Dances with Film Festival 2024: If you read online coverage for most film festivals, you might notice that the outlets usually focus on the screening of feature-length films and documentaries as the majority of their articles’ focus. The inclination of a publication to do this is understandable, but unfortunately, it means that many really interesting and unique films and filmmakers with incredible points of view often get overlooked as part of the festival’s press coverage.

In an effort to buck this trend and lift up some of the more marginalized films (and voices!), this article profiles the five short films and pilots we’re most excited about at the 2024 Dances with Films festival at the iconic Mann’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. And for those who may not be familiar with Dances with Films, this festival is the largest film festival in Los Angeles and prides itself on being “defiantly independent. It takes place every year in June.

Let’s take a look at the five short films and pilots we’re most excited about at this year’s festival.

STORY OF THE SUN

This animated film by fine artist and filmmaker Phillip Gladkov is the first film in the world to be made out of birch bark. In a time when AI animation is dominating almost everything, and artists around the world are rightfully fretting over the future of their craft, Gladkov’s stop-motion cut-out film is a breath of fresh air and offers viewers the opportunity to see the beauty of an art form that’s truly at risk, a theme that eerily mirrors the film’s warning of what can happen if we don’t work to take care of our planet and its resources. For his part, Gladkov painstakingly collected thousands of pieces of bark from dead birch trees in upstate New York and fashioned them into the shapes used to make the film, a process that took him several years to complete.

STORY OF THE SUN screens Sunday, June 23, 2024 at 2 PM.

CINEMETA

The Five Shorts & Pilots We’re Most Excited About at This Year’s Dances With Films Festival 

“Cinemeta” bills itself as a short film that’s “keenly aware of itself,” but what makes this particular film so special is not only its tongue-in-cheek and self-deprecating sense of humor but that it was made by actual military veterans depicting themselves as two military veterans mulling over how best to create the perfect film that people will respond to. If for nothing else, supporting our men and women in uniform by supporting their artistic efforts makes going to this film (which has been screened in numerous festivals) a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.

CINEMETA screens Friday, June 28, 2024, at 2:45 PM.

BURNS AND SONG

From the moment you hear those first haunting notes in the teaser trailer for “Burns and Song,” you know you’re in for the kind of thrills and scares auteurs like Nia DiCosta have trained audiences to expect from Black female horror directors. “Burns and Song” is from the mind of Tendayi Nyeke, a South African native who works in Hollywood as an Annie Award-winning animation producer for the likes of Disney and Netflix but is finding her own voice in telling authentic African horror films from a female point of view. Horror lovers are going to revel in the multi-layered plot Nyeke weaves around the past life of her protagonist as she becomes increasingly intertwined in a malicious government subplot that ensnares not only her protagonist but viewers as well.

BURNS AND SONG screens Saturday, June 22, 2024, at 2:45 PM

LOFT AND FOUND

The Five Shorts & Pilots We’re Most Excited About at This Year’s Dances With Films Festival 

The trailer for “Loft and Found” will probably hit a little uncomfortably close to home for many people in their 30s (and 20s and 40s), as the pilot follows the lives of a group of artists not only trying to “make it,” but struggling to keep up with the breakneck pace of rising rents in major cities in America. Enter a creative solution: they’ll turn a warehouse into a flophouse/event venue and hope for the best as they pursue their passions. Shot in the style of shows like “The Office” and “Parks and Rec,” “Loft and Found” promises to help those who don’t happen to be billionaires examine the very real conundrum of growing up versus giving up on your dreams and might just offer a very creative way out.

LOFT AND FOUND screens Saturday, June 29, 2024, at 3:30 PM.

WE ARE FLYING STARS

If you scroll through writer/director Todd Anthony’s Instagram feed, you’ll get a sense of the incredible cinematography you’re in for with the short doc “We Are Flying Stars.” But even Anthony’s dreamy camera work can’t wake viewers from the nightmare of what the civil war in Sierra Leone has done to thousands of innocent civilians. This is what makes “We Are Flying Stars” such a standout, as the film profiles a group of football teams made up of players who are victims of amputations carried out by rebel soldiers. Football has been called “the beautiful game,” and the film explores how the game restores hope for this extraordinary group of people in the face of the insurmountable adversities of war. There isn’t a trailer for this one, but there is a GoFundMe page where the filmmakers are raising money to support the teams.

WE ARE FLYING STARS screens on Friday, June 21, 2024, at 4:45 PM.

The Dances with Films film festival will take place in Los Angeles from June 20 to 30, 2024. Tickets for all screenings are available on their website.

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