Short circuit

Love Your Shorts returns to Sanford for 7th year

From The Orlando Weekly, February 8, 2017

“Pitter Patter Goes My Heart” is my pick for best film of this year’s festival.

In seven years, Sanford’s Love Your Shorts Film Festival has grown from a small-town dream into one of the most highly regarded movie events in the Orlando area. Indeed, only the Florida, Orlando and Global Peace film festivals draw significantly more than LYSFF’s roughly 2,400 attendees.

This year’s festival, scheduled for February 9-12, will feature 71 short films of 30 minutes or less (nine more than last year) from 12 countries, chosen from 325 submissions. After Thursday’s filmmaker workshops at the Greater Sanford Chamber of Commerce, and short movies from University of Central Florida students at the historic Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, the festival gets into full swing on Friday at the Wayne Densch with the first of nine film blocks. That initial block offers various genres, but the next seven cover one genre or theme each. They are “E for Everyone,” documentary, animation, comedy and sci-fi/horror on Saturday, and drama and “Florida Flavor” on Sunday. The festival finishes with the “Best of the Fest,” containing the top films from the previous blocks, as voted by attendees.

One winner from each block goes on to the “Best of the Fest.” Because the audience is partially comprised of filmmakers and others supporting a particular film, the voting is somewhat skewed and occasionally results in the highest-quality films not reaching the awards block. Nevertheless, the system gives the festival a friendly, interactive feel while allowing a panel of qualified judges to pick the overall best film.

The Orlando Weekly previewed a dozen films, and while quality is mixed (as at all such festivals), three stood out. Amerigo, an Italian-language production screening in Sunday’s “Florida Flavor” block, is especially impressive when you consider it was shot with limited resources in Central Florida.

Amerigo is a foreign film shot 99.9 percent in Central Florida,” says director Todd Thompson. “It is a true story about my grandfather. … Due to budget constraints, I couldn’t make the film in his hometown of Montelanico [Italy], as I had hoped, so we found locations in historic downtown Sanford and Clermont to recreate the Italian countryside. For the scenes that take place inside his home, we recreated the small apartment he grew up in on a warehouse stage near the Florida Mall from plans my mother drew up from memory. [But] I needed true Italians to pull this off, … so what I did was leverage my social network on Facebook and found an entire club of Italians in Orlando and Tampa who ended up booking the starring roles.”

Even better is the German-language Nelly, a beautifully filmed, dreamlike examination of what it means to go home. It plays on opening night while another German production, Pitter Patter Goes My Heart, screens in Sunday’s drama group. The latter, which gazes deeply into the heart of a romantic idealist and asks how far one should go for love, will likely be a contender for best film.

But the festival is not just about watching movies.

“We always offer an educational component,” says festival co-founder Gene Kruckemyer. “This year our Thursday ‘education day’ has three workshops for veteran and aspiring filmmakers that are focused on animation. And for the first time, we have a Saturday demonstration for middle and high school students interested in filmmaking, so they can experience what it’s like to be on a working film set with green screens, cameras and other equipment.”

“Amerigo”

Organizers have a history of picking local moviemakers to shoot fun, promotional films that introduce each block. This year they turned to LYSFF veterans TL Westgate and Dale Metz. (Westgate’s Shadows in the Dark plays the Florida Flavor block on Sunday.) The two co-directed several Star Trek-inspired shorts that include cameos by festival director Nelson Beverly and vice president Chris Wise, who play spoofy versions of Spock and Bones.

“As a local filmmaker, I love the Love Your Shorts Film Fest,” says Westgate. “An actor friend of mine [called it] a boutique festival – very aptly put. It’s intimate but still has the best of the bigger festivals: great parties and mixers, great networking, great people and a great location. If you’re local, you should attend just to absorb the atmosphere.”

A ticket to one block costs $8 (except the $2 “E for Everyone” group) while a festival pass is $55. For a schedule and list of films, visit www.loveyourshorts.com.

Copyright 2017 © Orlando Weekly

Correction: A previous version of this story reported that audience members voted on electronic devices passed out to them. Instead of passing out electronic voting devices, the festival now asks audience members to vote using their cell phones. If an audience member has the courage to shun the 21st century and not have a cell phone, volunteers are available to record votes the old-fashioned way: by asking which film you would like to win.

Opening-night blog

“Nelly”

The festival got off to a strong start (after a brief technical glitch) on Friday night with arguably the best opening-night block of films in its history. And the 1980s-themed party was suitably rad, right down to the retro Atari video games and the cardboard cutout of Ronald Reagan standing in the corner. (If only we could have the Gipper now, instead of our current president — and that’s coming from a liberal. But I digress.)

The audience selected the emotional, crowd-pleasing Birthday as their favorite. Directed by Chris King, it’s the brief story – told mostly in silent collage – of a wounded Marine returning from war.  It will now go on to compete with future block winners in Sunday night’s “best of the fest” group. My favorite was Nelly (see the main article above), an Austrian film directed by Chris Raiber, but it’s worth noting that all eight films, even the one I’m giving just 1 star to, were professionally made, with solid cinematography and sound.

The opening-night party had a 1980s theme.

My ranking of the opening-night films:

  1. Nelly, directed by Chris Raiber (4 stars on 0-5 scale)
  2. Sing for Your Supper, a dystopian period musical (yes, really) directed by Mu Sun (3 stars)
  3. METUBE 2 – August Sings Carmina Burana, an experimental musical directed by Daniel Moshel (3 stars)
  4. Hyper-Reality, a dystopian sci-fi directed by Keiichi Matsuda (3 stars)
  5. Illegal Move, an animated film directed by Sana Srinivasan and Kyle Lopez (3 stars)
  6. Domestic Policy, a social-commentary comedy directed by Alicia MacDonald (2 stars)
  7. Birthday, directed by Chris King (2 stars)
  8. Finless, a documentary directed by Gabriel Souza (1 star)

 

Epilogue: top 10 of the fest

Undertaking, directed by Kevin James O’Neill, was selected as the best overall film of the festival. However, because the festival relies heavily on audience voting, some of the most critically acclaimed films — particularly foreign-language films and those with disturbing or provocative subject matter — often get overlooked. Case in point: Most of my top 10 didn’t even make the “best of the fest” on Sunday night. But, hey, I don’t exactly have a monopoly on wisdom. But I do have some strong feelings about the following films:

  1. Pitter Patter Goes My Heart (5 stars)
  2. Nelly (4 stars)
  3. The Flesh of My Lovers (4 stars)
  4. Hound (3 stars)
  5. Sing for Your Supper (3 stars)
  6. Cleansing Hour (3 stars)
  7. Cotton Country (3 stars)
  8. METUBE 2 – August Sings Carmina Burana (3 stars)
  9. Rabbit Blood (3 stars)
  10. Again (3 stars)