Supreme Short Films at Slamdance 2022: Top Picks in Narrative, Animation, Documentary & Experimental

Slamdance 2022 returns virtually for yet another year in 2022, with access to over 100 films for only $10! Streaming from January 27 to February 6, the 28th edition of the festival yet again commits to supporting independent, emerging artists.
In this feature, you’ll find just over two dozen top picks we’ve selected from all of their shorts programs, including animated, documentary, and narrative work. Use this as a quick browse to watch, and be ultra-mindful of the films with asterisks; they’re our “best of the fest” choices, though we don’t think you should miss any of these!

Slamdance 2022 Festival Artwork by Jamie Wolfe
Festival artwork by Jamie Wolfe


Slamdance 2022 Short Film Picks

A Few Things I’m Beginning to Understand

Xenia Matthews, USA (Documentary Shorts Program)

Fabulosity is the name of the game in A Few Things I’m Beginning to Understand, a playful, experimental short film where music, fashion, painting, sculpture, video art, and talk show elements merge to offer commentary on a Black woman’s worth. An interdisciplinary short film to be celebrated for its singular voice, vision, and use of glittery objects galore!


(Cathedral)

James Bascara, USA (Animated Shorts Program)

A smooth-flowing animation which uses basic polygons to represent geometric landscapes both big and small, (Cathedral) uses simple, recognizable forms to shift one’s sense of shape, scale, and time. All the while, a pulsing soundtrack, reminiscent of ant colonies on the move, pairs with a gentle ambiance to create an atmosphere simultaneously easeful and foreboding; manic and still.


Chiatura

Chiatura *

Toby Andris, France
(Narrative Shorts Program)

Chiatura provides a visually-striking narrative of an elderly Georgian woman who takes out her grievances on a mining company that contributed to the death of her husband. Her actions take place after a worker’s strike has ostensibly been resolved and the establishment is more than ready to return to normal working schedules, but she damned if she the gonna give up without a fight!


Cosboi

Cosboi *

Gosha Shapiro, USA
(Narrative Shorts Program)

cosboi follows a genderqueer teen as they experiment with their identity across a series of anonymous rideshare experiences, but grounds a lot of its context in Tik-Tok videos about cosplay, aka “costume play,” or the act of dressing oneself up as a character or concept. Acccording to director Gosha Shapiro, the film’s ability to move fluidly between silly and profound “organically stems from the true tone of the experience.”

“We gender-expansive folk do not have access to conventional tools of self-discovery,” Shapiro explains. “But that means we can get creative with forging our own tools and sometimes those tools are found in the strangest, funniest, and most unexpected of places—like cosplay and TikTok. While there is this fun element to our self-discovery, the stakes remain incredibly high as we’re not only at odds with ourselves but much of the world around us as well… Our experience is not only marked by dysphoria, but a lot of secret euphoria if you look carefully enough. That is what compelled me about this story — that we get to watch a character shape-shift out of desperation, both as a form of survival but also as a form of play.”


Fireflies

Fireflies

Léo Bittencourt, Brazil
(Experimental Shorts Program)

Set in Flamengo’s Park in Rio de Janeiro among the lushness of flora and flauna, Fireflies shows that anything can happen at nighttime in the Brazilian city. Late night inhabitants and wanderers push carts, conduct rituals, feed stray animals, and experience intimacy, all as rich sound design and beautiful visuals create a remarkably sensual and tactile experience.


Freedom Swimmer

Olivia Martin-McGuire, Australia, France, United Kingdom, Hong Kong
(Documentary Shorts Program)

Between 1950 and 1980, almost two million people fled political turmoil from China to Hong Kong. Through a hybrid of scripted narrative and archival documentary footage, Freedom Swimmer details a grandfather’s escape from China during that period and links it to present-day political struggles in Hong Kong, which remind viewers that the traumas of history reverberate for generations. Ultimately, the whole film is a statement, filmed by a crew which remains anonymous, so as to protect their identities in a time when the Chinese government is within their legal rights to persecute anyone who challenges their authority.


Hell Night

Hell Night (Noche del Infierno)

Andrew Reid, USA
(Unstoppable Shorts Program)

Sorority rushes may never looked so witchy!? In Noche del Infierno (Hell Night), a magickal hazing ritual serves as the joyously unexpected backdrop for deeper social commentary. It asks: what does it mean to be “Latina” within the context of the United States and larger conversations of race and culture, and how can solidarity be found despite perceived differences?


In the Jam Jar

In the Jam Jar *

Colin Nixon, Canada
(Narrative Shorts Program)

Poignant, sweet, and with each frame majestically composed, In the Jam Jar is an intimate look at life, death, grief, and memory. Its narrative is driven by hypothetical, unspoken messages between wife and husband; mother and son — where sentiments are shared through powerful symbols.


Ipseity - Marisa's Story

Ipseity – Marisa’s Story

Nicholas Stachurski, USA
(Unstoppable Shorts Program)

Ipseity – Marisa’s Story, is an intimate look into the life of a mother who lost all of her hair at a young age due to alopecia, and later removed her breasts to stave off the likelihood of breast cancer, for which she was at an 80% higher risk of contracting due to a genetic mutation. Instead of a tale of woe, however, the short documentary is a tale of stepping into one’s true self, no matter how that might look from the outside.


Muerte Murciélago

Muerte Murciélago

Carlos Saiz, Spain
(Animated Shorts Program)

Focused on the disappearance and devastation of one named Muerte Murciélago, this short film of the same name uses a mish-mash of black and white animation styles to retell a story where no one knows the outcome of a mysterious fire. By the end, the truth remains obfuscated, but Muerte Murciélago offers a glimpse into the possibilities which live on, perhaps long after its subject is gone.


The Multi

The Multi

Storm Smith, Mikail Chowdhury, USA
(Unstoppable Shorts Program)

When a deaf Black woman’s carefully-curated life slowly begins to unspool due to the reemergence of suppressed family trauma, a multiplicity of conflicting selves begins to show through the characters interactions with herself and important people in her life. Created by a majority deaf cast and crew, The Multi uses a creative blend of minimal sound design and evocative music to soundtrack a narrative which mostly plays out through movement, sign language, subtitles, and the occasional spoken phrase; the various combinations of communication styles offer insight into the complexity and richness of the main character’s experience, as well as the ways in which human beings cope.


My Parent, Neal

Hannah Saidiner, USA
(Documentary Shorts Program)

In My Parent, Neal, watercolor and colored pencil animations provide the perfect, easily-shifting backdrop of fluidity to tell the story of a parent’s gender transition. An intimate conversation between child and parent illuminates the transition’s impact on a family’s domestic life, as well as how it changes the parent’s interaction with the greater world beyond.


No Soy Óscar

Jon Ayon, US / Mexico
(Documentary Shorts Program)

On his website, No Soy Óscar director Jon Ayon writes that, “Since 1994, an estimated 10,000 people have died crossing the US/Mexico border.” The experimental documentary oscillates in form and feeling throughout — at times using a single, slow-moving frame to convey a sense of timelessness, and at times grounding itself through interviews with Native tribes and the construction of border walls. No Soy Óscar conceptually traces the migration and eventual death of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his young daughter, Angie Valeria, who drowned as they attempted to cross into the United States. While the film provides a macro commentary on the conflicting existence of being Latinx in America, the memory of those who passed also connects the filmmaker to his own daughter.


Oldboys Apples

Oldboy’s Apples

Brad Hock, USA
(Animated Shorts Program)

Portrayed with stop-motion animation, Oldboy’s Apples features an unlikely group of felted creatures who cast spells over playful vocoder melodies. The result is a conjuring of bizarre dancing creatures, which leave one wondering if even the most devilish of characters has a tender heart and desire to play.


On Time Off Time

Hirotoshi Iwasaki, Japan
(Animated Shorts Program)

Using ever-shifting configurations of square grids as its baseline compositional structure, On Time Off Time twirls through loops of black-and-white drawings in a way that makes one constantly second-guess what is on-screen. Slow-moving and cyclical in nature, off-kilter timing and a porousness of imagery invites one to meditate on the theme of slow transformation, as humans shift into non-humans, and viewers are lulled into the sensual pleasures of oscillation.


Ontbinding

Ontbinding

Dries Bogaert, Belgium (Animated Shorts Program)
(Animated Shorts Program)

In a world where homogenous pink creatures live an uneventful life of rule-following, one unexpectedly pale being is birthed and transcends into another universe — one where no rules exist and all is gloriously created by the imagination. Unfortunately, in the world of Ontbinding, nothing seems to work out quite as well as even the most imaginative might hope.


Oreo Trilogy

Oreo: Trilogy *

Cashmere Jasmine, USA
(Unstoppable Shorts Program)

Both satiric and dramatic, Oreo: Trilogy offers three stories of what it means to be a Black woman when one must constantly try to prove her authentic experience to others. Opening with a tale of a woman who calls customer service, trying to get her “Black card” back after it has been revoked due to “non-Black activity,” the trilogy then meanders into an uncomfortable apartment gathering, where one Black Wellesley graduate has to reckon with a lack of belonging. Lastly, it concludes with a therapy session, where a therapist and client struggle over the validity of one’s feelings and emotions.


Platform

Platform

Steffen Köhn, Johannes Büttner, Germany
(Department of Anarchy Program)

Part 3D-rendered video game, part comedy, part heist movie, and part thriller, Platform is a multi-city, multi-lingual adventure that culminates in a global coordinated strike by abused and underappreciated gig workers. High-energy and massively slick in its presentation, the short film hardly feels like real life whatsoever, though it claims to be a “sci-fi documentary.”


Roommates

Roommates *

Ashley Eakin, USA
(Unstoppable Shorts Program)

Placed into a college dorm room as new roommates, two women must navigate the tension between bonding over their disabilities and the learning curve of understanding one another’s varying experiences. Ultimately, Roommates provides playful, heart-felt space for these women to show up fully, as the party animals that they are. Another excellent film by Ashley Eakin, whose film, Single, also screened at Slamdance in 2021.


See You Garbage

See You Garbage!

Romain Dumont, Canada
(Narrative Shorts Program)

Class divisions lead to hilarity in Au plaisir les ordures (See You Garbage!), where three garbage men are invited to dinner at the home of the Canadian Prime Minister and First Lady. What begins as a fun and friendly evening soon turns into politicians being politicians: manipulative and disappointing.


Sensual Pill

Sensual Pill *

Sam3, Greece (Animated Shorts Program)

The title says it all in Sensual Pill, which takes a stop-motion trip around the world through aerial footage. Whether ocean, bridge, boat, highway, roundabout, forest, farmland, or anything else seen from the all-seeing eye above, the final output is a sensual psychedelic adventure, ebbing and flowing in time with explosive electronic rhythms.


Signs and Gestures

Signs & Gestures

Itandehui Jansen, United Kingdom
(Unstoppable Shorts Program)

In Signs and Gestures a promising dating exchange, which deepens over text exchanges, turns into a tragic missed connection. To find love, a blind woman and deaf man must rely on new modes of communication.


Telos or Bust

Telos or Bust

Brad Abrahams, USA
(Documentary Shorts Program)

Through interviews with local historians, scribes, channelers, and spiritual guides who share the stories of the region’s myths, Telos or Bust captures the New Age community of Mount Shasta in Northern California. The well-crafted short is intended to be a pilot for a docuseries called “Keep Folklore Alive,” and includes plenty of references to aliens, crystals, portals, and the wild wild west of spiritual beliefs.


True Story - I Feel

True Story: I Feel *

Matthew Law, USA
(Narrative Shorts Program)

Creative cinematography, strong screenwriting, and top-notch acting combine in the emotionally-evocative True Story: “I Feel”, so that a straight-forward therapy session becomes a moment of realness, for a young Black client to express his deepest feelings.


Walls Cannot Keep Us from Flying

Walls Cannot Keep Us From Flying

Jonathan Haff Mehring, USA
(Documentary Shorts Program)

In Palestine, where war and Israeli occupation are a constant-looming presence, two youth believe in the the unifying power of skateboarding. Walls Cannot Keep Us From Flying revolves around Palestine’s first skateboarding ramp, showing how the sport — and sharing it with others — can be life-changing for men and women in search of a better future.


Whats My Name

What’s My Name?

Arthur Studholme, United Kingdom
(Department of Anarchy Program)

What’s My Name is a reminder that sometimes one just has to laugh at a serious event — like when a misunderstanding about an allergy leads to an out-of-body experience. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

Watch all of the films over at slamdance.com

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Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/she) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

In 2017, Vee released the narrative short film, Searching Skies — which touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States — and co-organized The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. 2022 sees the release of their next short film, Reckless Spirits, which is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature film.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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