A collection of good short films can be a cinematic jewel box, but viewers rarely have a chance to see shorts on the big screen outside of film-festival settings. Helping to remedy that situation is a touring program that celebrates the short film as a vital form of moviemaking and presents some superior examples of it.
The Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour contains six short films that have received awards at Sundance — a major showcase for shorts and emerging directorial talent. It opens today at the Roxie Theater, in San Francisco, and next Friday at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, in San Rafael.
Short films were regularly on the bill at the old picture shows. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and other giants of early cinema appeared in numerous shorts, and familiar characters starred in cartoons. Today, shorts also continue to serve as starting points for future directorial stars. Christopher Nolan, Tim Burton, Martin Scorsese, Sofia Coppola, George Lucas and Wes Anderson began their careers with the form.
The 83-minute Sundance show is an international lineup of animated, documentary and dramatic shorts ranging from 7 to 22 minutes.
A highlight is “World of Tomorrow” (U.S.A.), which received the Short Film Jury Award (best of fest). Directed by influential, multi-award-winning animator Don Hertzfeldt, and featuring his trademark, deceptively simple-looking stick figures, the film journeys into the future with a little girl and a declining clone. Themes include innocence, memory, the human race and the inevitability of death. Many critics have declared the film, despite its 17-minute running time, the best animated film of 2015.
Also on the bill is “SMILF” (USA; Short Film Jury Prize: U.S. Fiction), director Frankie Shaw’s tale of a young mother who, missing the freedom she once enjoyed and dealing with body-image issues, invites an old flame to her house.
In Atsuko Hirayanagi’s “Oh Lucy!” (Japan/Singapore/U.S.A.; international fiction), a 55-year-old Tokyo “office lady” experiences new desires after her English teacher gives her a blond wig.
In Kitty Green’s “The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul” (Russia and Ukraine; nonfiction), pink-clad girls from across Ukraine audition for the role of Olympic figure-skating champion Baiul, whose tears of triumph once helped unite their troubled nation.
Paul Cabon’s “Storm Hits Jacket” (France; animation) comically looks at the madness of nature as two young scientists become mired in a tangle of espionage and a menage a trois
“Object” (Poland; poetic vision), directed by Paulina Skibinski, presents an underwater search from multiple perspectives.
IF YOU GO
Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., S.F.
When: Jan. 1-5
Tickets: $8 to $12
Contact: (415) 863-1087, www.roxie.com
Note: The tour opens Jan. 8 at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael