Shortening the Documentary Form

So you made it up to Utah and are besieged by an abundance of film options, chaotic events, and a sea of people. Why not eschew the star-gazing that comes with high profile narratives and look towards an alternative mode of programming? Having long ago embraced the documentary form as an essential component of furthering its mission, the Festival is imbued with a reputation for promoting some of the absolute best work available on the doc scene today. The Festival’s commitment to elevating U.S. and international documentaries extends to our beloved collection of short films, which feature some extraordinary docs that, while miniscule in running time, are just as powerful as their feature-length counterparts. Our shorts programmers are particularly pleased with the 2010 lineup, and are happy to highlight top talents in nonfiction short form filmmaking.

Be sure to check out Shorts Program 1 for Rory Kennedy’s The Fence, a scathing critique of the U.S. government’s attempts to build a 700-mile fence along the border with Mexico. Shorts Program Two reveals a humanitarian plea in the form of Let’s Harvest the Organs of Death Row Inmates (directed by Chris Weller and Max Joseph), which is one of three animated short documentaries being shown this year. The others (Laurie Hill’s Photograph of Jesus, which plays before U.S. Documentary Competition film Smash His Camera, and the James Bladgen-helmed Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No, showing with Doc Spotlight Winning Time) offer fantastic tales of humorous experiences in specific trades.

Several other extraordinary short docs have been placed in front of features for your added viewing pleasure. Matched with U.S. Documentary Competition feature Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, you’ll find Ira Sach’s Last Address, a moving compilation of residential exteriors known to be the last living place of New York City artists who have since died from AIDS. U.S. Documentary Competition film Lucky will be preceded by Mr. Okra, an intimate look at a colorful New Orleans vegetable salesman directed by T.G. Herrington. Para Fuera, Sundance Alumnus Nicholas Jasenovec’s playful portrait of a 100-year-old man, paves the way for powerful international doc feature A Film Unfinished, while Vance Malone directs The Poodle Trainer, focusing on solitary Russian poodle trainer Irina Markova. That film plays in front of My Perestroika, also in the U.S. Documentary Competition. Those attending midnight film Tucker & Dale vs. Evil will be pleasantly shocked by Rodney Ascher’s The S From Hell, an exploration into history’s scariest corporate symbol. On the other hand, John Fink’s Glottal Opera is outright disturbing, though utterly compelling, in its presentation of the human glottis at work. Be prepared for that one when you go see U.S. Dramatic Competition film Obselidia. Finally, NEXT section comedy New Low will include added laughs from Jeremy Konner with a new episode of Derek Waters’ popular online series, Drunk History. This latest installment, Douglass & Lincoln, features re-enactments from Will Ferrell, Don Cheadle, and Zooey Deschanel.

But that’s not all. A bonus Drunk History: Tesla & Edison, with John C. Reilly and Crispin Glover, plays in the Documentary Showcase, an exclusive presentation of seven versatile docs in one program. Also in the program is SXSW Award winner Thompson, directed by Jason Tippet; Yasmine Novak’s examination of the Israel/Palestine bus system, Bus; Wagah, a visual illustration of an evening at the only checkpoint between India and Pakistan by Supriyo Sen. Sergio Oksman directs a meditation on Ernest Hemingway doubles called Notes on the Other, while Born Sweet takes a candid look at a 15-year-old boy from a small village in Cambodia who has been poisoned by arsenic-laced water. Rounding out the selection is the quietly immersive Quadrangle, an absorbing, intimate account of two couples who suddenly find themselves in a group marriage. Whether you are a seasoned doc hound, or simply curious, you’ll find plenty of sophisticated variety to pluck from when mining for nonfiction amidst our latest crop of shorts. Happy hunting!

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