Films to Watch Now. The Short Film Festival from PBS

Christina Knight | July 11, 2022

Updated July 29, 2022 to include mention of the Juried Prize Winner.

With so many choices and streaming platforms, it’s hard to get motivated for a streaming recommendation that comes with the caveat, “it gets better after the first two episodes.” And when you have a moment to relax, who has the patience for browsing a paid-subscription app, or its functionality? If you are craving a good flick in an increasingly serialized world, the PBS Short Film Festival is the answer. As of midnight on Monday, July 11, audiences across the country don’t have to subscribe, buy, or RSVP to watch nearly 30 excellent short films, on-demand. The free festival is celebrating its 11th year.

Many of the documentaries are crafted with the dramatic arc of drama and their emotional punch is even more intense for being true. Some are dramatizations based on true events and others, pure creative fiction. The independent filmmakers in this online festival are not tied to a commercially-driven system or the needs of a major studio or distributor. The directors and producers and writers are a diverse group, telling the stories of people who don’t make up the largest potential demographic of viewers. Great characters and good storytelling are the common denominators. The festival tagline is ““Stories that Stick.”

Each year, the films have used creative and unexpected ways to tell stories of race, social injustice, religion, addiction, environment, government policies, and love.

In a dark room with one overhead light, a woman in superhero clothing folds her hands and stands next to ill-looking an who sits at a table.

Scene from Chilly and Milly, a film in the 2022 PBS Short Film Festival.

Chilly and Milly by William D. Cabellero

Have you ever watched a film and then immediately searched out the filmmaker to find out what other films they’ve made? That’s what happened after I watched my first pick, Chilly and Milly, one of the 27 PBS Short Film Festival films  (more, if you dive into the 2021 and 2020 films). It turns out that this film would win the PBS Short Film Festival Juried Prize. The video thumbnail of an everyday superwoman looking with concern over a weary man drew me in. In nine minutes, the short film on familial love, illness and care-taking made me want to be as good a person as I can be. Filmmaker William D. Caballero combines 3D animation and documentary footage of his parents, Puerto Rican Americans who left New York City with their son in search of a better life in North Carolina. But the failing kidney of Caballero’s father traveled with them.  Chilly and Milly (2021) was also part of this year’s Sundance Festival shorts, where only 59 of 10,374 short film submission were selected. Caballero, an NYU graduate and Guggenheim Fellow, aims to make films that “empower, enlighten, and express;” his works have appeared on HBO and on the PBS series America Reframed.

What is the PBS Short Film Festival?

The PBS Short Film Festival is entirely online. You can stream on or via the PBS Video app, or here on Thirteen, the website of New York City metro region’s PBS station, or on our streaming app, THIRTEEN Explore. The festival also streams on the PBS YouTube channel and PBS Facebook.

More information about the films and filmmakers are found on Behind the Lens, the PBS Short Film Festival blog with articles and interviews.

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PBS Short Film Festival films have been selected and provided by 16 public media partners and PBS member stations. This year’s lineup includes films from Black Public MediaCenter for Asian American Media (CAAM)Independent Television Service (ITVS)Latino Public BroadcastingPacific Islanders in Communications (PIC)POVReel SouthVision Maker Media and World Channel, as well as PBS local member stations, Alabama Public Television (APTV)KLRU-TV Austin PBSLouisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB)MPT Digital StudiosWKAR (Michigan State University)WMHT (New York) and WSIU (Illinois).