South Dakota Film Festival: Ride with Larry and 6 short films

By @DJansick
South Dakota Film Festival: Ride with Larry and 6 short films

Sweet Crude Man Camp

Sweet Crude Man Camp short film

By far the most visual striking film of the festival was the short documentary Sweet Crude Man Camp. The film is about the effects of the oil boom in the small town of Williston, North Dakota, which was recently predicted to be producing more oil than any other place in the country. The decision to shoot the documentary in black and white was genius, allowing a crisp contrast between the dark oil and the light open fields of the prairie. Not all that unlike the gold rush over 150 years ago, the town is flooding with people coming in to cash in on the oil. The problem is the small town cannot keep up with the boom, nor can it sustain itself with the rising costs of absolutely everything in the town. Even Walmart is feeling the burden as they cannot get anyone to work for them despite offering a $17 an hour starting wage. The images here are haunting and they are paired brilliantly with an appropriate score. My only complaint about Sweet Crude Man Camp is that it was not made into a full-length documentary. I want to see more. [Dustin]

Watch Sweet Crude Man Camp here


Gefallen short film

I wrote some fairly lengthy notes for nearly every film I watched at the festival, but for Gefallen I wrote only one sentence: “Best film of the festival.” This film does in 20 minutes what a lot of other films fail to do in 90. Gefallen is the tale of soldiers in the German army who come home from the war in Afghanistan and are dealing with choices they made and battles they fought. The acting is superb and the filmmaking on hand is of the highest order. Everything about the short is great. Only Ride with Larry affected me more during the weekend. Maybe it’s because I have a brother that was a Marine. But this is a stellar film that will have you at the edge of your seat. [Blake]

Fergus Falls

Fergus Falls movie

A man’s quest to make it to a retro gaming convention in Minneapolis comes to a screeching halt when his radiator fails in the middle of nowhere. As he is pushing his car down the cold wintery Minnesota road a young attractive girl, who just so happens to be a mechanic, stops to help. While he waits two days for the part to ship in for his vehicle, the two have a heated discussion on which is better; big cities or small towns. This is your standard romantic tale that is not difficult to predict yet is still an amusing ride even if its 20 minute runtime could have been shortened. The best part about this student film was the cinematography, specifically a night shot that is wonderfully lit by a single car headlight. [Dustin]

The Tale of Cuthbert

The Tale of Cuthbert

He only means well, right? Cuthbert is a simple man…well, zombie actually. While other zombies look for flesh and brains to munch on, Cuthbert would rather play with flowers and lollygag through warehouses without a care in the world. When other zombies aim to “domesticate” him to their lifestyle, Cuthbert fails with comical results. This short is way too succinct. Could’ve used more beef (pun intended) in its runtime. Aside from that, I laughed enough to be able to recommend it. [Blake]


Balance short film

Brett is a college student who returns home at the request of his stubborn father who complains with every breath, especially when money is involved. His father wants him to go to a community college nearby so that he can work on the farm, but Brett has other plans and must learn to stand up to his intolerable father. Balance does a great job at making you want to punch the father square in the face after the family dog gets sick and his father would rather shot the dog rather than to even see what is wrong with it. The dreary weather surround the farm conveys the tension of the story well. Some of the lines fall a bit flat at times, but Balance is a well shot student film that feels very personal. [Dustin]


Storytime short film

Storytime is an interesting little piece about a man telling a bed time story to his daughter that ends up being a lot more than it initially lets on. He tells her the story of a king who has to protect his princess after the queen has fallen ill. Soon do we realize that the story turns out to be the story of the father himself and his daughter as they try to survive a zombie apocalypse. Production values were low on this compared to others at the festival, but hard to deny the originality of the short and the bitter sweetness of its ending. [Blake]

Ride with Larry

Ride with Larry

After spending 20 years battling Parkinson’s, Larry Smith seeks to bike 300 miles over five days across the state of South Dakota. The distance alone makes this a worthy challenge. But when you add the fact that this man has a hard time controlling his body movements with the brutal wind and rain of South Dakota weather, it not only makes the ride truly impressive, but also very dangerous. If there is something you cannot take from him it is the freedom and control of movement he feels when cycling, a rare sensation that he gets to experience.

As you would expect due to the subject matter, Ride with Larry is an extraordinarily moving story that would be impossible to walk away from it without some sort of emotional response. It’s an uplifting tale of the human spirit. When obstacles are in his way he finds a way around them and when he falls he gets right back up. Larry is not only an inspiration to those who suffer from the same disease as he does, but is an inspiration to us all. [Dustin]

Stay tuned for a full-length review of Ride with Larry

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  • Thomas Black

    Again very well written, thanks

  • Katlyn Richter

    Thanks for the well done reviews of these films played at the South Dakota Film Festival. I am sorry I didn’t have a chance to meet with you in person, but hope to soon.
    Keep up the great work.
    Katlyn Richter
    SD Film Office
    Department of Tourism