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Phoenix Film Festival #18 – Sci-Fi Shorts B

This was the first night we were able to attend the Phoenix Film Festival, and after much deliberating we opted for the B block of Sci-Fi shorts. There were 5 films in this particular block, and they ranged from human drama to proof of concept.

Land of Behemoths

Directed by Fred Grant

In the year 2035, guardians protect the Earth from giant creatures that nearly brought humanity to extinction.

This short film was a proof of concept as the credits stated that it was based on a feature length screenplay. Sadly the proof of concept didn’t exactly work out as the story was a bit vague. Not much is known about the guardians or the methods in which the giant creatures came to Earth. When the invasion happens again the narrative for this film felt disjointed. We are also left without any indication as to why these giant creatures are so dangerous, for when we see them they seem relatively peaceful, almost like a giant plant eating dinosaur. It would be nice to see what the full length screenplay reveals with this story.

Noro

Directed by Duncan Roe

This short introduces us to Caitlin, who is in therapy to help her cope with the loss of her son, but an accident leads her to a truth that nothing can prepare her for.

Actually it is more like an accident leads the audience to a truth that we are not entirely prepared for. The film has a very mysterious tone to it, and instead of being sci-fi it actually feels more like a horror film. There is a reveal here that is quite unexpected, but there is never any proper resolution. The film felt like it was trying to make a point, but it never got there. Other than that, this did make for a very creepy film that would be better served as a horror short.

Wishing You Well

Directed by Caroline Corkindale

An orphaned boy is left with his grandfather. As he becomes familiar with his new surroundings he is taken to an old well. He puts a message in a bottle and throws it into the well. He is surprised to see the bottle return with a new message of reassurance.

This film is largely silent. There are a few words spoken here and there, but the musical soundtrack is there to help convey the boy’s feelings as he sends and receives messages from this mysterious well. This was the synopsis that most caught my eye as I tend to gravitate towards films that have positive and hopeful messages in them. While watching this the premise started to become rather predictable very quickly, so it was no surprise when a certain reveal takes place and I had my suspicious confirmed. And yet in no way did this take away from my enjoyment of this short. While the premise was predicted, it was the acting that helped to more than make up for it. Young Oscar Pearl clearly communicated the joy and sense of relief when he receives these messages of comfort, making this one of the most beautiful films of the entire block. The sci-fi element is very light, but very endearing nonetheless.

Sandbox

Directed by Eddie Lebron

A woman copes with grief through the use of a state-of-the-art VR headset.

A popular theme in stories is using a computer façade to escape reality. That façade could be social media, or possibly even virtual reality. This short film takes a different approach, as our chief character Nora is not using it as a coping mechanism by escaping her grief, rather she is doing it in an effort to confront it. The VR here is her chosen therapy, but there is a slight subplot here when we see glitches occur. All I can say is that this film at one moment clearly felt like Inception. Still it was a great premise and well executed.

Caronte

Directed by Luis Tinoco Pineda

Debbie is rude with her own family, especially her younger brother. But after a tragic car accident she finds herself regretting the way she behaved with them.

This short film was all about surprises. After reading the synopsis I was not prepared to see the film open in a sci-fi, space opera type setting, regarding a female pilot/soldier named Arsys as she attempts to make an escape from her captives. Then the film quite drastically shifts to present day where we meet Debbie and her younger brother Nicholas (played by real-life siblings Mia and Oliver Lardner). We also shift to seeing her in a hospital as she is being examined. The jumping from one scene to the next is quite sudden and deliberately confusing, for we then suddenly find ourselves back with Arsys as she tries to make an escape and ends up in one heck of a dog fight with her aliens. I will admit to one hilarious scene where her alien pursuers drop an “F” bomb, complete with subtitles. That was the only moment of the night where I quite literally burst out laughing. We then make another jump to where Debbie and Nicholas are together again, and in only the way that younger siblings can annoy their older brother or sister, Nicholas starts to play a prophecy game, and one in particular has him saying that if he can win this one round of a game on a hand held device that Debbie and Nicholas will end up being together forever. The scenes continue to jump back and forth between Debbie and Arsys, but then a surprising twist connects these two seemingly separate stories, which made this a truly human-interest story.

All of these movies here, plus the host of others that have played thus far in this festival, demonstrate the enormous talent that is out there, both in front of the camera and behind, and that also illustrates the beauty of why film festivals such as the Phoenix Film Festival, also with its International Horror Sci-Fi Film Showcase, are here. They make it possible for young and old filmmakers alike to share their creations to those who love movies, and to create work that might otherwise not ever be shown.
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