This year’s compilation of short films from the Sundance Film Festival is an odd mix, with a little animation, a bit of documentary, and a whole lot of experimentation.
What is a surprise this year is that only two of the seven films in the touring collection — the documentary “Fast Horse” and the music-filled “The Minors” — were award winners in Park City. (Both received special jury prizes for directing.)
“The Minors,” directed by Robert Machoian is a gentle trifle, in which a grandpa (Bruce Graham) makes music with his young grandsons, until their attention spans get the better of them. “Fast Horse” is a visual stunner, as director Alexandra Lazarowich and her crew deploy GoPro cameras to show the breakneck pace of the Indian Relay, a horse race held in Alberta’s Blackfoot Confederacy during the Calgary Stampede.
The program starts with director Stefanie Abel Horowitz’s introspective “sometimes, i think about dying,” in which a depressed office worker, Fran (Katy Wright-Mead), gets an unexpected boost when a coworker, Robert (Jim Sarah), asks her out to a movie. The deliberately downbeat filmmaking fits the tentative nature of Fran’s emotional state.
“Suicide by Sunlight” isn’t as depressing as its title suggests. Director Nikyatu Jusu, co-writing with R. Shanea Williams, introduces a world where vampires exist — but black vampires rule, because their melanin allows them to venture out in daylight, unlike their white counterparts. That premise is more fascinating than the drama in the foreground, in which a vampire (Natalie Paul) fights for custody of her daughters.
The one animated entry, Aggie Pak Yee Lee’s “Muteum,” is a four-minute masterpiece. It uses minimalist design to depict schoolboys on a field trip to an art museum, and the happy havoc that comes when the chaperone turns around for a minute.
The oddest of the bunch is Christopher Good’s “Crude Oil,” in which Jenny (Andriene Byrne) discovers she has a superpower — not a particularly useful one — while also dealing with a toxic friendship. Good’s images, evoking comic book panels and YouTube mash-ups, are witty and totally of the moment.
Lastly, the Tunisian-made “Brotherhood” — the longest of the bunch, at 25 minutes — puts the audience into the middle of a family dispute, when a shepherd (Mohamed Grayaâ) reluctantly welcomes back his oldest son, who left to fight with the Islamic State in Syria and returns with a pregnant wife in a burqa. The politics are straight out of the headlines, but director Meryam Joobeur finds in her characters family tensions that are as old as time itself.
‘Sundance Short Film Tour’
Opened July 5 in select cities; opens Friday, September 20, at the Tower Theatre (Salt Lake City). Not rated, but probably PG-13 for some violence and language. Running time: 97 minutes.