Updated: Aug 15, 2021
A few months after the Sundance Film Festival was held virtually this year, I was able to catch up on seven of the short films screened there. Cincinnati World Cinema is currently offering ten in-theatre screenings of the tour on two weekends-July 9,10,11, and 16,17,18. For those who wish to know more, and people in the Cincinnati area, you will find trailers, show dates and times, details, director bios and interviews at https://bit.ly/CWC_SundanceShorts21. This was certainly a special opportunity since the The 2021 Sundance Film Festival Short Films Tour is unavailable on any streaming service, only attainable through screenings at select theaters around the world. In the seven-film-compilation I was lucky enough to see, the respective directors had a wide range of ethnic and racial backgrounds, from New Yorker white directors to Canadian black directors to Asian directors from Hong Kong and Korea, and finally a director/film from Turkey. The films I got to experience came from perspectives all around the world, from a diverse range of filmmakers. Yet, there’s something both so personal and universal that came from every single one. Here are some of my favorites.
If you sat down and had a conversation about film with me, after a little while I would almost certainly mention the likes of Don Hertzfeldt, Hayao Miyazaki, Rene Laloux, Wes Anderson, and John Lasseter. Basically, I love animation. I think stories animated in the most exuberant and creative ways can create an immersion into film like no other. KKUM, directed by Kang-min Kim of South Korea, is no exception. KKUM (which translates to “dream” in English from Korean) follows Kang-min’s life, as it is shaped both literally and sincerely through his own mother’s dreams. Besides the surreal narrative, arguably the most compelling factor of KKUM is its art style. Nearly everything in the film(besides a real world photo) is made of styrofoam. However, the restrictive and minimalist aesthetic takes nothing away from the film. In fact, I think the film greatly benefits from it. Noticing a wire through a styrofoam worm, a small tear in one of the styrofoam pieces. Observations like these made me actually feel more connected to Kang-min and his story, since it felt like a movie that he himself created right in his bedroom. It all has a very DIY feel to it, and I love that. My fellow writer Khayle Flores, in his article (https://www.buffedfilmbuffs.com/post/sundance-2021-best-of-the-short-films) shares similar views on this short and plenty others. Be sure to check it out.
This flick is comedic, uncomfortable, satirical, emotional, and powerful, all in just ten minutes. Centered around a biracial bride named Bella, this short takes place at her lavish wedding in the South, with Bella and the band members being the only dark-skinned attendees. When it’s revealed that the bassist for the band is her alienated and estranged father, tensions increase. As the white wedding planners attempt to distract the white guests from the awkward situation, Bella eventually works up the courage to strike up a truce with her dad in a father-daughter dance, only after calling him out for his absence in her life. As the dance occurs, the entirely white guest list looks upon the reunion, both fascinated and confused. This was one of my favorites due to the mix of satire and emotion, as well as the symbolism and how much this movie subtly says about racial gaps in society. As the wedding is extremely exorbitant, it can be assumed that the planners and guests are both upper class. They have no understanding of why a father might leave her daughter for fear of financial instability. When all the white wedding planners try to distract the other white audience members from a heated event occurring, this could be interpreted as white politicians and people in general trying to distract each other from problems among other races and lower-income-classes. It’s interesting trying to fit the scope of social and racial bias in just a ten minute film, but White Wedding pulls it off fantastically well.
To Know Her
My favorite film of this compilation was also the most intimately personal of the bunch. To know her follows the emotional turmoil that director Natalie Chao goes through following her mother’s death due to clinical depression. As Natalie was only 14 when her mother died, the documentary-style short is stocked full of nostalgia and preexisting film shot by her other family members, including her mother. There are no subtitles to translate Chinese to English, just subtitles to poetically show Natalie’s internal monologue, narrating the story, and more importantly, her emotions when making the movie and dealing with grief. The majority of the movie’s dialogue is an interview between Natalie, her father, and her sister, to show the perspectives of each family member and how death has changed them and the way they’ve thought about life. The movie is more of a tribute than anything else. There is no narrative, just emotions and brief scenes of nostalgia: a wedding, a car trip, a walk on the beach. It’s a very moving and deeply universal film. To Know Her is a prime example of how film can connect people in incredibly meaningful and sometimes indescribable ways, as well as capture memories never wanted to be forgotten.
Those are just some of my favorites of the Tour. The other movies: BJ’s Mobile Gift Shop (dir. Jason Park), Black Bodies (dir. Kelly Fyffe Marshall), Wiggle Room (dir. Sam Guest and Julia Baylis) and The Criminals (dir. Serhat Karaaslan) are fantastic as well. If you wish to see all of these in theaters, I encourage you to check out local theaters such as Cincinnati World Cinema screening The 2021 Sundance Film Festival Short Films Tour. (Remember, it’s only available in theaters this year!).