Jacqueline Monahan

Las Vegas International Film Festival at The Hilton Hotel & Casino

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Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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The 3rd Annual Las Vegas International Film Festival: Long on Shorts

In three years the Las Vegas Film Festival (LVFF) has become a force to be reckoned with. At home in the Hilton Hotel & Casino, the festival showcased feature films, animation, shorts, television pilots, foreign films, student projects, experimental films and music videos from June 4-6 in both the large Hilton Theater (former home to Barry Manilow) and the intimate Shimmer Cabaret. Several filmmaker panels, Q&A sessions and a screenplay competition were also featured.


Your humble correspondent attended two days of the festival’s three-day run, viewing film shorts almost exclusively (40 of them). They are most suited to a tiny attention span and are distilled narratives that have to say a lot in a little time.

I saw a large block of shorts from UNLV student filmmakers and another large one from CSN. LVFF Director of Operations Milo Kostelecky calls these students “the unsung heroes of filmmaking,” sometimes working on a project for up to a year. Many of the shorts were thesis project finals.

Open Air
Other shorts came from countries such as Lebanon, Canada, Italy and New Zealand. A small percentage of them were music videos, of interest due to varying degrees of technical expertise, but as shorts in my opinion they fell…well, short.

Shorts provide stories, alternate viewpoints and images that provoke thought, surprise and entertain and enlighten. The narrative doesn’t even have to be linear to pack a cinematic punch.
Elena DeSantiago’s experimental “A Stroll Through Dreality” savaged helpless watermelons, featured curious cats and a guy with wild hair and a painted face. Then, someone goes into seizure mode before an abrupt end. Odd, but memorable.
Head in the Sand

The evocative “Marko” envisioned a future where planets hung in the sky at sunset like huge ripened fruit waiting to be picked. The abbreviated time frame of these films made them seem even more visceral; there was an urgency that did not need musical interludes or vanity shots of band members and their instruments.

An exception was Mike Lui Kwan’s “Guilty” which provided images combined with a driving beat and two female singers that made you want to watch their every move, whether repetitive or not. Another was the whimsical, labor-intensive “Her Morning Elegance”, made from 3000 still photographs and played in a sort of stop-motion sleepwalk on the surface of a bed.
Her Morning Elegance

Shorts can feature disturbing topics like incest (Qe.Hen’nah) sniper fire (Open Air) murder (L’accordatore) and the monstrous external manifestation of internal guilt (Delayed). They can also span comedy and tragedy within a few minutes (Head in the Sand) or offer up a humorous look at the effect of ozone on animated penguins (Skylight).

Documentary shorts were well represented, from the stark but joyous “I Believe in India”, to the fascinating “Nourishing the Kids of Katrina” featuring the Edible Schoolyard program, to Travis Olson’s “Rescued in Vegas” illustrating our city’s concerned protests on behalf of the exploited child soldiers of Africa.
I Believe in India

If relevance just isn’t your cup of tea, there are also teeny, tiny slices of romance, or attempts at romance that shorts like “Stealing Second,” “Paper Stars,” “Two Frenchmen Lost in Las Vegas,” and “Romance in the Stacks” provide. The boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back premise might still exist, but with a short you don’t have to wait forever for the couple to gel. They’ve only got a few minutes to meet, part, and meet again; it’s like happily ever after on speed skates.

UNLV and CSN student filmmaker shorts screened in the 1700-seat Hilton Theater while other short blocks screened in the smaller, deco-inspired Shimmer Cabaret, which seats 375 and felt more like it could have been named Shiver Cabaret instead.


The intimate setting’s interior temperature was cold enough to hang sides of beef, but it was also a brisk respite from the 100+ degrees that baked the asphalt in the Sports Book parking lot. Complimentary iced lattes were offered to the crowd courtesy of one of the festival’s sponsors (Seattle’s Best). Sipping on and sitting inside something icy was good for keeping one attentive at least.


With CineVegas on hiatus and the untimely passing of its Grand Marshal Dennis Hopper, the LVFF has come into a new prominence as one of the few film festivals left standing in Las Vegas. Although not yet the celebrity-studded extravaganza that CV had become, the three-year-old festival is holding its own and gaining momentum with each passing year, usually around late spring.

That is, after all, the best time to break out the shorts.

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