The 2020 Sundance Film Festival feels as if it happened seven years ago rather than its actual seven months. In an effort to be reminded of that more innocent time and restore a sense of normalcy to the cinematic world, an 82-minute program of six short films that played the fest are now “on tour” and available on viewers’ home screens — though why three of them were chosen over more deserving options is a bit of a mystery.
Such head-scratching is on full display with thoroughly unpleasant opening selection “Benevolent Ba.” While there’s some intrigue to its Malaysian family awaiting a goat sacrifice, the forced endurance of screams by the animal — and the clan’s youngest boy — along with a nonsensical ending, render the entire exercise close to pointless.
The subterranean bar thus established, prospects instantly improve with the first glimpse of the Daniel Clowes-like animation of “Hot Flash,” in which a menopausal meteorologist has a day to remember. The sufficiently entertaining work has a good story to tell and several laugh-out-loud moments, but certain details feel so random that they dilute the overall product.
The collection’s variety continues with “The Deepest Hole,” an illuminating documentary about an underreported Cold War competition to achieve the titular goal, which employs a smart buildup to a startling revelation, and “Meats,” a simple but nicely constructed comedy from writer/director/star Ashley Williams (CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother”). In the latter, the actor plays a conflicted pregnant vegan and presents a compelling take on responsible carnivorous eating, ably expressing the roller coaster emotions of a challenging but rewarding undertaking.
Next up is the intriguing fly-on-the-wall documentary “T,” which follows three grieving yet eccentric participants of Miami’s annual T Ball — where people gather to show off memorial shirts and creative costumes to honor the deceased — and produces more questions than answers. But its curious characters are far more appealing than those of “So What If the Goats Die,” a frustrating blend of Islamic agrarian drama and science fiction that, beyond some impressive special effects and natural scenery, in no way warrants its Short Film Grand Jury Prize.
Available to rent via Grail Moviehouse
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