HollyShorts Film Festival – Opening Days

This article originally appeared on The Film Experience

The 17th annual HollyShorts Film Festival is underway virtually and live in Los Angeles and will be running through Friday, October 1.  This festival features a wide array of talented filmmakers presenting their films under 40 minutes in length.

I covered the festival last year where Oscar-winning animated short If Anything Happens I Love You was among the festival premieres.  The opening days cover a number interesting short films, so let’s dive in…

5150 (d. Denzel Whitaker)
A controversial rapper/activist is detained on a 5150 psychological hold following an assault of a paparazzi photographer. 

Smartly shot and performed, but with a purposefully mixed message.  Angela E. Gibbs is the standout.  Jovan Adepo continues to impress while Whitaker shows passion behind the camera.

The Long Goodbye (d. Aneil Karia)
A family of immigrants prepare for a party, only to be interrupted by a group of English forces rounding them up.

Spectacular showcase of the full range of Riz Ahmed’s talents.  Not only showcasing his significant acting skills, but his rapping and lyrical poeticism.  The film concludes with a show-stopping uninterrupted fourth-wall-breaking verse from Ahmed.

Inferno (d. Katherine Chediak Putnam)
As a man encounters his childhood home that was destroyed by a fire, his memories of his past come back for him and his son.

Atmospheric horror lends itself to a brief response to inherited mental illness.  I’m always a sucker for horror that happens mostly in the daytime.  Well-acted and moody with a real downer of an ending.

A Period Piece (d. Shuchi Talati)
Couple has their first sexual encounter while the woman is on her period.  Tensions boil when the mess becomes too much

Subtle interplay on the desires of men and women and how much they are willing to put up with in order to get laid.  Wish it would have gone a bit deeper, but memorable in its blunt honesty

Black Prom (d. Nijla Mumin)
High schooler has her dreams of prom ruined by the pandemic and a harrowing police encounter

Plays on the layers of anxiety faced by Black teenagers at all times but added on further by the things the pandemic has taken away.  Much more optimistic that I was expecting.

Navel Gazers (d. Kimmy Gatewood)
In a world where everyone has a curve in their back, a woman finds a chiropractic text book and yearns to see the world without staring into a device.

Clearly a statement on over-reliance on technology, but also a statement on constantly moving forward without remembering the past.  An intriguing premise beautifully shot with Gatewood taking on the starring role as well as directing.

She’s Too Fat (d. Matthew Sidney Long and Katheryne KTEE Thomas)
An actress struggles to get work for being too big for starring roles and too small for plus-sized ones

Showcases the broad comedic talents of Dellany Towne Peace, but fails to register anything deeper than surface level.

Trouble (d. Naledi Jackson)
Musician fills in at a plantation wedding and his stay in his “quarters” gets a little too personal.

These horror shorts have to set the mood quickly and doesn’t give the premise time to breathe.  Well-conceived, but could have used a bit of expansion.

Gabriela (d. Natalia Kaniasty)
A young cleaning woman at a strip club interacts with the dancers and dreams about a more exotic life

My favorite of the festival thus far.  Shows the levels of comfort people are willing to go to in order to provide for the people they care about.  Has a respect for dancers without patronizing.  Exceptional performance from Robyn Bhario in her first ever film credit.

I’ll be back later in the week with more from the festival!

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