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17 Jun 2013

Great Shorts! The Palm Springs International Shortfest Shows Off Big Films in Small Packages

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A Scene From The Pride of Palm Springs. A Scene From The Pride of Palm Springs. The Pride of Palm Springs Facebook page

What makes short films interesting? Why should people go see them?

“In many ways, I believe the great short film is harder to make than the great feature film,” said Darryl Macdonald, the executive director of the Palm Springs International Film Society, which is putting on the 2013 Annual Palm Springs International Shortfest, starting on Tuesday, June 18. “You have a very, compressed, limited amount of time to tell a story that really touches people, ideally on all three levels—emotionally, viscerally and intellectually. It’s a staggering feat to accomplish that.”

And which of the 330 films stand out at this year’s festival? Macdonald points out a 27-minute film from England called Walking the Dogs, which features Emma Thompson as Queen Elizabeth and tells the true story of a man who broke into the queen’s bedroom in 1982 while her royal guard was out walking her dogs.

Macdonald also cites Penny Dreadful, an 18-minute American comedy about a kidnapping gone wrong.

The festival features different programs representing various genres.

“A very popular program is our Award-Winning Documentaries. That show is always packed,” said Macdonald. “We’re also doing, for the third time this year, a kids’ show, called Kid Stuff, for kids aged 6-12. Artistic License, which revolves around stories related to art, is also very popular. Our LGBT programs are also very popular and sell out.”

Here are some highlights:

Programmers’ Picks (Camelot Theatres, 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 19): Programmers’ Picks features six shorts—you guessed it—assembled by the people with the Palm Springs International Shortfest. These are films that don’t fit in elsewhere, but are still notable. Fallen, a short from Germany, tells the story of three soldiers returning home from Afghanistan who are unable to deal with the losses they suffered. Listen is an Ethiopian short about a musician who has an inspiring encounter that leads to new compositions. The Telling is a thriller from Australia about a psychiatrist’s patient who tries to convince the doctor that the end of the world is near.

LGBT—Like Me (Camelot Theatres, 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19): There are two locally produced documentaries in the four-film LGBT—Like Me block. A Family Like Mine is from a student in Idyllwild, and it focuses on the subject of children brought up by gay parents. The Pride of Palm Springs is a documentary on the Palm Springs High School Marching Band’s participation in the Palm Springs Gay Pride Parade. Given the local contributions, this one’s a must-see.

Amazing Animation (Camelot Theatres, 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 20): For fans of animated shorts, this program of eight films has plenty to offer. The Collector’s Gift is an American short about a young girl who loves to collect objects and stumbles upon an old inventor’s house. Forty Hymns of Faith, from India, features stunning animation that is set to the Hindu devotional song “Hanuman Chalisa.”

After Hours (Camelot Theatres, 4 p.m. on Friday, June 21): A program of seven films about strange things in the night, After Hours sticks out as one of the best of the festival. The program includes an American short called Help Wanted, a comedy film about a convenience-store robbery during the graveyard shift. Elle Fanning stars in Likeness, a short about alienation directed by Rodrigo Prieto, cinematographer of Argo, Brokeback Mountain and Babel. One short that grabbed my attention was Honk If You’re Horny, from New Zealand, about a cab driver who gives a passenger a “ride from hell” while the passenger talks about his sexual escapades from the night—all as cops are chasing them.

Horrors! Thrillers! Mysteries! (Camelot Theatres, 7 p.m. on Friday, June 21): Locked Up, an Australian short, is about a storage security guard working on the night shift when he notices a crying woman going into her unit; his curiosity leads him into a mysteriously creepy situation. Night and Suddenly is a Spanish horror film about a woman home alone in her apartment when she receives a visit from her desperate upstairs neighbor, claiming his apartment is being broken into. Reset is a Swedish film about a little girl getting mysterious letters—with one of them triggering strange events.

Out … and Definitely “Out There” (Camelot Theatres, 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 22): This LGBT category features eight films. Chaser, an American short, is about a young schoolteacher who feeds his urges through self-destructive cruising. It’s Consuming Me, from Germany, focuses on a man who discusses what he loves and hates about his ex-lover. On Suffocation, a silent short from Sweden, is about two gay men who face criminal punishment for their relationship. Sufferin’ Till You’re Straight is a three-minute long animated musical short in protest of Proposition 8.

The 2013 Palm Springs International Shortfest takes place from Tuesday, June 18, through Monday, June 24, and includes various programs, forums, masterclasses, parties and more. Passes range from $54 to $200; individual screenings are $12, or $11 for matinees (starting before 3 p.m.). For a complete schedule, visit www.psfilmfest.org/festival/index.aspx?FID=68.

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