Utah Arts Festival 2021: The official slate of 67 films in nine programs for the 18th presentation of Fear No Film

0
523

This year’s Fear No Film program for the 45th Utah Arts Festival includes nine rotating programs of short films representing 22 countries and will be screened in the third floor auditorium of The Leonardo museum. Audience members are reminded that masks will be required for the indoor program. Each screening lasts approximately one hour. The following is a complete summary rundown of the slate of 67 short films. Note that each film in each category is presented in alphabetical order and does not reflect the actual order of a specific screening’s presentation.

Animated Shorts Program (Aug. 27, 8 p.m.; Aug. 28, 6 p.m.)

Once again, this genre is represented by a quintessentially cosmopolitan selection of animated short films that emphasize the Fear No Film’s brand for bold innovations in renditions of relevant contemporary themes and social observations. From Croatia, 45”, directed by Lucija Oroz, is rich symbolically on contemplating the ubiquitous presence of fear and how sometimes we distort its actual proportions. Symbolism also is prominent in All is Not Lost … Yet, a short film from Singapore, which is directed by MaryAnn Loo, as rendered in the characters of a penguin, panther and pengzilla. This is an ideal companion piece to 45” as part of how we synthesize the various dimensions of our own identity.

From Germany, Gottfried Mentor’s Benztown offers a clever, spot-on commentary about traffic jams, chaos and annoyances that preclude a town from having a pleasant rhythm that accommodates residents, pedestrians and those choose alternative forms of transportation to alleviate urban congestion. In this instance, Stuttgart has no patience left and resorts to heavy-handed action as a warning. Clothes on Rainy Day, a short film from Taiwan by Shih Hung Wu, reflects on the metaphor of damp, musty clothes for explaining life, the stresses of different phases of it and how problems and burdens seem to multiply faster than the rate by which we resolve them.  

Benztown.

Two animated films from Australia focus on the Black Summer of bush fires in 2019 and 2019.  Gaele Sobott’s Dear Rosa does not gloss over the apocalyptic impact of the fires and in Goodbye Home, directed by Jonathan Chong, the film is moving in its poignant consideration of the devastation inflicted upon koalas as it parallels what happened to residents in the communities endangered by the blazes. In both films, there is the inevitable sense of timelessness that these are not singular incidents. The animation in both instances achieves an emotional tone that matches if not excels if the story would be rendered in live action. Chong’s production team, which included script writer Jett Tattersall and illustrator and character designer Simon Murray, evoke the Australian bush and the story’s Australian sense is definitive. Chong and his colleagues relied on Mallacoota in the coastline area of Victoria for setting the location as the base for the animation.

A literary art piece as much as it is a rendition of experimental stop motion animation, Lairs, by Emma Penaz Eisner, visualizes a poem that her mother wrote and was published in a 2019 issue of Eclectica magazine. Hence, Eisner’s rendering is as true to her mother’s verse as completely possible in terms of interpretation. Its theme is stark: the emergence of hatred that eventually suffocates a relationship started in love. As Eisner explains, “the house becomes a toy in my rendition, the man and woman appear only as arms, and objects act as stand-ins for human beings. My aim is to reveal, expand upon, and further develop the uncanny sense of domestic danger inherent in the poem, thus creating something new and primarily image-driven from the original written work.”

Last Dance.

Filmed in Utah at the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument, Last Dance, directed by Krista Davis and Lily Reeves, animates a dance performance by two tourists bedecked in disco outfits. At the time of the filming, the Trump Administration proposed downsizing the monument, a recommendation that is set to be reversed, if President Biden accepts the report of U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The film features movement choreographed to fit within the land’s contours. Even if the original proposal to downsize the monument is reversed, the film nevertheless telegraphs just how precarious the situation is in terms of preserving the natural settings.

Student filmmaker Sydney Task has two submissions selected for Fear No Film. This short animated piece Lola Jo is about a character going through the routine of preparing for the day but with a smart twist at the end.

Mate by Rusty Eveland is made possible by Wobblewheel, a small, award-winning studio that uses stray shopping carts as characters who interact just like humans. Eveland’s animation is fascinating to observe because shopping carts do not lend themselves to pliable, flexible motion. But, even without any dialogue, Mate achieves the creative goal with convincing effects, where the characters are not identified by gender but they engage in all of the tricks and gestures of trying to establish a romantic relationship. It is playful, suggesting perhaps that we should not look at stray shopping carts as annoying symbols of urban problems.

Mate.

From Spain, Psychophonic, directed by Aline Romero, is a lovely bit of animation, featuring a cat who is spooked on a night where there is a full moon and a record player spins inside an eerie-looking house. The striking, vivid Requiem for a Spoken Word, directed by Jim Hall, is inspired by beat poet Marc Zegans’ take on the ephemeral art of spoken word performance and how one word moves from the mouth through the air and eventually to someone’s heart and maybe memory. Beautifully rendered images include a take on a familiar painting: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

Just as striking is Shots of Light from Germany and directed by Christian Scharfenberg. The visuals are extraordinary, with the animation completely accomplished by Photoshop. Among several films in Fear No Film from Iran is The Human and Human, a terse but effective commentary on the current condition of civilization, by Zahra Shafiei Dehaghani. Most Iranian shorts were made with limited funds. This one was listed with a $2,000 production budget.

Documentary Program 1 (Aug. 27, Noon; Aug. 29, 2 p.m.)

From Trash to Treasure, directed by Iara Lee, is a strong example of how short form documentaries can achieve so much in thematic impact. The film is set in Lesotho, beset by entrenched poverty, but the residents in the highland country region have become experts in upcycling discarded materials into impressive crafts and objects of art. Upcycling is a common theme at the Utah Arts Festival and this film amplifies its creative and environmentally responsible values. There are instances of this in participants in the Artist Marketplace as well as in some of the activities presented in the Creative Zone this year as well as the Kids’ Art Yard in the past. Lee presents many examples of cultural activity, including musicians who sing about sustainable environments, craftspeople making jewelry and rugs and independent filmmakers telling stories about their communities.

Sydney Heck’s second submission in this year’s festival is Mediocre as Heck, about a teen who is self conscious about learning to skateboard and learns to accept that one can still enjoy an activity even if they do not excel at it. From Iran, Rahmat Creel, directed by Behzad Alavi, is a miniature documentary, made at a cost equivalent to $500, with a clear message about the potential of having everyone involved in collecting garbage to mitigate pollution of natural resources.

Inspired by the pandemic lockdown, Returning Home, directed by Bhushan Thakkar, focuses on Richie Schley who uses the hiatus to contemplate the implications of being responsible as humans who have dominion over the planet. The cinematography is spectacular in this short, which features Utah sights in perspectives that would entice even hardcore indoors people to take up Schley’s call to the outdoors.

From the U.K., Unknown Hand by Saul Pankhurst is a solid compact piece about how an individual facing a chronic disease manages the dramatic change in their health to retain their dignity, integrity and their identity. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a man steadily maneuvers through the process of shaving, even as hands tremble and shake, a classic symptom of the degenerative illness. The Swedish short film, You Are Always 20, directed by Christer Wahlberg, is based on footage the director and his best friend made when they were 19 at the turn of the millennium. In retrospect, the director begins to understand what actually happened during those days and why their friendship fell apart.

Documentary Program 2 (Aug. 28, noon; Aug. 29, 8 p.m.)

This documentary short program is among the most impressive ever presented in Fear No Film history for this genre. Ah Edwin Christmas Special, directed Kevin Ronca and Marc Rubendall, is a bittersweet, nostalgic piece featuring a former gang member but not reformed inmate, who is on pandemic lockdown in a county correctional facility, who narrates memories of his favorite Christmas celebration from behind bars. It is touching because Edwin, regardless of the present circumstances, considers the clarity of that treasured memory at least a sufficient way to exist and sustain through yet another day behind bars. But, it also conveys that lengthy incarceration should not be tolerated, especially when the individual has proven that he is ready to be returned to his community and society.

Fear No Film features several short documentaries about artistic endeavors. From the Republic of Georgia, Boslevi – Master of Roof Tiles, directed by Giorgi Kiknadze, is a magnificent story told handily in just a few minutes. The film, subtitled in English, documents an old process, that defies every advancement which made mass production possible, in which Boslevi explains how the clay tiles, widely sought by people in his country, are fashioned in steps that have not changed in centuries.

Another film made as a response to the pandemic lockdown, Inspiration, a U.K. short by Alex McPake, is a freestyle meditation of inspiration culled from incidental footage the director recorded one morning. It is a video art piece, in the plainest sense.

As this year’s Damn These Heels International Queer Film Festival, sponsored by the Utah Film Center, indicated, the last several years have seen a string of marvelously done historical documentaries with excellent use of archival materials about the LGBTQ+ communities and movements. Harry McGill, a U.K. filmmaker, achieves similar results in his 15-minute documentary Manchester Pride Parade: The Movie. The film resulted in part because the parade in 2020 was postponed because of the pandemic but nevertheless organizers acknowledged that the community still needed some outlet to celebrate Pride or at least reassurance that this most popular event would return better and bigger than ever. McGill documents the history of the movement and how the parade originated, covering the history of the last half century. He frames it sensitively, with its emotional impact fully evident to viewers.

Among the longest short films presented in this year’s Fear No Film slate, Rust, from Poland and directed Rafal Malecki, is nevertheless a superb profile of artist Mariola Wawrzusiak-Borcz and how her work decisively bridges the past and future. It is a candid portrait about an artist (who also is a professor in her country’s most prestigious art school), as she scours the area for scrap metal pieces that she welds into sculptures. She works with welding torches in the same garage where her father worked for many years as a truck mechanic. The sculptures reflect Poland’s turbulent history and experiences with war and life as a Soviet state satellite. Wawrzusiak-Borcz might seem soft spoken or shy but her art conveys warnings to viewers not to be complacent and to be more vigilant about dangers, whether or not they are economic, political or sociocultural in nature. Viewers in Utah also will recognize the conditions of air pollution and smog that she and other Polish residents had to endure. In one instance, the air quality levels were so toxic that Wawrzusiak-Borcz and family decided to camp by the lake to escape the pollution. Although the footage for the documentary was shot before the pandemic lockdown, the film encapsulates perfectly the sense of isolation that artists such as Wawrzusiak-Borcz must abide in their communities.

Set in Arizona just outside of Phoenix, Salt River Water Walk, directed by Krista Davis and Jenny Zander, documents an Ojibwe ceremony, in which a group walks in relay with the river for five days.

Midnight Program 1 (Aug. 27, 10 p.m.)

In 2019, Derek Mellus, in his first year as Fear No Film’s coordinator, added midnight programs to the slate, featuring bona fide off-the-wall films that range from the avant-garde to bizarre and to curious and devilish takes on classic story tropes. While the Fear No Film slate is curated precisely because the selections represent fearless approaches to the short film format, the midnight program is truly no-holds-barred. 

Take, for example, Bag Your Face, directed by Keith Eyrick, so bizarre and outlandish yet so mesmerizing in trashy appeal. Film Maudit 2.0’s capsule review puts its perfectly: “Taking the after-school special format and crashing it at high speed head-on with a whirligig of 90’s VHS/video game/Nickelodeon trash imagery, Keith Eyrich’s short ‘Bag Your Face’ is pure Nuclear Nostalgia – The highly questionable neighborhood traveling amusement park ride you can’t get off of.”

Bag Your Face.

There is a wealth of unconventional story treatments that are just as compelling. Colossus, directed by James Roe, would be great Twilight Zone or Outer Limits fare in their classic hey-day. The story centers on a World War II Navy pilot who was shot down by aliens and is seeking revenge to kill whoever it was in the UFO that crashed his plane. From Spain, Mantis, directed by Albert Grabuleda, is not as bizarre as it might seem, as the story’s epiphany revolves around the need to be emancipated by culturally imposed stereotypes that really are not predicated on facts despite perceptions that persist even if the real evidence contradicts them.

Nuevo Rico, directed by Kristian Mercado, is a trippy, boisterous animated story with a beefy, solid narrative surrounding what it means to be Puerto Rican. While the brother and sister at the center of the story, Barbie and Vico, are characters in a tale about what family really means, there also are other dimensions that resonate in the stories and lives of young talented musicians who escalate quickly from poor, humble surroundings to lives of lavish exuberance. But, Mercado does not leave it there, astutely incorporating bits of Indigenous myths with Afro-Latino roots while punctuating the problems of cultural appropriation done primarily for commercial benefit and profit that eludes the people who are directly attached or responsible for the original cultural expression. The film won best animated short honors at SXSW.

Nuevo Rico.

Remnant, directed by Lachlan McCllelan and JP Stanley, centers around a young woman who is spiraling down into extreme mental distress in her apartment but when she attempts to recover the pieces of her life, she realizes that she must confront the actualities of her past.

A tremendous clever, wry bit of satire from France, The Killer in Cursed Water, directed by Laurent Ardoint and Stephane Duprat is a very dark comedy piece built around classic horror tropes. At first, the film appears to set up a familiar horror setting as a couple set out to spend a romantic weekend at a lakeside cabin. But, is it real or a parody or something else?

Midnight Program 2 (Aug. 28, 10 p.m.)

This second program of Midnight offerings is just as off the wall as the first. From South Korea, 303: Endless Nights, directed by Geena Jung, offers a taste of a country’s cinematic aesthetic that eschews timid expressions or polite euphemisms. This is pure abstract cinema, which could be premised as a music video with mysterious, seemingly incongruent episodes featuring a young woman who is on a bizarre busline. There are many lurid scenes but the technique and quality are good in this experimental treatment.

Just as experimental in nature, A Machine for Boredom, directed by Marc Cartwright, sprung up as a pandemic lockdown project. Cartwright, who works as a photographer, was inspired by the lack of traffic during rush hour while billboards, which were not updated, still carried advertisements about products with life-changing experiences. In a lockdown, what was the purpose of validation?, a question the filmmaker asked. There is no cogent storyline per se as there is a string of images that allow the viewer to decide on their own what they believe the film’s narrative is trying to convey. If anything, the film directs the viewer to think about the emptiness of using consumerism to shape identity or to be seen as a desirable influencer.

Austria makes its first appearance at a Fear No Film program with the black-and-white Echtaar, directed by Dominic Kubisch, a genuinely bizarre tale set in a 1950s hair salon that seems legitimate until the new employee (Paula) is trying to figure out the meaning behind a jukebox sitting in the corner. The period setting for the film is exquisite in its detail.

Sweet Nothings.

Meanwhile, Sweet Nothings, directed by Christian Klein, is a great showcase for the filmmaker’s use of digital effects. Imagine dating apps in the not-so-distant future with quick response holograms but also meet the young man who is desperately seeking a match, only to befuddled by marketing bots promoting a well-known hamburger franchise chain. The animation and digital effects make this film succeed, as evidenced in the half dozen awards it has received for its production quality.  

Bloody good in all respects, The Saverini Widow, a French production directed by Loïc Gaillard, is set in the 1880s in a small town to the south of Corsica. The widow lives in a house along the cliffs isolated from the rest of the town but she works as a midwife. After her son is murdered in a town fight and the killer escapes to Sardinia, the widow seeks revenge, with her dog as her traveling companion. This film is not for the faint-hearted.

Narrative Program 1 (Aug. 27, 4 p.m.; Aug. 29, noon)

The availability of outstanding narrative short films is impressive, especially because they reflect an ingenious resourcefulness. Made on a budget of just $500 in the midst of the pandemic lockdown, 8 ¾, directed by Shawn M. Cheatham, features a boy, who is obsessed with the films of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, and helps his grief-stricken grandfather deal with a loss.

Death receives a different treatment with a lovely twist at the end of He Left Instructions, directed by Zeke Farrow. For those who are considering cremation, this film offers a delightful quirky suggestion.

8 3/4

In the last several years, Iranian short films have been regularly featured on the Fear No Film slate. Many of them come from filmmakers who challenge the Islamic Republic and have sought out channels that put their work on the radar of festival programmers in the West. Head Count,   directed by Nasser Sajjadi Hosseini, highlights the impacts of a legal system constructed upon the unconditionally strict Islamic moral code. This film centers on a young couple who are living in Tehran in the hopes of realizing their artistic dreams. But, they presented themselves as a married couple in order to rent space from a landlord. Now, a census enumerator working in the neighborhood asks to verify their state. The unrelenting dogma under which they must abide by strains their capacities to follow the path of their vision and hopes.

The shortest film ever presented in Fear No Film, at just four seconds, is Life, with a still frame as a stark message about the quickness of our existence. The film won honors at this year’s Slamdance. The director, Mohammad Mohammadian, included the following message in the submission: “I am an independent filmmaker in the Islamic dictatorship of Iran. Making a film in my country is like walking in hell.  Even if I die I don’t censor my films. Please support me.”

Miniature Chess, directed by Phil Cheney, offers an unusual counterpoint of emotions. Locked in a dungeon, prisoners find the opportune moments to play chess with a tiny chess set, that travelers might use. The pieces are so small that they can be easily lost.

Rimi.

India is among the newest countries to be represented at Fear No Film and Rimi, directed by Nischhal Sharma, is an outstanding entry. A clear statement about patriarchy and its control on a woman’s status, the film centers on a housewife Rimi, whose efforts are taken for granted by her family. As she feels that her duties have lost all relevant purpose, she contemplates leaving it behind when she meets her daughter’s friend, a stunning young woman who is the only person that even acknowledges Rimi’s presence. For the first moment in a long time, Rimi is rejuvenated by the attention she receives from an outsider who has come to her home. 

Narrative Program 2 (Aug. 28, 8 p.m.; Aug. 29, 6 p.m.)

Iraq also is a new country being represented at Fear No Film. In A Piece of Land, directed by Ranja Ali, Ahmed is a Syrian refugee living in Iraq but conditions have hardly improved for the young man. Facing discrimination, he sees his basic rights ignored, and the misery he experiences is barely indistinguishable from the civil war he had fled.

Avery, by Christine Wood, is a fascinating short with a narrative about the masculine gaze, presented in an invigorating perspective. Avery is so absorbed by an actor’s performance in a live stage production that she returns to see the play several times. But, Avery’s obsession is not romantically inspired. Instead, she imagines what it would be like to occupy the space of the masculine character that has drawn her to the experience. Avery steps into her own gaze – an act of joyful liberation. Wood, in a director’s statement, wrote, “I wanted to play with where these lines of femininity and masculinity disappear into each other. To find the space where the binary is no longer relevant and the true self emerges. And, hopefully, to emerge on the other side with a more nuanced idea of masculinity, power and representation.”

Avery.

Flip The Switch, directed by Gretl Claggett, is a smart, entertaining film about door-to-door salespeople, emphasizing the point that this practice has hung on stubbornly even in the day of the digital gig economy. As Claggett explained in her director’s statement, many people are aware of ambulance chasers, but when contractors send out salespeople in territories that have experienced severe weather in order to convince homeowners to buy their products, they are “storm chasers.” Hence, Bonnie Blue, trying to make ends meet, goes door to door, with a giant ball of hail as a prop, hoping to “flip the switch,” a phrase her boss proclaims, and land a sale. The film’s production quality is smashingly good and Claggett leverages all of the symbolic possibilities with the storm metaphor. It is a dark comedy with a good handle on satire and Blue emerges as a classic example of the anti-heroine.

Happy Birthday, directed by Cory Hardin, is an autobiographical reflection inspired by the isolation of the pandemic lockdown. Marking his 31st birthday, Hardin contemplates the professional and personal changes in his life as he pivots to the opportunity to live his authentic self.

From Lithuania, It’s Alright, directed by Jorūnė Greičiūtė, is a miniature masterpiece of understated humor. The subtitles, of course, are much appreciated but the nonverbal communication of the actors is sufficient to amplify this marvelous situation. The story is simple: two socially awkward people of middle age are on a date, having a waterside picnic but there are plenty of interferences and small incidents add to each person’s hesitations and tension. Just listen for the numerous utterances of “It’s alright.”

It’s Alright.

A Canadian entry, It’s Desmond (Your Misguided Tour Guide), directed by Daniela Di Salvo, has an entertaining, heartwarming yet awkward premise. Desmond Ngai started an Instagram account four years ago with the handle @travelcomedian, which has more than 65,000 followers, featuring images that she describes as “innocent and almost child-like simplicity.”  Desmond might not be the best tour guide but he has genuine joy about traveling to the Canadian side of Niagra Falls.

With a story told in less than seven minutes, Nisciuno (Nobody), an Italian short directed by Alessandro Riccardi, sets up a brief but momentous encounter between Rosaria, who has never found success as an actor, and Michele, a well-known producer, in his car. The reunion seems to be progressing smoothly, even as the man barely remembers Rosaria who once auditioned for him. But, Rosaria also has deliberately sought him out to resolve a situation that occurred more than 20 years before.

Utah Made Program (Aug. 27, 6 p.m.; Aug. 28, 4 pm.)

April in Her Mind, directed byWillow Skye-Biggs and made on a $150 budget, is a fine example of resourceful filmmaking. Dealing with many complex emotions, young transgender woman who has a metalworking job gradually discovers that her girlfriend shares a telepathic bond with her.

By His Hand, directed by Taylor Paur, is a worthy thriller pitting a religious cult’s leader against a young man who realizes just how much his elder has abused his power through coercion. Featuring all-Utah talent and production crew, the film is indicative of the core strengths that have made the state an appealing destination for industry professionals.

April in Her Mind.

Student filmmaking also is well represented in this slate. Checkout, directed by Will Stamp, a film student at Salt Lake Community College, is a hilarious bit of physical comedy. Shot with just a $100 budget, the film features Stamp as a young man trying to win the heart of the supermarket cashier and it ends up being a disaster of slapstick proportions.

Cheers, directed by Yein Ji, generates an ample amount of dramatic tension within a few minutes, as a couple who once enjoyed drinking wine find alcohol becoming a more insidious element in their deteriorating relationship. But, the couple is unaware of how their troubles ultimately could affect the one thing that still matters in their relationship: their daughter.

Subscribe.

Keepsake, directed by Spy Hop Productions’ alumnus Mikkel Richardson, is a thoroughly loving piece about memories, basketball and family. The film’s quality is testament to how one of the nation’s finest youth media organizations helped prepare its students to become talented filmmakers.  Keepsake is a labor of love that has been two years in the making—love for my family, my community, and this powerful medium that I am honored to be a part of. My philosophy has always been that if we told this story with earnestness and care, quality would follow naturally. Luckily, members of my community shared this vision. We were overwhelmed with the support of some of Utah’s most talented and capable cast and crew. In the chaos of life, I have found some respite in this film. I now invite you to share that same peace.

Reverie, directed by Claire Wiley, features artist and outdoor recreation enthusiast Bridgette Meinhold who lives and works in the Wasatch Mountains region, and is inspired to pain the peaks and the groves of aspen trees. The film is set on a cold morning one March, when Meinhold decides to create a labyrinth in the snow. This film also has screened at festivals in New Zealand and Toronto.

Reverie.

The ideal audience pleaser, Subscribe, directed by Benji Allred and Merik Richardson with a script by Dan Hales and Stewart Tribe, mixes horror and comedy brilliantly. As any YouTube viewer knows, countless videos open with the producer urging those watching to like, subscribe and comment on the video and often veer off on an unrelated tangent before getting to the gist of the video as indicated by the title. Alas, a young woman trying to escape a killer and decides to Google search for a video on learning how to load a gun she has found in the car. Will she make it? Wait for the delicious twist.

Utah made short film programs in past Fear No Film events have almost always included an animation short from Brigham Young University’s award-winning program. This year’s entry from the university is a live-action short and, as expected, features superb production quality. The Moon and The Hummingbird, directed by Luis Puente, is an outstanding allegorical narrative highlighting the tensions of immigration as seen from those who migrate. It is not political but it emphasizes what is at stake personally, as immigrants wonder if they can truly let go and move on and perhaps deciding if staying with loved ones is more important than their destination of migration. It is worth noting that once again the cinematography in a solid Utah made film project is courtesy of Oscar Ignacio Jiménez, one of the state’s most sought after directors of photography for film (e.g., The Killing of Two Lovers).

The Moon and The Hummingbird.

KIDS (Aug. 27, 2 p.m.; Aug. 29, 4 p.m.)

From Spain, Courageous Mice, directed by Sara and Miriam Garcia, who are filmmakers in their early twenties, is art as life, where the mice learn to overcome obstacles, paralleling the directors’ own experiences in bringing their project to fruition.

Everything Is Going to Be Alright, directed by Canadian filmmaker Brett Jubinville, is a smart animated piece featuring a song about how to handle emotions such as anger, fear, shyness and sadness.  

From Qatar, also a new country being represented at Fear No Film, Hope, directed by Abdulla Al-Janahi, is about a newborn sea turtle named Aqua, who encounters humanmade pollution and marine predators but manages to overcome each obstacle, which helps him strengthen his character.  

Hope.

Maggie May, An Environmental Story, directed by Donna Guthrie, is a great four-minute lesson with music about the values of recycling and reusing products that we might not have needed to purchase in the first place (think styrofoam, tissue and impulse buying).

The Italian short, Oltre I Giganti, directed by Marco Renda, is a variant on the Don Quixote story, featuring a man stuck in the past who encounters a boy who helps him understand the wonders of giant windmills.

Ramón.

The German animated series of Patchwork cartoons, all of the same length and directed by Angela Steffen, offer up accessible, charming lessons for young viewers. The cartoons about Butterfly, Snake and Tiger follow a consistent format.

From Mexico, Natalia Bernal’s Ramón is a unique addition to the usual kids’ short film programming. The main subject is an 8-year old Mexican kid, who practices diligently to become a kickboxer as he prepares for his first experience in a championship bout.

Leave a Reply