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Shorts Program 2
Saturday, April 5 @ Angelika
Sunday, April 6 @ Angelika

By Laura Seewoester
DIFF Writer

Below, directors participating in the Dallas International Film Festival’s Shorts Program 2 provide insight into their personal process of making a short film.




Tobacco Burn is a compelling story taken from a slice of Virginia history. Director Justin Liberman adapted a story from Weevils in the Wheat, a collection of interviews with former Virginia slaves taken from the Federal Writer’s Project of the 1930’s. The film is so compelling it almost begs to be a full-length feature. As Liberman’s thesis short film, however, it was never intended to be a feature. “What it did do was kind of demystify the feature film experience for us because I think as young filmmakers we envisioned feature film to be the big, larger than life situation,” he said. “Making tobacco burn really demystified it for us and made us realize that we can definitely make feature films.”

Brett Weiner’s Verbatim practices storytelling in an especially abbreviated form in a film that is only about 6 minutes long. The film is an excerpt of a deposition from a lawsuit in Ohio in which an especially agitated lawyer is interrogating an employee concerning office equipment. A completely nonsensical exchange ensues, erupting in hilarity on the part of the viewer. The interesting thing about this film is that there were no (verbal) flourishes added in the adaptation of the deposition; the lines in the film are all exactly what’s recorded in the deposition, verbatim. On set, that presented a little bit of a challenge. Typically the script and lines in a movie can be played around with and you can experiment with different things, but not in this instance. “I had to make sure we had everything covered and all the language was 100% right, because it had to be verbatim,” Weiner said. “Which, is usually not the way it works, especially in comedy.”



Set in a post-apocalyptic snowy era, Aftermath by Jeremy Robbins explores the human condition through the relationship of two brothers in a particularly brutal time of speculative human survival. “I didn’t set out originally to make a specific genre film,” Robbins said. “I mostly wanted to make a movie about brothers.” The film takes you through a coming of age story, of sorts, as the brothers, Jem and Cody, struggle to survive in the cold, harsh conditions of the intentionally ambiguous aftermath of an apocalyptic event. “People wanted to know what happened… but that was not important to me for this particular story,” Robbins said. “I think with a short you can kind of get away with being a little bit more ambiguous and maybe mysterious. I was less interested in why the world turned out that way than I was in what’s going to happen to this very ordinary relationship between brothers in this sort of extraordinary world.” Robbins’ film is a perfect example of how the medium of a short film can effectively tell a compelling story without telling the whole story.

Melissa Hickey’s Ni-Ni takes a macro look at the draw the Mexican drug war has on young men in Ciudad Juarez. Daniel is a teenager slipping into the fringes of the cartel culture when he runs into an old classmate and starts reconsidering his path. The movie’s namesake is a slang term for ‘ni estudia, ni trabaja,’ referring to young men in Mexico that neither study nor work. These are often the young men that get wrapped up in the life of crime and violence in Juarez. “We were trying to highlight and accentuate a problem that I think is too often being ignored on this side of the border,” Hickey said of the film. “What we were trying to do was humanize the boy to make the viewer understand that this kid is not just some cold blooded dealer or killer but actually had a home life.”

Augustine Frizzell’s I Was a Teenage Girl takes a look at some of the big events that happen in the life of a teenager in respect to love and relationships. In the film, two girls have a quiet “girl talk” about “Emma” breaking up with her boyfriend the day before. The intimate setting is like a window into a sleepover, where teenagers tend to express their secrets and start to sort out their place in the world. “I wanted it to feel very intrusive,” Frizzell said. “I wanted people watching it to feel like they should not be watching this.” Frizzell knows a thing or two about the sanctity of a teenage girl’s room, both having been one herself once as well as through her teenage daughter, Atheena, who is also in the film.



Susana Casares also tackles the trials and tribulations of teens in her short, Tryouts. The film introduces us to Nayla, your typical high school student trying out for the cheerleading squad. Only Nayla is Muslim American, and joining the cheerleading squad would require her to disregard customs that are important to not only her parents, but her faith as well. Torn between the customs of her parents, her religion, and the teenage “American dream” of being a cheerleader, the film beautifully shows Nayla’s strength of character with a heavy dose of clever rebellion.


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With 175 films and an Oscar to his credit, John Wayne is considered by many to be not only a great actor, but the American archetype.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first African-American President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and only the third woman to hold the office.

John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren & Stimpy, is the recipient of the 2014 Texas Avery Animation Award presented by REEL FX.



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