Shorts at Home: ‘We are who we are’

July 12, 2020, 10:49 p.m.

Three shorts, one hour.

“Shorts-at-home,” rebooted! Former A&L Managing Editor Olivia Popp will be going through and handpicking a set of three excellent short films; this time, they won’t be limited in curation to film festivals. This time, they will be from a larger selection of shorts, still with an 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.

Today’s set consists of three very personal shorts inspired by identity in different ways: a documentary about an influential Asian American character, an animated film based on experiences living with bipolar disorder and a careful exploration of emerging queer identity. Let’s call this triptych “We are who we are.”

“The Claudia Kishi Club” (2020, Sue Ding, 17 minutes)

  • Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles available: None (may differ on Netflix)
  • Themes/categories: Documentary, Asian American, books, youth

Selected for SXSW 2020, Sue Ding’s short documentary presents a unique and delightful perspective on Asian American representation in childhood media and literature — namely, through the lens of a fictional pre-teen of the 90s. Claudia Kishi was more than just one of the only non-white central characters of the series: She was the girl everyone wanted to be. Now, with “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” book series being made into a television show for the second time (currently on Netflix), it’s both timely and reaffirming to discover the impact of this character upon the lives of many Asian American artists and creators working today.

“The Claudia Kishi Club” was taken down from the SXSW 2020 selection for viewing because it was picked up by Netflix. It is available for streaming at the link above by logging in through Netflix.

“Eli” (2019, Nate Milton, 11 minutes)

  • Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles available: None
  • Themes/categories: Based on a true story, mental health, animation

Nate Milton’s stunningly animated story based on his own experiences with “high strangeness, magical thinking, and manic delusions” was a selection at the 2020 Palm Springs International ShortFest and Sundance 2020 — and justifiably so. It draws you in with a no-ritz personal account whose visual world and score is just as mesmerizing as the sympathetic narrative that the filmmaker creates. To do justice to Milton’s film and story is to let yourself be absorbed in the journey that he takes you on, and allow it to unfold.

“Dottie Gets Spanked” (1994, Todd Haynes, 30 minutes)

  • Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles available: English
  • Themes/categories: Youth, discovery, period piece, LGBTQ

This more provocatively-titled short by Todd Haynes (perhaps best known for “Carol,” winner of the Queer Palm at 2015 Cannes) is nonetheless an honest but complex character study of a six-year-old boy living in 1960s suburban America obsessed with a television celebrity à la Lucille Ball. Inspired by his own fixation on “I Love Lucy,” the openly gay Haynes moves us effortlessly yet unnervingly into the mind of our very young protagonist as he avoids his father, who perceived him as effeminate, to his personal discovery and growing fixation on spanking as explored through very stylized dream sequences with a German expressionist aesthetic. Although on the longer side and one of his most recent shorts, this film is arguably one of Haynes’ foundational pieces that provided indications of the themes he would explore in his later work.

“Dottie Gets Spanked” is available at the link above by logging into Kanopy through Stanford’s authentication system.

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.

Login or create an account