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SXSW 2012: The 5 best narrative shorts

Joshua Brunsting

March 29th, 2012

While  the features may be what draw people into a festival as deep and continually great as South By Southwest,  the shorts are often some of the best pieces of filmmaking that one can see while in the great city of Austin, TX. Usually overshadowed by the big premieres or indie surprises, the shorts are both absolutely gorgeous and can be some of the more enthralling films showing.  The festivals acclaimed programs are popular for a reason.

Looking at the five best live action narrative shorts from this year’s SXSW Film Festival, this should give you direction  when delving through this year’s short slate.  Come Oscar time, you may be hearing quite a bit from at least one of these films.

Hit the jump for a BEAR and a PITCH BLACK HEIST, among others.

5. FOXES (Lorcan Finnegan)

Shorts are best when they can convey a single emotion.  Be it joy, sorrow or in the case of FOXES, horror.  A horror short from Lorcan Finnegan, FOXES is utterly terrifying while also fitting perfectly within its stilted run time.  Are these people going crazy inside of their remote estate? Or are they truly being driven mad by malicious spirits? This short never truly wants to answer that question but what it does is scare its viewer, and succeeding in what it is setting out to do.  Simply put, it’s a fine little bit of horror.

4. PITCH BLACK HEIST (John Maclean)

No, not John McClain.  John Maclean brings us this tiny heist picture, following the story of two safe crackers who try to make a quick buck, only to have the lights turned off on them for their heist.  Featuring an inventive premise, gorgeous filmmaking, and a cast that includes a certain actor whose name rhymes with Massmember (see what I did there, SHAME fans), this is a breathtakingly original short whose style doesn’t outweigh its admittedly simplistic substance.  And the performances are truly to die for.  Oh, and the black and white filmmaking is a knockout.

3. THE BLACK BALLOON (Ben and Joshua Safdie)

From the pair behind the indie darling feature DADDY LONGLEGS, this short may be the most original short of the festival. Following the story of a balloon who is traveling through New York after being let go accidentally by its owner, the film is reminiscent of something like Ramin Bahrani’s PLASTIC BAG, but instead of a political message, the film has a distinctly intimate and personal message to get across.  Featuring some top notch filmmaking, and true emotional pertinence, the film may be a bit slight, but it’s also moving, well made, and upliftingly engaging.

2. THE CHAIR (Grainger David)

Again, the Jury Award winner clocks in at my number 2 slot, with THE CHAIR taking this list’s runner up position.  From David, a filmmaker I’m not too familiar with, the film’s biggest attribute is its cinematography.  Gorgeously shot, the film isn’t the most intellectually stimulating narrative, but what it does is prove that the short medium can be something more.  Something far more inventive and original than a feature in many ways.  The social commentary here is prevalent, but not overbearing, mixing message and medium perfectly.  However, it isn’t my number one, and for a  reason.

1. BEAR (Nash Edgerton)

It’s no secret: here at Gordon And The Whale, we love the Blue Tongue Films collective.  However, the Aussie group out did themselves here, with Edgerton’s follow up to his masterwork, SPIDER, BEAR.  Similarly looking into an event in the troubled life of Jack, the film is a funny look into a man’s attempt to win back his love, only to have everything go massively wrong.  It’s funny, dark, and kind of troubling in the end, but it’s also gorgeously shot, really well acted, and just oozing creativity.  Simply put, this may be the very best short film to hit in quite some time.

Stop back in on Friday for the final top 5, Documentary Shorts.

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