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Conrad Kelly
Clara goes to speak with her stepmother in the film short "Clara Tale," screened at the 11th annual LDS Film Festival 2012.

OREM — It's kind of like opening a dusty, old treasure chest in the attic.

You can't be sure what you might find; something glittering or something spooky or maybe just a bit of something that sparks a memory.

The short films shown at the annual LDS Film Festival are like that.

There's every chance you'll find a treasure among the offerings made by independent and often brand-new filmmakers. There's also the possibility of a clunker or two.

This year the judges chose a rather dark film about brutality and rape called "Life According to Penny" as first-place short while the audience voted for the more whimsical and fun tale of love in "The Magical Wishing Washing Machine."

The judges also liked "The Orchard," a tale of a woman's journey through the afterlife and back.

Several films addressed the issue of bullying. In "My Hero," a child finally loses patience with his playground nemesis after he finds he too has a doll-like buddy.

Other shorts told stories of war and love and coming home, while another describes and shows how a man like Russian artist Sasha Bassari gets his inspiration.

"Oh, Puppy!" is simply told with cut-outs and a rap song.

"Higher Streets" tells a story of an illiterate mother who pushes her children to succeed while she teaches herself to read.

"Rocket Boy" has a youngster creating a space-worthy craft of cardboard and duct tape.

In some films, the music makes the show, as Paul Cardall does with the writings of Hyrum Smith in "The Most Beautiful Thing in the World."

"Seeing" relates the powerful story of Christ healing a blind man and the Pharisees finding fault with the gift.

In "Clara Tale," the charming child actors make the story about a magic baby owl on the roof and a tea party in the cottage. (Clara wants her stepmother to love her, and in the end she does.)

In "Sneak on the Lot," the elderly shine in a walk — or should we say, dance? — down memory lane.

Brigham Young University students have a hand in several of the films using footage borrowed from the university's "Sweetwater Rescue" film for "Walk the Path of Faith" and "Light Up the Land," two shorts made to complete theater, media or dance class assignments.

Many Utah locations show up, including Kamas, Woodland Hills and local high school hallways.

All 24 films represent hours of work, many dollars spent and opportunities for both the writers, directors, actors and producers to practice the art.

The results are eye-opening.

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The winners chosen by judges: first place, $1,000 prize: "Life According to Penny" by Ali Barr; second place, $300: "The Orchard" by Nathan D. Lee; and third place, $100: "The Magical Wishing Washing Machine" by Noah Sunday.

Audience Choices: "The Magical Wishing Washing Machine," "The Great Kiss-Off," "The Orchard" and "Life According to Penny"

Honorable Mentions: "The Most Beautiful Thing in the World," "My Hero," "The Great Kiss-Off," "Seeing," "Time Withers," "Swing It" and "Catcher of the Silence"

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@desnews.com