Atlanta Film Festival 2014 | Report #1

AFF 75One reason there are so many submissions is the AFF is an Academy-qualifying festival, meaning that the winner of the Best Animated Short and Best Narrative Short here gets to skip the first round of screening for the Academy Awards.

 

I’ve only been to one shorts program at the Atlanta Film Festival (AFF), but already I’ve seen a narrative short that’s absolutely Oscar material. Shorts are a big deal at the AFF: about 2,000 were submitted for consideration this year, and 70% of those were narrative shorts, so you have to assume that only the best of the best even make it into the festival. One reason there are so many submissions is the AFF is an Academy-qualifying festival, meaning that the winner of the Best Animated Short and Best Narrative Short here gets to skip the first round of screening for the Academy Awards. And here’s some good karma for this year’s competitors: “The Accountant,” directed by Ray McKinnon, qualified at the 2001 AFF and then won the 2002 Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.

The film that really caught my attention is “The Bravest, the Boldest,” directed by Moon Molson. It’s a straightforward narrative with a lot of heart, and even a sense of humor, something you might not expect from a film that begins with two Army Casualty Officers (Carlo Alban and Hisham Tawfiq) arriving at a New York City housing project. Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris delivers an outstanding performance as the woman who fears their message is meant for her. Molson has already been awarded the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival Filmmaker to Watch Award on the strength of this film, and “The Bravest, The Boldest” was also nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year.

Two other shorts also deserve mention for their ability to tell a full story and engage the audience despite their short running time. “Annalyn,” directed by Maria Eriksson, is a quirky comedy about a lesbian (Nina Jeppsson) who’s having troubles with her girlfriend (Johanna Granström) only to be blindsided by the news that her father (Dag Malmberg) has taken a Filipino wife (Errah Seno). It’s sex-positive, lesbian-positive, and foreigner-positive, so what’s not to like? “216 Months” is a bizarre comedy about a woman (Anne Benoît) who has a stage act singing duets with herself. The secret is revealed early in the film, and it’s both hilarious and horrifying, the kind of conceit that shouldn’t work but somehow does.

I found myself less impressed with “Little Secret,” directed by Martin Krejci, although it’s still a very good film in the way that even the benchwarmers in the NBA are very good athletes. It’s about a Czech teenager (Adam Misík) who gets hurt during a party he wasn’t supposed to be having, and tries to cover up by pulling a Tawana Brawley and telling the police that he was beaten up by gypsies. I have similar feelings about “Animals,” directed by Alexander Yan, which is about a repressed woman finding an outlet in illicit sex: it’s well done, but I feel like I’ve seen it before. | Sarah Boslaugh

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