Nightstream: Short Films — Cinema Vista

While we greatly miss all our friends from past years attending the North Bend Film Festival, it’s with equal gratitude that the festival’s diverse short film portfolios have been folded into the Nightstream festival. The Cinema Vista programs, in particular, often end up being the choicest of short film packages each year. The programming remains equally quirky and diverse in 2020’s online round. There’s something for everyone and the festival spirit is alive and well. We’ll see you all in theater next year.

Richard Nixon: Getaway Driver

Richard Nixon: Getaway Driver. Dir. Kevin Daniel Lonano.

During a wild night of LSD-laced introspection, Richard Nixon sits inside the oval office, narrating an admission tape about his role as the getaway driver for JFK’s assassination. The lady from Jefferson Airplane slipped him some drugs at a party, Denny Holmes informs us, an embattled President broadcasting his misdeeds with dulcet tones, drunk on power and high on the drug. It’s a funny concoction, the kind of thing you can only get away with in a short, where the format allows open-ended investigations without precise plotting or objectives, beyond holding our focus for a few minutes, and distracting from a real and imagined history of difficult, untrustworthy Presidents.

the thing that kills me the most!

the thing that kills me the most! Dir. Jay Giampietro.

“Faces, voices, light: language itself is rendered abstract in this impressionistic fugue about fraught interpersonal dynamics at a weekly social engagement, narrated in retrospect by an exasperated fellow guest,” reads the film’s description, more than I could glean from the neutral chaos of its absurdist conversational pallet. Totally unclear what the takeaway is. Sometimes, a short can simply transport us to an off-putting headspace, give us a small reprieve from normal stresses, for more heightened ones. Transmuting between the videotape of the dinner party and a man’s unbelievably angry takeaway from the party. It’s no Buñuelian dinner, and those are what kills me the most.

God’s Nightmares

God’s Nightmares. Dir. Daniel Cockburn.

God dreams in movies. Prolific short film director Daniel Cockburn summons the spirit of God, narrating all manner of films through a hallucinatory trip about what a God must dream about. What he dreams about is mortality, having and not having, wanting and not wanting. Same guy as all of us. It’s a darkly funny little vehicle that utilizes forgotten frames of film and recontextualizes them through a careful pairing of ideas. All films are in conversation with one another, but not only that, they are also in conversation with God.

Eyes of Eidolon

Eyes of Eidolon. Dir.

Wordless and sprawling out with deep emotional impact, director Davi Pena is able to exude feeling through the texture of their shots. It’s nice not to have the audio for speech, to signal the surrealistic layer, the Twin Peaks of it all. The haunting remembrances of love long lost haunt our protagonist, as the frames vacillate from a scorned piano cueing dire notes to a lake where memories have gone to drown. It’s a heavy, surreal experiment that carries a certain weight, getting a lot out of 11 minutes, while still holding true to some idea of minimalism.

Your Last Day on Earth

Your Last Day on Earth. Dir. Marc Martínez Jordán.

¿Por que? Short films can express anything, and this one does. The wild, Ambien-soaked dreamscape of past and present meld together in Marc Martínez Jordán’s wonderful comic nightmare. It’s a funny film about time travel, Iberian Fox masks, and conspiracy theories. A man races against time to save his wife from impending doom. Little does he know he cannot even save himself. Every shot block needs a burst of fun-spirited creativity and energy just like this to keep the world in balance.

Limbo

Limbo. Dir. Nalle Sjäblad.

Finally, this one is a Buñuelian scenario. A recently fired man and the human resource manager who has fired him are trapped on a never-ending stairwell. We’ve all been playing too much of 1996’s Mario 64, and understand the feeling. It’s a generational battle of wills, as the young woman devastates the old man with bad news, just before they unwillingly get stuck together in purgatory. They must stay together until they can learn something about empathy. Too often, the film seems to say, we work with one another but do not quite work together. It works fine as a short but has said everything it possibly could in the time allotted.

Dark Water

Dark Water. Dir. Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari.

A young woman grieves the loss of her mother in an old family home. Her life feels as though it’s spun into disarray, as she finds documents that question her past, while the home rapidly becomes infested with all manner of snails and sea-like crustaceans. The architecture of the home holds new purpose, as it fills with water. For anyone who has grieved, they know just how that feels. Some clever shots and underwater trickery make Dark Water a nice cap to a well-rounded series of film.

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