With the first day of the AMC Theatres Kansas City FilmFest over with, the year’s proceedings are off to a great start. The festival unofficially launched at 4:30 p.m.with Piran — Pirano, the music documentary Andrew Bird: Fever Year and part one of the local shorts program “People Like Us,” all leading up to the official kick-off with Nailbiter. Because it’s a hometown film festival and I’m a hometown kind of guy, I opted for “People Like Us.”
The selections for “People Like Us” ranged from darker fare like sorority revenge stories, to murder ballads and teen suicide to documentaries about campus Christians, Stan Herd and prisoners of war. And some comedies were thrown in for good measure. Here’s a quick recap of each of the films featured in People Like Us:
Suburban Shopping Trends Directed by James Schweers
The opening short of the program was a brief comedy that set the neediness of customers who have to try on, comment and generally annoy everyone around them to the backdrop of a local garage sale. The film was direct and essentially leads up to a single punchline, but is a satisfying one, once it gets there.
The Etiquette Of Impotence Directed by Meagan Flynn
The second film also happened to be the second comedy of the showcase and the first appearance by Meg Saricks, who shows up later on in the showcase. A single-cam comedy that addresses the camera directly, The Etiquette Of Impotence is a monolog delivered by Saricks’ character after going home with a young, less-than-virile 20-something. Written and directed by Flynn, the dialog is peppy and the lead is likable, but the humor lies more in the premise than in the traditional set-up/punchline style of comedy. For women (and men) who have experienced something similar to this, it probably rings true. Not that I’d know.
Stan Herd: Man Of The Land Directed by Christopher Blunk
Blunk’s short was easily the most technically accomplished film in the first showcase, sporting rich colors, beautiful cinematography and concise edits that move film along while still giving it room to find some human moments between Herd and his friends and family. That said, at seven minutes the film almost seems like a teaser for a longer documentary, especially considering how interesting Herd and his work is both personally and visually.
Love And Buns: The Hot Dog House Directed by Jason Badgett
Not the title of a late ’80s erotic thriller, Love And Buns: The Hot Dog House is actually about KU Campus Christians and their weekly Frankfurter Friday event where members of the organization hand out about 400 hot dogs to anyone willing to stop by the campus house on the way to or from the Friday bar scene. Badgett’s documentary circumvents much of the politics and religious underpinnings of the event and instead focuses on the charming and lovable people involved and the open, non-judgmental environment that is offered. As a result the documentary, like the event itself, is a success.
The Little Things Directed by Nathan Mennel
The Little Things is a difficult film to watch because of its subject matter. A fictional take on a serious trend, the film looks at bullying, an unhappy home life and the need to fit in all from the perspective of a high school student. The film had a couple of narrative speed bumps, but its true strength is in its editing, which, along with a great soundtrack, establishes a sense of dread that builds toward its troubling conclusion. Kudos to the young actors for taking on some complex subject matter convincingly.
Hell Week Directed by Patrick Rea
Rea’s short was a piece of revenge fetishism in which three sorority girls take their anger out on one unsuspecting pledge. It was as fun as it was devilish with a gross-out scene that had the audience squirming. And even though it was predictable, it was still a lot of fun.
The Missing Man Directed by Debbie Tola
The most compelling short of the program was also the documentary. The Missing Man follows The Run For The Wall, an annual motorcycle trip from Los Angeles to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. that honors veterans, prisoners of war and the fallen. Tola’s access to many of the riders is amazing and the resultant interviews are moving.
Two Sisters Directed by Anthony Ladesich
Any fan of murder ballads will instantly be at home with Ladesich’s short. Two Sisters is a gritty, visually stunning yarn that tells the story of a victim of a violent crime through communion of the dead. Ladesich was quick to heap praise on his cast and crew, but his role was instrumental.
– See Them Again! –
If you missed the shorts or want to check them out again, all of the films listed above will be on display again this Saturday at 11:15 a.m. at the AMC Ward Parkway 14. I highly recommend them.