Not to be overlooked in the return of the Healdsburg International Short Film Festival—a one-day banquet of narrative inspiration, 22 films spread over two screenings on Saturday, Sept. 23—is the name. It’s an international festival, with films from Argentina, Cameroon, Germany, Ireland and other countries.
And the films are short. Some of them very short.
Among them is Just an Evening, from Ukraine. It’s without dialogue, largely in black and white, almost stripped of plot, aside from a young woman walking at night through the nearly-deserted capital on an errand. Filmed between missile attacks in Kyiv last year, Olga Gibelinda’s brief film makes a single quiet statement that seems to resonate beyond its borders—the sort of trick that only a well-done short film can make without pretension.
“We made the movie during a blackout in Kyiv this winter,” Gibelinda said via email. “Our power grids were damaged by Russian missile attacks, and we had a rough schedule of when the power would be back on.” The film, which barely breaks three minutes in length, was filmed on one night and edited the next day.
“However, I believe that such conditions set a great challenge for the script and the idea. If the idea can withstand the lack of full production, then it was a good idea,” she said.
Gibelinda will not be one of the filmmakers at the festival in Healdsburg this year, though her first film, Something, was screened in the precursor festival in 2012 held in Bodega Bay. Now, she is busy producing and working on several films, all in Europe, both documentaries and features.
One of these further limits her movement. “Since part of the shooting takes place in the ‘red zone,’ I am bound by a specific schedule from the military,” Gibelinda explained.
These are not the sorts of hurdles that most North American filmmakers encounter, but it speaks to the undeniable commitment many artists bring to their work, in whatever medium.
The Medium Is the Message
Just an Evening is one example of the personal, even eccentric project that can be found in a film festival. While major festivals—Cannes, Sundance, even the local Sonoma Valley International Film Festival—do feature highly personal projects by talented filmmakers, such feature films present an inherent challenge for many in the audience.
“I really get frustrated when I go to a film festival, and it’s a coveted ticket, and I sit there for two hours, and it’s just a turkey,” said Kirk Demorest, who with his wife, Pamela Demorest, is producing the one-day festival. “Or it doesn’t match your aesthetics or whatever. It’s frustrating.”
With a short film festival, however, the material changes every few minutes. One film may be funny, another dramatic, a third heart-breaking. Each one is different. “The thing that’s cool about it is you get a different flavor of these voices from all around the world, because everyone has a perspective, whereas you only get one perspective in a feature film,” he said.
But, he added, “I would say the biggest thing that I like about it is that it’s a format that’s affordable for filmmakers to do a really cool film.”
For instance, a film in this year’s festival called The Space Between Us was a one-person project, an animated film done on a home computer. Even more notable, Pamela Demorest said, “We’ve had kids in Africa with iPhones shoot films and send them to us that have been great.”
Some 22 films will be shown at the Raven on Saturday, Sept. 23 in two separate screenings, at 2 and 7:30pm. (Full disclosure: One film is 20 minutes long.) Each screening will include a different set of films, and a number of different countries as well as talents are featured.
Proceeds benefit the Raven Education Program, which is offering a teen acting class this fall.
As with many film festivals, there will be awards given—modest $500 cash awards to a handful of winning filmmakers. In the case of the Healdsburg International Short Film Festival, the judges bring their own celebrity to the process: Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games), independent filmmaker Ellie Foumbi and singer-songwriter Tom Waits, with his creative partner Kathleen Brennan.
“I can say that culture turns out to be a very powerful element of connecting people and senses; it’s very valuable,” said Ukraine’s Gibelinda. “And I’m really a Tom Waits fan, so it’s a special miracle for me that the person who had a great influence on the formation of my musical and cultural taste will watch my little film.”
Screenings are Saturday, Sept 23, at 2 and 7:30pm. Each program is different. More information and ticket links can be found at healdsburgfilm.com.