Now in its 44th year, this year’s Portland International Film Festival features six different collections—or “blocks”—of short films. Entries from local, national, and international filmmakers give viewers brief but profound glimpses into their unique worlds and perspectives. I watched a few from Shorts Block 2 to give you a taste of what to expect.

La Tienda (The Shop)

The shop in question is that of Camila Araya and Daniela del Mar’s Letra Chueca Press, a local Latinx womxn-owned letterpress studio. Portland has long been a hotbed for art and activism, and La Tienda takes a look at the intersections of these practices.

Soon after meeting, Araya and del Mar bonded over their similar roots (both hail from Chile) and shared craft. The pair started printing for themselves, and came to find truth in the feminist phrase that “the personal is political.” Their posters are pressed with socio-political messages in bold and colorful Spanglish words, and some letters come out crooked—hence the name, which translates to Crooked Letter Press. “Straightness is overrated,” del Mar says with a laugh.

Scenes of Letra Chueca at local events and in-studio are punctuated by stylized product shots that showcase their art. Araya’s artistic practice is informed by her childhood in Santiago in the mid-80s. Her country was emerging from a dictatorship and political art was plastered on public walls. “That was the voice of the people,” she says. Looking around a post-Trump 2021 Portland awash with posters and murals, the parallels are obvious.

This short is a visual feast produced by a largely Latinx crew, with award-winning director Karina Lomelin Ripper at the helm. Portland-based musician and editor of She Shreds Fabi Reyna’s lush and lively beats make up the soundtrack to Ripper’s profile piece. All-around Latinx excellence; I’m here for it.

Misery Loves Company

This animated short takes the viewer into the interior landscape of an anthropomorphic dog named Seolgi. As she stargazes with her school friends, an offhand comment by one of her companions sends her mind wandering towards the existential.

With a runtime of about three and a half minutes and featuring a downtempo K-pop flow, the short has the tone of a music video. The stream of consciousness deftly touches on universal themes within that time: feeling infinitesimal, loss, suicidal thoughts.

This gem of a line sums up some of our quarantine experiences: “I will just rot slowly, watching YouTube at home.” Just insert your social media app of choice.

At the end, Seolgi’s school friend breaks her reverie and asks her “What are you thinking of?” How many times have we been asked this question or asked it ourselves? Usually the response is “Oh, nothing”, when in actuality it’s everything, but too much and too heavy to explain.

For fans of: Gorillaz’ music videos, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.

My Hero

In this tender narrative, a single mother has no choice but to leave her two young boys unattended as she goes to a last-minute interview for a second job to make ends meet.

You know how Toy Story provides a glimpse into what toys do when humans aren’t around? Well, this short beautifully captures some of the things kids get up to when adults aren’t around. The boys slurp instant noodles while watching cartoons, have a dance party, and drag a mattress into the living room for a wrestling session.

Filmmaker Logan Jackson was inspired by his sister, also a single mother, and weaves a story familiar to many parents the world over. My Hero provides an intimate look at Black joy, brotherhood, independence, and the roles we are called to take on.

Here’s how you can stream Shorts Block 2 as part of the Portland International Film Festival.