“Night Ride” – Eirik Tveiten’s film is the kind of simple, well crafted, self-contained comedy that few shorts filmmakers conceive these days. Ebba (Sigrid Kandal Husjord) accidentally starts up a tram and puts it in motion after the driver stubbornly refuses to drive so he can take a long break. As she quickly learns what each button does, she picks up passengers and an unexpected conflict arises. Some may take issue with how Tveiten depicts transphobic violence and how he lets the film go there in the first place, but it doesn’t feel like he wanted that to be the core issue. Rather, it’s a story about a woman who feels ignored and decides to not let others in peril feel the way she often does. Pretty simple, really, but make of it what you will. (16 min.)
“Le Pupille” – I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about this one in a concise way, but Alice Rohrwacher’s endlessly charming and inventive short has me stumped. Basically, it’s Christmas Eve in this Catholic boarding house for girls during WWI. There are prayers to be answered, sacrifices to be made, and cake to be eaten. The nuns have little compassion for these girls, but we’re sure they’ll be outsmarted soon enough. Rohrwacher gives us surprises at every turn, and made me want to see what else she has done. Alfonso Cuarón co-produced this short, which will warrant some curiosity, but Rohrwacher is the real deal; the cast, literally and figuratively, sings. If the voters watch this on Disney+, which defaults to the (badly) dubbed version, maybe they’ll be tricked into thinking they watched an English-language film and end up giving this the gold, which would almost be like an extension of this film’s own narrative. (38 min.)
“The Red Suitcase” – An Iranian teen in an airport carrying a red suitcase has to go through customs, but has no desire to see what’s on the other side. I’m going to keep this short vague since much of the tension lies in the discoveries of what she has to confront and escape. Cyrus Neshvad’s film has a nearly perfectly construction as it gradually builds suspense, while exploring a tough subject without getting heavy-handed. The final shot gives it extra heft, signaling Neshvad as a director to watch. The less said, the better, but “The Red Suitcase” is certainly one of the best films, short or feature-length, nominated this year. (18 min.)
The shorts programs will be in theaters starting February 17th. They will also be available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. For more info, visit Shorts.tv.