Sundance 2017 Shorts Lineup: New Films from Kristen Stewart, Laura Poitras

67 shorts were selected from 8,985 submissions.

With the shorts programming announced today, the 2017 Sundance Film Festival lineup is finally complete. (Earlier this week, Premieres, Spotlights, and Midnights were announced; last week saw the reveal of the U.S. and World Dramatic Competition, U.S. and World Documentary Competition, and NEXT sections of the festival.)

67 shorts were selected from 8,985 submissions, with an acceptance rate of .75%. Among them: Kristen Stewart’s directorial debut Come Swim, Oscar-winning documentarian Laura Poitras's Project X, and Joe Talbot’s American Paradise, which imagines life under a Trump presidency.

"This year’s crop captures the full spectrum of what short films can be," said Mike Plante, Sundance's Senior Programmer. "They're emotional, hilarious, horrifying and touching—sometimes, all at once."

Synopses below provided by Sundance.

U.S. Narrative Shorts

“American Paradise” (Director/screenwriter: Joe Talbot) — A desperate man in Trump’s America tries to shift his luck with the perfect crime in this story inspired by true events.

“Cecile on the Phone” (Director: Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Screenwriters: Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Ellen Greenberg) — Overwhelmed by doubt and confusion after her ex-boyfriend’s return to New York, Cecile embarks on a series of telephone conversations that serve only to distract her from the one conversation she really needs to have.

“Come Swim” (Director/screenwriter: Kristen Stewart) — This is a diptych of one man’s day, in half impressionist and half realist portraits.

“Good Crazy” (Director/screenwriter: Rosa Salazar) — A complex chick deals with a vanilla beau, a shitty brunch and a dead coyote all in a Los Angeles day. There’s batshit crazy and then there’s good crazy—she fits somewhere in between.

“Hardware” (Director: Stephen Jacobson, Screenwriters: Ellen Stringer, Stephen Jacobson)— An amateur electronic-drum enthusiast travels to a housewares trade show looking to strike up the perfect business partnership. When things don’t go as planned, he finds himself at the mercy of the electronic drumbeat playing in his head.

“Hold On” (Director/screenwriter: Christine Turner) — Family bonds are tested when a young man is left to care for his grandmother one morning.

“Hot Seat” (Director/screenwriter: Anna Kerrigan) — Teenaged Andrea uses a male stripper to gain the respect and admiration of cool girl Daphne in this exploration of coming-of-age sexuality and teen girls’ complex relationships, based on a true story.

“I Know You from Somewhere” (Director/screenwriter: Andrew Fitzgerald) — A young woman incurs the wrath of the internet after she inadvertently becomes a viral sensation.

“Kaiju Bunraku” (Directors: Lucas Leyva, Jillian Mayer, Screenwriter: Lucas Leyva) — Here’s a day in the life of a husband and wife living in a world of giant monsters.

“Laps” (Director/screenwriter: Charlotte Wells) — On a routine morning, a woman on a crowded New York City subway is sexually assaulted in plain sight.

“LostFound” (Director: Shakti Bhagchandani, Screenwriters: Shakti Bhagchandani, Emre Gulcan) — This story portrays a day in the life of a woman in the Nation of Islam.

“Lucia, Before and After” (Director/screenwriter: Anu Valia) — After traveling 200 miles, a young woman waits out Texas’s state-mandated 24-hour waiting period before her abortion can proceed.

“New Neighbors” (Director/screenwriter: E.G. Bailey) — How far will a mother go to protect her children?

“Night Shift” (Director/screenwriter: Marshall Tyler) — Get a glimpse into a day in the life of a bathroom attendant in a Los Angeles nightclub.

“Rubber Heart” (Director: Lizzy Sanford, Screenwriters: Lizzy Sanford, Anna Cordell) — After a painful dry spell, a woman attempts to have a one-night stand.

“Shinaab” (Director/screenwriter: Lyle Corbine) — A young Anishinaabe man struggles with his place in the inner city of Minneapolis.

“Toru” (Directors/screenwriters: Jonathan Minard, Scott Rashap) — An infant’s life is transformed by a new technology.

'Slapper,' dir. Lucy Schroeder
International Narrative Shorts

“5 Films About Technology” (Canada / Director/screenwriter: Peter Huang) — Take a satirical look at the dumber side of technology.

“And so we put goldfish in the pool.” (Japan / Director/screenwriter: Makoto Nagahisa) — One summer day, 400 goldfish were found in the swimming pool of a secondary school. This is a story about the four 15-year-old girls who put them there.

“And The Whole Sky Fit In The Dead Cow’s Eye / Chile, U.S.A. (Director/screenwriter: Francisca Alegría) — Emeteria is visited by the ghost of her patrón, Teodoro. She believes he has come to take her to the afterlife—but he has more devastating news.

“Dadyaa — The Woodpeckers of Rotha” (Nepal-France / Directors and screenwriters: Pooja Gurung, Bibhusan Basnet) — Atimaley and Devi’s village is haunted by memories. When a dear friend leaves the village without saying goodbye, the old couple faces a dilemma: keep living with the memories or leave the village for good?

“Dawn of the Deaf” (U.K. / Director/screenwriter: Rob Savage) — When a strange sound wipes out the hearing population, a small group of deaf people must band together to survive.

“Dear Mr. Shakespeare” (U.K. / Director: Shola Amoo, Screenwriter: Phoebe Boswell) — An exploration of Shakespeare’s intentions when writing Othello explores the play’s racial themes in historical and contemporary settings, and draws wider parallels between immigration and blackness in the UK today.

“The Geneva Convention” (France / Director/screenwriter: Benoit Martin) — As Hakim is waiting for the bus after class, he is caught in a vendetta between teenagers. He’s not exactly keen to be involved, but can he avoid it?

“Heat” (Poland / Directors and screenwriters: Agata Trzebuchowska, Mateusz Pacewicz) — A young boy does an unusual favor for a friend, assuming his identity to visit his senile grandmother. The woman takes him for a walk, and tells him about the biggest mystery of her life.

“Kao Shi” (A Test) (China / Director/screenwriter: Zuxiang Zhao) — In a small-town high school, days before the college entrance exam, teacher Chen Jun finds out that the father of his most promising student has died in a mining accident. Telling him—or not—bears heavy consequences.

“MappaMundi” (Austria / Director/screenwriter: Bady Minck) — Through the eyes of cosmic cartographers, the viewer takes a voyage through 950 million years of Earth history and 15,000 years of cartography. This accelerated journey visualizes the change in our world—a change unnoticeable in a single lifetime.

“Mare Nostrum” (France-Syrian Arab Republic / Directors: Rana Kazkaz, Anas Khalaf, Screenwriter: Rana Kazkaz) — On a Mediterranean shore, a Syrian father makes a decision that puts his daughter’s life at risk.

“Pedro” (Portugal / Directors and screenwriters: André Santos, Marco Leão) — Pedro gets home at dawn. Before the young boy falls asleep, his lonely mother drags him to the beach.

“Slapper” (Australia / Director: Luci Schroder, Screenwriters: Luci Schroder, Sam West) — A broke and rebellious teen navigates a suburban wasteland, hustling money for the morning-after pill—before it’s too late.

“What Tears Us Apart” (France / Director/screenwriter: Wei Hu) — A Chinese couple visits the daughter they gave up for adoption 30 years ago. While meeting the French adoptive parents, language barriers become apparent and the birth mother’s hidden emotions rise to the surface.

'Project X,' dirs. Laura Poitras, Henrik MoltkeCredit: Sundance 2017

Documentary Short Films

“Alone” (Director: Garrett Bradley) — This investigation into the layers of mass incarceration and its shaping of the modern black American family is seen through the eyes of a single mother in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“Bayard & Me” (Director: Matt Wolf) — Walter Naegle’s boyfriend, Bayard Rustin, was a famous civil rights activist 30 years Walter’s senior. In the 1980s, Bayard decided to adopt Walter for legal protection. This love story is about a time when gay marriage was inconceivable.

“Close Ties” (Poland / Director: Zofia Kowalewska) — Barbara and Zdzislaw will soon celebrate their 45th anniversary—despite their constant bickering, and the fact that Zdzislaw spent eight of those years living with another woman. This is a portrait of a relationship that, somewhat inexplicably, perseveres.

“Deer Squad: The Movie” (Directors: Pipus Larsen, Kenneth Gug, Scott J. Ross) — Kelvin Peña, a charismatic 17-year-old from rural Pennsylvania, shares his story of going viral after befriending a group of wild deer in his backyard.

“The Diver” (Mexico / Director: Esteban Arrangoiz) — Julio César Cu Cámara is the chief diver in the Mexico City sewer system. His job is to repair pumps and dislodge garbage that flows into the gutters to maintain the circulation of sewage waters. THE NEW CLIMATE

“Fish Story” (U.K. / Director: Charlie Lyne) — Behind a fishy tale lies this search for the truth.
Hairat / Ethiopia (Director: Jessica Beshir) — This is a visual and lyrical exploration of the nightly ritual between a man in Eastern Ethiopia and his feral companions.

“Legal Smuggling with Christine Choy” (Director: Lewie Kloster) — Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker Christine Choy undergoes an adventure of wild proportions when she accidentally smuggles cigarettes.

“My Father’s Tools” (Canada / Director: Heather Condo) — Stephen continues producing traditional baskets to honor his father and thus finds peace in his studio as he connects with the man who taught him the craft.

“Project X” (Directors: Laura Poitras, Henrik Moltke) — A top secret handbook takes viewers on an undercover journey to the site of a hidden partnership. Based on NSA documents, this film reveals the inner workings of a windowless skyscraper in Manhattan.

“The Rabbit Hunt” (Director: Patrick Bresnan) — On the weekends during the harvest season, 17-year-old Chris and his family hunt rabbits in the sugarcane fields of the Florida Everglades.

“Ten Meter Tower” (Sweden / Directors: Maximilien Van Aertryck, Axel Danielson) — People who have never been up a 10-meter diving tower must choose whether to jump or climb down in this entertaining study of people in a vulnerable position.

“Tough” (U.K. / Director: Jennifer Zheng) — New light is shed on childhood cultural misunderstandings when a Chinese mother and her British-born daughter speak as adults for the first time. Some things can only be understood with maturity.

“Visions of an Island” (Director: Sky Hopinka) — Indigenous and foreign presences coexist on an Alaskan island in the center of the Bering Sea. THE NEW CLIMATE

“Waiting for Hassana” (Nigeria / Director: Ifunanya Maduka) — In 2014, 276 teenage girls came together for exams in Chibok, Nigeria—by dawn, nearly all had disappeared, and their school was burned to the ground. Jessica, an escapee, shares her haunting account of a friendship violently interrupted by Boko Haram.

“White Riot: London” (U.K. / Director: Rubika Shah) — In 1977, immigration divides Britain. What happens when a punk fanzine challenges the status quo?

'A Nearly Perfect Blue Sky,' dir. QuarxxCredit: Sundance 2017

Midnight Short Films

“Do No Harm” (New Zealand / Director/screenwriter: Roseanne Liang) — 3:00 a.m., 1980s Hongjing: In an aging private hospital, a single-minded surgeon is forced to break her physician’s oath when violent gangsters storm in to stop a crucial operation.

“Fucking Bunnies” (Finland / Director: Teemu Niukkanen, Screenwriters: Antti Toivonen, Teemu Niukkanen) — Raimo’s comfortable, middle-class bubble is burst when a Satan-worshipping sex cult moves in next door.

“Hot Winter: A Film by Dick Pierre” (Director: Jack Henry Robbins, Screenwriters: Jack Henry Robbins, Nunzio Randazzo) — One of the first films in American cinema to address climate change, “Hot Winter: A Film by Dick Pierre,” was also a hardcore porno. All sex scenes have been removed as to not distract from the conscious message. (The New Climate)

“A Nearly Perfect Blue Sky” (Un ciel bleu presque parfait) (France / Director/screenwriter: Quarxx) — You might think that Simon lives a monotonous life, but you would be wrong—contrary to appearances, he doesn’t live alone among the ruins of an old farm. Between kidnapper and guardian angel, he never takes his eyes off his roommate.

“Pussy” (Poland / Director/screenwriter: Renata Gasiorowska) — Alone at home one evening, a young girl decides to have a solo pleasure session—but not everything goes according to plan.

“The Robbery” (Director: Jim Cummings, Screenwriters: Jim Cummings, Dustin Hahn) — Crystal robs a liquor store — it goes pretty OK.

“Summer’s Puke Is Winter’s Delight” (Japan / Director/screenwriter: Sawako Kabuki) — Painful events become memories over time. Still, we vomit and eat again. Life is eco.

Animated Short Films

“The Bald Future” (France / Director/screenwriter: Paul Cabon) — Being a bald man sucks. Knowing you’ll become one is worse.

“Black Holes” (U.S.-France / Directors/screenwriters: David Nicolas, Laurent Nicolas) — Dave is about to lead the first mission to Mars when he’s teamed up with a sentient melon, who claims to be the reincarnation of a fashion designer, upstaging his big moment and driving him to the brink of madness.

“Broken – The Women’s Prison at Hoheneck” (Germany / Directors: Volker Schlecht, Alexander Lahl, Screenwriters: Alexander Lahl, Max Mönch) — This animated documentary about Hoheneck, the main women’s prison in former East Germany, is based on original interviews with former inmates. It’s a film about political imprisonment, forced labor and enormous profits on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

“Drawn & Recorded: Teen Spirit” (Director: Drew Christie, Screenwriters: Drew Christie, Bill Flanagan) — This is the story behind one of the most iconic songs ever written, animated in the style of a pop-up book.

“How’s your prostate?” (France / Directors: Jeanne Paturle, Cécile Rousset, Screenwriters: Jeanne Paturle, Cécile Rousset, Cécile Mille) — One friend tells the other about the very strange time when, beside a swimming pool, she learned about her father’s prostate, his erectile function and his nighttime fantasies.

“It’s a Date” (Director/screenwriter: Zachary Zezima) — This film explores miscommunication, perceptions and vulnerability in the modern world. Everyone is an alien at first.

“Jonas and the Sea” (Netherlands / Director: Marlies Van der Wel, Screenwriters: Ruben Picavet, Marlies Van der Wel) — Jonas has dreamed of living in the sea all his life, but it’s impossible. Or is it?

“The Laughing Spider” (Japan / Director: Keiichi Tanaami) — The early childhood memory of aerial attacks leaves a lasting impression, with strong stimulus and disquiet.

“Love” (France-Hungary / Director/screenwriter: Réka Bucsi) — Abstract haiku-like situations reveal the changing atmosphere on one planet caused by a meteoric impact in a distant solar system. Inhabitants on this pulsing planet become one with each other, in various ways, in this three-chapter exploration of affection.

“Nighthawk” (Slovenia-Croatia / Director: Špela Čadež, Screenwriters: Gregor Zorc, Špela Čadež) — Attempting to remove an unresponsive badger from a dark road, a police patrol soon realizes that the animal is not dead but rather dead drunk. Things take an even stranger turn when the creature wakes up.

“Nutag — Homeland” (Canada / Director/screenwriter: Alisi Telengut) — This hand-painted visual poem explores the ideas of diaspora, homeland and the mass deportations of the Kalmyk people during World War II.

“Summer Camp Island” (U.S.-South Korea / Director/screenwriter: Julia Pott) — Oscar and his best friend, Hedgehog, just got dropped off at summer camp. Once the parents leave the island, the strangeness lurking beneath the surface is revealed—aliens exist, horses become unicorns and there are monsters under the bed.

“Trumpet Man” (Hong Kong / Director/screenwriter: Emily Wong) — A turntable springs out a woman named Avocado; her instinct creates a man called Soul. Passion swings both, and an uncertain madness strikes Soul heavily. Seeds of passion breed conflict among five men, eventually leading Soul to a deeper understanding of life.

“Victor & Isolina” (Director: William Caballero) — Creatively visualized through 3D printing, two elderly Latinos embark on a resonating he said/she said account of the events that led them to live separately after more than 50 quirky and stressful years together.

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Your Comment


So how does one see these movies once they're released? Is there a streaming service that makes a special effort to curate fetival or indie shorts? Are titles like this usually released on DVD/BluRay? Does the Sundance Festival offer any kind of information or help in this area? Will my best bet be to wait six-to-twelve months, google each title, find its web page, and download/stream/buy it there?

December 7, 2016 at 10:01PM

Clay Smith
Wannabe screenwriter, film editor, director

This is in response to Clay. I share your frustration with the inability to watch the movies that show at film festivals like this.

Unless you're lucky enough to have a good film festival in the city you live in, the free time to take off work (or dedicate your evenings and weekends to)- not to mention the luck required to get a tickets to the hot shows, (oh, and the couple hundred bucks it would all cost)- trying to see these films is such a pain in the azz, that almost nobody ever gets to see a fraction of the films that interest them. And for the shorts, forget it. I'm never able to track them down.

It's feels like a super elite club for super elite filmmakers (the article almost brags that only .75% of submissions were excepted)-- so much so in fact, that it might as well be closed to the public.

We're approaching 2017 and a large festival such as this cant figure out a way to include the rest of the world in the festival via the Internet?

For all the bold moral stances and brazen equal rights narratives included in so many of these films, it's a bit ironic that these movies are kept locked in such a tight and privileged club.

Sundance even has their own channel and OTT app... and they still can't manage the complexity of monitizing a film festival that *they* hold through a distribution channel *they* own?

December 10, 2016 at 3:02AM, Edited December 10, 3:02AM