To keep from “going crazy” while financing her next feature film, “Claire’s Bones,” Britta Sjogren decided to make “a small Domain.” To her surprise, it won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film at the 1996 SunDance Film Festival.

Sjogren, instructor in communication studies, says her friendship with Beatrice Hays, a 95-year-old actress, inspired the short film.

She had told me stories about her relationship with her dead husband, with a very gentle and romantic view of love that I found very beautiful, and yet somehow out of sync with our time, “Sjogren says. “She has this nostalgia for someone she’s lost, and a time that she no longer has access to. But she’s also totally in the present, a very vital, alive person. I wanted to capture that paradox.”

Sjogren persuaded Hays to play the movie’s main character, a 95-year-old woman preparing for the anniversary of her marriage to her late husband. Hays’ character goes about her routine - eating, breakfast, dressing, gardening. But when she goes out to shop, she steals what she needs.

At that point in your life, it seems ridiculous to expect people to believe that money is relevant,” Sjogren says. “So she goes out, and the world provides, and she doesn’t ask for anything more than what she needs.”

On the day of her anniversary, the woman ends up bringing home a baby that she sees at a bus stop. Perhaps, Sjogren says, in the character’s mind the baby represents someone who’s come to meet her on this special day. “It’s open to interpretation who she thinks it is.”

The theft of the baby and the woman’s other actions are part of the “symbolic system” of “a small Domain,” Sjogren says. She wrote the 18-minute film to convey its underlying message “very economically.” Her feature films she approaches differently, taking more time to delve into characters.

But in all Sjogren’s movies, sounds are as important as images. In “a small Domain,” we hear children playing off-screen as the woman gardens, but we never see them.

We have a sense that people are out doing things while she’s in her little cocoon, and there is a sense of detachment,” Sjogren says. “But also that life is out there; she’s not entirely separated from society.”