'Baxter,' 3 min., Director Ty ColeThis candy-colored, computer-animated short opens with a rambunctious raccoon tidying up a sweets store, but then one final, precarious adjustment sets off a series of slapstick mishaps that ultimately results in the ruination of the entire store. It's an entertaining, if brief, 3 minutes that took Cole more than a year to complete, but the sleekly professional quality hints he has a very promising career ahead. 'Justice Denied,' 15 min., Director Cody JoelThis gripping documentary by Louisville, Ky., native Cody Joel tells the tale - based on the book of the same name - of Howell Woltz, who was arrested by the FBI in 2006 at his home in South Carolina on some very flimsy and perplexing charges. Woltz had blown the whistle on some work associates and filed a suspicious activity report shortly before his arrest, so when the FBI showed up at the end of his gated driveway and carted him and his wife away, he had no idea what was happening. The nightmare continued when he was taken to a prison outside the jurisdiction of where he was being charged, where he then began the arduous task of fighting for his innocence. In the process - and due to the fact that he was, as he says, "the white guy with glasses" - he became the de facto in-house legal council for numerous African-American inmates who never had access to adequate representation. What Woltz found when he began examining the documents that these men brought to him displayed egregious mistakes and lapses in the legal system that resulted in disproportionately excessive sentencing for sometimes very minor crimes. Woltz helped successfully reduce, by his account, many thousands of months in wrongful sentencing while still fighting for his own innocence. This film contains a wealth of incredibly powerful and incendiary subject matter that could easily be expanded into a much longer investigation, but regardless, this short film sheds a much-needed light on some of the massive flaws in our judicial system that continue to persist today. 'Valiant,' 15 min., Director Rachel HorstmannAfter a quick sequence showing a young lieutenant landing on a Normandy beachhead on D-Day, in its 15 minutes, this short film crunches a tightly choreographed blitzkrieg of a battle scene between a small squadron of American soldiers and some Nazis holed up in a warehouse bunker. The Germans are protecting one of their couriers and during the firefight, the young lieutenant experiences the first casualty of one of his men. The Americans are ultimately victorious (naturally) and director/writer Horstmann weaves in a generational legacy of service to the country through a serious of flashbacks and flash-forwards. Some of it is a bit heavy handed, but the scope and ambition of the project is definitely an accomplishment for the young director, who says the film is also scheduled to screen at another festival in Los Angeles later this year. 'The Observer,' 3 min., Director Zoe HeatwoleThis animated short is a sort of surreal visual tone poem that is said to explore "the continuum between inner doubt and self-acceptance." It begins with a human figure staring at its reflection in a mirror, then follows as the figure falls through space and lands in the middle of a party populated by a gaggle of animals and strange creatures who are all apparently part of a gathering to which the main character doesn't seem to have been invited. After our anti-hero is accosted by two of the party-goers, causing his insides to "churn and peel away," he comes to an apparent acceptance of the situation and just as quickly as it began, our weird journey is over. It's an odd but affecting piece that does a good job of maintaining a consistent emotion from beginning to end. 'DIRT,' 15 min., Director Justin AndrewsA dingy, scruffy young blonde woman by the name of Dirt kicks around wordlessly for the better part of this short film, until her actions finally culminate in a conflagration of vindictive violence. In the intervening time, we watch a young man promise to take Dirt away from her dreary, run-down existence, then watch her fight with her drunken mother, then pack her bags to make her escape. While there's some good cinematography and camerawork at play here, the film suffers slightly from perhaps too little narrative tension, but director Andrews and his producer Jae Matthews made it clear after the screening that their film may not quite be a finished product yet. They had to make some difficult choices in the editing room, as they say the story could have gone any number of ways, so we could very well see a much different version of "DIRT" when and if it makes its way to other festivals.The film won the Best SCAD Student Competition Award and Filmmaker Magazine Award at the Savannah Film Festival. 'Mo Chara,' 12 min., Directors Ciaran McGuigan, Roger GonzalezWhen a young, nerdy Irish Catholic boy with a dreary home life and no apparent playmates is befriended by a young Protestant boy over their love of soccer, a camaraderie is born that transcends traditional boundaries. The boys bond over stolen booze from their parents, video games and a picturesque trip to the Irish shore. This film was gorgeously shot on location and is infused with the hazy, giddy joy of youth that's unconfined by adult prejudices and assumptions. There's a bit of tension that comes when some neighborhood bullies try to ruin their fun, but the overall sentiment is one of cheerful companionship that ignores manufactured boundaries like class and religion. This film was probably one of the most beautifully shot and edited shorts in the program.The film won the Silver Screen Society Award at the Savannah Film Festival. 'Balloon Cat,' 3 min., Director Michael CerminaraThis brief, hand-drawn cartoon was a first-time festival premiere and was born from director Michael Cerminara watching his own cat bounce around the house and wondering what would happen if it ever got out. In his impressionistic cartoon version, the cat is taken aloft by a bunch of balloons and drifts aimlessly through the cosmos, getting pulled through wormholes and into black holes as scenes from his feline life flash before him. It's a sort of existential whirlwind of images that drew a great response from the audience.