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By Jacqueline Monahan
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Vegas Cine Fest 2011 Features Shorts and More at Tropicana

From August 25-27, the Conference Center at the Tropicana filled with independent filmmakers, directors, writers and producers.  Vegas Cine Fest and its digital invasion swept through three large screening rooms with documentaries, features, and shorts, with a few surprise guests thrown in for good measure.



You humble correspondent tackled the shorts as usual, viewing about 17 of them over the span of two days.  They were not shown in blocks, but individually, with a director’s Q & A after nearly every one.

Although the Fest’s official website included film synopses, the program booklet did not, so viewers had to make choices by title and hearsay.   The following 2-25 minute selections (among others) were offered. Running times follow title, in minutes.

Dog Math (7) - A poignant illustration of a child’s first brush with the reality of death when her beloved bulldog passes away.  The lead is played by a girl named Lilac who carries the film and makes her dog yours, all in just seven minutes.  Directed by Lori Stoll.

Pie (6) - Two groups of gangster guys and gals converge at a secret warehouse and the war begins.  There’s a Blue Team, a Red Team and a stockpile of weapons that contain…fruit, and whipped cream.  With non-stop action, direct hits, and Kung Fu moves played straight and deadly, Pie was one of the best audience pleasers at the Fest.  Directed by Michael Tushaus.


Michael Tushaus (director) tells Pie Stories

Miscellaneous Theories on Time
(8) – A unique “time travel through memory” premise by director Andre Ross, examines grief through perceptions, memory and longing as a woman confronts the aftermath of her husband and son’s death.


Andre Ross, left, director of Miscellaneous Theories on Time

Extraction Point (2) – The winner for Best Film Trailer, directed by Victor Masters, who packs sfx, action, and stunts into a frenetic two-minutes.  It can tire you out just by watching it.

Victor Masters, far right, director of Extraction Point (with cast)

Heartbreak Hotel (8) – This snagged the 2nd runner-up for 2011 Best Short Film,” directed by Evy Barry.  An aging British couple comprised of an Elvis impersonator and his lush of a wife prove that love is blind and full of routines.  Heartbreak invades one fateful day when one of them dies.

Director Evy Barry talks about Heartbreak Hotel

The Rake (11) – Writer-director Ash Bhalla, a Mumbai native helms this stylized moral tale set in an illegal poker club in New York City,  Bhalla says it best with a quote –“In every compelling wager there is a fool, a thief and a femme fatale”.

Ash Bhalla, director, The Rake

Spare (10) – Winner, 1st runner-up, Best 2010 Short Film, directed by Tomer Almagor.  A violent, gangster relationship reveals an affair of the heart at its center, but not the way you expect.  Frank and Leo deliver some surprises along with a well-thrown tire iron.

Grace in Sara (18) – Winner, 2nd runner-up for Best Featurette, directed by Todd Senturia.  Chronicles a young girl as she works out her anger and confusion at her mother’s abandonment with the aid of a creative therapist and her favorite rock chick.  And her name is Sara Alice Cooper, by the way.

Todd Senturia, left, director, Grace in Sara

Average American (25) – The president of the United States is evicted and takes up residence with one of his Secret Service employees.  His entire family of clueless, entitled freeloaders, including his mother-in-law imposes their impossible presence.  Welcome to Average America, Mr. Prez.  Directed by Kim Allen, who also wrote the witty screenplay.


Kim Allen (2nd from right) director, Average American, with cast members

Dudley’s Dates (10) – A man in therapy relates his disastrous three dates to a trusted psychologist, not realizing the reason for his failures is staring him right in the face.  Directed by Parish Rahbar, with excellent acting by Tara (that’s her professional name).


Parish Rahbar, director, Dudley's Dates

Besteigung (7) – This got the 2nd runner-up award for best student films, directed by Richard Telesca.  Not every German soldier was a goose-stepping martinet.  Some actually had a conscience.  An Accolade Film and Television Awards winner that uses actual WWII artifacts as props.  The title means "ascent."


Richard Telesca, director, Besteigung

Return to Sender (9) –  Captured the 1st runner-up award for best student film, directed by Byron Leon and recognizable to anyone who’s has a cathartic letter fall into the wrong hands – and the younger the couple-at-odds, the better.

Night Hawks (9) – Relationship angst at a Canadian diner reveals how universal this type of conflict can be, especially when most expectations come from portrayals on American film and television.  Directed by Aristides Guillen, ay.

Night Hawks director Aristides Guillen

Grave Diggers (17) – Producer/director and Cine Fest founder Philip Marcus directed from an award-winning script by Colin Fox and shot on location in Ireland.  Grief, honor and loss make a mound big enough to fill a grave that a man’s three friends dig for him after his death.

Drum roll please…

The winner for Best 2011 Short Film was A Finger 2 Dots, Then Me, (8) directed by David Holecheck. A spoken word piece based on a popular poem by beat poet Derrick Brown.  Covers life, love, and death – all the bases, and in just eight minutes.  That’s skill.

The award for best 2010 short film went to Quality Time (9) written and directed by James (Jamie) Redford.  Yes, he’s Robert’s son and bears a striking resemblance to the film icon.  His short starred Jason Patric as a harried father of four, trying, for once, NOT to have a hectic morning getting the kids ready for school.

Philip Marcus, John Landis, and James (Jamie) Redford

And one feature…

Burke and Hare
Legendary director John Landis (Blues Brothers, Trading Places, American Werewolf in London, Thriller) was on hand to screen his latest feature and take questions from the audience afterward.  He was also the first recipient of the Filmmaker’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  Burk and Hare is a dark comedy that Landis says he views as "an evil Laurel and Hardy."


John Landis Q & A

I couldn’t be everywhere at once, so…

For further Information and full list of Vegas Cine Fest 2011 award winners:

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