Traverse City Film Festival: Where’s The Throbbing Angst In Short Fiction?

There is no question that the short shorts exhibited at Thursday night’s presentation of Short Fiction 1 are “just great films”. All selections revolved around the theme of relationships and, as such, even the comedies tended to be more serene in tone compared to many short shorts on the circuit. Three of the 9 short films featured senior citizens and a fourth was a period piece about the allure of mid-century pin-up girls. I must admit to feeling a little impatient that so many of the shorts seemed to be chosen to appeal to an older audience. Where’s the vibrant young filmmaker angst and fervor that usually shows up in a line-up of festival shorts? Only in the midnight screenings?

The Traverse City Film Festival plays during a time when college students are not in session yet nightly I see dozens of them spilling out of Union Street Station and Dillinger’s pub just around the corner from the main corridor of the film festival. By day they window shop on Front Street and play beach volleyball two blocks away. However, most local co-eds I know (my babysitters mostly) think the nightly free screening at the open space is the primary feature of the film festival. Its my impression that the Traverse Area 20-something market is not being effectively courted by TCFF. I wonder if festival coordinators have considered dedicating a one-day block of festival picks specifically to captivate those who appreciate an edgier aesthetic?

The Traverse City Film Festival differs from showcases like Sundance Film Festival and SXSW in that it is not currently a film industry shopping place for new talent. The TCFF exhibits quality films that have mostly already been recognized by the professional film community and introduces them to Traverse filmgoers as a presentation of the best of the best. This format gives the TCFF the luxury of thoughtfully constructing a line-up instead of choosing from a haphazard selection of surprise submissions from nascent filmmakers. But that model also tends to homogenize out a little of the virility that shows up in the films of hungry young hopefuls. I think it would be an interesting idea to designate one day or one time block of the festival (not just midnight) to bringing out the youth: in the films, in the community, and in those who enjoy tapping into generation next. Let it be a night that would give grandma a headache. Let that night’s pre-show entertainments feature DJs or rock guitarists instead of Tessie and Her Tap Dancing Terriers. The town’s 20-somethings are out at the pubs anyway, let the TCFF give them some cinematic angst to drink in instead. Let it be understood that I am still immensely impressed with the festival as it is. I just wanted to post a “short” thought to consider.

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