Our Top Picks for Palm Springs International ShortFest 2020

Palm Springs International ShortFest never fails to select outstanding short films and due to Covid 19 this year the festival is screening online. These are what we feel are the standout shorts for 2020.

KYLE LAURSEN’S JOSIAH

We are blown away by the performance of Luke Forbes in Kyle Laursen’s Josiah, the film addresses stereotyping in Hollywood and it couldn’t be more timely. We hope this short is Oscar bound as it certainly deserves to be seen on the world’s stage. Josiah has been nominated for the Best U.S. Short.

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Writer/Director Kyle Laursen’s live-action short film Josiah examines issues inside the creative process of a casting room, excavating unconscious stereotyping and complex power dynamics based on race, class and gender. The stellar cast includes Kevin Dunn (VEEP), Luke Forbes (Crown Heights), Melanie Chandra (Code Black) and Mather Zickel (Better Things). This topical film will premier online, in competition at the Palm Springs International ShortFest this June.

Brandon, a talented actor who has yet to break through, auditions for what might be another stereotypical part in a period television series. Being the only Black man in a Hollywood setting is not unusual for him, but when something unexpected occurs in this casting session, Brandon must contend with three other perspectives in the room for a role that could actually change his life.

Kyle Laursen graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he received a BFA in film production and a BA in film studies. Kyle completed his MFA in the graduate directing program at the UCLA School of Theatre Film and Television, where he wrote, produced and directed several short films that screened at film festivals across the country. For his work in film, Kyle was a recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Award and the Stanley Kramer Directing Award. He worked as a development executive at Plan B Entertainment for three years and currently produces television for Big Beach. Kyle wrote, directed and produced Josiah.

The cinematography was created by Jennifer Gittings.

MARTIN WINTER’S DAY RELEASE

Martin Winter’s Day Release shares a story of a single mother forced to take the toughest decision of her life, the directing is impeccable and the story heartbreaking. A stand out performance by Anna Suk could bag this film the the Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes for which it has been nominated.

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Martin Winter’s Day Release shares a story of a young woman who is trying to do the best for her son whilst living behind bars. Day Release has won numerous high profile international film awards and has just been nominated for the Oscar-qualifying award at Palm Springs.

Single mother Kathi receives day release from prison and finds her three year-old son, who is living with her unstable mother, in bad circumstances. She is forced to find a way to enable a better future for him, while time is against her, she has to be back in prison at six pm.

German Director Martin Winter studied Directing and Cinematography at the Vienna Film College where he created numerous short films and documentaries. Day Release was made after his graduation and premiered in competition at the 40th Filmfestival Max Ophüls Prize, the film was was nominated for the German Newcomer Award and First Steps Award in Berlin. It has also been awarded and nominated at numerous film festivals all over the world including the Austrian Film Award for Best Short Film.

Austrian Producer Sebastian Schmidl studied Directing and Screenwriting at the Vienna Film College. His films include Darling which had its premiere in competition at the 37th Filmfestival Max Ophüls Prize and won numerous international awards. Crush my Heart was his first feature as a screenwriter. In 2019, he collaborated with his producing partner Victoria Herbig on the Day Release as a writer/producer. He is currently working on the screenplay for his first directing-feature film, for which he was awarded with the BKA – Scholarship for Cinematic Art.

Day Release was co-produced by Victoria Herbig.

LINHAN ZHANG’S THE LAST FERRY FROM GRASS ISLAND

There is something etherial about Linhan Zhang’s directing, he draws you into the story and keeps you glued to the screen from start to finish. Mark our words there are big things coming for this talented young director. Every element of this film has been perfected to a tee, another film which deserves an Academy Award. The film has been nominated for the Best U.S. Short at Palm Springs.

Director Linhan Zhang’s film was shot during the Hong Kong protests and shares the story of a former Triad looking after his senile mother in a rustic village, when he is faced with being killed by his apprentice. This beautifully shot live action short received its world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival and has now been selected for Palm Springs.

A Hong Kong hitman retires as a fisherman on the peaceful Grass Island. One day, his Chinese apprentice shows up, tasked to kill him before the last ferry departs.

Linhan Zhang was a film and television undergraduate at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He was one of the fifteen 2017-2018 Sundance Ignite Fellows, and one of the twenty recipients of the 2019 Adobe Creativity Scholarship. This is the director’s second film.

The film has been produced by Clifford Miu and the stunning cinematography was created by Greek cinematographer Giorgos Valsamis who shot the Palme D’or winning short The Distance Between Us and the Sky of Cannes 2019.

ALENJANDRA JENNI’S WORTH

Alejandra Jenni stars and directs this important film which shares of story of two women’s very different experiences with their periods. With Period End of Sentence recently winning an Oscar on the same subject, periods are slowly becoming less taboo. We applaud Jenni for this honest and real portrayal about menstruation, which we hope will open more discussions on the subject. This film has been nominated for and deserves to be awarded the Best International Short at Palm Springs.

Periods are a subject that still can be uncomfortable to discuss. In fact, American women are less comfortable talking about their periods with men than women abroad. Alejandra Jenni’s topical film Worth sparks the conversation about the realities of menstruation as it follows two women with different experiences with menstruation. This important film has been nominated for the Best International Short award at Palm Springs International ShortFest.

Two young women in their bathrooms: one of them misses her period, the other one struggles with its presence.

Director/Actress Alejandra Jenni studied Physical Theatre at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Germany. During her studies she devised and performed several theatre plays of which most were invited to numerous festivals. Also she co-produced the dance film Statement on Landscapes. After her graduation in 2016, she gained further education in camera acting at the Central de Cine in Madrid. Since 2017, she has been working as a freelance theatre and filmmaker in Switzerland and Germany. Worth is her first fictional short.

Assistant Director Claudia Jenni Palma studied Fine Arts in Basel, Switzerland. Her focus throughout the studies has been on drawing, photography, video and writing. Worth is the first short film she has been involved in. In autumn this year she will continue her studies in philosophy and comparative literature.

The film stars, Alejandra Jenni, Amelie Barth and Jonas Rhonheimer.

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