For its 10th anniversary, the HollyShorts Film Festival pulls out all the stops and gives genre films their due
Daniel Sol and Theo Dumont have successfully fulfilled the mission they took upon themselves in 2005 to “create a destination to help filmmakers advance their careers, knowledge-share, meet industry pros, while talking about their short movies and collaborating.”
The HollyShorts Film Festival features dynamic, unbiased, international and independent movies. The event lasts for ten days and not only proposes non-stop screenings (no less than 400 short films were shown this year) to a wide audience made up of newcomers and passionate film buffs, but also panels hosted by those professionals who are best informed about the evolution and workings of the film industry, plus fantastic red-carpet parties and TV interviews. There’s enough going on to allow filmmakers to exchange their experiences, talk about their projects and, more importantly, meet their audience.
Because what has changed and is going to continue to change even more from now on are the direct ties creators and audiences are forging. Filmmakers have come to a better understanding of their own work and what the audience wants. New technologies, a subject at the center of all HollyShorts panels, impose a new system that is spreading like wildfire and should allow the film industry to renew itself and reinvent itself, not only concerning its production system but its distribution system as well. The personalities who represent this new system, and truly love movies, find their greatest allies among filmmakers. So new life will be breathed into the seventh art. Movies are reasserting themselves once again.
And rest assured, film genre isn’t left out, on the contrary, it remains the measure of adaptability we refer to. Whether it’s taken as an example during panels like the well-known “A Terrifying Calling Card: How To Best Use Your Horror Short For Business”, which HollyShorts devoted to shorts, while others were given a choice slot among the screenings scheduled during the festival, “film genre” isn’t being forgotten: it’s asserting itself!”
Creative, brilliant movies that talk about an apocalyptic world and borrow their attributes from “genre films” …
In view of the program proposed by HollyShorts, an obvious observation comes to mind: The boundary between different movie genres isn’t as clear as it once was. Most of the movies shown in sections are seemingly far removed from genre films, and dealt with themes genre films are fond of or played with formal codes that are a specific characteristic of theirs.
Nevertheless, the HollyShorts program, which goes from video clips to comedies to school movies, web series, animated films and drama, welcomed “genre films” with honor by reserving several sections or “blocks” for them that packed the house: “Horror Program”, “Sci-fi Showcase”, “VFX Showcase”, “3D & Visual Stimulation.” Some of the shorts shown in the blocks “Action Shorts” and “Thriller Shorts” were clearly very close to joining these blocks… Let’s just say that HollyShorts made horror and science fiction film fans very happy indeed… All the more so since the level of movies shown was especially high.
By the way, we should mention that for opening night, festival-goers really enjoyed themselves watching the crazy Footprints and Cheatin’ by the king of independent animation, Bill Plympton.
A brief look at the movies acclaimed in the abovementioned blocks: Horror Program, Sci-fi Showcase, VFX Showcase, 3D & Visual Stimulation…
Lasting 117 minutes, the Horror Program presented by Eli Roth’s “The Crypt” at the Chinese Theatres offered viewers, who packed the theater, a dozen short films, all of them beautifully made: Good Samaritan by Jeffrey Reddick, Carolina Parakeet by A.J. Briones, Ticket to the Haunted Mansion by Nuntakul Sakulchai, The Body by Paul Davis, Dark Origins by Evan Randall Green, Visions by Gene Blalock, Luna by Antonio Perez, One Please by Jesse Burks, Drudge by Kheireddine El-Helou and Barista by Rebekah McKendry.
Drudge by Kheireddine El-Helou
Storyline: What was supposed to be a romantic night in for a young couple, quickly turns into a terrifying encounter with Drudge… A new face of horror is born.
Award for Best Horror, Drudge benefits from spot on directing that is supported by an effective storyline and the rereading of slasher codes reinterpreted by Scream. The gradual buildup of suspense (we go from laughter to fear to a feeling of icy horror) and the creation of a new style of unclassifiable and terrifying monster (a masked man, half Iron Man, half Michael Myers) made for a success in every respect.
One Please by Jesse Burks
Storyline: Mommy and daddy love you…very much.
More focused on black humor, One Please (or how a mother’s finger turns into ice cream on a stick for her child) talks about adults’ extreme, sometimes terrifying, dependence on their kids… Very graphic imaging and the actors’ sensitive, incisive acting definitely put it among the festival’s gems.
This two hour program offered the HollyShorts’ audience 9 eccentric movies that were skillfully done: North Bay by Adam Grabarnickd, Atrium by Dave Paige, The Pale Moonlight by Tin Pang, The Escape by Ivano Di Natale & Alessandro De Vivo, Distance (Best Sci-Fi) by Daniel Allan Langa, Raker by Ande Cunningham, Fist by Gavin Hignight, The iMom by Ariel Martin and the very funny Future Hero by Ramin Serry.
The iMom by Ariel Martin
Storyline: When technology exceeds humanity…
This dark tale, which triggers laughter before moving and finally horrifying us, takes us into a near future where, thanks to specific jobs by stylish androids (in the tradition of The Surrogates), husbands and wives think they are rid of the chores imposed on them by the bringing up of their children: No more changing diapers, goodbye to the children’s sentimental/sexual education! Until the day… But when the worst happens, it’s already too late!
A special mention for especially fine acting performances given by the actors and the lovely Marta Dusseldorp.
Fist by Gavin Hignight
Storyline: Mark Smitt has just signed up for a five-day medical research study to make some quick cash… but will the following experiments not only be the end of his personal freedom… but his very life?
Based on real scientific data and directed very effectively with limited means, Gavin Hignight’s Fist takes us back to the Prometheus myth and more widely to the catastrophes caused by respectable researchers playing God… Claustrophobic, disturbing and staggering!
The VFX Showcase, which preceded the Sci-Fi Showcase, lasted for two hours as well. Ten especially inventive and superbly directed movies made up the program: On/Off (Best Editing) by Thierry Lorenzi, Glow by Douglas Jessup (Panavision future Filmmaker), Nova by John Albanis, Serpent’s Lullaby by Patricia Chica, Recurring Symptoms by Peter Szewczyk, Mouse-X by Justin Tagg, Ghost Light by PJ Germain, Recoil by Evan Matthews, Inner Demons by Ben Caird and Corona (Find Your Beach), a commercial by Mike Smith Rivera.
Nova by John Albanis
This is a science fiction thriller whose post-apocalyptic atmosphere, extraordinarily lunar, is totally bewitching. Very ambitious, the story shows the spectacular transformation of a man becoming a supernova. The magnificent VFX do much more than just serve the story: Nova is a movie with infectious energy, you come out of it feeling like you’re ultra-powerful!
Albanis says his movie is a “visual essay about the cyclical nature of societal mass consumption.” He adds: “It’s a spectacle short film piece. Short films always have to be breaking new ground. That’s the point of them.”
Mouse-X by Justin Tagg
Storyline: Mouse-X is a mystery/sci-fi story about Anderson, a man who wakes up in a building with no idea where he is or how he got there, before slowly discovering that in each of the rooms around him are a thousand clones of himself, all of whom woke up into the same mysterious scenario. To escape he needs to outwit his “selves” while overcoming the realization that he is not the only Anderson…
Mouse-X offers us the following diabolical trip: “Who are you, if you’re not the only you?” Magnificently directed, the movie displays an hypnotic atmosphere and plays with chromatic contrasts (blood red, forest green) and the opposition of sets (contemporary design, classical design). The movie’s opening with that red corridor, those off-center paintings of pin-ups and the phosphorescent maze at the very end, stun the moviegoer and take him or her into a disconcerting world of make-believe.
3D & Visual Stimulation…
Probably one of the festival’s most enjoyable and specialized blocks as much by the quality of the screenplays as by the absolute formal creativity of the movies shown, the “3D & Visual Stimulation” block greatly impressed the Chinese Theatres 1 audiences with its ten very eclectic movies: String Theory by Jonathan Pezza (the intersecting lives of two lady musicians), Call Her Lotte by Annekathrin Wetzel (a story of wrecked friendship during WWII), Eve by Eric Gandois (an ecological science fictional tale), The Adventures of Barty & The Pirates by Mark Chavez (a humorous animated movie), Hotline by Deva Blaisdell-Anderson & Lee Miller (a blood-curdling drama), Domino Falling by Siavash Farahani (a thriller in the desert), Face In The Crowd by Alex Preger (a film of pure feeling that follows the emotions of an uptight woman in the middle of a crowd looking like something out of a 50’s movie), Oceans by Maria Juranic (a sensual video clip fantasy), Sure Thing by Deborah Reinisch (an explosive comedy based on the show All In The Timing by David Ives) and The Chaperone 3D by Fraser Munden (“an action-packed, badass short film using a combination of animation, stop-motion, live-action, puppetry and exploding piñatas”).
Sure Thing by Deborah Reinisch
Storyline: Bill takes the only available seat in a cafe–at Betty’s table. Could she be the “one”? Could he? Are there any guarantees when we open our hearts? Sure thing.
This dazzling comedy plunges us right into the middle of what could turn out to be… will turn out to be… or maybe won’t turn out to be… a tryst! Deborah Reinisch’s brilliant directing plus Gia Crovatin and Luke Kirby’s impressive acting make this movie a moment of pure delight. All the paths these hearts could take by opening up to or closing out the other person are suggested, followed and mocked. So much stimulation and intelligence is exciting. It could be a simple conversation, but this eminently creative and visual movie takes us into the minds, hearts and bodies of these people in search of true love. A total success!
Oceans by Maria Juranic, a video in 3D
Fantastically constructed from a narrative point of view, Oceans is absolutely visually breathtaking. Its very polished 80’s aesthetic embraces the ballet created by an octopus-woman’s movements. The moviegoer, just like the man who watches her and gets taken in by her seductive game, doesn’t understand until she attacks. She is nothing but a predator. But what a predator!… And what a ballet!
“A mix of stop motion, manipulation of paper, high speed, slow motion and avant-garde editing defines Maria Juranic’s films and music videos. She combines a seasoned experience in animation with live action to create a special magical realism.”
The Chaperone 3D by Fraser Munden (Best 3-D)
Storyline: The Chaperone 3D tells the “hand drawn true story” of teacher/chaperone Ralph, DJ Stefan and the-kid-at-the-concession-stand, Peter as they kick ass and take names after a motorcycle gang invades a Montreal youth dance that they’re supervising. The use of an interview with the real-life Ralph and Stefan as the voice-over for the short film only makes it that much more fun.
Best 3-D award, The Chaperone 3D is an amazing little masterpiece roundly applauded at TIFF, the Slamdance Film Festival and BTUFF, winning the creativity award and best short at the Fantasia Film Festival. To say that it left its mark on HollyShorts audiences is an understatement. This short film had Chinese Theatres 1 laughing so hard, it was all people could talk about during the festival. If you have the opportunity to see this movie, don’t think twice and jump right in, you’ll be seeing something absolutely unique. The combination of elements making up the movie: animation, stop-motion, live-action, puppetry and exploding piñatas, is quite simply extraordinary.
Many thanks to Daniel Sol, Theo Dumont and Nicole Castro who make up the HollyShorts winning team. An absolutely wonderful team ably assisted by the fantastic Kevin Anderson, Edith and Ozzie Torres, Alexandra Schwab, Leimoni Coloretti, Allison Powell, Jerome Curchod, Philippe Casseus, Valérie Dumont, Frantz Durand, Damon Campbell and Joanna Fang.
English translation by Cameron Watson.
Emilie Flory is a screenwriter/filmmaker. She won the Queffelec award for poetry, wrote the screenplay Golden Bodies and directed the pilot for a glitzy, humorous mini-series about dancing. She wrote and directed Processus5, a 10-minute futuristic short movie shot in 35mm that was critically acclaimed and screened at the HollyShorts Monthly Screenings in Los Angeles. Emilie Flory is currently writing a sci-fi feature movie while she continues to develop Trauma Dolls, which was a semi-finalist at the Shriekfest Screenplay Competition in 2013 and finalist at the Fright Night Film Fest 2014.
Follow her on Twitter @EmilieFlory and on these sites:
(Photos from HollyShorts.)