Every year, the Utah Arts Festival’s Fear No Film program showcases the best short films from Utah filmmakers. And what a curious combination of works they are in 2012.
In a sense, you’ve got to hand it to the curatorial staff—led by Topher Horman—for developing a system that nearly always guarantees a wildly diverse program. Drawing from winners of other local film competitions (48 Film Project, Tower Theatre’s Open Mic Night, LDS Film Fetival) and student film entries (SpyHop, BYU Animation, University of Utah) helps cover plenty of territory. This year, that meant everything from earnest personal essay to music video to creepy horror.
The latter—Jonathan Martin’s An Evening With My Comatose Mother—provides one of the program’s funky highlights, telling the story of a young woman watching over the titular old woman on a Halloween night. Though often just plain weird rather than creepy—the heroine is menaced not just by a harlequin doll but by a zombified version of A Christmas Carol’s Tiny Tim—it offered a bracing dose of viscera that required Fear No Film staffers to warn every attendee about “adult content”. It was almost as unexpected an entry as Nik Day’s Sadder, a terrifically effective music video in which a tied-up man laments never being able to do anything to make his woman happy.
Not surprisingly, social commentary was also on the agenda, from U of U student Elena Deryusheva’s straightforward pro-Occupy tale Hear Her Breathing to the reflections of Ogden high school student Samantha Highsmith on fighting for the rights of others in Even Handed. More subtle and unnerving was Chris Rodgers’ Tower Open Mic entry Yellow Pill, an effective parable about our medication-for-every-occasion culture—though I may be biased by having picked it as my critic's selection when I first saw it back in September 2011. And the drama of Life According to Penny (pictured)—about inmates at a rural girls’ home dealing with an abusive overseer—is well-crafted, even if it bites off more than it can chew in its limited time.
Then there’s the lighter side, particularly in the appealingly silly 48 Hour Film winner The Marriage Magician by Antonio Lexerot, highlighted by an intentionally cheesy infomercial centerpiece that provides a perfect way to work around the logistical limitations of the assignment. And BYU animation offered yet another amazing work in Brandon Pedersen’s Butcher’d Meats, about a Depression-era man who steps into a boxing ring to make some money.
The Utah Short Film of the Year program shows again Friday (6/22) and Saturday (6/23) at 6 p.m. in the Library Auditorium.