The overall theme of the Fear No Film short films program at the Utah Arts Festival may be "Memory," but the seven entries in the Utah Short Film of the Year program aren't generally focused on looking backward. They're about the inspiring prospect of moving forward.
As would be true of any collection of various artists' work, finding a common thread only extends so far. It's not quite as easy to see uplifting themes in a pair of genre works on the bill: The Timekeeper
, from University of Utah student Peter C. Davidson, a funny vignette about a man whose watch controls time; and Jonathan Martin's Creatures of Whitechapel
, which mashes up Frankenstein
and Jack the Ripper for a Grand Guignol tale of the heart wanting what it wants (quite literally, in this case).
But most of the other work here offers fairly clear moral lessons about choosing to fight rather than surrender to obstacles. That's certainly evident in the three short documentary pieces. Fernando Lara's The People
interviews organizers of the January 2017 Salt Lake City rallies surrounding Donald Trump's inauguration, deriving energy from footage of protesters even if the organizers' comments sometimes come off as predictable and even counter-productive in their dismissal of basic democratic process. Torben Bernhard's Oxygen to Fly
profiles Isaiah, an Arizona teenager born with severe birth defects who finds his voice in the rap lyrics others need to speak in his place. And Dancing With Thorns
, from director Mary Nejatifar, finds uplift in Parkinson's disease patients participating in dancer Juan Carlos Claudio's Grey Matters movement therapy program.
That sense of surmounting challenges shifts from the physical or political to the emotional in the remaining two entries. Taijitu
—a typically energetic and charming BYU Animation project (pictured), this one by director Conner Gillette—uses the story of a young apprentice monk, at a temple with the responsibility for causing the rising and setting of the sun, to address fighting off a fear of the dark. A different kind of darkness is at the center of Remembered
, a remarkably assured 24-Hour Film Project creation from director David Skorut involving two teenagers planning a Columbine-like assault on their high school, complicated by the conscience of one of them. At a time when we might all need a reminder that some fights are worth fighting, even when the fight is hard, this is the kind of art we should look for.
The Utah Short Film of the Year program plays again at 8 p.m. Friday (June 23) and Saturday (June 24) as part of the Utah Arts Festival Fear No Film program.