James Franco is best known as an actor, appearing in 127 Hours and Rise of the Planet of the Apes among many, many more, but he has also been trying his hand as writer and director for some time. He has thus made half a dozen short films, with Feast of Stephen winning a Teddy for Best Short Film at the 2010 Berlinale. The Teddy is awarded to the best gay or lesbian short film at the German festival.
From the short story by Roddy Doyle, New Boy, by Steph Green, is the tale of a young African boy, Michael, starting at a new school in Ireland. He has witnessed a traumatic event in his homeland and the Irish kids here somewhat are troublesome (and amazingly gabby to their teacher). The boys are keen to pick on the new boy but, in the end, when relishing their naughtiness, Michael will learn to smile again. It was also nominated for an Academy Award in 2009.
One of those sweet, understated romantic dramas, Mei is the story of a young man who works on a noodles stall run by a father and daughter. He is, of course, in love with the daughter but the eponymous girl in question plans to use her English language skills to leave Taiwan and find a job in New York. Will our reticent hero pluck up the courage to tell her how he feels or will something else come out of his mouth..? It won a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
One of my personal favourites, Cigarettes and Coffee (Un Cartus de Kent si un Pachet de Cafea) is one of those rare films that is somehow cinematic despite its pedestrian setting and drama. It is very much about its time and place, with a greedy, upwardly mobile son meeting with his elderly father, who is used to Communism but now needs a job. Christi Puiu has since made two features, including the critically acclaimed comedy The Death of Mr Lazarescu.