Filmmaker Jon Kasbe talks with Carrboro resident Lori Hoyt at Carrboro Film Festival. / Alex Boerner
CARRBORO, N.C. — Between the films presented by invited filmmaker Jon Kasbe and the films chosen by the selection committee, the 2014 Carrboro Film Festival screened more than forty short films over the weekend. Short film, I believe, is an underrated art form, though the general lack of appreciation for them is mostly because people are unaware. Therefore, from the shorts screened at Carrboro this year, I have selected five that I found especially enjoyable and that are available online for free. Each of the films below represents quality filmmaking, and I hope watching them will pique readers’ interest in exploring short film for themselves.
“Heartbeats of Fiji” (2013)
Earlier this year, recent UNC alum Jon Kasbe visited Washington, DC, to receive an award from President Obama and The White House News Photographers Association for his short documentary “Heartbeats of Fiji.” At the Carrboro Film Festival, Kasbe announced “Heartbeats” has now been nominated for an Emmy, too. The film follows Ben and Masi, two Fiji natives who have found renewed purpose in life through their participation in a two-week residency program with the Beat Making Lab. The program evolved from an innovative course taught in UNC’s music department and was developed by two local hip-hop artists. Having expanded well beyond Chapel Hill, The Lab now travels the world to donate music equipment and teach hip-hop and electronic music production as a means of exchanging ideas and empowering communities. In “Heartbeats,” Kasbe intimately documents Ben and Masi, as they participate in The Lab and discover hope in the creative process. “Heartbeats of Fiji” is a moving demonstration of the power that music can have to inspire and unite.
“Verbatim: What Is a Photocopier?” (2014)
“Verbatim” (directed by Brett Weiner) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and the NY Times later released the film as the debut short in a series of films that adapt legal transcripts into cinematic presentations. Although legal transcripts may not seem like robust material for the screen, “Verbatim” proves otherwise. The film depicts a hilarious exchange, from an Ohio Supreme Court deposition, between an exasperated attorney and a witness who demands clarification on the meaning of “photocopier.” Although the filmmakers were permitted to take artistic liberties with the acting, the dialogue itself is performed verbatim from the transcript. Like Portia in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the attorney and witness in “Verbatim” appear to win their case by quibbling over a definition. “What is a photocopier?” becomes a question in “Verbatim” as humorous as it is perplexing.
“Charm City Rumpus” (2013)
Between the 1930s and 1950s, the hardboiled detective became a fixed character in the American literary imagination. Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe epitomized the character, and the most recent incarnations were Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson), in the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Billie, the protagonist in “Charm City Rumpus” (directed by Dennis Boni), is not a hardboiled detective. But she wants to be—desperately. Billie is a pre-adolescent girl whose dress includes a fedora and a trench coat and who befriends a homeless man whose case she is determined to solve, though he himself is not even sure what his case is. An endearing example of overimitation, Billie’s language is so cluttered with the colloquialisms of hardboiled literature that her speech is often unintelligible. Although Billie will probably not be appearing in Season 2 of True Detective, “Charm City Rumpus” is a lighthearted parody of the genre on which Colin Ferrell and Vince Vaughn will soon be leaving their mark.
Filmmaker Danielle Lurie had no idea she would be making “Intuition” until two days before filming it. While visiting Barcelona, the Stanford graduate felt inspired to write and shoot a short film. On a Mediterranean beach, she wrote a script in one day and promptly recruited an actor through Facebook. However, Lurie started having doubts about the script almost immediately thereafter. Following her intuition, she abandoned the original script and wrote an entirely new one. Two days later, she shot the new film, the title of which reflects not only the story behind the film’s making but also the film’s theme. “Intuition” is about a young woman who refuses to listen to herself. As a work of magical realism, the film creatively depicts the internal struggle each of us has experienced at some point when knowing what is best but feeling lured to do otherwise. “Intuition” is a beautiful film that will leave viewers wanting to see more from Lurie.
“Jennifer Lawrence is Coming” (2013)
Fans of David O. Russell’s last two films—American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook—and fans of The Hunger Games do not always share the same cinematic tastes, but they all share at least one cinematic interest: Jennifer Lawrence. Created by award-winning filmmaker Justin Dec, “Jennifer Lawrence is Coming” is a funny, four-minute satire of fan culture. The film depicts two roommates whose mutual, quirky obsession with Jennifer Lawrence becomes the center of their relationship with each other and alienates everyone else in their lives. A short film is effective when it presents a single idea with clarity and purpose, and “Jennifer Lawrence” is Dec’s latest in a series of entertaining shorts that do just that. Jennifer Lawrence may or may not actually be coming, but viewers will certainly laugh along the way, regardless.
Although the Carrboro Film Festival was the last opportunity to see short films on the big screen in the Triangle area this year, new opportunities are not far in the future. Each February, the Carolina Theater screens the collections of animated, documentary, and live action shorts newly nominated for an Oscar©. In addition, horror fans can look forward to the 2015 Nevermore Film Festival, also at the Carolina Theater, February 20 – 22. In the meantime, film lovers interested in short film should check out Short of the Week for a regular stream of engaging and entertaining shorts.