Great things do come in small packages! Every year Twin Cities Film Fest screens a plethora of great short films, grouped together in a themed shorts block. Today, we have some of the film reviews from the Land of 10,000 Stories shorts block, and one documentary short Even the Walls that is part of this year’s social cause of homelessness. Thanks Sarah J. for these reviews!
These are all part of the
Land Of 10,000 Stories Shorts Block
After watching The Detectives of Noir Town and remarking how some things are just funny when puppets are involved, I decided I was sensing a theme for this year’s Twin Cities Film Fest. Between Friends, the short film created by members of the St. Cloud State University community and written and directed by John Scott, the executive director of the St. Cloud Film Fest, was shot entirely in Minnesota. As if to prove their connection to the north star state, the film’s stars are Linda Gustafson (Ida), Gunther Gullickson (Edwin) and Darlene Johnson (Rose). I am not making this up.
Gustafson and Johnson star as two elderly tenants of a run down apartment building constantly harassed by their landlord. “He is such a bully!” one of them exclaims early in the 11 minute movie. Will they take matter into their own hands? Watching two old ladies hatching a plot to kill will bring a smile to your face, whether you live in Minnesota or not. “Oh, think of the mess…” says one of them when they consider getting a gun. “Hmm, and I’ve seen enough ‘Matlock’ to know they can trace poison…” Like The Detectives of Noir Town, there is just something humorous and endearing when it comes out of the mouths of women with ‘Fargo’ accents that could be your grandmother.
The Whitefish Yacht Club
Yes, it’s silly. But it should play well in Minnesota – what would you do if you found a severed foot on your boat? “The Whitefish Yacht Club,” a new short film directed by John Gigrich, stars Alyssa Rae (Kelly Whitefish) and Carley Johnson (Britney Whitefish) as the Whitefish sisters, Bryan Porter (the aptly named Derik Plem – you’ll find out why during the show) as the hapless dock boy and Sondra Glynn (Ella Beauguns) as the friend with a plan.
Although the script can be overly dramatic (at one point, a wide eyed Britney turns to Kelly and remarks that “If any of our enemies find out about this they will surely destroy us all!”) it’s clear the actors had fun making this six-minute ode to one of Minnesota’s favorite pastimes. I did chuckle at a couple of the references – about half way through Derik shouts, “You go get us some Guggenheim scissors!” What the heck are Guggenheim scissors? But maybe a more important question is, does it matter? If the actors and creator set out to take the audience on a quick trip through a zany story they succeeded.
Who gets a personal letter from someone overseas? Yeah, me neither. “Snail Mail,” the delightful, albeit, very short film from Director/Writer Josh Mruz, highlights one guy’s wait for a letter from a girl he met on a train.
The few scenes are well done – in one, Jordan (Nathan Tymoshuk), fills up his garbage can with paper trying to find the perfect words to respond to a letter from England. In another, junk mail flies as he searches for that one piece of real mail. Twin Cities audiences will also appreciate the panoramas of the metro area as he waits for a reply.
First things first – Ostara is the Wiccan spring equinox celebration. It’s a fitting title for the new short film by Director/Writer Katherine Gorringe, a St. Paul native and recent graduate of Stanford University’s documentary film MFA program. In “Ostara,” we meet Jan, who is having a rebirth of sorts as she is released from prison after 20 years and strives to reconnect with her adult daughter. She also struggles with carrying on her spiritual traditions after being separated from fellow Wiccans – “The first thing we did coming together was asking for positive energy and grabbed hands. It gave me strength,” she shares.
This 11-minute film works because it provides us with just a glimpse into her life at a moment in time, while being sprinkled with facts to help you understand her background. (Jan was in prison after killing her abusive partner and states that 98% of the women in jail with her were molested, raped or in domestic violence situations.) It ends with you wanting to check in with her in a year or so and find out how it is going, which is always a good sign for a moviegoer.
Even The Walls
What makes a neighborhood? Even the Walls, a short documentary written and directed by Sarah Kuck and Saman Maydani, features residents of Yesler Terrace, a public housing neighborhood in Seattle, as its residents grapple with the oncoming forces of gentrification. With a bevy of financial resources flowing into this Pacific Northwest city, the area is in the eye of the bulldozer to become a mixed income development with 5,000 residences, a million square feet of technical and medical space and 16 acres of open space.
The filmmakers do a good job in taking a global issue and making it local – throughout the film you meet residents who have lived at Yesler Terrace for more than 50 years. They explore the idea of recognizing what a community creates even if it has no market value. At 27 minutes, it’s somewhat longer than other short films at the Twin Cities Film Fest, but shorter than a feature film. There were points where residents were shown doing mundane tasks that caused the story to drag. (In one scene, filmmakers show someone brushing their hair for what felt like an eternity. Yes, people brush their hair at their house…I get it.)
Before the world premiere in Seattle earlier this year, Kuck said, “Many people feel gentrification is for the best, and have a difficult time connecting emotionally with why being financially forced to move would be difficult. We see this film as a tool for building empathy.” In that, they have succeeded.
Here’s what’s coming up next on TCFF!
What do you think about either one of these short films?