Shorts at Home: ‘I wish I could do something’

April 21, 2020, 11:50 p.m.

Three shorts, one hour.

Former A&L Managing Editor Olivia Popp will be going through and handpicking a set of three excellent short films from a selection of current online film festivals, with emphasis on variety — genre, style, language, you name it — and the ability to watch the triptych in under an hour. This way, you can either curate your very own “shorts-at-home” festival based on what you like or watch the set and see why they’ve been put together. Note that many of these online screeners won’t be available forever, just like an actual festival, so don’t miss your chance to watch these high-quality shorts before they’re gone.

Selected films will come from UniFrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival Stay-at-Home Edition Official Selection, Tribeca Film Festival’s “A Short Film A Day Keeps Anxiety Away” program and the SXSW 2020 Official Short Film Selections. All of these are available free of charge.

Today’s set consists of three very different shorts: a nail-biting narrative fiction thriller, a poignant family documentary and a magical animated film. Let’s call this triptych “I wish I could do something.”

“À l’aube” (“At Dawn” 2018, Julien Trauman, 22 minutes)

  • Country: France
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles available: German, Chinese, Korean, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian
  • Themes/categories: Thriller, midnight, young adult

We’re putting this in our pseudo-midnight category, a very common film lineup designation at American film festivals. Often intended to be screened as midnight movies, these encompass not merely horror films, but ones that are eerie, off or uncanny in some way — and Julien Trauman’s “À L’aube” is just that. Taking place almost exclusively on a boat, the film’s simple premise takes a turn toward that of a psychological thriller, complemented by striking cinematography (bird’s-eye-view of a pristine blue ocean, anybody?). We won’t say more, but this film is sure to make you rethink beach parties.

“No Crying At The Dinner Table” (2020, Carol Nguyen, 16 minutes)

  • Country: Canada
  • Language: Vietnamese and English
  • Subtitles available: English (hardcoded)
  • Themes/categories: Family, grief, documentary

“No Crying At The Dinner Table” is the newest film by Carol Nguyen, an amazing young Canadian filmmaker known for her moving portraits of family. This film won SXSW 2020’s Short Documentary Jury Award, and it’s easy to see why: Nguyen has a certain mastery of narrative beauty, even (and especially) with a film about her own family. Through a series of interviews and filmed reactions from her mother, father, and sister, she quietly interrogates intergenerational trauma and coping mechanisms surrounding the death of family members. If you watch this with family or close friends, get a tissue box ready.

“After The Rain” (2018, Valérian Desterne and collaborators, 9 minutes)

  • Country: France
  • Language: English (titles)
  • Subtitles available: No dialogue
  • Themes/categories: Animation, magic, kid-friendly

This is a delightful little film with a spectacular 3D animation style and a floaty, mythical quality to it. A sheepdog who happily assists his owner, a shepherd with a special magical job to ensure nature’s ecosystems remain intact, suddenly finds himself with a lot of responsibility on his hands. “After The Rain” contains no dialogue and instead relies on music and sound to drive the story, with great success. Straightforward but clever, you’ll surely fall in love with the adorable sheepdog and the fluffy, literally cloud-like sheep.

Contact Olivia Popp at oliviapopp ‘at’

Olivia Popp was a managing editor of Arts & Life for volumes 251 through 254 and the editor-at-large for The Stanford Daily's board of directors for volumes 254 and 255. She hails from Michigan and enjoys science fiction TV shows, independent film festivals, and the Bay Area theater scene.

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