Palm Springs Shortfest Diaries: 2023


Palm Springs ShortFest 2023 Diaries: Shorts Galore and More

Another summer in the desert for us here at Palm Springs Shortfest might be our favorite festival to cover (bias alert: our founder Andrea is born and raised in the desert). There is always something so special to see so many passionate, dedicated, and driven storytellers congregate at the movies. The heat of mid June only adds to the experience -- entering a theater -- AC blasting, ice cold soda in hand -- is pretty priceless.

But speaking of shorts -- here are a few that we had the opportunity to watch at this year's festival.


Echo directed by Ben Wolin and Michael Minahan

A stunning way to open this shorts program -- in Echo, we meet Daniel Kish, a blind man who has mastered the use of echolocation to help blind people "see". We follow him as he helps other people learn the technique and share a bit more of himself to the camera. The use of sound in this film is so instrumental, each beat and tap plays such an important role in the tapestry of this film. The filmmakers take it a step further by creating a beautiful rhythm with the loudness of each sound as well, really creating a 360 immersive experience in something that people may not have otherwise been familiar with

CANS Can't Stand directed by Matt Nadel and Megan Plotka

The tone of this film was one of hope and determination -- one of resilience against odds that seem gigantic and extreme. A group of Black trans women in New Orleans have become passionate activists in the fight to repeal Lousiana's Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) law. For 40 years, police have used this law as a loophole to antagonize and detain queer/trans people. The women of this film shine -- Nadel and Plotka did a great job in spotlighting the personality of each woman and focusing on the ways their stories and dynamics worked amongst the greater fight.


Border Conversations directed by Jonathan Brunner

In the US, when we talk about borders, immigration, and migration, we usually think of the US/Mexico border. The mainstream American audience has a very insular perspective on the issue -- one that does not expand beyond North America. Border Conversations widens that conversation to the reality of what inadequate border policies look like globally. The film follows Kornelia  and Karolina, two Polish activists who help migrants as they try to cross the Belarus/ Poland border. The two receive countless messages, usually through WhatsApp from migrants looking for help. They help support these people in any way they can, from helping their journey to just being a place where they can vent their feelings. In many occasions, they are not able to successfully help people and it weighs heavy on their souls. Brunner incorporates the text messages on screen in a way that really heightens the tension, and highlights the push and pull pacing of the film. Some moments happen in a blink of an eye and others wane away -- the text messages themselves felt like a seperate character at times.  The film presents a parallel to the reality that many folks that are trying to cross into the US also face  -- the languages might be different, but the desperation, fear, hope and dreams are all the same. Viewing this film from a US theater, in North America, should inspire everyone who watched to think of our global connectivity and the ways we would all be stronger if we were together.

How We Get Free directed by Geeta Gangbhir: 

In Colorado, cash bails can deeply affect the future and the choices of those who fall into the prison system. In this documentary short, Elisabeth Epps is a tireless activist and founder of the Colorado Freedom Fund working to abolish it. The Colorado Freedom Fund helps incarcerated folks pay their bail before their trial, looking to help individuals who would otherwise be in a better position if not for it.  Starting in 2020, the film helps open the eyes of the audience through the sheer reality of the folks whose lives are so directly impacted. The film showcases the criminalization of poverty enacted by the state in a smart, succinct, manner that feels very complete and robust within its runtime. Gangbhir puts faces behind the numbers, behind the facts, and lingers on the reality of the situation through her lens -- a reality that weights heavily on not only its victims but on Epps herself.

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