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Reviewed by Leah Churner, March 16, 2012, Screens

Documentary Shorts 2

Documentary Short Competition
D: Various

This program is a remarkable study of human needs. Our need to anthropomorphize, for instance – in Seth Keal's "CatCam," which won the Jury Award for best documentary short, a German-American overcomes his fear of feline intimacy by outfitting his tabby with a video-recording collar, then studying the cat's filmographic output. Josh Gibson's "Kudzu Vine" reflects on the moral virtues of a fast-growing miracle plant some Georgia farmers speak to, and Matt Lenski's "Meaning of Robots" introduces us to model-builder Mike Sullivan, whose life ambition is to shoot a stop-motion porn epic about Catherine the Great starring mechanical robots. "They don't need to fuck, but they do it compulsively," he explains, blowing dust off the rusting automatons in his overflowing Manhattan studio. Likewise, creative catharsis can be found styling hair in a Scotland prison, as in Finlay Pretsell and Adrian McDowall's "Cutting Loose," or, in the case of Dustin Guy Defa's "Family Nightmare," dragging skeletons out of the closet. Defa distilled 40 hours of VHS home movies into 10 very disturbing minutes, then dubbed the voices of his relatives with his own slightly off lip-sync. Nervous titters from the audience cease when the end titles reveal how and when the subjects died. "Family Nightmare" is a surreal masterpiece. (For a Q&A with Dustin Guy Defa, see

Friday, March 16, 2pm, Alamo Lamar

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