In its 10th year, the Anthem Film Festival, part of Freedom Fest, had to, like most everything else in the world this year, go virtual. It took its selection of features and documentaries exploring issues around social and political liberty online, but that didn’t stop it from living up to its motto of “individuality, choice, and accountability.” Those concepts served as building blocks for most of the 30 films in this year’s fest.
Several really impressed me.
Freedom to Be
Most everyone has heard of the Japanese internment camps established by President Franklin Roosevelt after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Few people know that German and Italian Americans also suffered.
In Crystal City, director Geoffrey Mark shares the love story of two young Americans who found themselves in a camp. Ben, played by K. Kevin Choi, and Betty, played by Shay Denison, face being torn apart by deportation.
The decisions they make surprised me.
Metrics, winner of the Excellence in Filmmaking for Short Narratives award, also explored the nature of being. The protagonist in the film, Tom, played by Gabriel Armentano, works as a doorman, but not in person, over the internet.
That is the issue that Metrics, produced last year by writer/director Grant Bergland, tackles. In a world of Amazon deliveries, Zoom meetings, and virtual assistants who seem to know what you want before you do, what does it take to be a real person?
This is a film in which it is not difficult to identify with the protagonist.
Freedom to Move
For several years, Anthem has attracted the attention of Middle Eastern filmmakers for whom the issue of liberty looms large. Even the simplest acts, that we take for granted, can lead to conflict there.
In Get Off, by filmmaker Teymour Ghaderi, we join a young Iranian woman trying to bring home a bicycle she bought through eBay. Problem: her boyfriend is not answering his phone and it is illegal for women to ride a bicycle in public. She tries various strategies, and encounters both brigands and, worse, the oppressive government. Get Off won the award for Best Libertarian Ideals, International.
Also from Iran, Inner Self, from director Mohammad Hormozi, takes us along with another woman trying to complete a simple task. She is a violinist who is on her way to perform with an orchestra. Authorities stop her from entering the theater because her overcoat lacks the proper number of buttons.
While detained, she observes and interacts with other women who try to deal with the system oppressing them in various ways. You can’t watch this and not think about face-covering mandates. The film won the Excellence in Filmmaking, International award.
Freedom to Give Birth
The Teleios Act, winner of Best Short Narrative, takes us to a not-too-distant future in which any baby not deemed perfect must be aborted. “Teleios” is ancient Greek for “that which is perfect.”
The film begins with an upbeat 1950s-style public service announcement for the Teleios law which stars a perky spokesmodel. As the film progresses, we learn that after 10 years of infertility, the spokesmodel is ready to have her baby. But a clerical error puts its fate in doubt.
As she tries to deal with this, the film raises issues of celebrity privilege and control over our own bodies.
The Future is Freedom
Anthem Film Festival and its parent event FreedomFest hope to return to the live world next year. Until October 31, you can get tickets to this year’s virtual Anthem Film Festival at this link.