The Arizona State University Art Museum’s Short Film and Video Festival takes place Saturday night, and it’s long been one of my favorite events of the year.

I started going in my latter years as a student at ASU, and when I moved back to Arizona three years ago, it was the first event I brought my husband to as an introduction to East Valley community and culture.

What’s the deal? Basically, you bring your own seating and watch 20 short films projected on a wall on the backside of the ASU Art Museum. It’s outdoors. It’s low-key. It’s fun in a friendly, laid-back kind of way.

The 20 films are culled (by ASU Art Museum curator John Spiak and SoCal filmmaker Bob Pece) from 482 entries from 43 states and 36 nations. The movies hail from as far away as Italy and Spain, and as near as Mesa and Tempe.

Among them: “Toothless,” a British mockumentary about the tooth fairy as she resorts to unethical methods of tooth collection in her heinous quest for a better life; “Pretty Kitty,” a California film about a man who gets revenge on his cat for taunting him with silence; “Frogsy,” an animated movie from Montana in which a swamp creature takes a long, hard look at itself; and “It’s Over!” a film from Mesa’s Gita Farid in which a ragtag French resistance fighter and a ticked-off nun protect Jewish orphans hidden in a convent.

Will you like all the movies? Probably not (though Spiak tells me they’re really good this year). But liking them all isn’t the point (and, anyway, they’re short, so the pain doesn’t last long when a dud surfaces). Sometimes, it’s just nice to get out and do something different — in this case, with a whole bunch of strangers who are experiencing the exact same thing.

I’ve watched from a blanket and a camp chair (go with the camp chair; it’s more comfortable than concrete and affords a better view). I’ve snacked from a cooler packed at home and picked up a last-minute picnic supper on Mill Avenue and carried it over to the festival with me. I’ve watched with friends, family and a dog.

My best advice? Gather a few friends and snacks, and get there early. Not only can you stake out a good spot, you’ll get in a leisurely visit before the films roll. I recommend claiming a space up high, as it makes for nicer viewing once the crowd fills in.

One good thing to know, by the way: Organizers play the films with coarser material, such as nudity and vulgarity, toward the end of the festival, so viewers who don’t care for that kind of thing can bail at intermission, if they like.

The 15th annual Short Film and Video Festival begins at 8 p.m. Saturday on the Nelson Fine Arts Center Plaza behind the ASU Art Museum at Tenth Street and Mill Avenue in Tempe. It’s free. For more information, call (480) 965-2787 or visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or

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