2023 ‘Free for All’ Shorts

These films will stream for free during the Virtual festival, September 25 to October 1.

Below Surface

BELOW SURFACE gathers numerous moving stories of a multicultural and multigenerational Aquafit class to demonstrate how kindness and caring for others, combined with exercise, can be an antidote for grief, stress, and physical illness.

Directors: Lukas Hauser, Mary Lake Polan, Frank Bennack, Judith Bookbinder

By My Side


Three veterans and their families bravely share their pain, fear, and the difficult realization that they’ve lost time and love that they may never get back again. All three found hope where no one had looked—in the heart of a faithful service dog.

Director: Vicki Topaz

A Circle and Three Lines

In A CIRCLE AND THREE LINES (10:46), Ken Kolsbun, author of “Peace, The Biography of a Symbol,” explains the peace symbol’s rarely known history. Prepare to be challenged to think about how we use it, its future and our responsibility to protect it.

Director: Jan Selby

The Committee

The Committee explores the little-known Florida Legislative Investigative Committee of the State Legislature from 1956-1965 in which Florida Senator Charley Johns chaired. The committee’s aim was to root out “communist” and “homosexual” teachers and students from state universities.

Director: Lisa Mills


This film explores the emotional connections between a Special Olympics athlete, the horses she rides, and the people who support her training. We observe her challenges and the way she must face loss leading up to her participation in the 2002 USA Games in Orlando, Florida.

Director: Lisa Mills

Don’t Drain The Swamp

The swamp is one of the most valuable ecosystems on earth and is vital to the health of the planet. So why would anyone – even metaphorically – want to “drain the swamp?”

Director: Vicki Nantz

The Eye Begins in the Hand

El Ojo Comienza En La Mano is a tribute to campesino histories in rural CA through the artwork of an artist largely absent from critical conversations on Chicanx art, Ruben A. Sanchez, as well as an unsentimental reckoning with the fate of many cultural workers that struggle between paying rent and/or creative endeavors.

Director: Yehuda Sharim


Faladie IDP Camp houses 1,000 internally displaced persons, driven from their homes by terrorists. They fled to Bamako and settled on a garbage dump. ATEG programs deliver healthcare, food, women’s skills training, and children’s education.

Director: Mitch Lewis


A stunning musical and visual experience, set in the birthplace of humanity, Uganda, INFINITY reminds us that the universe works in mysterious ways to reveal what is most important.

Directors: Matege Pest Rogers, Miriam Nsimbi, Ernest Nsimbi

Just Breathe

An unscripted lesson in emotional regulation by some of the youngest teachers you’ll ever meet.

Director: Julie Bayer Salzman

The Mission of Herman Stern

In 1903 Herman Stern arrived in American from Germany at the age of 16. Thirty years later, he made an historical decision to help 125 Jews escape persecution in Nazi Germany. The interviews from survivors give us a unique and compelling story of the man who left his mark on the world.

Director: Art Phillips

Play Date


When a little girl discovers a woman who’s experiencing homelessness in her backyard, she invites her inside for a play date while her parents are too distracted to notice. This award-winning film speaks to the invisibility of homelessness and reminds us that everyone has a story.

Director: Paige Morrow Kimball

Saving Jaguars and Ourselves

Horizontal Poster Saving Jaguars and Ourselves 2

As we watch Elizeu and Eduarda in the Pantanal Wetland fight climate change fires and drought to save their homes and wild jaguars, we realize that Amazon Rainforest’s deforestation is affecting us too–saving jaguars is actually saving ourselves—and we have power and solutions that can change Earth’s future!

Director: Susan Perz

Shelbyville Says NO!


When a group of Nazis, Klansmen, and White Supremacists came to Shelbyville, Tennessee to hold a rally, a larger group of protesters let them know they were NOT welcome. See what happens when committed citizens band together to say NO to hate.

Director: David Earnhardt

So Much More to Offer


Lyndzi uses her own experience of being treated unfairly as a plus-sized person to raise people’s attention toward body positivity. Directed and animated by 16 students in the Documentary Animation Production class at USC.

Directors: Cullen Burt, Grant Cosko, Xingyu (Vicky) Gu, Hunter Hartz, Aliiv Jiao, Saleen Lee, Alison Ma, Brisa Parra, Shelby Pine, Lyndzi Ramos, Tricia Saputera, Hanyu Sun, Kaan Ust, Elaine Wong, Rosemary Wu, Ella Zhou