Diverse selection of shorts to show at SDSU festival

by Nancy Kirk, Staff Writer

From psycho-thrillers with twist endings to lighthearted rom-coms, the Best of the Best Film Festival at San Diego State will screen a diverse selection of 17 student-made short films this Thursday and Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Don Powell Theater. Tickets are $10.

Unlike spring semester’s Emerging Filmmaker Festival where a jury panel picks what is shown, this event involved film professor Greg Durbin asking students and faculty for their opinions on which films throughout the past couple years were the most likable, unique and memorable.

“There are more good films worth showing than we have time for,” Durbin said. “But we eventually come up with a consensus.”

Some of Durbin’s noteworthy mentions, though there are many, include “Smile,” a romantic comedy about finding the value in having a spectrum of emotions; “Of Beaches and Beer,” a documentary about San Diego’s dominant craft beer industry; and “When I Wake Up,” a thriller about a psychopathic, schizophrenic mother who is on a mission to avenge her daughter’s death.

The lighthearted film “Smile” will kick off Thursday night. Ironically inspired by a traumatic event that left a friend’s face paralyzed, “Smile” co-director Jack Winemiller and writer David Butler concluded such a heavy topic was too intense for a 10-minute short. As a result, they flipped the script entirely by exploring an idea: What if someone could only smile?

A man living in a futuristic, consumerist society with bombarding advertisements is sick of his unpopularity, so he buys a product called Never Frown that forces a permanent smile on his face. After the experience of smiling in inappropriate situations, he realizes having a range of emotions is vital for a successful life and relationships.

While people don’t outright buy emotions, people do buy beer, which in turn raises their spirits. In the midst of San Diego’s craft beer revolution, producer Raeanne DuPont and two of her classmates set out to make a documentary called “Of Beaches and Beer,” which documents what it’s like to be a part of the budding beer industry.

“Of Beaches and Beer” was even more successful than the filmmakers had hoped — KPBS offered them a six-part series about the craft beer industry called “Kings of the Craft.”

“My favorite part has been hearing their stories,” DuPont said. “A lot of these people in the industry were on completely different paths before craft beer, but then realized that this was their passion.”

She went on to explain that each brewery was unique and each person they spoke with had a different creative process.

The darkest of these three films is undoubtedly “When I Wake Up,” a psycho-thriller about a schizophrenic mother on a vengeful quest after her daughter dies. The film has an M. Night Shyamalan moment with a twist ending, and the film’s production designer even hid clues and messages within the set.

“You’re meant to contemplate what happened,” recent SDSU graduate and director Zev Lerner said. “If you like to think afterward, this would be a film for you to see.”

One thing is certain — there will be plenty of films for every genre-loving member of the audience at the Best of the Best Film Festival.