Get short: 8 films in 107 minutes at the Virginia Film Festival

Moving a Tree Moving a Tree

If you think that 107 minutes seem too few to screen eight very different films, the Virginia Film Festival wants you to know that you’re wrong. With eight original, exciting, and even provocative short pieces by seven directors, the Shorts Program contains more movies in under two hours than most people see in a week. Here are some favorites:

Aysehan Julide Etem has a bone to pick with the American education system. In keeping with the Virginia Film Festival’s theme this year, Will Work for Words tackles both political and financial concerns. Hopefully it comes as something of a surprise to learn that American policies continuously make it more difficult for international students to remain in the nation during after finishing college. This is despite the fact that the net contribution of international students to the U.S. economy is $20,232,000,000. Since when does America turn away skill and enthusiasm, and how does the education system claim to do so in the name of helping the economy? This is the question Etem poses and attempts to answer, enlisting international students under withheld identities and using nothing but words to express their experience with the education system in the United States. With a 30% decline in the number of international students in America throughout the past decade, “Will Work for Words” comes as a crucial reminder of the nation’s status as one of immigrants and proposes that retaining and encouraging this identity will assist the economy and the education system as a whole. The next president should take note.

Everybody’s got baggage. Maybe it’s that ex from five years ago or the sibling whose shadow you never escaped, or perhaps it’s a series of boxes strapped to your back and containing the assembly-required components of a strange musical instrument. Well, that latter one is the burden Avery Lawrence’s protagonist in Arranging Suitcases carries on his trek across water, streets, and railroads, anyway. Only the film’s finale reveals this mysterious instrument as the man assembles it from the strange luggage set in order to finally put it to use. Physical burden takes a somewhat different shape in Lawrence’s “Moving a Tree”, in which a man chops a tree, carries it up a hill, and rebuilds a monument to the fallen tree. Avery’s video-based performance art pushes physical limits as its characters tackle their absurd tasks. Both pieces depict characters handling heavy loads and performing strange feats, a testament to Lawrence’s odd yet poignant filmmaking.

As far as odd goes, though, Russell Richards’s tale of a science experiment gone terribly awry might take the cake. The director’s Super-8 film starring a man-turned-fly parodies horror of the Atomic Age and its preoccupation with science and animals taking a turn for the terrifying. As the would-be scientist wildly attempts to solve the problem he’s gotten himself into, he finds himself facing one obstacle after another as spiders, monsters, and chainsaw-wielders enter the fray. Of course, these pale in comparison to his ultimate threat in Bride of the Fly–the wife who tries to swat him, resulting in his zany attempts to steer clear of her path. Honey, he simply shrunk himself.

The Virginia Film Festival takes a few wide-ranging short films and places them side-by-side on its final afternoon. Both narrative features and documentaries of differing tones and themes comprise the Shorts Program, a mini-festival in its own right. They may be brief, but the pieces presented offer something for everybody’s palette, and then some. Who says size matters?

Black Damp. Using the story of the ghost town that is now Centralia, Pennsylvania, the film explores the town’s story and the government’s role in disaster.

Meditation in Motion. Virginian clay and metal artist Rick Radman examines his own creative process.

Modern Old-Time Fiddling. Old-time fiddlers strive to find a voice in the age of the internet and blending musical styles.

Occupy America. Political beliefs aside, the shift marked by the Occupy movement deserves exploration and an understanding of its historical impact.

Sunday 11/4 Virginia Film Festival, Regal Downtown Mall, 4:15pm