Short circuit

While Dallas' hopeful status as the "third coast" has turned out to be a pretty disappointing joke (witness the ghost town that is the Las Colinas studios, and no, Oliver Stone cannot single-handedly turn the metroplex into Hollywood Jr.) this town still boasts its share of aspiring filmmakers--people who have put off moving to New York and Los Angeles but realize their careers may not start until they do. This Thursday, however, they have another shot at recognition right here in Dallas, when an excellent little film festival blows through town and calls for entries for next year's traveling showcase.

The Shorts International Film Festival--spawned in New York and juried by such notables as Steve Buscemi, Liev Schreiber, and Mia Farrow--is in its second year and soliciting films for its third. A screening of last year's winners takes place at Loews City Place on April 29. A glance at the roster indicates these jurors know their stuff; they culled 62 films from more than 1,000 entries representing 32 countries. The screening of the six winning films is part of a six-city tour, and it's some of the most fascinating and surprising fodder you can see in a single sitting. It's also a great way for local filmmakers interested in entering the competition to get an idea of the sheer talent and ingenuity they're up against. An idea of running times: 1998's winners range from less than one minute up to the 40-minute limit.

Some of these films have, deservedly, stirred up their fair share of industry hype. You may recognize their titles: Everybody's Pregnant, a belly-laugh animated musical short about the trials and scams of fertility clinics; Noel au Balcon, a super-'70s-styled Dutch comedy-drama about a family's decomposing holiday dinner; Seventeen Seconds to Sophie, a time-lapse experimental film that, well, you'll just have to see to appreciate.

Human Remains, a truly unsettling documentary about the banality of evil, profiles the compulsions and daily routines of history's most malignant dictators: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, and Mao Tse Tung. By laying dry and self-defining narrative over super-grainy black-and-white footage of these bad guys going about their personal lives, you how see their tweaked and obtuse personalities made them capable of such mass destruction. These were very small men with fragile egos and funky neuroses--penchants for manicures and enemas and Hollywood stars, bloodbaths on routine hunting trips, possessiveness toward women and children, temper tantrums. Though you may have guessed, it's 10 times more immediate and revealing when it's laid out for you on film, slowly and deliberately.

So, all you fervently indigenous Dallas filmmakers: catch the films, get inspired, and pick up an application for entry to the 1999 Shorts International. Applications can also be accessed through the festival's Web site, www.shorts.org. Deadline for entries is September 13, and the festival itself takes place in Manhattan in November.

--Christina Rees

Shorts International Film Festival 1998--Program of Winning Films and Call for 1999 Entries. Thursday April 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Loews City Place, 2600 North Haskell. Tickets are $6.

 
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