Movies can be imposing. Two hours of one’s ever-shortening life is a difficult trade, like signing away your firstborn for a pogo stick. There's an alternative in the form of television, but since the rise of streaming services, even television has been burdened with the implication of longform viewing. This leaves the short film to claim its rightful place in the public consciousness as a valued medium for emotional journeys, intellectual stimulation, or just some good ol’ escapism.
We're not the only one who thinks so. From June 6-10, Houston's Literal magazine will host the Literally Short Film Festival, which, as the name suggests, is a celebration of international short films. Those attending will not only be able to see films that aren’t shown anywhere else, according to the festival’s organizer, Lorís Simón Salum, but many of the filmmakers will be in attendance.
“I think people should be open to watching more films outside of what’s being done in Hollywood,” says Salum. “It’s mind-blowing to watch a film from South Africa, or Greece, or Armenia, and still relate to its story from the other side of the world.”
Thinking this sounds like a good time? Here’s a few of the festival’s selections that catch our eye.
The Simon’s Way
This understated Armenian comedy follows Simon, a man who wishes to visit his family on the other side of the Armenia/Turkey border. They’re less than a mile away, but because of the bad relations between the two countries, there is no easy way to cross the border. Which means Simon must travel almost 7,000 miles to visit the family he can wave to from his backyard. We've heard of traveling 7,000 miles to get away from family, but never the other way around.
You may remember Negative Space as one of the short films that lost to Kobe Bryant at this year’s Oscars. But who needs an Oscar when you can have the adoration of the Houston people? This film, brought to life by stop-motion animation, is a moody story about a boy who connects with his father through the technique of properly packing a suitcase.
If you’ve ever felt like a cog in a machine, a brick in a wall, or a word in a sentence that’s taking too long to make its point, Contractor 014352 might be the film for you. It’s the story of a man whose life has been plagued with insignificance and monotony. In a desperate attempt to connect with something on a meaningful level and recapture his individuality, the man reaches into his computer screen. Does he find what he’s looking for?
Another animated film, Sog is the eerie, oddball story about a group of humanoid creatures whose land is abruptly occupied by screaming fish. Understandably, the humanoid creatures don’t take kindly to this intrusion of creatures that are essentially living, breathing versions of the Big Mouth Billy Bass. From the trailer alone, it’s easy to appreciate the beautiful yet unsettling animation style, which, coupled with the abnormal premise, is sure to result in something impossible to look away from.
Ophelia, a mild-mannered Mexican woman, suspects her husband might be gay and tracks him down to El Oasis, a gay bar, where her suspicions are confirmed. Distraught and heartbroken by the discovery, she passes out and ends up in the unexpected care of a transgender sex worker. This is the kind of story that doesn’t seem to be afraid to focus intently on a character and unpack the raw, thorny and contradictory emotions that lie within. Unlikely alliances often have a revealing effect on both parties.
June 6–10. Tickets from $10. Various locations. More info and tickets at literallyshort.com.