The next offering from Phoenix’s No Festival Required film series isn’t one movie, it’s nine little movies. “The Rural Route Film Festival Touring Program: Short Films and Animations” is a compilation of the best shorts from the New York-based fest, which features non-urban subjects from around the world, often focusing on environmental issues.
If this sounds like a depressing or guilt-inducing prospect, don’t despair. It’s a surprisingly lively, engaging collection, often distressing but non-didactic and free of scolding (e.g. it’s your fault we’re watching sad polar bears floating away on melting ice). The selections are highly diverse in style and tone, and yet there’s a recurrence of themes and images between them that gives the show unity. Two of the shorts, for instance, involve the mining industry’s use of ill-fated canaries, Jesse Kreitzer’s Iowa-filmed early-20th century period mining drama Black Canaries and Marie Schlingmann’s disturbing, ambiguous thriller Canary.
Two selections are short documentaries about men of odd avocation. Kenneth Price’s Seed Saver is a collage of agricultural stock footage edited to the monologue of John Coykendell, a stockpiler of seeds against the loss of genetic diversity in crops, while Christoph Gelfand and Caroline Losneck’s Diver is about one-armed Maine scallop diver James Sewell, who has noticed a decline in the shellfish in recent years. The bird silhouettes and bare tree branches in the percussive monochrome grids of Ariana Gerstein’s Upcycles – images of nature amidst stark cityscapes – are echoed in the soul-stirring patterns created by flocking starlings captured in Jan van IJken’s The Art of Flying.
My favorite was the opener, Love. This animated cosmic epic from Hungarian director/animator Reka Busci is set in a far-off solar system, on a fantastical planet that’s undergoing cataclysmic change. Busci explores attraction through sequences of blossoming, germination and consumption among her wonderfully bizarre creations (a bug that can separate its head from body, constantly undulating trees) – animals, plants and sentient islands on the Eden-like planet, and even between that planet and its neighboring planets.
The images are idyllic and erotic, but not sentimental—Busci is careful to show us how love, with all its joy and beauties, also distorts and dismembers us. It’s like the opening sequence of Kubrick’s 2001, recast with My Little Ponies and Kit-Cat Clocks.
Presented by No Festival Required, The Rural Route Film Festival Touring Program plays at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 26, at the Third Street Theater, 1202 N. 3rd Street (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). Advance tickets are $10 (plus service charge); $12 day of show; $11 for students with ID. Go to No Festival Required for details.
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