Austin Film Festival 2016: Shorts Program 3 and 5 review

We had the chance to review a few short films from the “Shorts Program 3: Rising to the challenge” and “Shorts Program 5: A Stranger Comes to Town” at Austin Film Festival. The program selection at this year’s festival has been excellent. There are many diverse films from all over the world, including the Australian superhero comedy, “Capes,” the vast and incredible “Zaire,” and the sci-fi film, “The Universe of Scotch and Haagen-Dazs.”

Shorts Program 3: Rising to the Challenge

“Capes” (Australia, 8 min)

Photo courtesy of Lucas Testro

Synopsis: When the city’s superhero finds himself short of a sidekick, he comes up with an unlikely solution to his staffing problems.

Review: This short film is written and directed by Lucas Testro, director of the acclaimed time travel comedy short film “I’m You, Dickhead.” It’s nice to see a different take on the superhero genre and the fact that it  delves into the comedic realm without having to go towards the over cheesiness that we usually see in Marvel films.

And also, with superheroes mostly always being portrayed by Americans, it’s nice having an accented superhero from down under to add a new flair to the genre and add a badass superhero name on top of that with “The Dark Blackness.” You can’t beat that!

This film will make you laugh and also surprise you in ways you wouldn’t think a superhero film would. The production value is great and the fact that they could pull off a non-tacky superhero costume in a low-budget film is quite the feat!

“Zaire” (UK, 16 min)

Photo courtesy of Joshua Benson
Photo courtesy of Joshua Benson

Synopsis: A scientist, Zaire (Jeff Worden) struggles to bring organic life to a remote planet. Forced to face the prospect of failure after months of unsuccessful attempts, he seeks the hope needed to persevere.

Review: This short film directed by Joshua Benson will not feel like a short film at all from the opening shot. Benson intended to feel vast and once I started watching it I knew what he meant. This film is definitely meant to be experienced in a theater and will take you to depths you normally wouldn’t explore in such a short amount of time.

Zaire is frustrated with not being able to find a solution to bring life to another planet, which in the scope of things, is definitely not an easy task. Although this film is set in space you’ll definitely be able to relate to Zaire’s struggle. He’s lost his sense of wonder and through the course of the film goes finally goes out and looks up and rediscovers the beauty around him.

The film feels cinematic which is refreshingly nice in a short film and worth a watch!

Shorts Program 5: A Stranger Comes to Town

“The Universe of Scotch and Haagen-Dazs” (USA, 10 min)

Review by Dana Summers

Synopsis: “The Universe of Scotch and Haagen-Dazs” is a short film directed by Jonathan Todd Ross where not only is the concept of multiple alternate universes a reality, but the chance to switch places with an alternate version of yourself is possible for only $1,000.

The short film starts when Dan Levy (Jonathan Todd Ross) gets out of bed to fetch his snoring, pregnant wife (Stacy Ayn Price) a glass of water and ends up meeting an alternate version of himself who offers him the chance to go to an alternate universe.

These alternative universes include those where Dan saves the president, Steve Job is still alive, and the “Star Wars” prequels don’t suck. While Dan originally jumps for the offer to escape his current life, it is a question as to whether he is truly ready to take that plunge or not.

Review: I give props to this film for being super-low budget and still managing to tell a creative and interesting story. The acting can sometimes feel a bit awkward and forced, especially at the beginning of the film; but once the concept of the alternate universes is explained the dialogue and the jokes flow much better. This film comes in just under ten minutes, so I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is looking for a interesting sci-fi film to watch.

If you’re still in town for Austin Film Festival you can catch the Shorts Program 3: Rising to the Challenge on Monday, Oct. 17 at 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at and Shorts Program 5: A Stranger Comes to Town on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 1:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m both screening at Galaxy Highland 9 presented by Dove Chocolate.

You can follow Austin Film Festival on Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, and check their website here for the full live schedule and ticket info.

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