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‘Single’ a standout among SXSW Festival’s short film offerings online

Jordan Wisely and Delaney Feener in "Single."Ashley Eakin (custom credit)/Ashley Eakin

Free Watch of the Week

One of the best movies I saw this week was all of 15 minutes long. “Single,” a short film written and directed by Ashley Eakin, is about a blind date that goes wrong before going right in layered and satisfying ways. It stars Delaney Feener as Kim, a self-possessed young woman who has one arm and is fed up with people treating her as if she’s a broken doll. That includes whoever set her up with Jake (Jordan Wiseley), who was born with one hand. Two people with disabilities just have to belong together, right? Wrong. But two people tired of being treated as “different” might find common solace and a few good laughs in their bitter, realistic view of human nature.

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It’s smart, well-made, nicely acted, and you can watch it for free at Mailchimp Presents SXSW Shorts 2020 (mailchimp.com/presents/sxsw). Although this year’s SXSW Film Festival in Austin, set for mid-March, was cancelled due to the coronavirus, judges still gave out awards and programmers arranged to have 54 of the festival’s nearly 100 short films put online at no cost.

I wasn’t able to watch all 54, but the 15 I did see were mostly impressive, if variable in quality. (One annoyance is the site’s home page, which rearranges the order of titles every time you click back to it, but that’s probably to ensure each filmmaker has his or her spot at the top.) “Single” won a special jury recognition, as did “Mizuko,” a moving personal film from Kira Dane (co-directed with Katelyn Rebelo) that mixes live action and some astounding animation techniques to muse poetically on pregnancy and loss. “Regret,” winner of the Midnight category, is a slickly made freak-out about a man stuck in a hotel room with a demon that may or may not be in his imagination, and “Just Hold On,” which took the prize for Texas-based filmmaker, is a charmer about an unstoppable little girl who beats cancer and rides rodeo sheep. There’s a category for Texas high school kids, and winner “Wish Upon a Snowman” is gonzo and good enough to give you hope for the future.

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There are other free films to be found if you poke around the Web long enough. Filmatique, a subscription service that offers a curated blend of high-quality, hard-to-find foreign-language releases and US indies, is offering a free film per day for the week of April 3 through 10th (www.filmatique.com/7-days-of-cinema). And while the American Film Institute’s AFI Movie Club (afi.com.movieclub) requires you to rent a film like “The Wizard of Oz” from an on-demand platform like iTunes or Amazon, the additional content – a videotaped introduction by Steven Spielberg, say, or family-friendly archival content – doesn’t cost a thing. Since a new film is announced every day, it’s never too early to introduce the kids to the classics.