Film Shorts

For five years now, Brooklyn's indie exhibitor Nitehawk Cinema has been host to an annual short-film fest, with last fall's event running a whopping six days. This year, just in time for the deadline for 2017 submissions, they've assembled their first program for theatrical distribution outside of Williamsburg: Nitehawk Shorts Festival Selects offers seven highlights from 2016, mostly made in NYC. A program about as strong as recent shorts anthologies assembled by Sundance and the Academy (if generally more modest of budget), it should fare well as it tours like-minded arthouses around the country.

Wry fictions with deadpan-abrupt endings are the norm here, but none of the entries are more efficient than Consommé, a nasty little anecdote about sexual assault whose punchline would be spoiled by just about any synopsis. The same is nearly true for Be Good, Grace Rex's open-hearted look at a young couple unexpectedly playing parents to a stray dog; adulthood has never been as close at hand, or as far away.

In Vape, a lonely California realtor is seduced by electronic smoking devices. What at times plays like a dramatized infomercial for the maligned gadgets turns out to be an allegory for stepping outside class boundaries; erotic billows of smoke in the closing scenes may make even non-smokers want a puff. Bad behavior is less seductive in Dahlia, a South African import in which our eponymous teen follows her bad-news best friend into a stranger's home. Her eventual punishment is of the poetic-justice variety, avoiding the darker turn the short might well have taken, but a sour mood persists, contrasting with the film's sun-drenched cinematography.

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