Palm Springs ShortFest Diaries (Days 3&4)

Three’s A Crowd

Accidentally overhearing festival crowd small talk is one of the most interesting things in the world. Especially at Shortfest. One second you are spacing out and staring at the back of a theater chair. The next? Some guy is yelling he is the “best real estate agent in the f*cking desert!” in between mouthfuls of popcorn.  Nothing like the cinema, folks!

Our Day Three program at Palm Springs ShortFest is THRILLS AND CHILLS, a carefully curated selection of genre shorts ranging from zombies to spooky creatures to nightmare genitalia. 

Here are mini reviews on each short in Thrills and Chills!

Abracitos dir. by Tony Morales

A supernatural being called Abracitos haunts two sisters on the night of their mother’s death. Simple enough, right? WRONG. Abracitos features the scariest use of sound in the Shortfest program. Whispers, groans, and creepy, crawly, noises were all mixed to a goose-bumpy, hair-rising crescendo. The jump scare at the end of this short made everyone in the audience, including myself, jump.

Night of the Living Dicks dir. by Ilja Rautsi

Literally what the title says. Venla finds a pair of glasses that reveals the true nature of people. Men become phallic monsters and Venla must use her wit to survive the nightmare.This super stylized black and white short wants to see you squirm and feel uncomfortable. The cinematography is an homage to classic and cultish horror film, reveling in lighting and wide angle shots. Plus there is an ejaculation scene that is somehow both horrifying and cathartic to watch unfold.

The Last Marriage dir. by Johan Tappert, Gustav Egerstedt

The apocalypse doesn’t stop this couple from bickering with one another. I enjoyed how the film took the concept of the old married couple and introduced the zombie element in a way that was fun and sarcastic. Through the apathy of the characters, there was an almost nihilistic undercurrent that was interesting to watch unfold underneath all the layers on screen.

‘Photo credit Tess Peni / Causeway Films

The Moogai dir by Jon Bell

In The Moogai, a couple of new parents are haunted by a child stealing spirit. There is so much tension built throughout this short, and this pacing is where it shines brightest. For the majority of the short, we never see the creature, but the terror in the eyes of the actors translates into terror for the viewer. 


Forgive Us dir by D.W. Hodges

A young man returns home to his estranged family with his boyfriend for Christmas. As the night goes on, tensions rise. And rise. Festival director Lili Rodriguez revealed to the audience that the actor who plays the main character in the short, Sandy Reed, was a beloved Shortfest community member who passed away last year. The short is dedicated to his memory. The use of lighting, shadows, and depth of focus, in this short helps emphasize on how endless the night feels for the characters. The warm color palette is a nice contrast to the dialogue in the narrative and helps anchor the feeling of the unknown.

Four Your Shortfest Consideration?

It’s a scorching hot day at Shortfest. The sun is blinding and it kinda feels like laser beams shooting into your back straight from the eyes of Cyclops (yes I am a nerd, oops). Inside, the theatre smells like popcorn and butter. I pick a seat in the far corner, under the AC vent and away from everyone else. The lights dim down, the intro reel plays and it’s time for day four.  Today’s program is THE LIFE OF THE PARTY. This program follows stories about wild parties, released inhibitions and more.

Here are our mini reviews for The Life of the Party!

Dustin dir by Naïla Guiguet 

Dustin, a young trans woman, is at a techno heavy rave with some friends. The beat of the music echoes through all of group and as the night begins to end, pent up emotions begin to unravel . There is a sheen of atmospheric sweat that floats throughout this short. It makes it feel lived in and real — the camera has a definite fly on the wall feel to it. 

Her Dance dir by Bar Cohen

Aya is a trans woman who decides to surprise her sister and appear unannounced on her Shabbat night. Aya’s estranged family is Orthodox and her visit adds even more pressure to the relationship she has with them. Carefully constructed, my favorite part of this short is the quiet grace that the Aya navigates her world in. The lead delivers a nuanced and emotional performance that is is a treat to watch unfold on screen.


A Holiday From Mourning dir by Zara Dwinger

After the death of her mother, a young woman decides to take a break from her grief and escapes to a nearby party town with friends. Grief is not a linear process and I think that this short perfectly captures the emotional instability in pain. Our protagonist invaded by memories of what was lost, but at the same time had great bursts of wild partying. The release of feelings at the end is something that I think everyone can feel echoes of when thinking of their own losses in life.

We Won’t Forget dir by Lucas Elliot Eberl and Edgar Morais

A Valentine’s Day party is derailed by a drunk girl in Los Angeles. The audience hovers around our main character in an almost documentary style movement. Beautifully shot, we linger in her hot mess and disheveled attitude. The end result is a slice of life peek into the Hollywood Hills. 

Along Came A Prince dir by Cristina Groșan

A teenage boy goes to a theater camp in the woods. There, one of his instructors, an older girl, takes advantage of his nature and situation. The lead character sets off to camp with a twinkle in his eyes and it was disturbing to watch all of the hope drain from them at the end of the film. This is a film about consent, especially when it comes to young boys, and the ways it is ignored. 

Keep up to date with our 2021 Palm Springs International Shortfest coverage by clicking here! Make sure to follow us on social media to receive all of the latest updates on Twitter and Instagram.

Leave a Reply