Short films often pack an impact longer films can only wish for. This is the case with three gems screened at The Anthem Libertarian Film Festival, part of FreedomFest, which took place at the Paris Resort in Las Vegas July 11-14. The fest featured two dozen films celebrating individuality, liberty, choice, and accountability.
In less than an hour total, The Inconsiderate Houseguest, Moving Violation, and Are You Volleyball? made attendance at the festival worth it.
The Inconsiderate Houseguest, winner of the Best Comedy Award, was perhaps the least political film of the entire festival, but it contained powerful messages nonetheless – even messages that filmmakers Letitia and Rob Capili didn’t know were there.
The film raises questions about personal space and accountability between two people sharing an apartment. That doesn’t sound funny, but it is. A message I picked out at once was the importance of face-to-face communication. Nearly all the communications between Jim, played by Max Cutler, and Rose, played by Annie Milligan, takes place via Post-It notes and texts.
A clever and entertaining visual element to the film is that when Rose’s besties give her moral support via Facebook-like messages, we don’t see these on the phone, but in little pop-up windows superimposed over the action. Ditto for texts from Jim.
The ending: a surprise twist, followed by an equally funny – based on my evaluation of audience laughter – kicker.
What about those unintended messages? Letitia and Rob Capili asked the audience what they thought they saw and received interpretations involving immigration and other unexpected themes. That was pretty amazing for a 16-minute film.
Another amazing and funny short, Moving Violation, starred Milana Vayntrub, who plays Sloane Sandburg on This is Us.
Vayntrub plays Tara, a lady so optimistic that even being stood up by her fiancé 10 days before their wedding doesn’t crush her spirit. She overcomes various frustrations until she meets her ultimate foe – a speed camera erected by the city.
The story explores the possibility that the government spying on your life could be turned around into a tool of female empowerment. This comedy with a happy ending was directed by Laura Hinson and produced by Meredith Witte for the Moving Picture Institute (MPI), an organization focused on training filmmakers and producing films about human freedom. Watch the trailer below.
Going Beyond Humor
Even WebMD admits that laughter is a universal language. But what if there are other language barriers in the way? Are You Volleyball?, by Iranian writer/director Mohammad Bakhshi, shows how people can overcome barriers, even those involving barbed wire. The film won Anthem’s Excellence in Filmmaking – Short Narrative recognition.
Are You Volleyball? pits two groups against one another: a group of Arab-speaking refugees seeking asylum, and, on the other side of the fence, English-speaking soldiers keeping them from crossing. The filmmaker is careful not to explicitly identify nationalities of the two groups, giving the story some universality.
The humor comes about not through jokes or site gags, although there is a little slapstick, but through irony. The two groups engage in anger and hostility on a daily basis, until a deaf-mute child establishes a means of communication, and the fence between them becomes part of a game.
(Photos courtesy of Anthem Film Festival)