The Story Behind the Shorts

March 18, 2007

I recently got a chance to sit down with Kirthi Nath, a member of the shorts screening committee and a wonderful filmmaker in her own right, over Mango smoothies and find out a little bit more about the process. Along with her work at SFIAAFF, Kirthi has also programmed and screened films for festivals like Ladyfest Bay Area, Madcat International Women’s Film Festival, Intersection for the Arts and the San Francisco International Film Festival.

For the SFIAAFF, Kirthi was part of a 10-member screening committee that met weekly (and sometimes even twice a week) from August to December of last year in order to pick the movies that make up the seven shorts programs. She said she was really impressed by the kinds of innovative films that the community is making.

“What I think was really interesting this year was that there was no separate Queer shorts or Experimental shorts program,” Kirthi said. “I think curating is like editing. It’s a real art and once you put a specific film next to another film you can really look at the idea of storytelling, especially when you put narrative films next to experimental films. Sometimes people are afraid of the “e” word and will avoid an experimental program, but in this way you can really make these programs rich experiences. With the Queer films as well, by weaving them into the other programs, this way we’re kind of saying: “Look, this is a larger part of Asian America.”

This year, the shorts programs do have mighty interesting titles and themes and Kirthi shed some light on these and some picks.

“In How to be Good, what all the films have in common is that they are about family and intense relationships,” Kirthi said. “Yet come at these themes in a really poetic and beautiful way.” She highlighted Austin-based filmmaker PJ Raval’s film “Lead Role: Father,” which has an interest meta-narrative take on an estranged father-son relationship. (BTW, PJ, who you might have seen as a media instructor on the The Real World: Austin, is working on a really interesting film called Best Kept Secret about a small-town in Colorado known as the “sex change capitol of the world.”)

Kirthi was also really excited about Monday night’s The World, Complicated, which she will be introducing.

“It may not be the feel-good program of the festival, but it is the: ‘It may just change your life’ program,” she said. “We all know that it’s a complicated world out there, but these films are looking at those moments in life when we are humbled by the world around us.”

She said this program in particular has a great mix of narrative and non-narrative film which look at everything from friendship to racism and culture.

“I really appreciated the film Yasin for it’s home-movie footage style but also because it was looking at important issues like post-9.11 deportations and what happens when that breaks apart the family. Then The Last Chip and Windowbreaker have these strong narrative drives, which contrast beautifully with pieces like Dreamtrace and The Last Vacation, which take on this real aesthtic quality to explore the theme. Then there’s Going Home, which is a documentary that has this great narrative twist and uses it to explore the hardships of family. Going Home might be a documentary, but it really shows innovative storytelling,” Kirthi said.

Anyway, go check out “The World, Uncomplicated” and come back and talk about what you thought here.