I made a mistake. The International Family Film Festival, which took place in Hollywood, October 20-23, used three screening rooms in the Raleigh Studios (formerly United Artists), and I realized I was in the wrong one. I had planned on seeing a feature length film, but found myself in the theater for a short films program. I thought, “Oh, well, these weren’t on my list, but I don’t want to be rude.” So, I stayed and was happy I did.
This collection of short films was on the dark side, except for the last one. Each one did, however, shed light on why filmmakers create shorts.
Amor, Valle (Love, Worth It)
Filmmakers make shorts to refine their talents.
In this Spanish language short, we find two men, having a discussion: a therapist and a patient who has been receiving counseling for ten months. The patient is searching for his wife. His search, in Spain, is shown in picturesque flashbacks. The therapist tries to dissuade him, encouraging him to begin anew. There is a misunderstanding which provides an intriguing surprise at the end.
Directed by Annette Reid, Amor, Valle provided not only an interesting experience, but the question and answer session provided some insights into the filmmaking art.
Reid explained that the footage which shows the patient searching for his wife was originally filmed for and entirely different film, which was never completed. Lesson: Never discard good footage.
The actors discussed creating the film in Spanish rather than English.
Carlos Carrasco who played the therapist, explained that he was born in Panama, but now had spent more of his life in the United States. He said that at a certain point he realized he was losing his sharpness in Spanish and found a theater group in New York which produced plays in both Spanish and English. Actors would perform the same roles, three times a week in Spanish and three times in English. He said that each language brought out different aspects of the characters.
Many Rey, who wrote the script and played the patient, concurred about the influence of language on an actor. “I practice my lines first in Spanish,” he said, “then in English. It gives me a deeper understanding of the emotions.”
Amor, Valle won the IFFF Best Short Drama – Foreign award. A preview of the film is available here.
Sticks and Stones
Filmmakers make shorts to support a point of view.
Sticks and Stones explored bullying and teenage suicide. The title references the saying parents used to use to strengthen their children, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
Although, I feel that we have gone too far in trying to protect people from criticism (e.g., “safe spaces” on college campuses), the film makes a powerful statement for love and understanding of victims of bullying.
The story follows 12-year-old Sam, played by Cole Ewing, starting in study hall and following him around school and his community where he is continuously bullied for his love of art. He is always drawing and bullies are always destroying his work or even wadding it up and shoving it in his mouth.
The film suggests, by showing abusive behavior by the father of one of the bullies, that perhaps the antagonistic behavior is learned. It ends with a freighting foray into razor blades and a desperate cry for help via YouTube by Sam.
The acting is exceptional by the young cast and the ending supports the films theme: “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.”
More about the film and the issues raised can be found at the film’s website.
To Oh Seven
Filmmakers make shorts to capture beautiful moments in life.
To Oh Seven brings us a look at one man dealing with loss and grief.
I am partial to films with little dialog that use the visual medium to tell the story. This film had no dialog, and told a story in an intriguing manner.
To Oh Seven introduces us to an old man, played by Davis Hall sitting on a bench by the shore in an industrial neighborhood in the winter. He goes on a journey on a train, carrying a bouquet of flowers, to another bench. There it turns to springtime as he imagines, or maybe communicates, with a spirit of a young woman, played by Lindsay Armstrong, that he obviously loved and misses.
The film leaves her identity and several other questions unanswered. Often when we must fill in answers from our own experience, this makes a film more powerful and this is the case here.
The beauty and quality of the cinematography in To Oh Seven adds to the impact. I was surprised when I found out it was created with an iPhone.
You can find future screenings and additional information about this film on its Facebook page.
Relief at Last
Filmmakers make shorts for fun.
After a lost family, bullying, suicidal thoughts, and a lost love, the audience finally got some relief with a cartoon. Agrinoui was written and directed by Alexis Chaviaras in Cypress and presented in Greek with English subtitles. It takes us on a journey with a young mare who has come to Cypress to race.
In keeping with the family theme of IFFF, the mare is having a confrontation with her father over her career. She ends up running away with a bunch of other rebellious young animals to go on a road trip and find herself. The road trip also allows the filmmaker to show off the sites of his native Cypress.
This band of animals call themselves GUOYATGHAT (General Union Of Young Animals That Gather Here And There), and have members who are wanted for such heinous acts as escaping from zoos. The crew includes a crazy donkey who drives their car, a happy flamingo, and a rascal of a goat who mentors the mare.
The animation was beautiful, the dialog was clever, and the sound was worthy of the best Hollywood production. An audience member pointed out how the sound changed when the characters entered a tunnel; something that could easily have been overlooked. The music also added to the experience.
Of course, this plot sounds like it was created by an Indie Film Plot Generator app, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. The story was told in such a charming manner that it was totally fun and no one died.
Agrinoui won the IFFF Best Short Animation – Foreign award. The trailer is linked below and more information about Agrinoui can be found at its website.