There were a few short films screening during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival that drew my interest. What follows is a roundup of short narratives and documentaries playing Tribeca that I recommend.
Souls of Totality
Directed by Richard Raymond, the film stars Tatiana Maslany and Tom Cullen. The film centers around the Great American Solar Eclipse and examines the sacrifices that one makes during a relationship. There’s a power of love in this short. This is never more evident than when Lady 18 (Tatiana Maslany) is asked to stay behind to gather the next group of souls to move on without Guy 3 (Tom Cullen). Written by Kate Trefry and Ben Bolea, there’s enough of a concept in the material that could certainly be expanded on for a feature film.
The camera movement is on target. There’s a moment when Lady 18 reacts to a cassette tape on the wall. Between her reaction and the slow zoom, it makes for a powerful cinematic moment. There’s a sense of anxiety to Lady 18’s thinking that is well complemented by the Michael Dean Parsons’s percussion score playing up those moments.
What’s truly impressive about the film is that it was shot on the day of the solar eclipse and they didn’t miss their shot.
The first of a pair of films from Ireland, Earthy Encounters evokes the sense of adventure that one experienced from film’s such as Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Kyle (Fionn O’Shea) is working at a garden center where he’s discovered a plant that has some magical powers. His older brother, Charlie (Luke Haverstock) is in the hospital where he’s likely to be spending his final days. Kyle’s dad doesn’t like his ideas and as is the case of E.T., there’s a government agency chasing after the plant. Enter Alice (Jessica Barden) and the two of them work together to save Kyle’s brother as well as the plant.
Sam Johnson wrote and directed Earthy Encounters. There’s some real directing talent in this film, not to mention one of the best screenplays for a narrative short. Cinematographer Eben Bolter, a rising talent, used the Arri Alexa 65 camera, making Earthy Encounters the first short film to use such camera.
Earthy Encounters may be a short film but it has the heart of a feature. Whether it’s the score or the pacing, it’s as if one feels like they are watching a feature film.
The second of two films at Tribeca produced by Collie McCarthy, Time Traveller is a short film that follows a young child recreating a Delorean Time Machine. If someone were to read the premise of this film, they’d be inclined to think it’s a documentary. Truth be told, it’s another narrative short. Obsessed with Back to the Future, Martin McDonagh (Tom Doran) must complete construction of the time machine before his family is evicted from the site. While his dad, John Paul (Barry Ward), doesn’t see eye to eye, the two eventually form a bond and connect with finishing construction before eviction day arrives.
There’s no irony lost on the lead character having the same name as the director. Whether or not it was intentional is beside the point. Steve Kenny wrote and directed the short.
Surviving Theater 9
Tim McGrath wrote, directed and stars in Surviving Theater 9. The film, which runs 40 minutes is based on the experience of him and so many others who survived what was then the largest mass shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012. The event was surpassed by the Pulse shooting in Orlando and later the Las Vegas shooting in 2017.
This may be a narrative but it comes off like a docu-drama as the film is crafted around McGrath. It’s a must-watch film for sure and may even be helpful for other survivors of gun violence.
Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee’s half-hour documentary could easily have been longer. It tells the story of the Apollo 8 crew that was launched into orbit on December 21, 1968: Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders. Lovell, of course, was later portrayed by Tom Hanks in Apollo 13. Apollo 8 was only the second manned spaceflight when the trio left for the moon. The three set history by traveling beyond the low Earth orbit, seeing the whole entire planet, enter the moon’s gravity field, orbit the moon, see the far side of the moon, witness an Earthrise, escape the moon’s gravity field, and re-enter the Earth’s gravity field. Even though it was the second manned spaceflight to be launched, it was the first to be launched at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The following photo is among the most reproduced photos in the world and is the basis for the documentary. It was taken by Bill Anders during the mission.
Since 1968, only 24 astronauts have gotten the view that the Apollo 8 crew did. It may be nearly 50 years since the historic spaceflight but the trio is among a select few to be able to take in such a beautiful view with awe and grandeur.
The Shabbat experience at Wendy’s may be among the most unique in the world. As such, the mere idea makes for a fascinating documentary in its own right. It’s been going on for the better part of four to six years after Sharon and Michael Goodman started the tradition. It just kind of happened that way. Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin, of blessed memory, is among those that have taken part at the dinner before he passed away. He was once thought to have been the oldest practicing rabbi.
Even though they eat at Wendy’s, they still light candles, recite Kiddish, and eat challah. It’s up to Lou Silberman for calling in each week with regards to the table set up. For $4 a person, one can get a burger, fries, drink, and chicken nuggets.
Directed by Rachel Myers, the film is a family affair. Her mother, Abby, produces the film while her grandmother, Roberta Mahler, is the principal subject.
I Heart NY
The final short goes behind the history of one of the most iconic logos in all of the world. Directed by Andre Andreev, the almost 6-minute short’s principle subject is the designer of the logo, Milton Glaser. He designed it in the 1977 when William S. Doyle, Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Commerce, had hired Glaser to create the visualization of the tagline.