity to enjoy in this film. Allow yourself to face a whimsical sense of reality while also escaping into a totally new world and watch this short now!  

Featured Short: Kim Sherman's "Dogwalker"

Let me paint a picture for you, dear reader: Woman walks dogs for a living. Woman finds her client’s dog dead. Woman stuffs dog’s body into a suitcase and heads for the train. Woman meets a nice, handsome fella’ who gives her a hand. And then, suddenly: Bloody-nose woman heads home empty handed.  Got all that? If so, would you believe me if I told you it all happens in the same short film, in under 12-minutes? Peaked your interest? Wondering where it all went wrong? Keep reading because filmmaker Kim Sherman’s 2016 award-winning film "Dogwalker", now available online, is the stuff of urban legends. Like long-standing myths, campfire stories, drunken party memories passed from person to person, “Dogwalker” is like a total dark fairy tale from another reality. It’s a bittersweet film that almost plays out as a non-story until the very end when you can’t believe what you’ve just witnessed. Trust me, you won’t leave this film silently in the past. You’re going to want to tell someone…anyone…about this one. A sweet rendition of a tale you may have heard in passing, complete with pastel hues and quirky emotions, Sherman’s short dark comedy is a must-watch. Check out the surreal film below and then do your part and pass it on!  

Featured Short: Quelqu’un d’extraordinaire (An Extraordinary Person)

Sometimes very simple things attract us to a film. A poster. A one-line synopsis. An actor or actress. A trusted friend’s taste. In the case of a film like Monia Chokri's "Quelqu’un d’extraordinaire (An Extraordinary Person)", well, its acclaim on the festival circuit didn’t hurt, but that wasn’t the first thing that attracted me to it. I’m a little ashamed to say it, but the magnet in this case? A name. The film follows what turns out to be a not so ordinary day in the life of a woman named Sarah. And hey, well, my name is Sarah! As simple as that, a bond was formed between film and viewer. I was hooked. Sarah is an intelligent, almost PhD level 30 yr old with a lot going for her (and this, my friends, is where the similarities to my life seem end). Sarah also seems to live within a certain type of normality while also having a fear of living her life that very way. We meet her as she literally (and figuratively) wakes up….in the bed of a 16 yr old boy. Confusion and frustration enter swiftly from stage right and Sarah decides, since this day isn’t going according to plan anyways, that maybe the dust shouldn’t settle as it always does in her patient world of banality. So, as she tries to escape the consequences of blacking out in the bed of an underage boy and is then forced to attend a friend’s bridal party, she kicks up that dust again and things get, suffice it to say, crazy. Unfortunately, she chooses a rather inopportune time to make a change, destroying friendships and altering lives in the process. All in a days work, right? Despite her rampage to re-awaken herself on the path to a post-quarter life crisis, she discovers that it’s actually one small deed, done in the shadows of her blacked out memory from the night before, that is the key to accepting herself and her own life. What does it even mean to be a 30 yr old these days? It’s all some continuous construct that loops forever, unchanging. Many of us think we are going our own ways when, in the end, we’re all following the same predestined path. Jaded, broken, and full of problems. Let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve all been there, are there and will be there. It’s a part of creating identity. This is what Sarah is struggling with: identity, self-worth, and breaking the mold. As another Sarah, no, I’m not projecting. But I’m inspired. What defines “extraordinary” anyways? When Sarah gets caught by the mother of that 16 yr old, she chooses an alias to disguise her true identity: Juliette Payette, an astronaut with a list of successes that reads like a fantasy novel. And it’s from there that Sarah’s seemingly ordinary life spirals out of control to become something not so ordinary and maybe even slightly extraordinary. And sometimes this discovery comes at one’s lowest moment, when we’re unaware and unable to truly accept who we are meant to be. But it eventually comes, and from one Sarah to another, I say bravo.  

Though we saw dozens of short films at the Indie Street Film Festival last summer, there were a few extra special ones that went above and beyond in terms of visual and narrative prowess. Filmmaker Doug Roland’s official selection “Jada” was definitely one of those films that hit it out of the park for us. The 16-min short tells the spirited and heartfelt story of Jada (Kaycie Bowens), a young girl living alone and scraping by on Venice Beach, selling handcrafted wood people and exploring when, where and what she wants. With an upbeat attitude and glowing personality, it’s hard to see the obvious negativity of her situation. And yeah, well, a solo 7-yr old girl fending for herself - there’s definitely a bigger story hiding here. Yet, despite the initial hidden drama, this little girl beams off the screen, successfully carrying a story that should probably be far beyond her means. This doesn’t feel like the story of a victim. It feels more like one of a survivor. One you want to root for and take care of, but one you also don’t want to tie down.Roland directs Kaycie Bowens well, placing her silhouetted profile against one of the most gorgeous sunsets/sunrises I’ve ever seen in a film, burning an incredible image into the minds of the audience. This is the image of a powerful spirit, one that can’t be bound. When child services and a mysterious man get involved in Jada's life, we finally get to know a little more about her background. The hidden drama is exposed. When we discover he wants to give her a different kind of chance at life, it’s then that everything becomes complete in a special kind of way. “Jada” seems to present a story that it never intended to conclude in a straight-forward manner. And that is what's perfect about it. Because in the end, I think we know everything will be okay. And if it won’t be okay? Well, that’s the power of a great film: one that leaves you wondering and remembering all the same. As they say in the film, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Everyone gets to their intended destination eventually. Discover Jada’s story and watch Roland’s touching film today!  

Featured Short Film: "Emotional Fusebox"

Mondays. They always come back around too quickly. But hey! Mondays are also a time for featured Indie Street shorts, so they can't be all that bad, eh? How about we brighten up the beginning of your workweek with another amazing online short film?! Last week, we featured a review on Rachel Tunnard's "Adult Life Skills", a whimsical meditation on one woman's stunted emotional development and what it means to finally come of age (even at the rather adult age of almost 30). We mentioned in our review (time for a revisit!) that the 2016 Tribeca-winning filmmaker's feature was an expanded version of her BAFTA-nominated short (and pilot), "Emotional Fusebox". Well, we couldn't just leave it at that. We adored the British short so much, it just needed to be featured on its own. If you've ever had that feeling of being left behind in life, you need to watch this film. Both funny and heartbreaking, it takes two very different emotions and fuses them into a quirky yet relatable examination of what it means to finally face reality.  Jodie Whittaker plays Anna (the same role she reprises in "Adult Life Skills"), a reclusive young woman that lives in her mother's shed in the backyard. Burying herself away from the rest of the world and her own future, she spends much of her time in a fantasy, making little videos with her thumbs. She'd probably be content living out the rest of her life in the middle of this existential crises, but her mother has other plans. When a handsome stranger shows up with a bit of car trouble, this oddball little film takes an unexpected and dramatic turn that reveals exactly what past has caused Anna's stagnant present and directionless future. It's a beautiful transition from the absurd to just pure, bittersweet emotion, showing us that not everybody's story is as it seems.  What "Adult Life Skills" does in over an hour, "Emotional Fusebox" does in just 15 minutes. Charming with cozy, offbeat qualities, it's easy to see why the short transitioned so well into its successful feature length version. Because of Whittaker's likeability as a character and Tunnard's tight direction, both the short and long version of this story work like a package, complementing yet standing out on their own. Melodrama is left behind to reveal a rather easy going interpretation of what it means to have everything you need while feeling like you have nothing at all. In "Emotional Fusebox" we don't really get closure, only a shred of hope and a way to cope. And isn't that just how life really is? Tunnard does well not to wrap up Anna's story. No, like we mentioned about "Adult Life Skills" - life is bloody messy. So, like Anna, it's one step at a time towards the future. Take your first step now by checking out "Emotional Fusebox"!  

  Loving this film? You can watch more of the best (and free!) online shorts now on Indie Street!

Featured Short: "A Different Kind of Movement"

From their imaginative animation “(notes) on biology” and the animated-live action hybrid “All Your Favorite Shows!” to their intense, purposely distressing and explosive “Confusion Through Sand” and their “ear” catching feature film “euphonia”, Ornana are simply champions of it all. Last week, we threw it back to their 2012 SXSW Best Animation winner “(notes) on biology”, an animated flip-book style meditation on the results of daydreaming through Biology class. This week, in the lead up to presenting their 2013 sound-centric feature film “euphonia” on Indie Street, we are throwing it back again...but this time to 2015. We are thrilled to revisit something a little more “real” and a bit more down to Earth from the team - their fully live action short, “A Different Kind of Movement”.  With a longer running time of 19 mins, this short spends its entire length feeling vaguely familiar and all too real. We meet Max and Jess, old acquaintances that, for one night, revisit their past, parts of themselves buried away and elements they knew and didn’t know about each other. What is it about these two that draw us in? It’s like we are almost forced to recognize some pieces of ourselves in them - were they possibly once star-crossed? Maybe fated for this one night? Perhaps never again? Like Ornana’s live-action feature “euphonia”, sound and subtlety are also important in this story. A look, a miscommunication, an unspoken desire - things that are not told but implied are crucial here and increasingly necessary to the story. Every shared moment between the pair, every pause, feels somewhat uncomfortable because, though there is a slight, glossy poetry to their dialogue, there really is no sheen to their narrative. And that’s okay. There doesn’t need to be. Director Danny Madden perfectly navigates real life to showcase the raw vulnerability of both a hello and a goodbye, ones that seem both warranted and unwarranted. I guess we will never know.  In the end, we walk away, like our two characters. We aren’t meant to stay in this story and neither are they. That's the beauty of it all. An unusual, but more true to life conclusion greets us - summoned in by a team that usually works so well in the surreal and imaginative world of animation that, in contrast, this unfamiliar territory actually feels surprisingly welcoming and familiar by the end. Trust us - this is required viewing if you want to explore Ornana’s whole range of talent. You won’t be disappointed. We look forward to catching up with Ornana again next week when featuring their uniquely audio-focused feature “euphonia”. Until then, be sure to revisit (or visit for the first time!) the tender, exceptionally real life “A Different Kind of Movement” in preparation!

Featured (Dream) Short: Beemus, It’ll End in Tears

For this week’s featured short, Indie Street is trying something a teeny bit different - both in terms of concept inception and storyline. Lauren Wolkstein’s “Beemus, It’ll End in Tears” is more than just a kooky little experimental narrative short that’ll leave you feeling oddly nostalgic for a PE class of yesteryear. Is the feeling of watching this short akin to a dream or deja vu? Well, if it helps wrap your mind around it, the short actually exists as part of a larger feature film compilation project called "collective:unconscious”! Five talented and adventurous up-and-coming indie filmmakers (click here for the full roster) joined forces to adapt each other's stories. And by stories, I mean, well, dreams. Yes, you read correctly. "collective:unconscious” explores highly imaginative and creative individuals’ interpretations of their fellow filmmakers sometimes kooky, bizarre, serious, philosophical and/or downright randomly delightful nighttime brain journeys. To put it simply, each of the filmmakers had dreams and those dreams were then imagined on screen by one of the other five. The result is a feature film compilation unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. And as of August the 9th, you can enjoy the full feature and SXSW hit for free via Vimeo. In this subsequent segment of the feature, director Lauren Wolkstein adapts Frances Bodomo's dream. The synopsis is basically described as this: “My PE class and I are stuck in a volcano and we’re being made to drink hair in soap water to stop from getting blown up by the volcano-master (who has a walrus mustache).” With that material, Wolkstein delivers us a stylized, vaguely Wes Anderson looking short that goes somewhere you totally weren’t expecting. Suddenly, the awkward nightmarish role of gym class comes flooding back in a way you can't quite put your finger on. Was it all just a dream? A new way of seeing things that are sometimes only visually known in our own heads, Wolkstein’s “Beemus, It’ll End in Tears” is a great teaser to the full film, one imaged by Producer Dan Schoenbrun, Former Senior Film Outreach Lead At Kickstarter. So, what are you waiting for? This is a bold new form of storytelling on film that must be watched to believe! Check out the short, sleep on it (sweet dreams indeed!) and why not check out the full compilation of other shorts here! (Hint: starting with the Bodomo's one line blurb above before watching the film is a pretty nifty way of comparing the final product with your own vision of the dream.) Want to watch even more amazing short films? Make sure to check out some of the best, right here on Indie Street! 

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