Ten years ago, the Greater North Charleston Park Circle Film Society started a short film festival for the purpose of letting local filmmakers show their goods around town. Since that time, the festival evolved from a twice-a-year fest to a singular massive fall one. In edition to shortening their name to Park Circle Film Society, the organization even began opening to national and international applicants.
“In the beginning we had maybe a dozen films, then up to 50. From there it kind of grew organically,” says festival director Nicholai Burton. This year, they have 47 films from 17 countries.
And the types of films they’re getting run from animated shorts (like SNAP, a Belgian/UK film about a fish who borrows some hunting techniques from a frog) to Grind, a musical based on the app Grindr. “It was a little bit of Rent, a little bit of Sweeney Todd,” Burton says. “There was nothing else like that. It knew the story it wanted to tell and did it in a way that was between [those musicals].” Burton is pretty spot on considering that the main star of Grind, Anthony Rapp, starred in the first production of Rent.
Since the shorts range in topics from murder to new pets, it’d be hard to find common themes amongst them all. The one theme Burton found was with the Spanish entries. “Every year we get more and more from Spain — this year we got 60 or 70,” Burton says. “There’s an overwhelming theme of youth employment. Nearly every short we reviewed touched on being unemployed.”
Burton also notes the increase in animated flicks. “A lot of them do come internationally, since you don’t have to worry about language barriers,” explains Burton.
For the sake of the festival, the Society created different viewing blocks to break up the 47 films. The festival starts off with a block entitled Things End, Things Begin, where shorts will revolve around, well, new beginnings, before moving onto another called Bad Guys and Buffons. And closing the first day is a block called Love Stories? This collection of films — notice the question mark — is meant to challenge viewers by presenting the many meanings of love, whether it’s an infatuation (Countryphile), a coping mechanism (Casitas), or a subconscious feeling (I’m A Sharpener). Burton explains, “In one film, love is the strength of family bonds to overcome a great obstacle (Persuasion). Some films are more straightforward, using the romantic definition of love to entertain us.”
The second day of the fest kicks off with the family-friendly block titled Determination, which is where you’ll find most of the animated stories. The second block that day is titled Appearances Can Deceive.
“Appearances Can Deceive is about reality clashing with expectation,” says Burton. “This block is a mixed bag. We have characters whose first impression to others, and to the audience, belies their true nature. Other times the filmmaker is a magician who convinces us that a pickup truck is a triceratops, a can of tuna houses a mermaid, and a child’s drawing can save a broken home. Playing with the difference between reality and expectation is a source of delight, and of horror.”
After all the shorts have shown, the winners of the Best in Fest, Regional Spotlight (Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina produced films), as well as an Audience Award will be announced. Judges, including City Paper staff writer Paul Bowers and contributors Scott Poole and Colleen Glenn among others, will watch the shorts beforehand, scoring them from one to five, five being the highest mark.
Here’s a list of some of our faves, in no particular order:
1. I’m a Sharpener — An enchanting tale about a pencil sharpener.
2. Countryphile — A local celebrity, who’s also a gynocolgist, has an awkward run-in with his patient.
3. Democracia — A company tries to unite its workers through the killing of one its own workers. Sidenote: Borja Cobeaga, the director of Democracia, was nominated for an Oscar for best short for his Éramos pocos in 2006.
4. Stockholm — Not a film about Sweden, but instead the story of a father who holds wealthy people hostage, as told by his son.
5. The Present — A feel-good animated flick about a little boy’s new pup.
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