Walnut Creek International Short Film Festival on May 1-3
By Lou Fancher
Ask Walnut Creek International Short Film Festival director and co-founder Bill Hargreaves why the Bay Area is a great place for film festivals and he'll answer, "ACK."
Audiences are attentive (A), curious (C) and knowledgeable (K), he says.
Preparing for the third annual event with more than 100 films screening primarily at Century Walnut Creek Theatres, but this year expanding to include programming at the Lesher Center for the Arts, the festival runs May 1-3.
Separated into standard "screening blocks" like documentary, kids and family, and world cinema, the presenters' special strength -- deep history with independent films that dates back to their childhoods -- produces novel clusterings, including "Ink & Paint Club," "Musically Inclined," "Darker Side of Funny," and more.
"We received feedback that some of the films in the comedy shorts block had a darker tone," Hargreaves says. "We now have two blocks of comedy shorts, one with standard comedy fare, and one with a darker or heavier comedic tone."
This year's 800+ submissions included more foreign films than any other year, Hargreaves says. Documentaries, comedies, animated and sci-fi films especially impressed the four-person selection team that includes festival co-founder Sinohui Hinojosa.
"While many of these films play at the largest festivals, they simply don't receive the exposure they richly deserve," Hinojosa says.
"We bring these films here, because they are a perfect match: world-class short films and appreciative movie lovers."
Festival guests will also appreciate that inflation has not impacted the ticket prices, which remain $12 for regular screenings, with options for daytime and VIP-all-access passes. Screening blocks include an average seven-to-eight films, each no more than 30 minutes in length. New this year are "rewind" screenings on Friday afternoon that replay shorts from last years' festival for people who missed them or hope to see a favorite film again.
At the Lesher, two 90-minute film blocks ("World Cinema One," "The Long & Short of It") and a "Meet the Filmmakers" special presentation will add visibility.
"We're very excited to be expanding the festival to multiple venues and partnering with the Lesher Center," Hargreaves says. "This will increase awareness of the festival"
Filmmakers Joseph Oxford and Kevin Lacey, appearing at the Lesher on Saturday, represent the ingenuity that can be packed into 12 and 30 minutes, respectively.
Oxford's artist background and instincts are evident in the Sundance favorite, "Me + Her."
The handcrafted animation creates a one-fifth scale world and "actors" out of cardboard boxes. Hargreaves says its strong storytelling and styling is "a tour-de-force" and "amazing." A discussion of the short-film-festival-on-may-13 behind-the-scenes process -- many of the elements had to be repeatedly rebuilt -- is likely to be similarly compelling.
Lacey's "Young Americans" was created as part of an American Film Institute thesis project and has received a dozen film festival awards, most of them "best of" in its category. The story of a 17-year-old foster girl about to time out of subsidized support who decides to rob a bank, loops love (an accomplice) and danger (crime is gut-wrenching) into a circle of near betrayal, suspense and reconciliation.
"This selection was easy as this film speaks to the true essence of quality filmmaking that begins with the delivery of an interesting story that resonates," Hargreaves says.
With the opening night's after-party plans still in flux at press time (last year was at the Walnut Creek Yacht Club), Hargreaves says the Opening Night, Comedy, and Northern California events sold out in 2014.