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Short Docs Announced for Sundance 09

By Tom White

The Sundance Film Festival announced its selections among the short documentaries, both US and international, including a few docs nestled among the animated shorts and New Frontier shorts.

US Documentary Shorts

575 Castro St. (Director: Jenni Olson)-Set to the original audio-cassette recorded by Harvey Milk in November 1977 to be played, "in the event of my death by assassination."

The Archive (Director: Sean Dunne)-An eight-minute documentary about the world's largest vinyl record collection, examining the man who owns them and the current state of the American record industry.

Chop Off (Director: M.M. Serra)-An exposition of the dark, fearful recesses of the human psyche by filming the body modification of performance artist R.K. who literally risks 'life and limb.' R.K.'s body is his medium and amputation is his art.

Good: Atomic Alert (Director: Max Joseph)-An examination of nuclear arms that asks, Who has them, what are their intentions, and what would happen if a nuclear weapon hit New York City?

Good: Internet Censorship (Directors: Morgan Currie, Lindsay Utz, James Jones; Screenwriter: Mattathias Schwartz)-Internet censorship can take many forms, from restricting private Internet access to blocking searches for politically volatile keywords. This film explores how different countries apply their bodies of censorship to cyberspace.

I Knew It Was You (Director: Richard Shepard)-John Cazale appeared in just five films -The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather: Part Two, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter-and all were nominated for Best Picture. This documentary is a fresh portrait of the acting craft and a tour through the movies that defined a generation.

The Kinda Sutra (Director: Jessica Yu)-A combination of interview and animation, that explores the youthful misconceptions of a spectrum of people over the universal question: How are babies made?

So the Wind Won't Blow it All Away (Director: Annie P. Waldman)-Two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, desiring to graduate high school with their friends, a group of students return to New Orleans despite their parents' relocation and absence.

Sister Wife (Director: Jill Orschel; Screenwriters: Alexandra Fuller, Jill Orschel)-DoriAnn, a Mormon Fundamentalist, shares a husband with her younger biological sister. During a private bathing ritual, DoriAnn explores the surprisingly universal challenges of her marriage.

SUSPENDED (Director: Kimi Takesue)-The film both documents and re-contextualizes the experience and perception of suspended time, capturing a range of evocative moments that reveal states of emotional and physical suspension.

Utopia, Part 3: The World's Largest Shopping Mall (Directors: Sam Green, Carrie Lozano)-A tour of the world's largest shopping mall, located near Guangzhou, China. Built three years ago, the South China Mall was supposed to be a celebration of consumerism and Vegas-like spectacle.


International Documentary Shorts

China's Wild West (UK; Director: Urszula Pontikos)-This part observational, part impressionistic study of a day in the life of a Muslim community illustrates their hopeful efforts to discover jade in the harsh conditions of a dried-up riverbed in a remote town on the Silk Road in Western China.

Lessons from the Night (Australia; Director and Screenwriter: Adrian Francis)-As dusk approaches and workers stream out of the city, Maia is about to begin her day. She reflects on life, work and toilet bowls as she goes about her nightly cleaning round through silent, empty spaces.

Ma Bar (UK; Directors: Finlay Pretsell, Adrian McDowall)-Bench-pressing isn't a hobby for 73-year-old Bill McFadyen; it's a way of life, and he is on a quest to be the best in the world.

Magnetic Movie (UK; Directors: Semiconductor: Ruth Jarman + Joe Gerhardt)-Natural magnetic fields are revealed as chaotic ever-changing geometries, as scientists from NASA's space sciences laboratory excitedly describe their discoveries.

My Surfing Lucifer (Switzerland; Director: Kenneth Anger)-Using found footage, Kenneth Anger introduces us to the short life of Bunker Spreckels, Clark Gable's stepson and surfing legend.

The Real Place (Canada; Director: Cam Christiansen; Screenwriter: Blake Brooker)-An animated poetic film celebrating the life and spirit of playwright and librettist John Murrell.

Steel Homes (UK; Director: Eva Weber)-Self-storage units are windows into human histories: the silent cells with their discarded objects and dust-covered furniture are inscribed with past dreams, secret hopes and of lives we cannot let go.


US Animated Shorts

From Burger It Came (Director: Dominic Bisignano)-An animated film that recounts early 1980s-era Cold War fears of a young boy in middle America. Using a variety of techniques, the visual narrative is colorfully assembled over semi-documentary audio conversations between a grown adult recounting his fears and his mother's memory of the time and her own concerns.

Joel Stein's Completely Unfabricated Adventures (Director: Walter Robot; Screenwriter: Joel Stein)-Journalist Joel Stein takes us on an animated adventure through the waste treatment plant of Orange County.


International Animated Shorts

Cattle Call (Canada; Director and Screenwriter: Matthew Rankin, Mike Maryniuk)-A high-speed animation film documenting the art of livestock auctioneering.

Lies (Sweden; Director: Jonas Odell)-Three perfectly true stories about lying. In three episodes based on documentary interviews we meet the burglar who, when found out, claims to be a moonlighting accountant, the boy who finds himself lying and confessing to a crime he didn't commit and the woman whose whole life has been a chain of lies.


New Frontier Shorts

The Beekeepers (USA; Director: Richard Robinson)-An experimental documentary on the environmental crisis surrounding beekeeping and colony collapse disorder. It explores this ancient profession in its current crisis and the implications for our environment when millions of bees just disappear.