This year’s Urbanworld Film Festival included special showings of feature films such as Night School and The Hate U Give, but there were countless other indie features and shorts that showcased the talent of up-and-coming directors, producers, and actors across the country.
The narrative shorts were one of the best parts of the five-day event. So it’s only right that we highlight five notable shorts that were shown. From comedy to science fiction, this year’s selection of shorts explored different genres to provide a commentary on gender, race, and sexuality. One even tackled the difficulty of finding affordable premiere seats for a theatre show.
Here’s our choice for the five best narrative shorts shown at this year’s Urbanworld Film Festival.
Directed by: Wesley Wingo
Writer: Alberto Bonilla
Producers: Alberto Bonilla, Rashad Chambers
The synopsis of the short offered on the Urbanworld website is just the right amount of deception, as Wingo brilliantly unravels Paco’s (Alberto Bonilla) true reason for going to a questionable part of town in search of a “fix.” The fix isn’t drugs but tickets to a theatre show, only adding to the absurd and comical tone of the short. As Paco tries to leverage cheaper tickets with the seller, B-Swagg (Luke Forbes), a hilarious exchange occurs between the two, culminating in an ending that left audience members laughing just as much as they were applauding.
Directed by: Naima Ramos-Chapman
Writer: Naima Ramos-Chapman
Producers: Jason Hightower, Terence Nance, Naima Ramos-Chapman
Naima Ramos-Chapman has become known for her work on Random Acts of Flyness alongside Terence Nance. Piu Piu maintains an aesthetic and feel similar to the HBO series, as Ramos-Chapman is stalked by a man throughout New York. The anxiety and fear Ramos-Chapman conveys are only emphasized by the manipulation of sound that occurs in the short, a jarring accompaniment that is meant to make viewers feel the discomfort she feels. Overall, Piu Piu provides a necessary and interesting commentary on the physical and psychological harm and trauma stalking can put on a woman just trying to live.
Directed by: Kemiyondo Coutinho
Producers: Heddwyn Kyambadde, Gladys Oyenbot
Kyenvu played right after Piu Piu which was a fitting pairing. Both explore the toxicity of patriarchy in different but compelling and unflinching ways. Kemiyondo Coutinho not only directs but stars as the short’s main character, who finds herself in a love affair with a man (Michael Wawuyo, Jr.) after meeting him at a taxi stop. The man’s persistence pays off when she agrees to a date. But Coutinho plays with expectation, using the final moments of the film to offer a very explicit critique of the brutal problems faced by women in Uganda.
Directed by: Ramón Rodríguez
Producers: Ramón Rodríguez, Karina Silva
This documentary short focuses on local Puerto Ricans trying to readjust five months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Fortunately, the residents get some assistance from the New York nonprofit organization H.E.A.R.T. 9/11, with members of the group traveling to Puerto Rico to help rebuild homes alongside the residents. Even with the destruction that has taken over Puerto Rico, it’s still such a beautiful island, with Ramón Rodríguez capturing its beauty through multiple aerial shots. Ultimately, Pa’lante is a straightforward, uplifting short that shows the significance of people from different backgrounds working together to help build a place back up from destruction.
Directed by: Otoja Abit
Writer: Otoja Abit
Producers: Otoja Abit, Ian Phillips
The existential dread that comes right before a wedding ceremony has been explored through many movies and TV shows. But Jitters provides an unexpected twist at the end while highlighting the complexities of love and identity in a way that feels real and, most importantly, relatable. Director Otoja Abit (who also portrays the film’s unnamed main character) uses dreamlike scenes to revisit past loves, emphasizing the moment when he’s transported back to the present and walking down the aisle to marry his lover. Jitters won the Audience Award for Best Short and considering how well it told its story, it’s not surprising why it won.