SXSW 2020 Short Film REVIEWS: Basic, Broken Orchestra, Runon, Broken Bird

SXSW 2020 Day 4 of 10 day limited available event. Don’t hesitate, watch these films you’re interested in while you can.

Basic ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Run time: 4 minutes
Director: Chelsea Devantez
SXSW film #8 watched

A woman obsesses over her significant other’s ex online from years ago. Selfies are all the rage it seems for SXSW films (this is like the third or forth film mentioning or focusing on selfies, I’ve seen) Bonus points for the pineapple.

It’s hard to objectively critique a film that is only 4 minutes long. It’s more like a quick bite in the dark. Again, I’ll bring up the literary equivalent of these films to flash fiction. I do like flash fiction. It was entertaining.

Guess at least 15-20 minutes is needed for a story with some real meat to it, this is more like a vignette. Perhaps, a treatment. An idea. That’s not bashing it for what it is and maybe the director can take this and use it to pitch a little longer idea fitting into an anthology series. Liked the music at the end as well as the director’s “I cut my own hair” speech in the intro. Go check it out and see what you think.

Broken Orchestra ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Run time: 12 minutes
Director: Charlie Tyrell
SXSW film #9 watched

A Philadelphia school brings attention, by assembling a volunteer orchestra to play previously broken instruments. They need help getting these instruments fixed and the purpose is to illustrate how school funding for band programs are woefully inadequate. There isn’t any actual information shared how or who fixed these instruments (The Symphony for a Broken Orchestra), only the stories of the teachers and musicians who want to play them.

Curious camerawork having TVs on rolling carts and then zooming in on people being interviewed on the TV. This is a clever way to tell a story, as the camera leads us around empty halls and upstair to pictures of these instruments laying there, waiting to be played.

The documentary would have been five stars for me if it culminated in a performance. It seems to leading us down the path. Still, very well done. Great cause, good topic, one of my show favorite shorts so far in most part due to the creativity and cause.

Runon ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Run time: 13 minutes
Director: Daniel Newell Kaufman
SXSW film #10 watched

A mother and her son are on the run from someone at the bus station. The mother is harried, and the boy is mute. She bashes his father frequently (“You’re acting just like your father”) and yet is loving and extremely protective. She gives him money, but the vending machine is broken. We can tell he’s trying to work out what’s going on. His mother has a gun in her purse, why?

This kind of reminded me of the pacing of Uncut Gems ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ by the Safdie Brothers. Perhaps an influence? That frenetic, off-balance, hyperactive camera work. The lighting the bathroom scene was way too dark and disruptive, unfortunately. I can’t watch too much flashing and flickering, it just gives me a headache.

The ending, and I won’t spoil it, didn’t work for me. I was going to give this 4 stars despite some of the camerawork and settings being hard to see, but took away a full star for the ending. The ending to any story is very important. If I like everything else but dislike an ending, that’s a major part of the story for me. This has such a good lead-up pacing and the acting is good.

Overall, though, definitely this is recommended. It’s a good little picture. This reminded me a bit of some books I’ve read, including an amazing novel called, MINE by Robert McCammon. No idea if that was any kind of influence or not for the filmmaker.

Broken Bird NR
Run time: 11 minutes
Director: Rachel Harrison Gordon
SXSW film #11 watched

Really, I tried watching this two different times and even though it played all the way through, I didn’t really “get it.” I wasn’t interested in what was happening and why enough to be entertained. You’d think something only 11 minutes long couldn’t affect me this way, but it did.

Yeah, this is a cop-out of sorts, but it’s honest.

Birdie is a young girl in a conflicted situation of some sort with her father. Meanwhile, she’s got a Bat Mitzvah coming up. Seemed like more like a day in the life of … type thing. It just didn’t appeal to me after two watches, and that’s more than enough of an effort. I can’t really rate it because the source material just wasn’t interesting to me at all. Sometimes that’s the perfect kind of film for me to watch. Not the case here.

No rating.

10 day SXSW 2020 event is 40% complete

The SXSW virtual film festival is 40% complete. To date I’ve watched 13 of the 39 films (including 11 short films), so I’m not quite halfway there. Not sure if I’ll watch all of them in the 10 days allowed, but my days off from work are coming up, so I should be able to catch up on more soon.

I’d like to do an SXSW 2020 round-up post at some point. I think I’m missing a lot not watching these movies in a theater, as that’s part of the film festival experience, yes/no? I think these festivals have some networking and socializing to them. I used to attend CES when I was following tech and as far as conferences go, that was one of my favorite.

Anyway, I have found a few gems that I’ve enjoyed so far. How about you? Any of them stick out to you as must-see? I don’t want to miss something really good, but not sure I’ll get through them all.

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