Part of the Milwaukee Film Festival's (http://mkefilm.org) Shorter is Better program includes a group of short films centered around characters facing tough times, entitled "...Make Lemonade." This group of shorts had its final screening at 1:45 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 5.
The series of five shorts began with Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit's "Summer Vacation." This short film INVESTIGATES the lengths one will go to in order to avoid the suppressed memories and feelings. It follows a man on family vacation when he is revisited by someone from his past who he must leave there in order to keep his family together. It's an open-ended story, suggesting there is no good answer for some of life's problems and that the only solutions leave at least one person hurt. While this film was very well done, there was no moment of overcoming the problem and moving past a difficult situation, as one might expect given the Shorts program description.
The next short film, Juliet Lashinsky-Revene's "Keys. Wallet. Phone." followed suit in the not-so-uplifting pattern as it explored what heartache and trauma can do to the mind. The film's protagonist, Susan, is simply having a drink in a diner when it quickly becomes clear that she is struggling with her past, keeping a sunny disposition while avoiding the coping process. Everything, down to the drink she orders (Morning Glory), is an attempt to appear in control and unaffected by her demons, but the audience soon realizes through quick flashbacks and editing that a sunny disposition and cheery voice can't suppress her past traumas.
Aleksandra Terpinska's "All Souls' Day" followed "Keys. Wallet. Phone." as the first of the set of shorts to suggest an optimistic turn after difficult events. Lena shares her birthday with a holiday surrounding death, and her family is far too concerned with visiting her mother's grave than acknowledging her eighteenth birthday. Lena takes the opportunity to independently explore her roots, and comes to find that they weren't what she had in mind. However, an unexpected, last minute turn helps Lena realize that what she has isn't as bad as she thought.
A complete turn from the start of "...Make Lemonade", Conor Finnegan's "Fear of Flying" is an animated story of a bird who refuses to fly south for the winter because of a pretty serious flight-phobia. This ridiculous comedy is all about overcoming fears or, if necessary, working around them. It served as a light break from some of the more serious troubles explored in the program, and had the crowd laughing throughout the film.
"Shorts:...Make Lemonade" ended with what was certainly a crowd favorite in Jeremy Brock's "Walking the Dogs." This short film is based on the 1982 incident at Buckingham Palace, when a man broke into Queen Elizabeth II's bedroom in the early hours of the morning. Emma Thompson ("Love Actually", "Nanny McPhee") portrays the Queen with an addicting charisma that humanizes Queen Elizabeth II in this humorous, yet sentimental short. The quick wit and cuts between the bedroom and inattentive security man turn a frightening situation into something humorous. The Queen and the intruder sit and talk about the man's troubles, and the short quickly becomes a lesson in accepting one's lot in life and moving on after misfortune.
We can't possibly be happy all the time. Even the happiest people can feel despair.
"Walking the Dogs" was the perfect choice in ending "Shorts: ...Make Lemonade" as it captured the essence and theme of the short films while leaving the audience with a laugh.
For more information on the Milwaukee Film Festival, visit http://mkefilm.org.