HollyShorts 2022 Day 3 (August 13th) Highlights + Q&A With Sarah Kaskas!

We’re on to day 3! Another amazing slate of films is before us today, with everything from indies to comedies on display. An absolutely incredible amount of projects from some very talented filmmakers will be available to see, and just a few will be highlighted in this coverage. For the rest of the equally entertaining set of films, be sure to check them out online at BitPix, and if you can, come see the rest of the festival in person! Tickets can be purchased directly through HollyShorts. Also stick around to the end of today’s coverage to see an interview with one of today’s highlighted filmmakers.

The Hostage – Natalie Prisco writes and directs this star-studded film that includes comedy greats like Annie Mumolo, Paul Scheer, Alison Becker, E.R. Fightmaster and Isaiah Mustafa. This is a fantastic and hilarious film about a boring, newly single middle-aged woman who finds herself being willingly held hostage for a group of thieves as a way to make herself more exciting. It’s ridiculous and wonderful, with a fun and unique concept.

The Window – This beautiful Lebanese film focuses on two women who have reconnected a year after the devastating port explosion in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut. They attempt to rebuild their relationship, with the remains of the port serving as the backdrop not only for the port, but for their connection to each other as well. It’s so well told and bittersweet, both for the characters and for the city of Beirut itself. Writer/director Sarah Kaskas brought a brilliant film, with her cast of Sophia Moussa and Tamara Saade bringing some realism and heart to the story.

Alex – Aisha Evelyna brings us the all-too-familiar story of a person of color being judged differently and more harshly, whether the reason for that treatment is subconscious or not. As she and a friend go to shop, an over-eager employee’s offers for help change when they believe a product has gone missing. It’s a tough lesson to see in action, but one that must be learned until situations like this are no longer common. Evelyna serves as writer, director and star of the film, alongside Perrie Voss and Carly MacIsaac.

Honest Cocktail – Paul Odgren, who directed and co-wrote Honest Cocktail (alongside Jonathan Anderson and Abby Livingston) brings us a very fun film about a cocktail that prevents its drinker from lying for a short time. As Andrea (Livingston) and Greg (Anderson) go on a date, they find that this drink gives them both the inability and the freedom to be completely honest with each other, whether they like it or not. It’s a sweet film that gets to the heart of online dating: that very few are truly honest, but instead tends to shift themselves in order to look better or to feel better about themselves.

We Should Get Dinner! – When Abby runs into her ex-stepbrother Sean, chaos ensues as the two of them take on diametrically opposed views as to what their relationship should be. Having not spoken since their parents divorced, Sean wants to move on, while Abby wants something that is a much bigger commitment as she attempts to convince him to walk her down the aisle. This is a funny and wild film that stars Eliza Jiménez Cossio, Anthony Oberbeck, Moss Perricone and Tim Barnes. Cossio also serves as co-director alongside  Lexi Tannenholtz, with the two also having created the story itself.

Our interview for today will be with Sarah Kaskas, who brought us her incredible film The Window. Thanks to Sarah for making such a wonderful film and taking the time out to speak with us!

Still from “The Window”

Q: Tell us more about your film.  How did it come to be? 

After the Beirut port explosion of August 4th, 2020, I felt a need to express the many conflicting emotions I was going through. I wrote a lot of beginnings, middles and ends but nothing really came together. I visited a friend who moved into the apartment that has the room we filmed in. It was a shocking view and it brought a lot to the surface. I started writing The Window a few days later as a free-written inner dialogue between the part of me that wants to leave the chaos and the part that wants to stay in it. The characters and specific narrative came after that and were based on collective stories from the queer community in Lebanon.

Q: What was your budget?

30K USD

Q: What was the biggest takeaway from making the film?

The Window’s crew was entirely led by women, which was an important point to make in a field that is heavily dominated by men. It was a proud moment of solidarity by the time we wrapped.

A major thing to mention is that we didn’t know that we were documenting the damaged silos before they started collapsing this August ( which is 2 years after the explosion). The image we see in the film doesn’t exist anymore. We’ve lost the visual of a traumatic crime without any justice, accountability or answers. It’s terrible but it’s important that there are so many forms of media that have captured its original form. 

Q: What was the biggest challenge in making this film?

We are all survivors of the blast so being in such close proximity to the port wasn’t easy. But being all together created a safe and supportive environment. There were a lot of technical challenges as well. We shot the film in 4 days. Since it all takes place during sunset, we only had 40 minutes to shoot each day so there was no room for full retakes. There were six people in the tiny room (DOP, AC, AD, Sound Mixer and the two actors.) I included the crew during the last 2 days of rehearsals so we can all be in the room to block everyone’s movement. It was like a choreographed dance. 

Sound was very challenging. There are constant power cuts that have gotten worse since the start of the economy crash. So, there was this massive, loud generator providing electricity to the neighborhood and it was right beneath the apartment! We hid acoustic panels and used very directional microphones to make it work.

Q:  What is next for you?

The last two shorts I directed “STRUCK” and “The Window” and a documentary I produced “Beirut Dreams in Color” are all on tour now so I’ve been traveling a lot. All three were produced by my production company Karaaj Films.

I’m also developing my second feature film. It’s turning out to be a hybrid documentary. It makes sense to me. Lebanon is a docu-fiction. Our realities feel unreal! 

That will mark the end of today’s coverage! Join us again tomorrow for another amazing set of films, and thanks again for being with us as we celebrate some of the best in short films!

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