SXSW Shorts Round-Up Part Two – Narrative
The second of our round-ups of some of the short films screened as part of SXSW 2021.
directed by Molly Gillis
starring Eleanore Pienta, Sophie Amieva
This joyful, beautifully balanced film, originally made for Gillis’ thesis at NYU, marks the director out as one to watch. An American arrives at a French farming commune in an attempt to find herself. The lead performance by Pienta is graceful and endearing and the collage of English/French dialogue, sometimes subtitled sometimes not, is a neat way at getting across the notion of searching but perhaps not quite understanding what you’re uncovering.
directed by Miles Warren
starring J.D. Williams and Noble B Whitted
)Shot on 35mm this is a beautiful looking short about toxic masculinity, pointless violence and fatherhood. Darious is appalled when his dad gets into a fight at a bowling alley then more so after phone footage of the brawl is passed around amongst his friends. The repercussions of the incident, and we are perhaps to presume many more like it, trigger Darious to test his own masculinity. Though the film runs for just 10 mins it carries considerable clout due to a tight script by the director and first time screenwriter Ben Medina and an all around exceptional cast including a stand-out performance by newcomer Whitted.
The Mohel (
directed by Charles Wahl
starring Daniel Maslany, Kaelen Ohm
)A mohel is a Jew trained in the bris, the "covenant of circumcision”. When a couple find there is no local mohel they decide to call in an expert from outside the area. Though the poster riffs on the famous image of arrival in The Exorcist this is no horror show. This mohel is a wise-cracking old man with one eye on his expense account. This is an amiable comedy, certainly lighter in tone than the episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm which it loosely resembles, and despite the best efforts of a solid cast is perhaps just a little too gentle for its own good.
The Nipple Whisperer (
directed by Jan Van Dyck
starring Denis Lavant, Wendy Dresner
)An elliptical story told with the grammar of a fairy tale, Denis Lavant is Magic Sandy, a retired “nipple whisperer”, coaxed out of retirement at the request of his former muse Doris. Written and directed by Jan van Dyck and beautifully shot by Fiona Braillon, the film features an assured debut by Wendy Dresner opposite the always mesmerising Lavant. Pleasingly oblique.
Play It Safe (
directed by Mitch Kalisa
starring Jonathan Ajayi
)There’s a superbly nuanced performance by Ajayi at the heart of this short piece investigating racism and stereotyping. A black actor is urged to take the street thug role in a classmate’s play. His teacher and peers are oblivious to his misgivings until the turn of a card during an acting exercise explodes the issue. This debut short from Kalisa is a bold and uncomfortable watch.
Festival Website sxsw.com
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
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