January 2023 HollyShorts Monthly Screenings!

It’s a new year, and it seems like there’s no better way to start than with another slate of incredible films from some very talented filmmakers. This month’s screening has over a dozen submissions for our enjoyment, and it’s a wonderful way to start off the year. The screening will take place on Wednesday, January 25th at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Los Angeles and online from January 25th to January 29th, only on BitPix. Without wasting any more time, let’s get to the films!

Stuck In Reality – Christina Reis and Aproova Gundeti create, write and star in this webseries about two friends who help manage a bookstore and attempt to manage their lives outside of it. Both inside and outside the bookstore, Liz (Reis) and Riya (Gundeti) deal with rude customers, snarky acquaintances and all manner of situations that leaves them having to deal with the fallout. The episode featured during the screening takes them mostly out of the confines of the bookstore as they attend the gender reveal party of a college friend. This long, contrived event further reinforces the distance between Liz, Riya and their friend, who has changed quite a bit from their younger days. It’s a very fun series, and this episode really lets Reis and Gundeti let loose.

Trying – A very heartwarming film about living with neurodivergence, this story focuses on Meg (writer/director Samantha Labrecque), woman living with ADHD and struggling with her being able to focus and get things done. Living on unemployment while she tries to find work, the film shares a day in the life of Meg as she gets ready for a job interview that is really important to her. Making a piece like this shows the struggles of those living with disorders like this, especially ones that are severe enough to really affect everyday life. Labrecque is wonderful in this, bringing attention to something that doesn’t get enough of it.

Don’t Worry, It’s Gonna Be Okay – In one of the most beautiful and isolated areas of California, Joshua Tree, four girls decide to take a weekend to bond, do drugs, and escape from the world. But a chance encounter with a few of the locals causes that plan to take a turn, as the four women are forced to defend themselves from prideful and angry men intent on teaching them a lesson. It’s a surprisingly brutal film, with some massive tension and a lot of suspense, but one that is a very enjoyable take on modernizing the home invasion genre in a new way. Writer/director/star Izabel Pakzad and her co-stars Frankie Attalah, Àngels Ratés and Vivian Benitez are all excellent, bringing charm and believability to this type of story.

Pseudea – Director Ani Stein, along with writers Chelsea Columbus and Ethelle O’Mara deliver an excellent science fiction story that toes the line between impersonation and manipulation as a company specializing in creating “Mimickers”, people who, through technology, are hired to impersonate those who can’t always make every event, use one of their employees to do just that. Ronelle Pearson stars as Marty, one of these employees, as she’s set to mimic Elliot (Jack Schrader) on his six month anniversary date with girlfriend Dylan (Brooke Harrsch). It’s an enthralling story of what happens when you feel a genuine connection to someone who thinks you’re someone else, exploring the morality of that, along with the idea that chemistry between people can come from anywhere.

Play Me Like That – Alina Phelan and Nicole Gabriella Scipione star as sisters Crescent and Slipper, whose bond has lasted throughout their entire lives. As time has passed, the two still enjoy their child-like imagination and ways, but also both long to have a child, to the point of trying to find a way to do this together, until one of them begins to balk at this without the other’s knowledge. This is an interesting film that really explores the way bonds can be formed and grow, especially between family, and how life changes can really throw things for a loop. Scipione, as writer, brings us a film that meanders and feels lived in, in a way that not many films has, and director Julianna Robinson brings it to life in a wonderful way.

Hunny Bunny – Blair Williamson and Susie Q. Schallert give us a glimpse into their live in this film by Jayden Barrial. The couple, who have been together for quite some time, show us their lives and give us insight into their relationship as they live with their own disabilities, and the impact of the pandemic. They have a beautiful love, one that has only seemed to grow as they’ve continued to be together, and it’s wonderful to see things blossom, even through relationship complications, and even a global pandemic.

Super Inappropriate – Tehana Weeks directs this film written by Michael Beardsley (who also stars in an ensemble cast), Dawn Grabowski (who joins Beardsley in the cast) and Melanie Collup in a short that can show the consequences of having super powers when not used for the most selfless of reasons. This group of four powered people (Beardsley, Grabowski, Whit Spurgeon and Meredith Thomas) are forced to undergo counseling by a therapist (Allyson Sereboff) to learn why what they’re doing isn’t good for themselves or the community, which is a tall task to get them to understand. It’s really fun and silly, with a great job done by the whole cast.

Think Lovely Thoughts – Writer/director Stephen Snavely brings a heartbreaking and difficult film that focuses on the devastating effects of anxiety, depression and panic disorders. Roy Williams Jr. stars as John, a man with a loving wife (Dayana Rincon) and a beautiful daughter (Evangeline Williams), but still can’t shake the dark feelings in his mind. As it continues to rage war on his mind, his family attempts to reach out, and John even seeks mental help in order to get a reprieve. But that isn’t always a something that gets immediate results, and John still suffers as his mind is continually broken down. It’s one of the most accurate portrayals of how anxiety and depression can feel, and while watching it can be hard, this is a very important subject to talk about, and this film does that is an incredible way.

The Mountain – Clare Macdonald directs this Adam Steedman Thake film about climbing the metaphorical mountain of depression and mental illness as he attempts to get himself through a particularly tough patch. Starring Jamie Wilkes and Gemma Yates-Round, this films shows a fairly accurate look at those who suffer from depression and mental illness, giving it the unique visual perspective of extreme mountain climbing as a way to give it something relatable to represent it.

Moving Out – Rachel Earnest (who directs and co-writes alongside Ashley Monti) brings us a film inspired by the struggle between a life of faith and a life of being your truest self. It follows the story of Sam (Carolyn Grundman), a closeted young woman living in a religious household who makes the decision to come out to her conservative family. This brave decision is made even with the understanding of the churches stance on homosexuality and gay rights. It’s a beautiful film that seems to have at least some aspects of Earnest’s own life inserted into it, as she and the film’s crew stayed with the local church community during shooting. It’s a lovely message to those in the LGBTQIA+ community who want to be themselves but don’t want to lose their faith, giving a sense of hope to the people who need that message most.

40ish – Writer and star Nicole Stuart, along with director Traci Hays, uses this film to talk about a well-known but not often talked about trait in Hollywood: actresses have an expiration date for most leading roles, and after roughly 35, most actresses, if they haven’t already made their star, are seen as being too old to keep trying. Natalie, in her 40s (or 30s, depending on when you ask her), is still trying to make it doing what she loves, despite the constant rejections. Despite her obvious talent, her age is seen as a negative for her career, but her love and desire to make it keeps her going. It’s a challenge to look at what is so obviously a problem in the entertainment industry, but seeing a character like Natalie be so consistent and determined is really good to see. Stuart is excellent in this, being a skilled actor while playing the role of a skilled actor who is playing the roles of other characters is not an easy task, but it’s one that Stuart does very well.

In This Neighborhood – Writer/director Lilly Lion tackles a challenging subject in this film, as a woman who is obviously unhoused and mentally unwell faces a distortion of reality in the neighborhood where she grew up. Despite her struggles, her situation isn’t really understood, and it brings up the important topic of how people treat the unhoused, especially people who consider themselves progressive or liberal, where they claim to have an understanding that the unhoused are struggling, but don’t want to see it in their own backyards or help in any other way but to voice empty support. Star Laura Welsh is excellent in this, bringing this topic to the forefront in a way that so few films do.

An Irish Goodbye – Seamus O’Hara and James Martin star in this beautiful film that has been the talk of the industry lately, even managing to make the Oscars shortlist. Writers and directors Tom Berkeley and Ross White show the story of two brothers who reunite after some time apart when their mother passes. Turlough (O’Hara) and Lorcan (Martin) decide, at Lorcan’s behest, to honor their mother by taking her remains through the tasks she wished to do before her passing, even though all of these will be post-mortem. Doing these also brings up the future for the two brothers, as Turlough lives in the UK, and Lorcan is a man living with Down’s Syndrome, which means he may need extra care that Turlough is unable to provide from a distance. It’s an incredible film that breaks hearts, makes you genuinely laugh out loud, and also feel for these two characters in such a unique and gorgeous way.

What Do I Owe You – Writer Claire Downs and director Tyler Miguel Mercer deliver on an excellent films that focuses on a waitress who is given the git and burden of a winning lottery ticket as a tip. Based on a real event, this fictionalized version of a similar story shows the dangers of greed and winning, even with people you love. The cast of Quarrat Ann Kadwani, Mahmoud Mahmoud and Alexandra de Suze are all excellent in a film that makes a big societal point about what people will do to get a piece of success and riches for themselves.

That’ll do it for this month! A big thank you to all of the filmmakers and crew who helped deliver us these fantastic films! And a big thank you to all of you for checking out our preview of this month’s films. Until next month!

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