TFF2014: Short Films Round-up


           The short films are always among the most interesting offerings at the Tribeca Film Festivals.  These encompass every genre from drama to comedy to documentary, and the best ones can be as stirring as a full length feature.  Last year, for example, Fool’s Day, a gory comedy about a group of kids who accidentally kill their teacher on April 1, was among the best things I saw at Tribeca.  Here’s a look at this year’s shorts.

            In The 30 Year Old Bris, a Jewish woman insists her fiancée get circumcised prior to their wedding.  Much bawdy talk ensues, along with an execrable turn by Chris Elliot as a perverted rabbi and a preposterous synagogue ceremony filled with family and friends.  The movie tries much too hard to be outrageous and is ultimately more annoying than funny.  More genuine laughs are generated by Peepers, which starts out like a suspenseful home invasion thriller but turns comic when the couple being watched start to freak out.  “They know… They know our lives are bullshit!” Laura Grey whispers.  Before long, she and Jordan Klepper are tearing their furniture and furnishings apart, bemoaning their own yuppie self-absorption.  It’s a clever satire with dialogue so fast and furious it might require a second viewing to fully appreciate.  The Body, co-written and directed by Horror Hound Magazine contributor Paul Davis, is astonishingly polished for a micro-budget film.  The plot concerns a dashing killer (Alfie Allen) who uses Halloween night as a convenient cover for the corpse he’s dragging around the streets of London.  The setting is a great excuse for Davis to fill each frame with colorful costumes and horror movie in-jokes, but the conclusion is a bit of a let-down.  It’d be interesting to see what he could do with a full length narrative.

           A number of short documentaries also played Tribeca this year.  Nocturnity is so dramatic I assumed it was fictional at first.  A young woman documents her “sleep eating” exploits Paranormal Activity style, and recounts her history of night time troubles through interviews and flashbacks.  She thinks of her sleep eating self as a different, threatening person, one she must confront and try to overcome.  Amanda F****ing Palmer on the Rocks gives us a brief sketch of the cult performer and former Dresden Dolls member.  Its major focus, though, is on how social media has changed the relationship between popular artists and their fans.  Palmer talks about the recent Veronica Mars Kickstarter as well as her own experiences tweeting for couch surfing opportunities, organizing guerrilla “house party” shows online, and dealing with the backlash from a love poem she wrote to one of the Boston Marathon bombers.  In one of the most intriguing interviews, she touches on her open, long distance marriage to cult writer Neil Gaiman. Director Ondi Timoner’s colorful subject and the internet fandom angle could probably sustain a full length effort easily.

            Oftentimes aspiring directors use short films as calling cards to demonstrate their abilities.  It will be interesting to see if and where these works, and their creators, turn up in the years to come.

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(Amanda F***ing Palmer On the Rocks)