This week the Charleston International Film Festival returns, sporting a couple full length films: Eadweard, Kyle Rideout’s drama about controversial photographer Eadweard Muybridge, and the world premiere of local filmmaker Brad Jayne’s drama, Warrior Road, a film reminiscent of Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me. The festival also hosts an annual workshop, with this year’s focusing on virtual cinematography blocking and staging. Casting Director Avy Kaufman, with over 200 credits including The Bourne Ultimatum and HBO’s The Night Of, will be attending Saturday to do a free talkback, as well as receive a Career Achievement Award during the Sunday Mimosa Brunch Awards Ceremony.

But dominating most of the festival will be over 50 shorts playing throughout the week. These include Home and Bon Voyage, two films that focus on the refugee crisis. There’s also Gonzo @ The Derby, a documentary about Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 Kentucky Derby article. Based on a true story, the fest also presents sci-fi drama The Last Transmission, among many others.

Of the shorts available for preview, these were a few that stood out.

Frame 394

Thurs. Block Three, 9 p.m.

On the semi-local front, Rich Williamson’s short documentary focuses on the Walter Scott shooting from another perspective, focusing on Daniel Voshart, an architectural student obsessed with every frame of the footage. Not only does he analyze every frame, he builds 3D models of the event, creating a rabbit hole that Williamson investigates.

Thurs. Block One, 5 p.m.

Nuts opens with its protagonist waking up to suburban bleakness — and it’s clear the film’s main protagonist has seen a horror movie or two. Clocking in at a little over 4 minutes, Theo Sana’s film is a slice of bleak humor informed by the main character’s overreaction to the world around him. A fun little diversion.

The Return Of Erkin
Thurs. Block One, 5 p.m.

Misery is the consistent vibe one feels from the opening moments of Maria Guskova’s The Return Of Erkin. I mean that in the best way possible. The mood is so visceral that it’s almost tangible. Erkin’s prison sentence for murder has ended. As he leaves behind the walls that justifiably held him inside, he mutely returns to the village he called home. A quiet man who harbors a boatload of guilt, he seeks out the father of the victim for forgiveness. After an anger-filled beating from the victim’s younger brother, Erkin leaves but is still resolute in receiving forgiveness for his crime. Shot in Kyrgyzstan, Guskova’s work is more focused on existentialism and her subject’s stone-like face. Playing Erkin, Kahramanzhon Mamasaliyev has a face that, on the outset, speaks detachment, but delicately reveals sadness. If words like “existentialism” and the film’s locale didn’t already give it away, those averse to reading should be warned there are subtitles involved.

Poor George
Fri. Block Two, 7 p.m.

Poor George opens with the Heinz Keissling-eque dream that quickly evaporates to the colorless, dismal reality that is the title character’s life. Much like Milton from Mike Judge’s Office Space, George is barely noticed or appreciated by his co-workers … or anyone else for that matter. His only respite exists in a dream where he is adored and his scalp has a lot more follicles than reality currently dictates. The madness of a whirring computer, a boss with a thing for keeping those numbers “up, up, up” and a wife with a passion for her dogicorn collection pushes him to the brink. Aesthetically akin to the whimsical darkness and the indefinable time period of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Poor George is a humorous too-brief reminder of the volcano that can bubble inside a quiet person. It should probably be mentioned that Brian Doyle Murray pops up and adds a little fun to the goings-on.

Fri. Block Three, 9 p.m.

In a horror movie, it’s a given when one character gives another character a specific set of rules like, “Don’t get them wet” or “Don’t feed them after midnight,” that inevitably those rules will be broken. When an orphan named Sophie is hired by an older woman to bring food to someone living in an attic, there is but one rule — never pass the serving table. All that Sophie has to do is put the food down and leave. You can take a wild guess how this works out. That is in no way a negative. Much like Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, Agatha is the visual equivalent of 1800’s folklore brought to life by its unsettling ambience of its locations, the innocent fears and curiosities of childhood, and some seriously labored breathing.


Sat. Block Two, 12 p.m.

Like Nuts and Poor George, Atchafalaya opens with its protagonist waking up. Rather than in a bed, a game warden wakes in his car swilling from a flask, grasping a gun and watching too vigilantly. There’s a hurricane a-coming folks. This Cat 1 storm is named Neil and is threatening the Louisiana area, but before the warden can batten down any form of hatches, he has to investigate a call out in the swamp. A tense fleeting standoff with a man intent on saving the pipeline turns into a warning: “Darkness is coming. You ready for it?” Thanks to some haunting Cajun instrumentation and photography that fully utilizes the gorgeous scenery, Atchafalaya melds Cajun folklore and crime noir into a brooding story.

The Babysitter Murders
Sat. Block Five 8 p.m.

I can’t speak for anyone else but whenever a movie or TV show is preceded by the phrase “The following program may contain violence, nudity, drug use and adult situations. Parental discretion is advised,” my initial thought is, “Sign me up.” As you may have guessed by the title of this film, there is a masked maniac out there on the loose. At least that’s what the movies on the television are saying while a babysitter does the babysitter thing of child-tending and indulging in one too many slasher flicks. Said babysitter receives a visit from a bloodied gentleman who may or may not be a recently escaped maniac. A fight of MATRIX/WWF proportions breaks out and then a thing happens that can’t be mentioned unless we want to enter spoiler territory. Though some may know how this tale will end, Ryan Spindell’s ode to the VHS era of busted Halloween ripoffs nicely captures the era’s gnarliness with a twist.