Short Film, Long Gestation

It took 10 years to harvest Fruits—one of many titles to be shown at 1 Reel festival.

A lot of what's good at the 1 Reel Film Festival will, properly speaking, be old. Housed at the Intiman Theatre, the fest of shorts is celebrating its 10th iteration with packages of past standouts (8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2; 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3; and 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4). And, as usual, it concludes with the current crop's award winners (5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5), judged from over 100 entries. Before we look at some new and notable titles, let's hear from Seattle director Lynn Shelton about her absorbing short documentary The Fruits of Our Labors: 10 Mother Stories (1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5) which, though only 16 minutes long, has been some 10 years in the making. "It was a long road for me," explains Shelton. "I was living in New York City. I wasn't a mother yet." Her original idea was to interview other women about how birthing babies had changed them. It got postponed by a move to Seattle and then a miscarriage that inspired her short 2000 documentary, The Clouds That Touch Us Out of Clear Skies. She adds, "I was desperate to go back and revisit [the subject]. It was such a vast topic. The archetype of the mother is so huge." With a $10,000 arts grant from Humanities Washington, she finally began filming two years ago. Interviews with five different mothers came later. Though Fruits is presented in 10 short segments, the audio and visual tracks are distinct. To the untrained, nonparental eye (like mine), you're not sure at first if you're watching 10 different babies that correspond to the interviews. Then, gradually, you realize it's the same 4-month-old. Her mother, former local resident Deb Girdwood, was happy to participate in Shelton's project; she's also one of the interviewees. Says Shelton of the infant, Ursula, "She immediately just screamed out to me—'movie star!' Luckily, it was a filmmaking family." Of the 10 chapters, Shelton explains, "The idea was to give visually a very compressed and truncated view of what the mom goes through . . . [to] focus on the microcosm" of one particular baby. By conducting the mothers' interviews separately later, "They were able to forget about the microphone, rather than the camera pointed at them. It's like the power of radio. There's an intimacy there." Her goal in Fruits is to show that motherhood is "more complicated than they were led to believe," to show among mothers "the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything between." Some 17 interviewees were then culled down to the final five, focusing on "moms who had an unusual perspective." Ironically, since its SIFF screening and Q&A this spring, Shelton has hardly thought about the project. She just wrapped her first feature, We Go Way Back, about a woman aged 23 looking back at her 13-year-old self. It's already been submitted to Sundance. If things go right, it may be accepted for SIFF '06 as well. WHAT ELSE IS good at 1 Reel? The still, creepy Wake (7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4) recalls Nobody Knows, as a young girl vainly attempts to rouse her endlessly slumbering mother—or is she dead?—in their squalid apartment. Back from B-movie exile, Eric Roberts isn't half bad as a smug, smirking L.A. hypnotherapist in The Double (5:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4), which has a half-decent M. Night Shyamalan–style twist. Better and sadder is the UCLA student film Sleepwalking (5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3), a moody heir to Wong Kar-wai in which a young woman contemplates an affair she knows is doomed. A guy dials a telephone psychic in The Virile Man (3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3) to air some difficult work-related issues. How serious are his problems? The camera never leaves the suffocating closet from which he's calling. The animated stuff is generally stronger at 1 Reel, and this year is no exception. Shane Acker's computer-animated UCLA sci-fi film 9 (2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3) is so good that it got him a deal with Tim Burton. It's like a tabletop postapocalyptic fable, as a little google-eyed yarn-puppet creature tries to recapture the souls of his buddies from a spider that also seems to have been assembled from the jumbled contents of an old drawer. Ola's Box of Clovers (5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2) uses puppets like the Brothers Quay to survey the life of a dead old woman who used to kill squirrels for fun. Hand-drawn in a simple pencil style, Welcome to My Life (noon Saturday, Sept. 3) deals with the matter-of-fact daily difficulties faced by the monsters who live in our midst. Discrimination is still an issue. "I'm a Monster-American, OK?" says one. Another confesses, "My ancestors chased a lot of people around in Tokyo." Shown in the same cartoon block—not really for kids—is the wonderful Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher, made like a World War II serial and deserving to be a series on the Cartoon Network. Cat haters will appreciate Milton Is a Shitbag (3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4), about a feline who retaliates for being fixed by peeing on its owner's toothbrush—among many other acts of revenge. Finally, local artist David Russo gets his own showcase to debut I Am Van Gogh (7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2) after repertory showings of his Populi and Pan With Us, both gems from Bumbershoots past. Based on those prior works, rich with stop-motion and in-camera optical effects, this is a must-see screening. 1Reel Film Festival: Intiman Theatre at Seattle Center, noon–10 p.m. Fri., Sept. 2–Mon., Sept. 5; admission with Bumbershoot ticket; 206-628-0888,

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