The Big Shorts of Sundance

Aug 18, 2016 by Marketing on The Nickelodeon Blog

Every year, Sundance collects short film’s best clutch of independent storytellers. This year features a mix of fantasy, documentary, animation, & every day life. What binds these disparate works is their ability to find largeness in the minute. The concept isn’t surprising considering how the condensed format of a short lends itself to focusing on what might get lost in a feature length film, but the individualistic approach and even sometimes grace with which it is done, is what makes the concept special.

Take for example, “Bacon & God’s Wrath”. Given the title and the bare bones of the plot (a late-life Bubbe tries bacon for the first time), this film could have so easily gone in the direction of kitsch. It could have bent to the “ironic” obsessions of American modern culture manifested in bacon vodka, bacon cake, and bacon themed-furniture. Instead, director Sol Friedman crafts a story funny and poignant in its simplicity, of a woman’s life long struggle with her religious heritage and how the advent of the information age led her to freedom.

Or look at “The Grandfather Drum”. The short tackles an extremely heavy and necessary topic of the genocide and continued oppression of the Native North American people, but does so by focusing on a lone sacred drum. By picking this one avatar, the animation is able to neatly tie together legend, history, and immense tragedy while maintaining focus on the dire condition of the first nation people.

This is a genre where the animations will break your heart and where a horror-style film called “The Procedure” or a one-take short of a son giving the eulogy at his mom’s funeral might just make you laugh harder than you have in a long time.

So without further ado, I present the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Shorts. Coming to the Nick Wednesday September 7, 6:30pm.

Written and directed by Bridey Elliott. U.S.A., 16 minutes.
A picture that piles on all the tell tale trappings of an indie feature—blank staring, a manic female lead, tingly music, cathartic hair cuts, and a heaping pitcher of quirk—over the age-old story of the individuals struggle with Ennui.

Written and directed by Asantewaa Prempeh. U.S.A., 13 minutes.
A story that crushes your chest with the daily American struggle to make a living, and then sets you free by reminding you of the ordinary grace of forgiveness. Two Senegalese Street vendors in NYC provide the perfect boiling point of cold, struggle, slow trickling cash, and the blind steering of friendship.


Short Film Jury Award: Animation, Presented by YouTube
Written and directed by Nina Gantz. United Kingdom, 9 minutes.
The medium of yarn-baby-stop-motion lends the empathetic cuteness needed to sit next to Edmond on the edge of suicide, as he reflects on his life-long affliction of devouring those he loves most. This short stands alone as a work that successfully taps into what it’s like to feel too much.

Bacon & God’s Wrath
Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction, Presented by YouTube
Written and directed by Sol Friedman. Canada, 9 minutes.
Combine the Internet, an old Jewish lady, and bacon. What you get is a surprisingly sincere film that combines live action and animation to discuss faith in the reign of the Internet, and the simple triumph to be derived just from having “a good breakfast”.


Her Friend Adam
Short Film Special Jury Award for Outstanding Performance (Grace Glowicki)
Written and directed by Ben Petrie. Canada, 17 minutes.
Grace Glowicki leaves this movie with fantastic footage for an Oscar nominee reel considering all the extreme emotions she conveys. This feature embraces the brevity of the genre by taking on the range of emotions and shifts in relationship dynamics that can take place in one scene and does it to the extreme. Nothing is understated here, not the emotional disintegration, not the various vaginal monuments. It’s loud, over the top, and determined to make you react.

The Grandfather Drum
Written and directed by Michelle Derosier. Canada, 13 minutes.
Out of this year’s group of shorts, this animation is singularly merciless. It does not offer you a happy ending or absurdity. It doesn’t try to ease the hot-brand sting of an entire race of people’s ignored tragedy. A legendary “Grandfather Drum” once brought health and good fortune to its tribe, until european culture and Christianity overtook the tribe and the Grandfather who wielded the drum passed away. From there, the happiness of the native people becomes more and more impossible as they are separated from their heritage in every way.

The_Procedure_Christian Palmer_byJacobRosen

The Procedure
Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction, Presented by YouTube
Written and directed by Calvin Lee Reeder. U.S.A., 4 minutes.
The first thought I had after watching this was, “So this is what all those years of fine art training were preparing me for.” I’ll qualify that by saying, no, you don’t need an $180,000 degree to “get” this short. But if you happen to have one, this film might illuminate the absurdity of your condition and make you think of that one art history professor that would be so proud knowing this four-minute clip instantly brought you back to his or her lecture hall. In this year’s shortest short yet, a man is abducted for a truly bizarre experiment, but he might not have been the only one.

Thunder Road
Short Film Grand Jury Prize, Presented by YouTube
Written and directed by Jim Cummings. U.S.A., 13 minutes.
I don’t know how to prepare you for this one. It’s tragi-comedy of the best kind, given only the tag line: Officer Arnaud loved his mom. That’s exactly what you see: a grown man battling the grief of his mother’s death, his love for her, the regrets of ever being unkind to her. Cummings presents us with this one-take on life, death, and all the emotions coloring the two and reveals: it’s all just really embarrassing. And as a reverent fan of The Boss, you can bet it struck a chord.

– Pauline Arroyo