Indie Grits Review: Everybody Dies — a series of shorts

Everybody dies.

The simplicity and truth behind this statement is what brought me to Indie Grits on Thursday night. That, and J.Cole. His music video "Everybody Dies" provided the common vein that ran between all seven short films in the Everybody Dies short-film block. The films explored life, death, nature and trauma. The series of shorts were ominous and haunting, yet at moments darkly funny, pulling a grin from you after wrapping you up in the weight of your own mortality.

The series started off with the slow, introspective film "Black River," directed by André Silva. No humans; only trees, birds and water. Shot at the Black River in North Carolina, the film calls for patience and appreciation of nature. Director André Silva was in attendance on Thursday night and participated in a “talk-back,” which gave audience members the chance to ask questions about the films they had just seen. Silva explained that he had intended for the film to be part of a trilogy, but realized at some point in the creative process that it would best be a stand-alone.

From there, we transitioned into "Field Notes," a collection of spiritual tales from Trinidad and Tobago. It documents the superstitions of “jumbies” — or as you may know them, zombies. The film was slightly unsettling with haunting Blair Witch vibes.

"Wave Iteration" took some brain power to mentally digest, as it was by far the most abstract film.Waves crashed. Over and over and over. The audio was nearly all static — harsh and jumbled, that frustrating sound when your cable goes in a storm. As the film went on, the waves got clearer. You could see the foam among the vast blue. You could finally see the power of the water, the push and pull of the waves. Daunting to some, maybe, but oddly comforting to coastal natives such as myself, who seek solace in the presence of the ocean.

The series really hit its stride with "Everybody Dies." The music video features J. Cole riding on the back of a blue truck delivering a no-apologies kind of rap. Director Scott Lazer took part in the talk-back, and said that he saw the video, in some ways, as a metaphor — the truck ride symbolized life, and J. Cole’s jump off of the truck at the end symbolized death.

“The simplicity of the composition with his pretty abrasive raps was kind of a nice contrast,” Lazer added.

The highlight of the night was arguably “Dim Blood,” directed by David Zonana. His film explores a young woman’s reaction to a cancer diagnosis. It was unexpectedly uplifting in some ways, even comedic, and the audience seemed to enjoy it. After the films, the audience asked Zonana his thoughts on the audience perceiving the film as a comedy because behind the veil, the film was dense, serious and heavy. There was discussion about how it was a relief, in a way, to laugh about the situation rather than be sad about it.

Following this was the shortest film in the series, bluntly named "Death," an animated Mexican folktale that brought an element of childlike play into the dark mood of the night. The final film told the story of a Chilean Army training march gone awry, in which dozens of soldiers froze to death. It was the perfect end to a night that explored death and the perfect film for a festival whose overall theme was a tribute to Latin American culture.

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