This year’s program of shorts is even better than last year’s excellent assortment. The Confession begins with an eerie shot of two people walking in the woods carrying what is apparently a body. It then cuts to a pleasant scene of two boys biking along a muddy road somewhere where people speak with English accents. I’m guessing England. They arrive at a Catholic school, where they are preparing for their first confession. To help them along, they’re given a list of sins, including “practical jokes at the expense of others,” i.e. the best kind of practical jokes. Unfortunately, their practical joke turns out to be very, very expensive, and the light comedy turns horribly dark. Probably a little too dark. Still, there’s some great dialog between the nine-year-old boys, and the cinematography is composed like a Breughel made of light and movement. Irish entry The Crush also features a precociously dangerous schoolboy, this time eight-year-old Ardal, who is in love with his teacher. When he finds out she’s engaged to a grown-up man, he challenges his rival to a duel … to the death! The Crush brushes up against excessive darkness and then finds the light in its perfectly paced 15 minutes. The United States supplies God of Love, about a hipster whose cabaret act includes crooning, dart-throwing, and being in love with his beautiful drummer. Sadly, she pines for his best friend, the guitarist, and all seems lost until the Olympus Corporation sends him a box of love darts, making him, effectively, the god of love. However, his wooing technique includes the line “Do you wana hear a poem I wrote for you … it’s nine pages?” which doesn’t lead to the results he wants, unless he wanted to make a hilarious short film, in which case, yes. Ya Wewe is perhaps the most sophisticated handling of issues of race and ethnicity I’ve seen in cinema. A van full of hitchhikers and travelers is pulled over in Burundi by Hutu soldiers who are seeking to kill any Tutsis they find. But no one has quite a pure enough pedigree to be assured of death or rescue, and a line in the middle of the road becomes a symbol for the difficulty of assigning race in the modern world. A mishearing of “Hutu” for “U2” leads to a strange, impromptu dance party, and the credits trail as someone explains “I’m Flemish, but my father comes from Lokeren His mother was French; he was born in Berlin, but since he was a little Jewish on his father’s side, he came to Antwerp.” Wish 143's plot sounds like it was written by John Hughes during a bout of depression. A 15-year-old boy in England is dying of cancer, and the Dreamscape Foundation comes to offer him a dying wish. Strangely, they hadn’t considered that all 15-year-old boys have the same wish, which is really a “no duh” situation. As they’d rather not grant his request for carnal knowledge, their representative asks, “Isn’t there someone you’ve always wanted to meet?” “A naked woman,” he replies, and spends the rest of the film trying to find her. Better than its premise, Wish 143 actually winds up being genuinely touching, even if nothing untoward gets touched.