In its continued celebration of stories, per Robert Redford’s introductory narration, the Sundance Institute has packaged seven acclaimed short films from its 2011 festival into one feature-length presentation. The results screen Thursday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and as with many such loosely themed compilations, the results comprise a mixed bag.
From England, “The Eagleman Stag” (pictured) is the only animated segment, not to mention the lone colorless entry. Although it begins promisingly with a fetus remarking, “Yes, this seems about right,” its story of a miserable life compressed into nine minutes is nothing special, even if the stop-motion papercut animation is. Sorrow continues in “The Strange Ones,” a tale about a man, the child traveling with him, and the stranger to whom the boy spills chilling secrets.
The first winner is Sweden’s “Incident by a Bank,” a re-creation of a real robbery, but shot from the street outside, leaving your mind to piece events together based largely on auditory cues. Sound familiar? It should if you attended OKCMOA’s Manhattan Short Film Festival in September, of which “Incident” was a part, but it’s worth seeing again.
Bound to be the audience favorite is “Worst Enemy,” starring “Saturday Night Live” veteran Michaela Watkins as an insecure, single artist who inexplicably believes she’s in need of a full-body girdle, in which she gets stuck. It’s written and directed winningly by Lake Bell, an actress (TV’s “Childrens Hospital”) who’s usually quite funny herself.
The only documentary is the five-minute “The High Level Bridge.”
Shown in competition locally at last summer’s deadCENTER Film Festival, it concerns a bridge in Canada notorious for a high rate of suicidal jumpers. Its highlight arrives at the end, when director Trevor Anderson flings his camera over the edge.
“We’re Leaving” chronicles what happens when an American redneck couple lose their rental and try to find new housing. It seems landlords don’t cotton to their decade-old pet alligator. Its dark-humored streak works to court audience favor.
The program should end there, but the longest has been saved for last. Unfortunately, it’s the weakest, too: “Deeper Than Yesterday,” a 20-minute Australian work about a Russian submarine crew who have been underwater for three months, and it shows. What they find floating late in the film should make you feel terribly queasy, especially since the not-quite-sane men deem it “a miracle.”
All told, the good minutes of the program outweigh the bad, enough for a slight recommendation.