Short film anthologies are notoriously inconsistent things, quality varying as wildly as genre and approach. They are however, often very worthwhile things, a fertile hunting ground for the major talents of tomorrow honing their skills today. The new Small Gauge Trauma DVD is an exceptional example of the short film anthology, both because it is tightly focused in genre and because it has been curated by Mitch Davis, the head of international programming for Montreal’s Fantasia Festival on the occasion of Fantasia’s tenth anniversary. Fantasia has been screening short films from around the globe right from day one and Davis has culled his choices here from the very best Fantasia offerings, so the selection is nothing short of spectacular.
Full disclosure here demands that I point out that I programmed for Fantasia myself this past year and will be doing so again next. I know these guys and like them a lot, but had nothing whatsoever to do with the selection of films on this disc. A quick search of our archives will show that I was singing the praises of some of them long before I was ever affiliated with Fantasia myself. So, while you’re certainly entitled to question my objectivity on this history says I’ve been in love with these loooong before I had any sort of stake in Fantasia myself. Anyway …
Davis has included thirteen shorts from eight countries culled mostly from the horror sphere though other genres are represented as well. You get animation of the stop motion, digital and hand drawn varieties; absurd humor; blood and gore; shocking horror and some truly haunting imagery. While all of the entries are strong I count at least four titles as being worth the price of admission all on their very own: Spain’s haunting Abuelitos, brilliant Portuguese zombie picture I’ll See You In My Dreams (which we’ve written about at length before), haunting UK stop motion The Separation and, also from the UK, darkly horrific and absurdly funny Tea Break.
Synapse Films has done an excellent job with the DVD release. All the films are presented in their proper ratios with strong transfers and many include a range of special features from music videos to production features to audio commentaries. While many shorts build notoriety and fame through word of mouth most are next to impossible to find on DVD or any other consumer format: they simply don’t get released no matter how good they are. A quality release like this, then, filled with so many incredibly strong films, is a godsend for genre fans. Highly recommended.