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Aspen Shortsfest announces 2021 program

Virtual Oscar-qualifying festival includes 80 short films

IF YOU WATCH …

What: Aspen Shortsfest

When: April 6-11

Where: aspenfilm.org

How much: $60/Five Program Pass; $150/Full Virtual Pass; $250/VIP Pass

Tickets: Festival passes on-sale now at aspenfilm.org; individual tickets on-sale March 22.

Aspen Film announced the program for its 30th annual Aspen Shortsfest on Monday. All-virtual for the second year in a row due to the novel coronavirus pandemic public health restrictions, the Oscar-qualifying festival will feature 80 short films online in 11 programs from April 6 to 11 through the digital platform Eventive.

“We are so proud to be presenting another incredible roster of films from around the globe for this year’s Shortsfest,” Aspen Film executive and artistic director Susan Wrubel said in an announcement. “While we are disappointed not to be able to traditionally hold our 30th anniversary at the historic Wheeler Opera House, this year we are presenting an exciting line up of interactive virtual events.”

The 80 announced titles include an eclectic mix of animation, comedy, documentary, drama and “short short,” made by a mix of filmmakers crossing the spectrum from students to established movie stars. The latter includes “David,” starring Will Ferrell in a short written and directed by “Silicon Valley” alum Zachary Woods; “Roborovski,” starring Dylan McDermott and co-directed by Oscar-nominated actor Dev Patel; “Silverstone” directed by and starring “Ray Donovan” actor Kerris Dorsey; and “The Price of Cheap Rent” starring “Daily Show” alum Wyatt Cenac.



Though the pandemic largely shut down film production and theatrical distribution, Shortsfest received about 3,000 submissions for 2021. Aspen Film director Susan Wrubel said the festival received only about 100 less than for the pre-pandemic 2020 festival.

She credited the submissions to the ingenuity of independent filmmakers and to the prestige of Shortsfest.




“Part of the reason is that we’re one of only four Oscar qualifiers dedicated to shorts,” she said.

The festival qualifies winners for Academy Awards consideration in animation, documentary and live-action narrative film categories. Shortsfest’s prizes also include the Ellen Award, honoring the late Aspen Film founder Ellen Hunt, the Vimeo Staff Pick Award and Youth Jury Award.

Many in the lineup completed shooting before the pandemic struck, she said. In others, filmmakers worked with public health restrictions to shoot. And a handful of selections took up the pandemic as a subject.

The 2021 slate of films features six world premieres, three international premieres, seven North American premieres and 15 U.S. premieres from filmmakers representing 28 countries and 6 continents.

Of the 80 selected films, 55 are directed or co-directed by women. Notable among them is “Are You Still There?” directed by Rayka Zehtabchi, who in 2019 became the first Iranian woman to win an Oscar for the short documentary, “Period. End of Sentence.”

“We’re thrilled to be celebrating Aspen Shortsfest’s 30th birthday with such a stylistically diverse showcase of amazing new works by some of the most exciting emerging and established filmmakers from all over the world,” said Shortsfest director of programming Jason Anderson. “The 80 titles in this year’s program demonstrate the breadth, depth and incredible diversity of film talent that we have the privilege of introducing to our audience.”

Shortsfest was the first major Aspen event to go virtual last year, moving its in-person program from the Wheeler Opera House to an online platform in the early days of the pandemic. Aspen Film has since hosted regular screenings and events online, in addition to a hybrid online/in-person Aspen FIlmfest in the fall and drive-in movie events in summer 2020.

For the second iteration of the all online Shortsfest, Aspen Film and Eventive will host films along with nightly livestreamed filmmaker Q&A sessions.

In addition, the festival is hosting an expanded virtual experience for filmmakers, VIP and full passholders. It will allow particpants to virtually navigate downtown Aspen for daily Sip & Chat Industry Conversation & Mingling Sessions and to make virtual visits to the Aspen Art Museum for meet-and-greets, the Hotel Jerome for the Filmmaker Lounge, and the Red Brick Center for the Arts for classes and at an education hub. A virtual Wheeler Opera House will be the portal to enter the festival’s Eventive screening platform.

“We are creating a little bit of a virtual village with a digital map of Aspen,” Wrubel said. “Guests can enter and interact, and we’ll have rooms with eight people at a virtual table to meet and discuss.”

The 2021 jury deciding award winners includes Shortsfest alum Meryam Joobeur, the Tunisian-American director who received an Oscar-nomination for Best Live Action Short Film for “Brotherhood;” United Talent Agency agent Keya Khayatian; and Rachel Rosen, a San Francisco Bay Area-based independent film programmer and awards consultant who is currently a member of the selection committee for The New York Film Festival.

The festival will include an Industry Program of virtual panels, including sessions on RED digital cameras and sound design among other topics.

Anderson also will host a conversation with award-winning filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green, the Shortsfesst alum behind “Monsters & Men” and the forthcoming “Joe Bell,” on the evening of April 10.

Passes are on sale now at aspenfilm.org. Individual program tickets will go on sale March 22.

The full list of 2021 Shortsfest selections:

A BROKEN HOUSE

When Syrian architect Mohamad Hafez got trapped in the United States, he realized if he couldn’t return home, he could make home. A skilled architectural model-maker, he spent his years in exile sculpting life-like renditions of his Damascus neighborhood. When the civil war broke out and his parents fled to the United States as refugees, Mohamad’s bottled-up frustration erupted on his models. In a fit of mania, he broke his artworks, leaving them shattered, bombed-out replicas of the Syrian buildings he saw on the news. (Jimmy Goldblum, USA, Lebanon, 20MIN)

À LA MODE

In a kingdom tormented by fashion crazes, a queen and her court must always keep up with the new trend. If not, an abominable monster will consume them: the Ridicule. (Jean Lecointre, France, 9MIN)

A TINY TALE

A dog gets abandoned on the side of the road. Attached to a streetlight, he stays alone until the day he meets a young astronaut wannabe and a professional cyclist who keeps on trying to beat her highest score. With spring as a backdrop, we wanted to use moments of simple lives to discover little stories that intertwine with each other. A microcosm that settles on a split-screen where the different characters evolve at the same time. (Sylvain Cuvillier, Chloe Bourdic, Theophile Coursimault, Noemie Halberstam, Maylis Mosny, Zijing Ye, France, 8MIN)

AFFAIRS OF THE ART

How many obsessions can one family have? In Joanna Quinn and Les Mills’ AFFAIRS OF THE ART, we reconnect with Beryl, the working-class heroine who not only reveals her own obsession with drawing but exposes the addictions of her eccentric family, which include pickling, screw threads and pet taxidermy. (Joanna Quinn, UK, Canada, 16MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

AL-SIT

In a cotton-farming village in Sudan, 15-year-old Nafisa has a crush on Babiker, but her parents have arranged her marriage to Nadir, a young Sudanese businessman living abroad. Nafisa’s grandmother Al-Sit, the powerful village matriarch, has her own plans for Nafisa’s future. But can Nafisa choose for herself? (Suzannah Mirghani, Sudan, Qatar, 20MIN) NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

ALE LIBRE

Alejandra is a criminalized organizer and unapologetic immigrant. While she prepares for one of the biggest events of her life — her deportation case — Alejandra is forced to reckon with a past mistake and a system that threatens to deport her and give her life an unexpected direction. She is up against an unjust system that threatens to tear her apart from her family and displace her from the only home she has ever known. This is her fight to be free. (Maya Cueva, USA, 17MIN)

ANIKSHA

Aniksha is a young woman from the Indo-Mauritian diaspora. After her arranged marriage, she finds a job at a call centre, a booming industry in Mauritius. There she encounters her enigmatic supervisor and discovers a world of possibilities. This new world view places Aniksha between the choice of tradition or of a modern lifestyle. (Vincent Toi, Canada, 20MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

ARE YOU STILL THERE?

On a hot day in the valley, Safa’s car battery dies, leaving her stranded in a strip mall parking lot. As she waits for help to arrive, she’s forced to confront her new reality. When her mom finally comes to her rescue that night, the two struggle to jump-start a car for the first time. (Rayka Zehtabchi, Sam Davis, USA, 15MIN)

BANDIT HILL

Mountain biker and artist Jill Kintner brings her character drawings to life as they race down Bandit Hill to outrun an onslaught of angry clouds and terribly-behaving weather. Full of mud monsters, happy trees, and fluffy clouds oozing personality, the trio of Squirrel, Fox, and Snail look to Jill to save them from the storm! This magical, hybrid animation and live action piece brings together one of the world’s top mountain bikers with a far-away land pulled straight out of her imagination. (Scotty Carlson, USA, 4MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

BETWEEN YOU AND MILAGROS

At fifteen, Milagros’ world still revolves around her mother’s affection. This summer an unexpected encounter with death will make her question their relationship and her own existence. (Mariana Saffon, Colombia, USA, 20MIN)

BLACK BODIES

The sequel to the viral short film MARATHON, BLACK BODIES follows a black man (Komi Olaf) lamenting as he comes face-to-face with the realities of being black in the 21st century. (Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, Canada, 5MIN)

BRUISER

After his father gets into a fight at a bowling alley, Darious begins to investigate the limitations of his own manhood. (Miles Warren, USA, 10MIN)

BUG FARM

On a thriving insect farm in the small town of LaBelle, Florida, four women from distinctly different backgrounds come together to raise and produce hundreds of thousands of roaches, crickets, and superworms. In this warm, relaxed portrait of womanhood and work, the farm serves as the background to women who’ve come to insect farming with disparate motivations–including economic opportunity, reimagining the future of food, and the love and caretaking of the bugs themselves. (Lydia Cornett, USA, 14MIN)

CHUJ BOYS OF SUMMER

This is the story of a close-knit group of Guatemalans living and working in a small Rocky Mountain town. It centers on two boys–one a new arrival, the other preparing to leave–and details the handoff of place and purpose between the two. It is a story of hope, home, and friendship in a strange place. (Max Walker-Silverman, USA, Guatemala, 16MIN)

CLOSE TIES TO HOME COUNTRY

Akanksha, a young immigrant (originally from India but who grew up in Saudi Arabia) is dog sitting Timothee, the baby Frenchie of Instagram influencers India and Harry, while they’re on a trip to India. Akanksha’s sister is scheduled to visit her soon—they haven’t seen each other in nine years. While she waits, Akanksha bonds with Timothee, enjoys the spoils of white money, engages in judgy hijinks with her friend Sophia, and muses over why she stays away from her home country. (Akanksha Cruczynski, USA, 14MIN) WORLD PREMIERE

DAVID

David Needs Help. So Does David. (Zach Woods, USA, 11MIN)

death. everything. nothing.

In death. everything. nothing. LeRhonda Manigault-Bryant leans into her newfound role as grieving daughter, and uses maternal loss to capture the heartache, uncertainty, and inevitability of death’s grip on human life. In so doing, she reveals the real but unsettling dynamics of confronting parental death when separated by distance, time, and a global pandemic. (LeRhonda Manigault-Bryant, USA, 6MIN)

DIVING IN

Set in 2007, Alex is a 20-year-old double above the knee amputee and competitive swimmer. He also has a huge crush on Jen, the swim coach at the local pool who secretly likes him back. When Jen tries to ask Alex out, he falters and causes an awkward encounter. Humiliated, Alex asks his friends for advice, only for them to steal his phone and send her a raunchy text message. Mortified, Alex must get to her phone before she sees the message or risk losing her forever. (Adam Bowes, Nina Oyama, Australia, 9MIN) NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

DỌLÁPỌ̀ IS FINE

Soon to leave her British boarding school and enter the working world, a young Black woman faces pressure to change her name and natural hairstyle. (Ethosheia Hylton, UK, 20MIN)

DREAM EATER

A story of a little girl having nightmares and a monster eating only happy dreams. (Min-jeong JO, South Korea, 11MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

DROUGHT

Carina is a real estate agent in Beirut. Finding it hard to reach out to clients, she spends her time in empty apartments that feed her sexually dissatisfied life. After a long day of waiting without clients showing up, Carina decides to rent intimacy for a night. (Remi Itani, Lebanon, UK, 15MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

DUSTIN

In an abandoned warehouse, a crowd is dancing as one on 145 BPM techno music. Among them is Dustin, a young transgender individual, and crew: Felix, Raya and Juan. As the night draws on, collective hysteria morphs into sweet melancholy, and euphoria into yearning for tenderness. (Naïla Guiguet, France, 20MIN)

E14

What did the first lockdown look like from a window in the residential towers of East London in the spring of 2020? E14 shows serious shifts in the everyday coordinate system of a privileged urban population at an immediate level. While exploring the trauma, the film captures the mundane and ironic realities of living in a heavily developed, man-made environment, and questions whether a new virus is about to develop. (Peiman Zekavat, UK, 19MIN) NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

GIRLS SHOULDN’T WALK ALONE AT NIGHT

(LES FILLES NE MARCHENT PAS SEULES LA NUIT)

After a late-night high school graduation party, Chantal and Delphine find themselves walking home alone in the dark. Lost in the forest, their long night walk is punctuated by carelessness and an irrepressible desire to exist. (Katerine Martineau, Canada, 17MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

HER DANCE (RIKUD HASSIDI)

After she had not been invited to her sister’s wedding, Aya, a trans woman, shows up by surprise on a Shabbat night at the Orthodox Jewish community, where her family lives. She enters through the window, interrupting the wedding feast and threatening to reveal family lies and secrets. (Bar Choen, Israel, 22MIN) INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE

IN SUDDEN DARKNESS

A slice of life film set in the Bronx, New York—IN SUDDEN DARKNESS follows the life of the Moores, a working-class Black family trying to stay afloat in the midst of the city-wide blackout. Searching for solutions to cope, the family descends directly into the darkness and chaos. With the heat causing frustrations to run high, how do the Moores and their community come together in the face of the unknown? (Tayler Montague, USA, 13MIN)

ISOLE CICLOPI

A woman returns to a familiar harbor in a struggle to reclaim her lost memories. (Ryan De Franco, Matthew Mendelson, Italy, USA, 5MIN) WORLD PREMIERE

KKUM

My mother’s dreams have always been strong premonitions for important moments in my life. I rely on her dreams more than any religion. (Kim Kang-min, Republic of Korea, 9MIN)

LEARNING TAGALOG WITH KAYLA

Mabuhay! Welcome to Learning Tagalog With Kayla. Kayla is pleased to teach you the basics of Tagalog, the language of her homeland. In this lesson, we’ll start with conversational phrases and common expressions. If time permits, we may even get into Kayla’s newfound hobby of baking, hatred of exercise, occasional disdain for her cats, and her affinity for Vivi, a black mage with a heart of gold from the popular role-playing game, Final Fantasy IX. (Kayla Abuda Galang, USA, 4MIN)

LIGIE

From her train window, Sarah watches a man standing on an empty and strange platform. She hopes to see his face to no avail. Then, watching again and again through her microscope, she dives into the purple cells shaking on her hematology strip. These cells bring her to this train, her inner world, where she can hear. Because Sarah is deaf. But Sarah is about to have surgery. For the first time, she will be able to hear what the real world sounds like. (Aline Magrez, Belgium, 25MIN) NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

LIKE THE ONES I USED TO KNOW (LES GRANDES CLAQUES)

December 24, 1983, 10:50 p.m.; Julie’s whole family is gathered once again this year for Christmas Eve. All except Denis, her father, newly excluded by his divorce. Julie, 8 years old, waits for Santa Claus to arrive to unwrap her presents, while Denis, parked in front of the house, waits until the agreed time to come and pick up his children. He’s ready to do anything to get his half of Christmas, but he still doesn’t know the emotional trenches that a return to his ex-in-law’s family will entail. Constrained by her parents’ clumsy planning, Julie must choose between the painful reality of her father’s life and the magic of the holiday. It is a dramatic comedy about a father-daughter relationship; an early coming-of-age that is as squeaky as it is poetic. (Annie St-Pierre, Canada, 18MIN)

LIVE IN CLOUD-CUCKOO LAND (MÂY NHƯNG KHÔNG MƯA)

A factotum in a wedding dress shop searches for the love of her life, and a road busker who loses his speaker looks for his lost voice. In their quest for love and the voice that has been lost, the characters appear abruptly between different dimensions. They travel through tragedy, reality, weirdness, and different spaces in the same city. (Vũ Minh Nghĩa, Phạm Hoàng Minh Thy, Vietnam, 20MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

LIZARD

After 8- year-old Juwon gets removed from Bible class by her Sunday school teacher, she follows an Agama Lizard into the bowels of the “Heaven’s Gate” Mega Church. Her journey into the labyrinth exposes the financial inner workings and the hidden activities behind the scenes. Plunging her deeper until she is confronted by a spellbinding sermon and a congregation worshipping in a hypnotised frenzy. Magical interactions with an alarmingly larger Lizard and a sturdy gateman serve as metaphors for the preceding incidents. As her family proceeds to leave the Church, they are intercepted by the dramatic confrontation with a gang of holy armed robbers. (Akinola Davies Jr., Nigeria, UK, 18MIN)

LONELY BLUE NIGHT

An awkward family reunion at a business/karaoke dinner leads a Chinese mother to realize the consequences of leaving her daughter in the care of an American homestay family. (Johnson Cheng, USA, 15MIN)

MARÉ

Brought by the waves of the sea, a fantastic being of gigantic size discovers a pleasant place of great natural beauty, and makes it his home, becoming the guardian and soul of the place. There, he meets a cheerful little boy with whom he creates a bond of friendship forged in sharing the pleasure that both feel in living in harmony with nature. But one day, peace is threatened by a polluting and noisy tide. (Joana Rosa Bragança, Portugal, 15MIN)

MARLON BRANDO

In the last weeks of being high school students, Cas and Naomi, both out of the closet, prefer to spend their days together. As “brother and sister” of other parents, they experience a security and love that they cannot find elsewhere. But when their future plans seem to drive them apart, their relationship will be put at risk and the affectionate Cas must dare to be alone. (Vincent Tilanus, The Netherlands, 19MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

MOON (LUNE)

Babz Dubreuil, a lonely but endearing ex-convict, works as a cook in a suburban brunch restaurant. Despite her civilized conduct, she struggles to regain her place in society. Under the encouragement of an outrageous colleague, she finds the courage to ask an attractive customer to go on a date with her. It might be the beginning of redemption. (Zoé Pelchat, Canada, 15MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

MOUNTAIN CAT (Шилүүс)

A troubled teenage girl is coerced into seeing a local shaman in search of spiritual healing. Trapped by ancient beliefs that serve only to pacify her mother, she finds peace in the physical realm by unleashing her repressed, youthful spirit on the unsuspecting shaman when she realises his true identity. A coming-of-age tale set in contemporary Mongolia. (Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir, Mongolia, UK, 13MIN)

MY FATHER THE MOVER

Alatha’s father calls himself a ‘Mover.’ Using African electronic Gqom beats he motivates kids in Khayelitsha, South Africa to jive through their hardship and find their superpowers. But while he’s transformed the lives of many kids in his community, his own daughter, Alatha, is still looking for freedom. In an intimate moment together, this is all about to change… (Julia Jansch, South Africa, 13MIN)

NAVOZANDE, LE MUSICIEN

At the time of the attack of the Mongols, a young musician and the love of his life are separated from each other. Fifty years later, the musician is summoned to perform at the castle of the Mongols where his beloved is being held. (Reza Riahi, France, 15MIN)

O BLACK HOLE!

A woman who can’t stand the passing of time turns herself into a black hole. A thousand unchanging years pass inside her warm and dark embrace until, finally, the Singularity awakens inside. An immovable woman meets an unstoppable girl in this epic 2D/3D space opera about the meaning of transience and letting go. (Renee Zhan, UK, 16MIN)

OLD DOG

After losing his best friend, an elderly pug named Henry must depend on his owner for help and companionship. Writer/director Ann Marie Fleming (Window Horses) makes visible the tender work of caretaking in her new animated short, OLD DOG. All dogs (and people) should be so lucky and so loved. (Ann Marie Fleming, Canada, 3MIN)

ONLY A CHILD

This is a visual poem created by over 20 animation directors under the artistic supervision of Simone Giampaolo, which gives shape and colour to the original words spoken by Severn Suzuki at the UN Summit in Rio in 1992, a child’s desperate call to action for the future of our planet. An omnibus film celebrating the environmental youth movement 30 years in the making. (Simone Giampaolo, Switzerland, 6MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

PAIN

A young girl has an earth-shattering realization that her father is not invincible, after a cricket accident exposes his vulnerability. (Anna Rose Duckworth, New Zealand, 9MIN) NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

PLAISIR

A naïve American woman journeys to an artist farm commune in the south of France seeking solace from her loneliness. But without the ability to speak French, Eleanore struggles to connect with her new community. She is taken under the wing of Sophie, a choreographer and lead gardener at the chateau. Eleanore grows romantic feelings for Sophie, whose confidence and charisma are what Eleanore longs for. When those feelings aren’t reciprocated, Eleanore must face the ultimate purpose of her trip and come to terms with being alone. PLAISIR (French word for pleasure) is a tender comedy of errors and a queer story of unrequited love. Through Eleanore’s journey, we learn that wherever you go- there you are. (Molly Gillis, France, 19MIN)

PROOF OF LOSS

The devastating effects of climate change are beginning to impact every person on earth. From wildfires to hurricanes, rising temperatures to landslides, we are learning to adapt to a new normal, one where we must confront what we truly value and how we cope with loss. Through the lens of the recent fires in California, PROOF OF LOSS focuses on how one young woman and her father are forced to come together and examine the complexities of mourning and the connection between grief, relief, and survival. (Katherine Fisher, USA, 13MIN)

REHAK

A young girl in her age of innocence discovers Rehak, a magical drawing hidden behind her bedroom wall. (Pierre B, UK, France, 7MIN)

RENAIDANCE

Renaidance is a 3D narrative emotional animation. The theme invigorates cultural inheritance and the integration of dreams, courage, and culture as transformation. By artistically interpreting a motif of inheritance and family support, integrating different cultures “inheritance” through the inspiring story, this film braces strong family love and elder culture in a never-ending chain. (Zhike Yang, Wenjie Wu, Han Chen Chang, China, Taiwan, USA, 4MIN)

ROBOROVSKI

This short follows the eponymous thimble sized hamster who spends his days in Marvin’s Pet Shop, hoping to find a family. However, when he is constantly overlooked by the people and animals around him, his seething resentment and intense jealousy soon take hold, and a murderous side of little Roborovski is released. (Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Dev Patel, Australia, 15MIN) INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE

SALEM

A family weekend in the family house. The men of the family are self-satisfied and the women are efficient. There’s no reason for changing the order of things. Yet, one of the uncles of the family has a new wife who might stir up trouble. (Sophie Beaulieu, France, 15MIN) NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

SHINKANSEN

Filmed on a bullet train from Nagoya to Kyoto in Japan while Stubbs was on a school trip, the time lapsed poetry and video work present a look into the thoughts of a young woman on the brink of adulthood. The work was created by the artist while she was mourning the death of her grandmother, confronting her own morality and the speed at which she approaches her future. The viewer is made to long for the comfort and familiarity of youth, while acknowledging the inevitability of growth and moving forward despite fear of the unknown. (Siena Stubbs, Australia, 3MIN)

SILENCE

Nine-year-old Bahar recently lost her ability to hear. Due to lack of resources in the village, she is omitted from school. This feeling of alienation is the beginning of a series of desperate acts culminating in an attempt to cure herself. (Brwa Vahabpour, Norway, 15MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

SILVERTONE

Anna and Daniel are members of a successful band, Silvertone, making the follow-up to their hit debut record. They (with a little help from their label) set up at a house in the Hills to try and write the perfect song. But the pressure of a sophomore album and their own complicated history cast a big shadow. Soon, Anna and Daniel’s competing creative processes lead to a disconnect that threatens their relationship and art. (Kerris Dorsey, USA, 10MIN) WORLD PREMIERE

SINKING SHIP (LE NAUFRAGE)

While out for drinks, a couple finds themselves in an intellectual discussion of how they feel about each other. Their clinical honesty is contrasted by the restaurant’s massive mural of open waters behind them that begins to sway and build to crashing waves that start to reflect their emotional reality. (Sasha Leigh Henry, Canada, 13MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

SOFA SO GOOD

Once Abeer, a young woman living in NYC, realizes that her new roommate won’t provide a sofa to their empty living room, she becomes obsessed. Abeer embarks on a journey between NYC’s quirkiest characters and would do anything for the desired piece of furniture. SOFA SO GOOD stars NYC finest comedians (Nataly Aukar, Tom Thakkar), alongside Hiam Abbass (Succession), and is a funny-touching story about holding on and letting go. (Noa Osheroff, USA, 12MIN)

SQUIRREL WARS

A New York artist’s obsession makes her the leader of a squirrel war on Facebook. The pressure cooker of quarantine mixed with the polarization of politics intensifies the ire of squirrel lovers everywhere. (Jill Morley, USA, 9MIN) WORLD PREMIERE

STRONG SON

This short dramatic film is about a father who tells the story of his relationship with his bodybuilding son. Set entirely in a gym, the film begins with a father as he watches his son perform a variety of bodybuilding exercises. As the father watches, he narrates his relationship with his son, and critiques aspects of his life, such as his body, his marital status, and his obsession with working out. The father is also seen helping the son workout. The film ends with both father and son leaving the gym together, as the father explains that he is old, weak, and alone, and his son has to be, and stay strong in order to take care of him. (Ian Bawa, Canada, 4MIN) INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE

SUMMER SHADE (צל בקיץ)

Exploring true events of discrimination against women in Israel, Summer Shade offers a slice-of-life insight into an Israeli hot summer day. Gal, a 13-year-old adventurous girl wanders alone towards her favorite relaxing summer spot, the magical refreshing pond nearby her house. Shortly after her arrival, a group of ultra-orthodox Hassidic teenagers violently try to kick her out, threatened by her femininity. (Shira Haimovici, UK, Israel, 15MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

THANADOULA

“I could have been there with her…”

Two sisters entwined by love. When Annie disappears, her younger sister, Natalie, seeks her out in an unconventional way: as a thanadoula, accompanying the dying in their final stages. Between their slow and final breaths, Natalie finds a bridge between life and death and ultimately, a pathway to her sister. (Robin McKenna, Canada, 6MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

THE END OF SUFFERING (A PROPOSAL)

Sofia is panicky, again. The Universe decides to contact her. An otherworldly dialogue. A planet symphony for Mars, where people dream awake and fight for love. (Jacqueline Lentzou, Greece, 15MIN)

THE FOURFOLD

Based on the ancient animistic beliefs and shamanic rituals in Mongolia and Siberia, the film explores the indigenous worldview and wisdom: Nature is the homeland of human being, Tengri is the deity and the father sky, Earth is the mother with rivers nourishing all beings, pagan and pantheist gods co-exist with all mortals. Against the backdrop of the modern existential crisis and the human-induced rapid environmental change, there is a necessity to reclaim the ideas of animism for planetary health and non-human materialities. (Alisi Telengut, Canada, 8MIN)

THE GREAT MALAISE (LE MAL DU SIÈCLE)

In the voiceover for this animated short, a young woman attempts to describe herself, casting her life in the ideal light that society expects. The film’s imagery, however, tells a different story, poignantly illustrating the intense anxiety that comes with the quest for perfection and the pursuit of happiness. A film that’s both funny and moving, and above all, profoundly human. (Catherine Lepage, Canada, 5MIN)

THE HEART STILL HUMS

A documentary short, following five women as they fight for their children through the cycle of homelessness, drug addictions and neglect from their own parents. Unique, yet undoubtedly familiar to many; a story on fear, sacrifice and the unconditional love between a mother and her children. (Savanah Leaf, Taylor Russell, USA, 28MIN)

THE LAST FERRY FROM GRASS ISLAND (島嶼故事)

A retired Hong Kong hitman, A Hoi, and his senile Mother live a mundane life on the rustic Grass Island near the Hong Kong/China border. One day, A Hoi’s Chinese apprentice, Xiaoma, arrives in disguise, tasked to kill A Hoi for his unresolved feud with her triad boss. Rather than engaging in violence with his apprentice, A Hoi invites her to have dinner with him and Mother. (Linhan Zhang, USA, Hong Kong, 13MIN)

THE NAME OF THE SON (EL NOMBRE DEL HIJO)

Lucho, a 13-year-old trans boy, doesn’t usually share much time with his father Daniel. When he goes on holiday with him and his younger sister to the beach, to a house in which they haven’t been for some time, the memories this environment brings, and the new closeness between them, put their already tense relationship to the test. This is a portrait of the challenge of dealing with fears while trying to rebuild a bond with love. (Martina Matzkin, Argentina, 13MIN)

THE NIGHT TRAIN (NATTÅGET)

Oskar is on the night train, heading home after an interview in Stockholm. With a long night ahead of him, he makes eye contact with Ahmad. For the first time he meets the gaze of someone who feels the same desire as he does. (Jerry Carlsson, Sweden, 15MIN) NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

THE PRICE OF CHEAP RENT

A NYC transplant and aspiring artist speaks to a documentary crew about her struggles finding an affordable home in her dream city, while being true to herself as an artist. Now that she’s finally found what seemed like the perfect studio apartment, she’s dealing with the supernatural price of cheap rent. Blending the styles of documentary filmmaking and internet profile pieces, this mini mockumentary pokes fun at aspirational living, using humor to reflect on the economic and ethical challenges for Black millennials in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. (Amina Sutton, Maya Tanaka, USA, 7MIN)

THE RECORDER

A couple, struggling with their relationship, finds their frustrations manifesting in a defective recorder. In an attempt to restore peace in their relationship and replace the faulty recorder, they encounter a woman offering to sell them a new recorder, but the transaction proves more challenging than expected. (Justine Lupe, USA, 10MIN) WORLD PREMIERE

THE TOMTEN AND THE FOX (REVEN OG NISSEN)

A hungry fox hunts for food on a cold winter night. On the edge of the forest he discovers a small farm. He sneaks closer to steal some food, unaware of the Tomten who guards the farm, and is caught red-handed in the hen-coop. When the Tomten sees how hungry the fox is, he decides to share his Christmas porridge with him, as long as the fox promises to leave the animals alone. (Yaprak Morali, Are Austnes, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, 9MIN)

THEREFORE, SOCRATES IS MORTAL

Facing the climate crisis, Louise, a philosophy teacher, turns words into action. (Alexandre Isabelle, Canada, 13MIN) WORLD PREMIERE

TOBI AND THE TURBOBUS (TOBI UND DER TURBOBUS)

You fly with no seat! That’s the rule in the Turbobus. To get one is a hard day job for a young wolf on his turbo-journey to find real friendship. (Verena Fels, Germany, 8MIN)

TWIN TREES

A brother and sister walk along, each carrying a tree in a small pot. When they come across a parrot and a fallen statue, they each have to choose their own journey. (Emmanuel Ollivier, France, 4MIN) U.S. PREMIERE

UNLIVEABLE (INABITÁVEL)

In Brazil, where a trans person is murdered every three days, Marilene searches for her daughter Roberta, a trans woman who went missing. While running out of time, she discovers a hope for the future. (Matheus Farias, Enock Carvalho, Brazil, 20MIN)

WE HAVE ONE HEART

After his mother dies, Adam comes across some letters exchanged years ago between his Polish mother and his father, a Kurd living in Iraq. This is an opportunity for him to find out more about his father, whom he never knew. The juxtaposition of animated drawings and archival material takes us back forty years into the past and enables us not only to feel the emotions linking the lovers living in different parts of the world, but also to uncover an extraordinary family secret. (Katarzyna Warzecha, Poland, 11MIN)

WEARABLE TRACY

In 2017, Lee Kim found herself on the subway wearing a small hat she made from pipe cleaners, an oddity that could easily pass unnoticed in New York. Instead, Lee was overwhelmed and quite uncomfortable with the number of strangers who commented on it. Rather than put that day behind her, she decided to lean into the uncomfortable and create a new pipe cleaner hat each day, inviting this engagement. More than 1,000 days later and in the midst of the pandemic, Lee’s experiment in human connection continues to evolve. (Emily McAllister, USA, 12MIN)

WELCOME STRANGERS

Every night at 6 p.m., detained immigrants are legally released from a for-profit ICE facility onto unfriendly, industrial streets near Denver, Colorado. The men and women, most of them asylum-seekers, have little idea where they are and have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Welcome Strangers tells the story of Sarah Jackson, a young woman who searches the streets for these immigrants and invites them into her home. She and a team of volunteers greet them with compassion and provide them with shelter, clothing and help them reunite with their families. (Dia Sokol Savage, USA, 21MIN)

WHITE WEDDING

Amidst a racially tense wedding, a biracial bride has the chance to confront her estranged Black father after accidentally hiring his wedding band to perform. (Melody C. Roscher, USA, 10MIN)

WICHITA

Sara is in bed with her lover when she gets a phone call from her husband, Josh. He is on a business trip in Wichita, and needs a business card from his sock drawer. But Sara is not at their house, so she only has a few minutes to race home before he catches on. To stall for time, she asks a million questions about Wichita, Kansas. “What’s Cowtown like? Did you see Kirstie Alley’s house? And Pizza Hut? Didn’t that start there too?” (Sergine Dumais, USA, 6MIN)

WIRUN

Wirun is a beautiful short about a Noongar high school student who affirms her ancestral knowledge while navigating growing up in anglo-Australia. As Erin dedicates herself to learning Shakespeare’s sonnet 127 she struggles to remember the lines and make sense of the antique language. She feels ostracised by her peers for her cultural differences despite her commitment to learning her part. After struggling with memorization into the night Erin reaches a significant turning point. At school the next day she blows her class away with her performance. (Chad O’Brien, Australia, 9MIN)

YORUGA

A lonely old man pays a visit to Yoruga, one of the last animals on Earth. (Federico Torrado Tobón, USA, Colombia, 6MIN)


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