By Jacqueline Monahan
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The Las Vegas Film Festival 2013: An Independent Showcase

The Las Vegas Hotel hosted the Las Vegas Film Festival 2013 (LVFF) from July 18 – 22, highlighting the work of independent filmmakers, producers, directors and screenwriters from around the world.

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In addition to feature films, the festival offered documentaries and shorts (some animated) that covered the spectrum between fiction and non-fiction, scripted and candid, actor and actual subject.

Screenings took place in the large showroom where Elvis and Barry Manilow once held court.  The smaller, more intimate Shimmer Theatre held concurrent screenings of additional films so that decisions had to be made in choosing one film over another.

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Your humble correspondent attended two of the four days, viewing three features, one full-length documentary and seventeen shorts (usually 3-8 minutes each).  A sampling of standout productions follows:

Features

The Pier – Directed by and starring Gerard Hurley, this contemplative film, shot mainly in Ireland, revolves around a difficult, abrasive and resentful relationship between a dying man and his adult son.  Alternately rough and quietly moving, The Pier illustrates

Mission Park – Almost cliché in its premise, this compelling drama pits childhood friends against each other (two FBI agents, two drug lords).  The conflict is complex and palpable, especially when a woman comes between two of them.

Liars, Fires, and Bear – It wouldn’t be a celebration of independent films without some kind of quirk lying in wait for the viewer.  Here it’s provided by a nine year old girl and a thirty-something guy on the lam from the law for different reasons.  They leave the state in a car which the girl drives and…you get the picture.  No, there’s no pedophilia involved.  Now THAT’s quirky!

Posthuman

PostHuman

Documentaries

Furever – A fascinating 80 minutes of America’s obsession with its pets, primarily cats and dogs.  From the man who saved his beloved cat’s last meal (and bowel movement) to the woman who had her dog stuffed in its usual napping position so she could pet it everyday, Furever takes the viewer behind the scenes into pet cemeteries, taxidermists, and other businesses that handle a pet’s death for the humans who can’t.

It’s possible to freeze dry a four-legged friend, make him into jewelry, fireworks, mummify him in a golden case or clone him ($100,000).  Interviews with pet owners who have opted for each of these memorials illustrate the enormous bond that can and does develop between humans and animal companions.  There is a nod to lizards and birds, but mammals seem to rule here, fur sure.

Furever

Furever

Magical Universe – Everyone loves an eccentric and Portland, Maine native Al Carbee fits the bill.  The 80-something spends all of his days photographing America’s favorite dysmorphic doll, Barbie.  Filmmaker Jeremy Workman chronicles ten years of Carbee Barbie-ness.  There’s Barbie Astronaut, Barbie Ice Skater, Barbie Formal Gown, Barbie in a Lawn Chair, Barbie on a Bicycle and a Barbie scenario for practically every day of the year.

"Every Barbie is different," Carbee says. "Every Barbie has a theme. I photograph her so that every situation she's in, she feels comfortable."  Somewhere there must be a Spa Barbie, a Cabana Barbie, and a Hammock Barbie.

Shorts

With an attention-getting name like Puncture, it’s only natural to insert a clown, right?  A flat tire makes for a not so chance encounter between a woman and a man in a colorful wig.

Puncture

Puncture

Emit is time spelled backward, and in this tale it runs backward, until everyone un-dies and gets younger and younger until the dreaded day of their birth.  Time is also the star of Small Time when a student and his professor fight for time travel recognition with madcap results.  Quicksand is an end-of-life visual love letter from a son to his father.

Two shorts, Yawns and Folded provide truth in advertising, as Yawns portrays a variety of humans and animals yawning – end of story; Folded has a poignant plot to go with its tale of heartfelt origami.

Everything I Can See From Here and PostHuman (both animated) explore futuristic possibilities with unnerving consequences including oblivion.  At the other end of the humor spectrum, Break Up Day and Bingo Night inject merriment into the annoying and the mundane.  Break Up Day places a woman in the predicament of reliving a break up from her boyfriend day after day.  Bingo Night follows three sets of impresarios as they keep the balls rolling while introducing the game to new generations.

Everything I Can See From Here

Everything I Can See From Here

Cool Unicorn Bruv wonders what life would be like if unicorns became the normal mode of transportation.  They shoot rainbows from their horns, you know.

Mannequins and dummies - in that order - round out La Naissance and The Adventures of Uncle Colt & Cletus: Hedge Hoggin’.  A red dress sparks a cat fight in a warehouse among a photographer’s props; two nitwits accidentally summon a genie and ask to be rock stars.  This last short has appearances by porn legend Ron Jeremy and Mini-Me star Verne Troyer.

La Naissance

La Naissance

Hedge Hoggin

This was just a sampling of the varied, original, and outside-the-box offerings that the Las Vegas Film Festival featured in its four day run - decidedly NOT run of the mill.

For further information about directors, scholarships, and festival awards:
www.lvfilmfest.com