The 20 Best Short Films of 2016

By Andrew Buckner

It has been a breakout year for both up-and-coming as well as established talent. This is especially true in the medium of the short film. From heart-wrenching and experimental dramas, to mind-bending multi-genre tales, horrifying chronicles of fear and uproarious comedies, here is the list of my twenty favorite related works in this field from 2016. Please note that the name of the director of the piece is provided after the title of the production. Enjoy!

1. “Maya” (Veemsen Lama)
2. “Araf” (Fidan Jafarova, Tofiq Rzayev)
3. “Strawberry Lane” (Jeremy Arruda, Aaron Babcock)
4. “Chyanti” (Veemsen Lama)
5. “Kinnari” (Christopher Di Nunzio)
6. “Nihan: The Last Page” (Tofiq Rzayev)
7. “Numb” (Penelope Lawson)
8. “Dirty Books” (Zachary Lapierre)
9. “Here Lies Joe” (Mark Battle)
10. “The Deja Vuers” (Chris Esper)
11. “Tastes Like Medicine” (Steven Alexander Russell)
12. “Come Together: H&M” (Wes Anderson)
13. “In a Time for Sleep” (Tofiq Rzayev)
14. “Sisyphus” (David Graziano)
15. “Trouser Snake” (Alex DiVencenzo)
16. “Mail Time” (Sebastian Carrasco)
17. “Hell-Bent” (Foster Vernon)
18. “Hand in Hand” (Haley McHatton)
19. “Menu” (Matt Shaw)
20. “Last Night” (Tal Bohbot)

“The Deja Vuers”- (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

“The Deja Vuers” (2016), an eight-minute short picture from director Chris Esper and screenwriter Jason K. Allen, is a charming, frequently funny and endlessly engaging experience. It is ingenious in the way it takes a commonplace set-up, a man approaching a woman on a park bench, to comically absurd levels. This is without it ever becoming too over the top. Simultaneously, Esper and Allen inject trademark components of fantasy and science-fiction, time travel and dreams, into an undertaking that is consistently fresh and exciting. This is while maintaining its commonplace relatability. Likewise, it never once utilizes humor that isn’t naturally born from the unfolding circumstances of the plot itself. With these un-related items, a balance of the mundane and the fantastic is seamlessly created. It is one that is built on dialogue. The articulations heard throughout are rich in everyday observations, exchanges and quiet insights. Furthermore, Allen’s penned characterizations are accessible. This is without coming across as archetypical or lacking in dimension. Such is certainly a tremendous feat unto itself.

The attribute apparent in the writing of the protagonists is amplified by the herculean strength of the lead performers we follow on-screen. Christie Devine is outstanding in her enactment as Morgan. Kris Salvi is phenomenal in his portrayal of Chuck. Yet, even the comparatively smaller roles, such as Craig Capone as Elias and J.P. Valenti as “Repairman”, offer well-rounded and memorable depictions. Adam Miller as “Teenager” fares just as well.

The potency of these qualities is vastly a courtesy of Esper’s masterful administrative hand. It is just as evident in Allen’s sharply designed and intelligent authorship of the material. The duo immediately establishes, via their respective contributions, a quietly whimsical tone for the piece. It is propelled in the opening moments by the smoothly upbeat music of Steven Lanning- Cafaro. This can also be said for Evan Schneider’s sumptuous, vibrant and suitably cheery cinematography. Schneider’s influence also benefits from taking full advantage of the natural beauty of its budding fall backdrop. The result is a smartly penned and honed, effortlessly enjoyable production. It is one that visibly triumphs from both a technical and narrative stand-point.

Esper, who also produced, and Allen chronicle Chuck coming across Morgan in a chance assembly. He has never met her before. Yet, a reverie Chuck had from the night before, where Morgan is sitting in the precise location she is at that initial instant and with an identical expression of the confused look that overtakes her countenance, makes him come up to Morgan and address her in conversation. While the explanation of such an act itself could easily be perceived as a pick-up line, it is immediately conveyed that Chuck and Morgan both find each other “repulsive”. But, Chuck states, in one of the many efficaciously guffaw-inducing bits herein, that the mutual unattraction between the two doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be intimate. This is just on the off case that a bizarre fate is bringing them together. Soon after this smirk-inducing gag is administered, a chain of circumstances, often built around loose connections and clever ironies, amusingly unfurls. This begins with something as small as a container of fruit cocktail. Soon it evolves into an assortment of individuals from bygone eras and lives. Included in the mix is a personality who could well be conjured from a vision induced through slumber itself. It isn’t far into these episodes before Morgan and Chuck realize that there may be more to this sense of de ja vu than a vague sense of familiarity. It is than a portal unveils. Such an incidence threatens to pull Chuck and Morgan apart from their moment together. In so doing, it promises to bring them to a place and time more matched to their personal desires.

This Stories in Motion production, budgeted for $2,000 and shot in Attleboro, Massachusetts, further benefits from this truly original plot. The single position found in the piece is also impeccable for a celluloid invention such as this. Moreover, it activates intriguingly and ends much in an equivalent fashion. This is on a wildly satisfactory note of paradoxical enigma. This stretch is also striking in that it seems to express the general outlooks of the personalities viewed in this pre-closing acknowledgments succession. This is through decision over exposition. Best of all, it incorporates this without being obvious about its intentions. The construction is just as confident in its pacing as it is in its sly execution of such happenstances. Such an affair issues a commencing and concluding credits segment that is as quaint, stimulating to the eye and proficient as the sequences these portions bookend. Correspondingly, Esper’s editing as well as the optical effects from Robert L. Lopez are outstanding. Andrew P. Marsden provides deftly issued sound. Danielle Schneider’s make-up is expertly fashioned. These ingredients are eye-catching on their own. When combined, these details illuminate and augment splendidly the effortlessly admirable appeal of all we encounter herein.

Esper’s latest accomplishes an incredible amount in its brief run time. It efficaciously juggles a multitude of genres and ideas. All of which are difficult enough to pull off individually. Yet, with all these various foundations at play: there is an undeniable air of gentle romanticism to the proceedings. This is fitting and welcome. The composition is much like Esper’s “Please Punish Me” (2015) in this respect. This is also accurate when pondering its ability to explore human interactions and regressed passions. Such occurs in a package that operates equally well as both an unexpectedly cerebral character study and as a witty comedy. In turn, “The Deja Vuers” is a wonderful display of talent and wise storytelling moves all around. It continually exhibits Esper’s as a craftsman of the photoplay at every turn. The work also serves as perpetual evidence of the equally deft capabilities of his cast and crew. More than anything, the exertion reminds us of the illimitability and experimental nature inherent in arrangements such as these. Because of this, Esper and company have erected a must-see; another fantastic addition to his increasingly spellbinding filmography.

The Top 20 Albums of 2016

By Andrew Buckner

From time-proven legends to up-and-coming independent artists, here is A Word of Dreams’ list of the twenty best albums of 2016!

1. We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest

2. Black America Again – Common

3. 1992 – The Game

4. Everything is Nah Bro -Sean Strange

5. Everything in Between – Ugly Heroes

6. Beautiful Disaster – Jonezen

7. Instinctive Drowning – Red Pill

8. The Storm – Tech N9ne

9. Good Versus Evil – Kxng

10. MartyrLoserKing – Saul Williams

11. A Fistful of Peril – Czarface

12.  And the Anonymous Nobody…- De La Soul

13. Anything But Words – Banks and Steelz

14. Top of the Line – Rittz

15. The Blank Face LP – Schoolboy Q

16. Malibu – Anderson .Paak

17. Natural Causes – Skylar Grey

18. The Easy Truth – Apollo Brown & Skyzoo

19. The Healing Component – Mick Jenkins

20. Go – Krizz Kaliko

“Do You Dream in Color?” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.

Directors Abigail Fuller and Sarah Ivy have crafted a genuinely uplifting and moving masterpiece with their seventy-six-minute documentary, Do You Dream in Color? (2015). The Final Cut production and Uncork’d Entertainment distribution release is a brilliantly and briskly paced, always engaging and meditative manufacture. Concerning the lengths four blind teens will go about to achieve their ambitions, Fuller and Ivy have presented audiences with an immediately intriguing and gripping focus. It is one which is made more so as we follow the varied, likable and charismatic lead personalities on-screen. This is as they endure the alternately inspiring and heart-wrenching circumstances they encounter. Such transpires as they attempt to bring their hopes to fruition.


In the demonstration, Sarah Wright imagines traveling the world. Her initial step on this venture is the reverie of going to Portugal, Spain during her senior year in high school. Carina Orozco wants to achieve the honor of being the first individual in her family to graduate from the previously stated institution. Connor Head yearns to be a skateboarder. His plight is finding a sponsor for his desired activity. Nick Helms, who has his own alternative band, wants to make it as rock n’ roll musician. With the interconnecting of these accounts, Fuller and Ivy invoke a colorful, lively and compassionate group; a celluloid palette conceived of charismatic souls. They are easily relatable. Such makes it effortless for patrons to become swept up in their happenstances. This is true from the opening frame to the last. The result is an endeavor that is as emotional and harrowing as it is consistently entertaining and enlightening.


What is just as fascinating and powerful is the denouncement of the public education system found herein. This is a massive obstacle for several of our protagonists. Some of the most riveting and poignant instances in the affair are derived from the fight several of these youth wage. This is to get more relevant resources for the unsighted into their own personal learning assembly. The labor than becomes as much about their ability to shatter the faux notion of limitation. They all yearn, regardless of their drive, to be perceived as every bit as capable of understanding and obtaining knowledge as their collective peers. This is the cause of the most captivating illustrations in the second half of the arrangement. In this section, those inflicted with this predicament try to do the best they can with the limited resources their scholarly place administers. Yet, Fuller and Ivy are not set to outright vilify. This specific area is presented with the same respect and dignity that the rest of the non-fiction projects onto all its various subjects. It yearns to make a change. This it succeeds monumentally at doing. All the while, it exudes the same reverence and bravery our central figures confidently carry. This is also a testament to Fuller and Ivy’s mature, appropriate, proficient and intelligent handling of the material. With this a quietly compelling tone is concocted. It illuminates all we come across. In turn, the spectators become an unbroken link to the singular viewpoints of those who deftly articulate their tales and experience in this sharply honed effort.


Much in the manner of similar exertions, the chronicle is complete with its sporadic implementation of pictures of Sarah, Carina, Nick and Connor in their prior days. It also contains other related documents of our chief characters. There are also narrative voice-overs from our heroes and heroines themselves. Such heightens the intimacy stemming unbridled from the attempt itself. We are given stories about our main characters from the relatives who witnessed such occurrences firsthand. This effectively ties in to the plethora of perspectives and vibrant voices which flesh out Fuller and Ivy’s well-rounded, gripping tour de force. Many of these expository instances, especially those that dominate the first half hour, are undeniably touching. The various recounts of the birth, and the instant the kin who is articulating the anecdote found out their son or daughter could not see, are especially stalwart. But, there are quieter bits sprinkled about that are just as stirring. For instance, there is a segment that fits in this early framework. It showcases Sarah and her brother, Sam, going through a well-kept album of photographs. He describes who and what he is seeing to Sarah. Her smiling face often showcases the delight we all feel when pondering beloved memories of the past. Near the hour mark, there is a scene involving Carina searching for a dress with the assistance of those around her. These episodes are reminders of the brute influence of simplicity. It also exposes the beauty such a component derives when untouched. Such a quality resonates fiercely throughout the exhibition. Additionally, a near climactic portion displays Nick writing his own lyrics and explaining their therapeutic value and importance. This is in preparation for a show inside a Hot Topic location where he will debut the track. These are equally mesmerizing. This is for much the same modest reason as that stated above. Such also makes the movie about another permanently vital issue. This is the supreme healing nature of art.


The Dallas International Film Festival and Big Sky Documentary Film Festival award-winner is as much a technical triumph as it is a transcendent, victorious summoning of the human spirit. Robert Lam delivers cinematography that is crisp and eye-popping. Simultaneously, this visual angle compliments the authentic veneer Fuller and Ivy provide spectacularly well within the recording. Sarah Devorkin and Mary Manhardt’s editing is phenomenally and seamlessly orchestrated. Arthur Baum, Michael Carmona, Gabe Salo and Wilson Stiner form a tremendous sound department. Their contribution consistently shines throughout the construction. Alice Gu, J. Christopher Miller, Christian Moldes and Arthur Yee incorporate hypnotic and proficient camera and electrical work. Furthermore, the music from Andrew Barkan is mesmerizing. It is the perfect soundtrack for the fearless folks at the heart of this breathtaking, real life opus.


Though the year has just begun, I have no problem stating that Do You Dream in Color? is one of the best features of 2017. This is because I can’t imagine a movie accomplishing as much as Fuller and Ivy have here. Such a proclamation is especially accurate given the brief runtime of the endeavor. The depiction, which arrives on video on demand February 10th and hits select theaters afterwards, compels addressees to examine themselves and their own ambitions. More than that, it urges them to peer past any obstacles placed in their path that they deem “too daunting”. In so doing, it encourages them to move forward with their goals. It is a rarity nowadays that an arrangement of cinema contains such motivational control. Such is especially true when considering the overwhelming positivity this affair leaves audiences feeling. This is long after its terrifically satisfying, yet suitably open-ended, conclusion. Yet, the photoplay is expertly designed and thoughtful at every stage. There is genuine substance to the proceedings and the general impression it conveys. Fuller and Ivy want to alter, not only the broken system of edification and how those with disabilities are perceived, but how we look at ourselves. Because of this, Fuller and Ivy have created a must-see; a benchmark for honesty in cinema. This is the brand of drama that watchers of all ages and in all phases of life can benefit from witnessing for themselves. With all the negativity brimming in the world today, we desperately need more optimistic, rousing, message-minded and all-inclusive films like this one.