January 18, 2013 by Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
Sundance’s short shorts and long shorts range from a few minutes to nearly 50; the average is closer to 15. With so little time to play with, a filmmaker can’t afford to squander a second, much less a minute. If you need a reminder of how difficult that is to pull off, spend a half-hour on YouTube watching random videos and not moving on until the dog stops jumping, or the cute baby stops laughing. Since digital technology and editing software have put moviemaking into the hands of the masses, it’s almost easier to spot the true artists.
At least that’s the thought that occurred as I was watching the stunning, nontraditional “Primate Cinema: Apes as Family,” one of the festival’s more intriguing entries. A slim 12 minutes from Los Angeles-based mixed-media artist Rachael Mayeri, whose work more frequently turns up in museums around the world, the film is a wildly provocative meta meditation on media, monkeys and humans dressed as monkeys. Essentially a soap opera about the social dynamics of chimpanzees, it was made for chimp consumption and played to the primate inhabitants of Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo on TVs scattered around their space. It is strangely funny, yet absorbing to watch them watch — and like so many of the shorts, leaves you pondering the implications long after.