For anyone worried about the creative future of film, you can rest easy if LACMA's recent showcase of young directors is any indication. For a first taste, check out the night's winner, Kirsten Lepore's "Sweet Dreams."
The ninth annual Young Directors Night, held over the weekend, was hosted by Muse, the museum's organization for younger art patrons, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the judging panel, along with independent filmmaker and USC professor Pablo Frasconi and Ian Birnie, LACMA's creative curator of film. I knew it was going to be a great night as the seats of Bing Theater began to fill, a love of film, its artistry and its promise proving far more powerful that the rain that was soaking the city.
Though the submissions ran into the thousands, Muse curators settled on six, eclectic in style and rich in talent. Of the six directors featured, five were women, which felt absolutely right for an event that took place on the eve of the Academy Awards, a night that would see Kathryn Bigelow become the first woman to win an Oscar for directing her Iraqi war drama, "The Hurt Locker."
The shorts included narrative films that ranged from a journey inside a teenager's head as he navigated first love lost (with a lot of comic irony) in Eddie O'Keefe's "Sun Sessions" (turns out his was the most romantic of the bunch) to Devon Chivvis' "Dance With Me," capturing the spirit of swing dance and the 50-year romance of Pierre and Violette sparked all those years ago by Pierre's smooth moves.
Yu Gu came with her beautiful and poignant narrative/documentary, "A Moth in Spring," the night's runner-up favorite, in which the repression that drove her artist-father to move the family to Vancouver from China tried to crush her too as she returned to the art school where he had taught and she was born. Yu was clever about dealing with the ways in which her plans were derailed -- the clash with authorities was incorporated and ultimately the film became very different than the one that she had planned.
Animation served up its own vast landscape of stories and styles with Daniela Sherer's exquisite and remarkable "Overnight Stay/Ubernachtung," whose line drawings and moving brush strokes of color came to emotional life for a memory poem of a night in Krakow when a 17-year-old Jewish girl experienced fear and kindness in the midst of WWII. That teenager is Sherer's grandmother, and the film is dedicated to her.
"Sweet Dreams," which won the night based on a tally of the judge and audience votes, is a remarkably unexpected and absolutely hysterical stop-motion piece. Lepore follows the adventures of a cupcake that travels to distant shores. The sweet stuff's sugar-cube boat is battered by seas, and that's just the start of this life-changing (flour-sifting?) journey. All I can say is that anyone who can make a gourd look sexy is someone to pay attention to.
And then there was "Lintscape," Caitlin Craggs' very clever, very short short on the perils of killer lint; yes, you read that right. I've suspected the stuff was lethal for years ...
-- Film critic Betsy Sharkey
Images, from top: A scene from "Sweet Dreams," by Kirsten Lepore; "Overnight Stay/Ubernachtung," Daniela Sherer