You might think of short films as, at best, mere trifles, or warm-ups to more sophisticated and complete-seeming films of feature length. You might think, movie-wise, that shorter means lamer.
Well, SF Shorts -- whose longer, tellingly less concise name is the San Francisco International Festival of Short Films -- should enlighten you. All it will require is eight batches of short films, loosely arranged by theme and played out over four days.
Many great short films are not at all commercially viable, which often correlates to their greatness. Except, of course, when the whole not-being-viable thing gives license to hacks and lousy storytellers. Many short films, actually, are horrible. It's weird; those don't feel short at all. They feel interminable.
But, the great ones are alive with narrative precision and formal inventiveness and with not caring much about lowering their denominator or otherwise pandering, usually because their makers long ago have been liberated by the idea that nobody's going to see the thing anyway, so big whoop if they don't "get it."
Still, what's not to get? Consider the perfect title of Frog Jesus; the wit and animated whimsy of Procrastination ("Procrastination is thesaurusizing words in your emails"); the great O. Henry ending of My 13, in which a French guy narrates his remembrance of being 13, particularly the part about having a crush on his pal's sister and stealing her diary; the astounding storytelling economy of Frankie, about a tough Irish teenager prepping for fatherhood; the disarmingly light touch with which Anti-narrative Number 4, described in the program as "a conceptual video in which a man's life is examined," self-consciously subverts any expectation that it might be pretentious. Among many other pleasures and surprises.
In fact, unfortunately, some of these films are so good that they're going to make you realize how much of your life you've already squandered on crappy and forgettable movies of feature length. Don't waste any more time.
SF Shorts runs August 6 through 9, 2008, at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street (www.victoriatheatre.org) and the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight Street (www.redvicmoviehouse.com). For tickets and information visit sfshorts.org.