Long Stories Short
The Cinematexas International Short Film Festival
UT Student Competition
When hunted Louisiana swamp rats and shagging stuffed animals stretch their life-sized cuddliness across the big screen, how can we turn away? If the strength of a successful short film lies in the charm of the characters, then the menagerie of playful and perverted captivators in this year's Cinematexas UT Student Competition promise a robust new generation of filmmaking. This wide-eyed cinematic enthusiasm flouts categorization, but distinct groups of desperate lovers, destroyers, heretofore relatively undiscovered celebrities, and neurotic cases weave consistently in and out of these anthems to shortness and sweetness. See Elizabeth Skadden's "The Judys" for an investigative glimpse of Texans long ago teetering on the fringe of fame. Through archival footage and interviews with critics and surviving group members of a suburban Houston high school punk band once invited to open for the Talking Heads and the B-52's, Skadden explores in roughly seven minutes the satisfaction of being a well-kept secret over a household name. Ted Gesing's SXSW Jury Award-winner for best Documentary Short, "Nutria," does similarly by providing the requisite dead men walking for this circus of compelling characters. Relatively unheard of outside Louisiana, nutria are the transplanted Argentinean rodents whose unpopularity down South has made them part of a state campaign to add swamp things to four-star restaurant menus. If the protagonist of Daniel Del Favero's "And the Clowns Played Waltzing Matilda" had his way, he'd probably add clowns to a menu somewhere, too. But something tells us he may be too busy collecting X-rays of collapsed lungs and artifacts of ancient Mexican rituals to conquer his fear of the frighteningly wigged and red-nosed. There should be nothing to be scared of in Nicky Stoyanov's "Stuffed" except the hilariously uncomfortable tangling of childhood symbol and raw pornography. I've never seen a toy bear and a bunny rabbit switch positions with such agility and pumping enthusiasm. Watching them nibble each other's ears, losing themselves in animal lust to the rhythm of Stevie Wonder is cool on so many levels. Last, be sure to see Steve Collins' "Gretchen and the Night Danger" for a skilled execution of the bipedal unrequited adolescent lover. If you can top off your festivalgoing experience with an interpretive dance paying homage to the trials and tribulations of getting felt up for the first time, you've probably spent your festival money very, very well.
UT Student Competition films screen throughout the festival. Check the schedule or visit www.cinematexas.org for details.