Thursday, April 24, 2014

TFF2014 Day 9: Taking the Shorts Cut to a Story

Manny (Angel Soto Jr.) on a man's mission in "La Carnada." Photo from La Carnada Kickstarter Page.

WHAT stands out most about “For Spacious Sky” is how understated it is, especially considering its intersecting themes of politics, drug addiction, homosexuality and crime.

Set against the backdrop of Election Day 2008, “For Spacious Sky,” directed by Coy Middlebrook from Kevin Allen Jackson's taut script, is a reunion of three brothers somewhere in American's Heartland. All three have their separate troubles. (See video below).

The film, in its North American premiere, is an entry in “Shorts: Handle With Care,” one of a number of shorts series at the 13th Annual Tribeca Film Festival. “Handle With Care” has another screening today.

Most of the action in “For Spacious Sky” happens on the road where one brother (Gabe Fazio) – the youngest – is being driven to a rehab clinic. The driver is the middle, homosexual brother (Jonah Blechman) who has flown in from New York to be there for his sibling. Riding shotgun is the oldest (Andres Faucher). It is clear that the two younger men look up to their older brother, his stretch in prison notwithstanding. The three actors effortlessly create a chemistry that speaks to brotherhood in a film that gets its title from the patriotic ditty, "America, The Beautiful."

Another character in “For Spacious Sky” is the radio, with its frequent updates on the race between Barack Obama and John McCain. So much that is said in this film goes wisely unspoken. Action – meaningful glances, throwing up, changing a radio station or turning off a radio, not taking a phonecall – often speaks louder than words. Where words are necessary they are chosen with care and economy.

Also noteworthy in the “Handle With Care” series is “Contrapelo.” In Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer's tense drama making its world premiere, a barber stands up to members of a Mexican drug cartel. Art Bonilla imbues the barber with fierce pride and principles. These attributes are particularly evident when he is plucked to give the local drug kingpin (Eduardo Roman) a shave. AB's barber has a moment of truth when he has the razor at the other man's throat.

Should he end a worthless life and save a lot of people a lot of bother? There's a strong case that he should, but will he? In the few seconds that this decent, hardworking man must choose his path, the tension is palpable. "It took three days to shoot that scene," said AB, who grew up in Tijuana and resides in Los Angeles.

The film ends on a question mark. Did the barber's former apprentice join the cartel. "I think he did," AB asserted.

Each viewer will decide for him/herself.

“La Carnada,” a four-minute entry in the “Shorts: Flight Delays” series that has its next screening tomorrow (25 April), shares a kinship with “Contrapelo.” Josh Soskin's third short, making its world premiere, concerns 13-year-old Manny (Angel Soto Jr.) on his first drug smuggling job.

Art Bonilla, with a poster from "Contrapelo," in the Tribeca Filmmaker and Industry Lounge. Photo by Elisabeth Trydal Andersen.

A coming-of-age-story, “La Carnada” takes the youngster from Tijuana along the Devil's Highway, a treacherous desert route on the Arizona-Mexicor border. The film has a twist that JS declined to reveal.

If the landscape in “La Carnada” looks familiar there is a good reason for it. "We shot on location,” JS said.

There were around seven or eight different locations. “My producer said 'we can't shoot all of this on location',” JS recalled. "La Carnada" was partially financed through Kickstarter. “But we did. We filmed someone illegally crossing the border!"

Another short to look out for today is “Love in the Time of March Madness.” It is in the Shorts: “Moral Fibers” series. Melissa Johnson and Robertino Zambrano's animated film is about the alienation and hopeful self-acceptance that comes from being different.

It tells the story of a female basketball star, voiced by MJ, who doesn't have the same success in love. Alas, men keep coming up short – literally and figuratively.

“Love in the Time of March Madness,” takes a page from the experiences of its co-director. MJ, who is 6'4” now and has been since age 13, also wrote the script and produced it with RZ.

An image from "Love in the Time of March Madness." Photo from Tribeca Film Festival.

And, and, and, she seems to have found love, based on the way she beamed at her slightly shorter boyfriend at the shorts filmmaker party a few nights ago.

Other films/events on today's TFF2014 schedule: “The Search for General Tso,” “The Bachelor Weekend,” “Silenced,” “Boulevard,” “Fishtail,” “Palo Alto,” “Murder of a Cat” and “Third Person

Visit to learn more about it and the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, including tickets and schedule.

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