Penelope Spheeris Shorts Unclassified 18+
See all of the early short films directed by Penelope Spheeris, screening at MIFF thanks to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Restored and preserved by the Academy Film Archive, these eight independent short films – made between 1968 and 1998 – showcase an emerging director already breaking rules, embracing diversity and championing underdogs. From experimental works to documentaries and sci-fi, Spheeris’s shorts reveal an ambitious filmmaker with a singular vision.
Synthesis: Somewhere in space, or time, some kind of alien entity surveys humanity.
Bath: Shooting on 16mm, Spheeris’s camera observes a woman taking a bath, and taking her time. Her nakedness is celebrated without being eroticised.
The National Rehabilitation Center: America’s McCarran Act is designed to control “subversive activity”. It allows the US government to jail dissidents – including communist sympathisers, draft dodgers and student activists – with little to no pretext. With this scarily realistic – and scarily prescient – mockumentary, Spheeris presents a world where McCarran is enforced, and exploited.
Shit: A man who’s slipped on shit lies in the gutter, waiting for help.
I Don’t Know: A visionary semi-vérité nonfiction film from 1970 that provides a platform for lesbian, transgender and gender fluid people to speak their truth.
Hats Off to Hollywood: Continuing the story presented in I Don’t Know, this mix of documentary and recreations was decades ahead of its time is challenging audiences assumptions about heteronormality.
No Use Walking When You Can Stroll: A short documentary about the director’s mother – married 10 times, carny, bartender – a charming woman who lived a life, often marred by tragedy, to its fullest.
Boy and Crows: A boy enjoys the age-old pleasure of making a wish on a dandelion.