The Athena Film Festival shorts program displayed the kind of short films one hopes to see: poignant, not overreaching or under-reaching, encapsulated but proof that their directors are capable of much more.
The subjects and styles range widely, but one certain commonality is that each director is absolutely ready to make a feature. Short films function for many directors just out of school or otherwise getting their footing in the craft as a learning experience and, ideally, a calling card. Successful short films make festival runs, serve as work samples for the director and other key crew members, and in the best cases, a tool for directors to secure funding for a feature film.
The shorts shown at Athena this weekend, both narrative and documentary, displayed exceptional promise. Some were impeccably polished, like Isabella Wing-Davey's "The Rain Collector," a 19th-century period piece about a young woman with an inconvenient interest in climatology; others were incisive and expert at showing the viewer a private view into not only an unfamiliar place or issue, but into people, such as "Moving Target" by Tanja Wol Sorenson. All told stories of inimitable women, like transgender opera singer Breanna Sinclare in Nicole Opper's "Mezzo" and Daniela Soto-Innes in Emily Harrold's "La Cocina," and all explored issues pertaining to gender, politics, human rights, or globalization while avoiding cynicism and offering hope in this dark and uncertain political moment.
Speaking of this political moment, "I, Destini" by high school senior (!!) Destini Riley and Nicholas Pilarski stood out as an exemplary way to address the unsolved issues of race, class, and policing that are once again resonating throughout American society. The animated short is a poetic telling of the story of Destini's family since her brother's incarceration. She makes beautiful and esoteric connections between the animal kingdom, her own family, and everything in between. It's rendered in lovely and simple illustrations that somehow feel more intimate and raw than anything a camera could capture. It's the type of film that deserves to be seen.
There's something special about short films: the amount of love and labor that goes into something than runs for 30, 10, even just 1 or 2 minutes of screen time. Good short films stand alone, using every second of its short run time to maximum effect. The best short films get you excited to see what its creator will make next.