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November 10, 2017
Tiny Movies – Day 1, 2, and 3 at the Lancaster International Short Film Festival
Entering its tenth season, the Lancaster International Short Film Festival (formerly, the Rumschpringe International Short Film Festival) began last week at The Candy Factory. The weather was appropriately chilly and wet with foliage plastered to the pavement, certainly not the most pleasing of outdoor aesthetics, but a stern reminder that autumn had claimed its rightful place on the seasonal throne. There clearly wasn’t a better way to usher in the dipping temperatures than a few hours of indoor entertainment.
Beginning at around 7:30, Michael Hoober, a native Lancastrian and the festival’s founder, screened a total of 11 films. They varied significantly in length—some as short as eight minutes, others as long as 25—and represented an eclectic assortment of themes and languages. There were films from Canada, Japan, Sweden, Austria, Poland, Australia, and the United States.
Complex human relationships, particularly romantic types, were a focus for some while others delved into dynamics such as fateful encounters with total strangers or deep familial secrets unearthed my recent trauma. There was a pretty good balancing act of dark and light-hearted comedy too, enough to sate everyone regardless of their sense of humor. And perhaps what some might consider the ultimate change of pace, there was also a locally-produced short documentary about the Bowmansville Roller Mill and its historical significance.
The tenth annual Lancaster International Short Film Festival (LISFF) resumed last Friday and Saturday at its second designated venue: The Elks Lodge on 219 North Duke Street. The screenings took place in the Empire Room, a spacious auditorium that lent itself nicely to the remainder of the event.
On Day 2, a total of 13 official selections were screened, broken up into two separate blocks. The first block was a balance of drama and comedy, whereas the second placed an exclusive emphasis on horror. While there was a strong showing during the first block, the second saw the audience swell dramatically in size. The sounds of laughter were more boisterous this time. I could feel the tension of the festivalgoers sitting around me, some of them recoiling in fear each time creepy imagery popped up on the projection screen. One gentleman sitting directly behind me mumbled that he hated scary movies after he was throttled in his seat during an intense moment on-screen.
Horror might be a polarizing you-love-it-or-you-hate-it type of genre to some; however, it was pretty evident during this segment that Lancaster has a very strong presence of enthusiasts, and one that I clearly underestimated for this area. The theme went into extra sessions with a special screening of two heavily-anticipated holiday horror shorts: The Naughty List and I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday.
The award categories (top row, from left): Best Horror, Best Animation, Best Drama, Best Comedy, Best Documentary; (bottom row, from left): Best Home Grown, Grand Prize, and Best Actor.
Day 3 was a marathon that started early Saturday afternoon. It was clearly the longest leg of the festival with 21 films broken up into three blocks. My memory is a bit murky on the exact amount of time I spent at the lodge that day, but if I had to venture a guess, it felt like eight hours (possibly longer).
Moving on from its horror focus of the previous night, LISFF fired off a few animated shorts with some regional documentaries sprinkled in. Eventually, the themes switched over to a comedy-drama ricochet before finally winding down to the awards segment.
The 2017 LISFF award winners are as follows:
Best Home Grown – Numbers, by Hunter Polanskey (USA)
Comedy about a young man struggling to get over his post break-up funk and the lengths his friends will go to make him feel better;
Best Animation – Light Sight, by Simin Farrokh Ahmadi (Iran)
A humanoid creation grows infatuated with an elusive light;
Best Horror – La Sirena (The Mermaid), by Rosita Lama Muvdi (USA)
Fairy tale about Mia, the “other woman” in an affair with a village fisherman, whose brokenhearted jealousy begins to consume her to the point of no return;
Best Documentary – The Toothmans, by Hansen Bursic (USA)
A Pennsylvania family learns to adjust to their child identifying as transgender;
Best Comedy – Imaginary Friends, by Jason C. Brown (USA)
A young woman hopelessly tries to ditch the imaginary friend assigned to her;
Best Actor – Manne Gidlund, for his portrayal of “Lukas” in Bitchboy, by Mans Berthas (Sweden)
Lukas, a young metalhead, deals with the emotional fallout of his grandfather’s death;
Best Drama (and Grand Prize Winner) – Le Monde du Petit Monde (A Whole World for a Little World), by Fabrice Bracq (France)
French drama about a mother sharing a funny, yet emotional story with her child.
The 2017 edition of the Lancaster International Short Film Festival was a colossal tour de force. Writers, directors, actors, costume designers, and all other facets of filmmaking were on full display. It was truly a diverse collection of works: romance, comedy, drama, animation, foreign language, documentary, and everything in between. There were local passion projects, television series concepts, a mixture of professional and guerilla filmmaking techniques, cast and crew Q&As—literally something for everyone.
In case you missed this year’s festival, there’s plenty of time to plan ahead for next year as it’s an annual affair. Please feel free to check out their website as well as their Facebook page for additional information.