PBS Short Film Festival 2020 Review: Standing Above the Clouds, In This Family, and Happy Hounds

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Standing Above the Clouds

I became aware of the situation at Mauna Kea after seeing several posts about the mountain on social media. Mauna Kea is a tricky one. It goes right in line with Bears Ears in Utah and the Keystone Pipeline in Canada. Mauna Kea is a rich historical authority in Hawaiian heritage for the locals, but it is also an ideal peak for further Astro-exploration to scientists. This is tough; we as a human race have an innate need to learn and explore the world around us; we also have a finite amount of time to do so. But this film highlights the never-ending struggle of peace and serenity vs. idealism and innovation.  

I feel like there is this push and pull of ideas amongst most (if not all) native people and outside groups. I have always revered native people and their system of living, especially Hawaiian natives.

I think that is why short films (and filmmaking in general) are so impactful, and essential for human society because it helps us check the human condition.

In This Family

Firstly, I love the depth of this story.

I am glad that the narrator found acceptance in his family, especially with his dad. But I think the mom and the sister had a tremendous influence on the dad’s shift in perspective. I love how his dad took the time to educate himself on his children’s interests, and by doing so, he was able to appreciate their differences.

It is easy to be irritated with the teacher outing him, as it was a bizarre turn of events. The teacher approached the narrator and (in confidence) asked him about his sexual orientation before informing his parents. This whole situation could have ended very badly if the narrator’s parents were not as understanding.

So, you start to wonder what the teacher’s motivations were in revealing his secret? The narrator was still at an age where he was figuring himself out. It sounds like the secret of his sexuality was discovered, but the emotional trauma of the moment has remained.

Happy Hounds

Happy Hounds is such an inspiring film about inmates and shelter dogs giving each other a second chance at life. Linda Domer’s work should be celebrated and replicated at other jail systems and animal rescue organizations.

The film demonstrates a synergy that is formed between the inmates and the dogs. Though some of these inmates are restricted to life in prison, they are given this unique opportunity to pour their life force (which would be wasted behind bars) into dogs with behavioral issues. The success of the program depends solely on the inmates. The few men featured in the film appear to love the challenges the dogs bring and the added responsibility; one inmate even details how the program has positively shaped his life for the better.

This is certainly one of my favorite short films from PBS.

These short films are available for viewing on the PBS film festival website until July 12th, 2022.

This year’s film festival will be streamed at PBS.org/FilmFestival from Monday, July 12-July 23, 2021.