SXSW 2020 Short Films: RUN ON And THE SHAWL

Disclaimer: These short films were previewed before the intended premiere and cancellation of SXSW 2020.

Run On (Daniel Newell Kaufman)

SXSW 2020 Shorts: RUN ON and THE SHAWL
Run On (2020) – source: SXSW

The one-take is becoming a highly utilized tool in cinematic storytelling, some with massive success, others not so much. Run On, written and directed by Daniel Newell Kaufman, is a short live-action film that utilizes the one-take approach to capture a confusing moment in a young boy’s life. The one-take format is perfect here, creating the environment needed to facilitate the appropriate story and mood of a young boy, one grappling with a muddled understanding of what is going on as he and an unnamed woman attempt to flee an unseen danger.

Run On opens to brilliant cinematography, with a young boy playing carefree with his fidget spinner. There is a calm demeanor to his presence, easing viewers into the short and immediately garnering their attention. Yet, this atmosphere is short-lived as Luke is ripped from his moment of tranquility, and viewers are forced to follow as he descends into confusion, his silence never breaking to relieve his worry nor to gain understanding. Pulled from the illuminating outside, Luke and the women enter a sketchy bus depot, as she anxiously awaits their departure. The bus is late and with an unseen force clearly closing in on them, the intensity only builds.

Further heightening the intensity is the uncertainty of Luke’s relationship to this woman. Is she his mother? This was my initial assumption until he asks for more than chump change to acquire food from the vending machine. “You’re just like your mother”, “expensive taste”, she says to Luke, building an understanding of a lack of homely situations Luke continually finds himself in. Is she his aunt? Father’s girlfriend? Kidnapper? With tidbits that are given through her interactions and the silent actions of Luke, audiences are able to ascertain she is a caregiver to Luke, ruling out at least a crime of kidnapping.

The music in the short is one of the most notable aspects, with the sound going in and out, and the soundtrack louder than words. Many times it’s fading ever so faintly to the background, so we are focused on Luke and the woman. An intense, pulsating score also weaves its way in and out, continuing to build the unknown, continuing the threat that danger could arrive at any moment. There is a moment when “I’m Not Ready to Play Nice” by the Dixie Chicks is playing, further driving home this sense of danger, and almost foreshadowing the final moments of Run On.

Run On is a heart-pounding short that leaves you catching your breath more than once. It will stick with you, the one-take forcing you to take in the world as Luke does, giving you the perspective of a child along with the intense limitation of your own comprehension. Run On is a perfect short from start to finish, one that I wanted to know more about, to see more of, perfectly encapsulated with what it does decide to show. If you have the chance to catch this short going forward, make sure you do. You won’t regret it.

The Shawl (Sarah Kiener)

SXSW 2020 Shorts: RUN ON and THE SHAWL
The Shawl (2020) – source: SXSW

Short films can be one of the biggest delights during a film festival – animation, short dramatic narrative, and informative documentaries are just a few that can give you a brief glimpse beyond the blockbuster. While each has the means of ruminating within your mind, sometimes the most memorable shorts at the ones you find yourself snuggling into, providing warmth, comfort, and pure joy. Enter The Shawl.

While sold to be a story about Stevie Nicks and her infamous wardrobe choices, The Shawl is not a story about Stevie Nicks and her scarf. Rather, The Shawl is a short film about the stories that connect us. It is about the moments we share with the ones we love, those that run the deepest.

From the moment The Shawl began, I wanted to know these two characters. I wanted to hear more stories of the moments they had shared together over a nice glass of wine. These genteel men are eccentric with an enticing and engaging flair, and audiences will find they can just not get enough.  There is a familiarity in the banter these two gentlemen share as they recall this one time they went to a Stevie Nicks concert, one of the gentlemen’s keen eye able to realize the shawl she was wearing that night was an original.

The animation is whimsy, fluid like the memories being shared and the banter exchanged. Bright colors heighten their words, bringing warmth to the screen, further driving the joy exuded through its runtime. One of the warmest and softest shorts I have ever seen, The Shawl is a special delight for anyone who has the opportunity to see it.

What is your favorite short film? Let us know in the comments below!

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