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SLFS Review – Shorts Program 1: Citygarden Competition

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Shorts Program # 1: Selections from the Second Annual Cinema at Citygarden Competition plays Sunday July 8th at Noon at The Tivoli Theater, 6350 Delmar Blvd. Tickets for film programs from July 8-12 at the Tivoli are $12 each; $10 for students with valid and current photo ID and for Cinema St. Louis members with valid membership cards. Advance tickets are on sale at the Tivoli Theatre box office (5-10 p.m. Monday-Friday and 2-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday). Tickets are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Opened in 2009, Citygarden is a dazzling new addition to the civic and artistic fabric of St. Louis and the nation. Framed by office towers and in the shadow of the Gateway Arch, Citygarden is an oasis in the heart of a major American city’s downtown: a vibrant and serene blending of lush plantings and internationally renowned sculpture with delights of water, stone, architecture and design. Cinema St. Louis and The Gateway Foundation challenged St. Louis-area filmmakers to create short works that incorporated Nature as a key element and the best of these films have been playing on Citygarden’s video wall. The first shorts program for this year’s St. Louis Filmmaker’s Showcase is a collection of these Citygarden films.

Birds on a Wire by Virginia Lee Hunter is a meditative 3 minute single-take look at blackbirds at rest and in motion on some power lines while a narrator speaks of their beauty. This won second place in this year’s juried competition.

Collage #1 by Aaron Vaught is a 3 minute exploration of the relationship between objects in the natural world. Shots of feathers, leaves, rocks, water, and plants are interwoven while industrial music plays.

The Current by Thomas Malkowicz is 3 minute documentary about two brothers who have enjoyed the Current River and hope to preserve it for the future.In 1964 135 miles of the Jack’s Fork River became the first national park to protect a wildlife river system. Brother Thomas and Mark Malkowicz grew up nearby and talk about their memories of the river and how they like to document it. Nice short film won third place in this year’s juried competition but deserved better.

Elm by Mike McCubbins is a 5 minute look at two hundred years in the life of a patch of forest. .Using cut-out style animation, this is a clever short showing progress as buildings, trains, and cars take over the same scene of land, eventually becoming Elm Avenue. This won first place in this year’s juried competition.

First Snow by David Denagel runs 4 minutes.The first snow of the season falls on the countryside. A cat looks at a barn. That kind of stuff.

Garden by Olivia Lahs-Gonzales is a 5 minute abstract evocation of a night garden shot in night vision style with ambient sound. Simple but hypnotic.

Human/Nature by Dale Ward runs 4 minutes and is described as “The manipulation and distortion of nature by man over the year”. I don’t see it. I see shots of nature and some become distorted and solarized through various camera and digital effects, not man. Nice try, hippy!

Inverno Romanza by Mark Lovelace is a nice 5 minute narrative. Alone on a rainy Christmas Eve, a young girl looks for an escape in nature. This exhilarating, upbeat short is my favorite of this program.

Maison Des Reveurs by Rita Hunt runs 5 minutes and is described as The nature of our life depends on the flight of our imagination” but it was not on the screener I viewed.

Mama by Sarah Worner runs 2 minutes. A mother’s passing is creatively evoked with animated cut-outs, flowers, corn husks, and found foliage and is probably the most original short in this program.

The Myth of Nikola Tesla by Alex Elmestad is a 5 minute poetic narrative supposedly based on the life and works of inventor Nikola Tesla. What I saw was a speckly experimental shot of some power lines enhanced by the occasional lightning strike, but what do I know about Tesla?

Nature Speaks by Catherine Dudley-Rose is a 3 minute exploration of the music found in nature. Reflections, underwater, jellyfish, sound waves all add up to an interesting short.

Nested by Ben Schmidt is a 3 minute short about a brother and sister who find a bird’s nest in the middle of the road. They debate what type of eggs they are and what to do with them before the film ends with a dark punch line. I liked it.

A Path by Rachel & Zlatko Cosic is a 5 minute look at the ritual of walking on a path throughout the year that coincides with the cycle of life and seasonal changes. This is ambitious short features split screen and words (“Cleansin”, “Renewe”) written on nature.

Red and Blue Armies in a Forest by Van McElwee is a 5 minute short. Two groups of soldiers converge in a forest, both groups electronically monitoring the other. This was not on the screener I viewed.

Remember by Sylvia Geiger is a charming 4 minute look at nature through the eyes of the filmmaker’s four young children. It’s a record that Ms Geiger will always have to treasure.

Timber Dream by Hannah Radcliff is a 3 minute film featuring an old man named Willy Zep who represents a lone tree who dreams about movement. Unusual and fun.

Toky! by Jamie Jessop runs 5 minutes and is the story of Toky the turtle, found by two friendly little girls who box him up. He dreams of his favorite spots in nature and fantasizes about freedom. Very clever.

Trope by Zlatko Cosic runs 5 minutes and is described as “Abstract images and sounds signify the ongoing ecological damages occurring on planet Earth”. Like Human/Nature what I saw were shots of nature warped by digital post-production effects. I’m sure if the filmmaker tried harder he could have found shots of actually “ecological damage” and it might have been effective.

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