The shorts are often the most rewarding watches, and this year's festival is packed with 120 of them. While you probably shouldn't choose a program based on a review of just one film in that block, I nevertheless present some brief critiques – from worst to best – of the shorts I've seen.
In Haze (★☆☆☆☆, part of Shorts Program #4), a young man tries to find out what really happened during a one-night stand. When he discovers the truth, it sure would be nice if he’d fill us in, because without that information, this technically well-made drama seems pointless, except to posit a vague idea about the perception of date rape.
Smut (★★☆☆☆, part of Shorts Program #1), a quirky coming-of-age tale, has its comedic sensibilities in the right place but seems a tad too familiar and rough around the edges to make much of an impact.
A North Korean general is torn between his obedience to his country’s oppressive regime and his daughter’s desire to attend music school in the United States in The Loyalist (★★★☆☆, part of Shorts Program #3), an emotionally charged, politically tinged melodrama.
At 23 minutes, the documentary Unmappable (★★★★☆, part of the 8X Very, Very Real Doc Shorts Showcase) feels too short, but, through stylistic glimpses into both the actions and psyche of its unique subject, it nevertheless paints a memorable portrait of Denis Wood, who, for good and bad, doesn’t see the world the way most of us do. Raised by an anarchist father and believing that “laws are horrible things, by and large,” Wood doesn’t draw inside the lines. That applies both to his maps, which blur the distinction between cartography and art, and his personal indiscretions, which led to his incarceration for having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
A uniquely touching drama about the role animals play in psychotherapy, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s Rabbit (★★★★☆, part of Shorts Program #3) also serves as a darkly smart commentary on the similarities between animal and human captivity. It’s one of the must-sees of the festival.