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AFI Festival Update

Shorts Programs

I was really taken by the quality of the Lunchfilms set of shorts which did a pretty impressive job despite the constraint of the filmmakers having to use an extremely limited budget. Mike Plante is the mind behind Lunchfilm, a project based on the idea of buying filmmakers lunch and having them pay back the favor by making a movie. The catch is they have to do it for under the price of what it cost to buy their meal. Most were at the very least intriguing to watch, and many were wonderfully amusing and inspired. Some of the highlights for me included:

Friends– A simply done statement about friendship, success, scissors, and angry metaphors.

Goldthwait Family Home Movies (Anniversary Edition)– Done as a “totally genuine” DVD commentary track where they talk about the good old days when child actors were disposable and how their work inspired such greats as Kubrick and Yates. Filled with clever dead-pan humor. Easily my favorite of the set.

Weird Carolers– A creepy stop animation about Deaf Beethoven being the world’s worst neighbor.

However, this year’s shorts program films were less impressive than 2008’s. While other years have at least left me with a favorite or two, this time around just left me feeling kind of blah. The program struck me as not exceptionally classy, sprinkled with gems like a tale about fucking a retarded girl in a playground, toy soldiers humping barn animals, incest, and what seemed to be some sort of electrically powered dildo machine. The order of the films was also particularly unfortunate, for instance leading the irreverent signature comedy of Don Hertzfelt and his animated short I’m So Proud of You about crippled boys in snow coats, more stuff about the meaning of life, dementia, and serial train accidents with Short Term 12, a film about life at a facility for at-risk teens that are victims of abuse.

Losing the past years’ venue at Arclight and their squad of walkie-talkied quality police came at a price. Both shorts screenings suffered from technical difficulties which made some movies near unwatchable, and caused one film, The History of Aviation, to not even be able to be screened at all. A few Q&A sessions during the festival suffered from sound problems as well. During a film about the Tin Man posing with tourists in a field of poppies the strident sound of an electronic can opener tore through the theater speakers at decibels so high and piercing that people in the audience were throwing their hands up to cover their ears and shrieking. Despite this, AFI Fest itself and the atmosphere at Mann’s theater was great, yet again proving to be on be of the best film festivals of the year.

While AFI Fest is nearing its end, there still are a few more chances to catch a film before it’s over, so don’t miss out. For those who like stop-animation, I recommend seeing A Town Called Panic by Aarmand Studios, the same people who brought you Wallace and Grommet which is Playing on Sat. the 7th in Santa Monica.

Even with AFI Fest coming to a close, filmgoers can look forward to seeing many of the bigger films of the festival to be hitting the theaters soon. The season is shaping up to have some fantastic winners, so keep an eye out!

–Laura Gaddy

A Town Called Panic