Poppy’s Top 10 films: This year’s crop of films hits high note

Free film class at Gavilan College in Morgan Hill

This weekend, movie fans will see some of this year’s best short
films at Morgan Hill’s seventh annual Poppy Jasper Short Film
Festival, the South Valley’s celebration of cinematic art from the
world’s most cutting-edge independent filmmakers.
Short films are the cinematic equivalent of the short story in literature. Whether a couple of minutes or a half an hour in length, these cinematic jewels can reveal to us great truths through individual characters forced to make difficult decisions as they face life-changing dilemmas. This weekend, movie fans will see some of this year’s best short films at Morgan Hill’s seventh annual Poppy Jasper Short Film Festival, the South Valley’s celebration of cinematic art from the world’s most cutting-edge independent filmmakers.

The 47 cinematic shorts scheduled for the South Valley’s home-grown film festival are, for the most part, a pure pleasure to watch. Compared with 2009, this year’s films include a higher percentage of drama compared to comedy stories. Overall, the quality of the 2010 offerings – especially with creative media films – is the highest since the festival started in 2004.

Audiences to this year’s festival will see two invited films. “I Love You” is a comedy about a nervous man’s romance with a deaf woman. It’s a one-joke cliche of a film that’s rather mean-spirited in its tone. But definitely don’t miss the enchantingly crafted “The Butterfly Circus,” the festival’s other invited film. In a haunting tone, it tells the poignant tale of a circus sideshow during the Great Depression.

In no particular order, here are The Gilroy Dispatch’s Top 10 “must-see” movies at the Poppy Jasper this weekend:

Lunch: Filmmaker Avis Richard’s documentary exposing the hypocrisy and the waste in school lunch programs is a must viewing by all parents and educators. In the year when everyone is talking about “Waiting for Superman,” this 25-minute film an excellent reminder on the close link between nutrition, physical fitness and academic learning. Poppy Jasper jurors were spot-on in giving it their award for Best Social Commentary.

Zu Viele Musen (Too Many Muses): This surreal 8-minute film by Jochen Schmidt-Hambrock follows the story of a screenwriter who locks himself in a public restroom where he gets ambushed by his creative muses. It’s a comical look at the process of inspiration in filmmaking – and questions whether reality shapes art or art shapes reality.

Re-Creation: A beautiful-looking piece of animation fluff about a young girl who beholds a world of wonders through her bedroom window. This 6-minute film by Trisha Gum received the Best Creative Media Award from the Poppy Jasper jurors.

On the Rise: Comparable in animation quality to “Re-Creation,” this 5-minute film by John Tupper tells a much more interesting story that the Creative Media Award winner. A sheep rancher decides to fight global warming by attaching surplus weather balloons to his livestock to gather the methane from their flatulence. The results are a disaster worthy of a Buster Keaton comedy.

Cold Turkey: British filmmaker Gavin Keane succeeds wonderfully with this 12-minute comedy about a sound man on a low-budget movie dealing with the upstairs neighbor woman’s bratty kids as he tries to find the right sound for a fight scene. The surprise ending will leave the audience gasping with laughter. This film received the Poppy Jasper juror’s for the Best Comedy Award.

Father and Sister: Soyeon Kim’s creative media film tells an O’Henry story using very basic but beautifully drawn animation. This 5-minute stained-glass window gem considers how a series of coincidences inside a church leads two religious people to find romance.

Suckathumb: In this wild camping trip adventure directed by Xstine Cook and based on the stories of German psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffman, a young girl faces “shear” terror after her mother reads her a bedtime story about a tailor who uses his scissors to cut off the thumbs of misbehaving children. The surreal animation mixes live actors with whimsical drawings from Hoffman’s morality lesson stories to create a beautifully bizarre nightmare world.

Juche Rules – A powerful narrative that questions what preserving our freedom and our family really costs. In this drama by filmmaker Kristina Romero and based on a play, two freelance reporters on assignment for an American news agency secretly take video footage of a North Korean missile site. The agonizing ending as one of the reporters must deal with his conscious is the reason the Poppy Jasper jurors gave this film a well earned “Best Drama” award.

The Shot: The vividly-done cinematography is what makes Andrew Hamer’s film well worth watching. Based on an Alexander Pushkin story but set in Revolutionary War America, this 25-minute film reveals the secrets of a French man with a reputation as a duelist who must make a powerful decision to protect the woman he loves.

Notes on Lying: Fate has an interesting way of dealing with a man having an affair in director Tirzah Sharia’s well-crafted film which received the Poppy Jasper juror’s Best Overall Award. Without revealing the twist in the tale, “Notes on Lying” is worthy of an “Twilight Zone” episode.

All festival films can be viewed today, Saturday, and Sunday at Morgan Hill’s CineLux Theater at the Tennant Station shopping center.

Visit www.poppyjasperfilmfest.org for more information or to buy tickets.

Poppy Jasper Short Film Festival

– All 47 short films films can be viewed today, Saturday, and Sunday at CineLux Tennant Station Stadium 11, 750 Tennant Avenue, Morgan Hill

– Tickets can be purchased at poppyjasperfilmfest.org, or at the BookSmart at 82 East Second St. in Morgan Hill or at the Garlic City Bookstore at 7490 Monterey St. in downtown Gilroy. Details: 782-8087.