It’s no secret movie studios usually wait until summer to release their biggest moneymakers, many of which are derivative sequels. Consider this summer's offerings, which include additions to the Pirates of the Caribbean, Mummy, Cars, Despicable Me, Transformers, and Spider-Man franchises, as well as something called The Emoji Movie.  The fourth annual Literally Short Film Festival stands in direct contrast to these bland box office juggernauts.

The festival, which will be held June 14-18, intends to bridge cultures and create one unified artistic voice. Each of the roughly 40 short films featured possesses an individualistic perspective, and, unlike movies being shown in theaters across America, they are not meant to just entertain.

Instead, audiences should expect to leave the screenings thinking and without the case of tinnitus that comes from two consecutive hours of Michael Bay’s obligatory explosions. The whole festival is an extension of Literala bilingual culture magazine that works to ensure "the broad cultural universe is not overshadowed by any single language, but is bathed in the light of a unified spirit."

While there are a variety of nations and cultures represented in these films, the subject matter goes way beyond geographic or ethnic borders, presenting a wide range of human experiences that highlight and celebrate both our differences and our unity. “These movies make you think more, have deeper conversations, and are more controversial," says Festival Director Lorís Simón Salum.  "A lot of them aren’t easy to watch.” 

The films are divided into four distinct categories: “Local & Fresh: Texas Short Films,” “Mexico Lindo y Querido: Mexican Short Films,” “German Showcase,” and “International Voices.” The larger focus on Mexican and German films is meant to place emphasis on the nationalities that had the greatest influence on Texan culture, while the “International Voices” series represents the numerous other cultures that shaped the Houston we all know and love today. In addition to the multiple screenings, filmmaker and animator Patrick Smith will be presenting a seminar on animation entitled “Animation - Not Just for Kids” on June 17, while acclaimed cinematographer Larry Mckee will present “Breaking Down a Scene Visually,” which will explore various lighting and camera techniques on June 18.

With the rise of television shows and films like American Gods and Beatriz at Dinner (already being hailed as the one of the first great post-Trump films), directors are beginning to glean inspiration from America’s frequently discussed diversity, and producers are beginning to realize that a large part of the public is genuinely interested in these stories. Simón Salum acknowledges rising tension between cultures in America but points out that “the United States’s identity includes so many cultures, and festivals like these are giving a voice to that.” 

Because these are short films, many will not be released in theaters or even online like traditional movies, which means these screenings may be the only chance viewers will have to experience them.

June 14–18. Tickets from $10. 5425 Renwick Dr. More info at literallyshort.com.

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