As 2023 rolls on, the time has come again to take a look at some of the most impressive and talented filmmakers in the short film medium and the incredible projects that they’ve been able to complete. Including a slate from students at Florida State University, this months selections have some names that will surely be seen again and again as time passes. With over a dozen films to check out for this month, there’s no use in spending any more time waiting. Let’s get to this month’s amazing films! They can be viewed either in person in Los Angeles on March 29th at the TCL Chinese Theaters, or online from March 29th to April 2nd, only on BitPix!
False Idol – This short animated film, directed by Hannah Nico Weaver, is an adorable piece about an adventurer, an ancient treasure and the guardian that protects the relic. It takes a very fun turn, making this a touching and entertaining short piece.
Girlhood – Madeleine Croft and Nylah Huntley star in this Jaelyn Ellis film about two best friends who find themselves in very different mental states as they explore their adolescence. Mia and Avery are incredibly close, but Avery seems to find herself focused on the opposite sex, while Mia isn’t, causing her to question herself and her own desires, especially as they attend their first high school party, a prime location for expressing those very hormonal urges. Both actresses are doing an incredible job, and this story is incredibly relatable, making it a familiar yet engrossing.
Restore – Gerard Symonette stars in this beautiful film by Vyky Saiz about a world that’s ended, and a man who just wants to remember a beautiful moment from his past. He uses holographic technology to recreate the moment where he expressed his love for his partner, only to realize that there are difficulties our subconscious blocks out but are equally important in our experiences. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking, with Symonette doing an excellent job of displaying the intense gamut of emotions needed for this piece.
Plain Sight – Landon Hogue directs and co-writes (along with Melissa Calderon) this film about Special Agent Emily Brooks (Christina Leidel), who must work with local law enforcement to rescue a young girl who has fallen victim to a sex trafficking scheme. Joined by Agent Hayden Fedder (Travis Herndon), Brooks must race against the clock to rescue this girl by any means possible, both for professional reasons, as well as personal, as her and her family have gone through a similar experience before. It’s a thrilling film that shows the horrors of trafficking and loss, and the lengths people will go to put a stop to it.
Sound Off – Megan Baer directs this amazing documentary about the those living with deafness and hearing impairment, and the incredible strides they’ve made in restoring their hearing and living a life without struggle thanks to the invention of cochlear implants. With interviews from those whose lives have been improved by cochlear implants , this short documentary is full of inspiration, hope and the wonderful progress of technology improving the lives of those who had not had that chance before.
Melancholic Beauty – Robert Burns writes and directs this bittersweet and beautiful film about a young man (Zach Duncan) who returns home to collect the relics of his childhood home after the passing of his father. Through home video footage and a look into the now empty home that held his childhood, George must deal with the emotional loss of his father, the memories that his former home held, and the overwhelming grief that comes with such a big presence no longer being a part of your life. Joining Duncan are Tucker Grumbles (who plays the younger version of George), Dennis Howard and Erika Stone, filling the roles of George’s parents. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking film that was incredibly moving and well worth the watch.
Mi Hija – Written and directed by Anthony Fins, this film focuses on a young girl named Isabela (Stella Jimena Martinez) who has to convince her father that the ghost of the dreaded La Llorona is haunting her and must be stopped before the girl meets a watery end, as is the motive of the legendary spirit. Eduardo Jose Paco Mateo stars as the father, with Andrea Pister doing an excellent job as the terrifying La Llorona. This is a fantastic film that’s thrilling and terrifying, with excellent work coming from the whole cast.
Shooting Blanks – This delightful comedy stars Julian Christopher Laurent, Ari Huber and Ashlee Weber and follows the story of Joe (Laurent), a nerdy office worker who is consistently bullied at his workplace and decides to take matters in his own hands in a way that, of course, goes terribly awry. It’s a silly and ridiculous story that is wildly entertaining, and director/co-writer Cormac Schambach (along with co-writer Drew McIntruff) do an excellent job of bringing this story to life and delivering on a wild premise and making it not only a good time, but tells a coherent and interesting story.
They Flew Like Blackbirds – Shannon Sutherland brings a heart-wrenching story that comes from the odious roots of the old American South, as Belle (Cayla Jackson), a young black girl who has been adopted by a white family, struggles with finding who she is. With her adoptive parents seeming to not only ignore her roots but actively treat her poorly because of them, Belle, after hearing the sound of birds for the first time, begins to explore who she is, where she came from, and what it means to be black at a time where that was even more dangerous. Jackson is amazing in this, as are Rachel Brownhill and Henry Tisdale, who play Belle’s adoptive parents.
Aaron With Two A’s – Director Michael Goldburg brings us a film written by himself, Montana Rock, Steve Lichtenstein and Mark Resnik that stars Lichtenstein as Aaron, an older actor still working to break into the industry. Despite the voices around him (including a few inside his head) telling him that he’s too old to really have any chance, Aaron continues to try. When his chance comes and then suddenly goes, his doubts manifest more than ever, and it takes a conversation and a realization to change his attitude, a simple act that does more than even he realizes. It’s an inspiring film about how outlook can change perception, and how that perception can change what happens to and around us. Lichtenstein is delightful and expressive, uplifted by other great performances from Pamela Jayne Morgan, Resnik, Rock, and many others.
In My Dreams You’re Sorry – Katherine Myers’ interesting and engaging films focuses on James and Zoe (played by Constantine Malahias and Maryelizabeth O’Donnell), a couple on a romantic getaway. While there, they do all the traditional couple things: they bicker, they fight, they love one another, and they deal with the curse that is plaguing Zoe, making it so that only one of the two are likely to leave this romantic night out alive. It’s a very insular film, which really helps ramp up the tension, something that the actors do a wonderful job of helping along.
Rake – Christopher Mays brings us a jarring and intense horror story that focuses on Lucy, a quiet teen being subjected to various forms of abuse by her mother, who is under the auspices that it’s for her child’s own good. When things go too far, Lucy, whose connection to a dark spirit grows, is faced with the opportunity to continue to endure the abuse or use this dark spirit to enact her own form of vengeance. Claire LeFort is excellent in this, as is Donna Dasher, playing her mother.
After (A Love Story) – Director Clare Cooney and writer/star Alyssa Thordarson tackle the topic of shared trauma in this film starring Thordarson and Glenn Stanton. It focuses on Charlie and Edie, a married couple who looked to be on incredibly stable ground until a traumatic experience shakes their marriage and their lives. This was handled incredibly well, delivering on seeing the pain these two share, without needing to go too deeply into the trauma itself, leaving it as a personal matter between the two of them, and also being respectful of the audience themselves. This was a very emotional film that is sure to move anyone who gets the opportunity to watch it.
Critical Five – Rhett Wellington Ramirez stars in a do-everything role that also sees him co-direct (alongside Erik Bergamini) and act alongside the powerful voice of Marco DelVecchio in this intense and jarring film about Carter Wilkes, a man looking for rebirth as he goes through the 5 step process in that endeavor. This film ramps up from the unsettling to the powerful to almost euphoric in the span of only a few minutes, with the focus entirely on Ramirez as he uses a futuristic headset to hear the audiobook that will lead to his awakening. This was a wild and incredible film that really manages to leave an impact.
Brave – Wilmarc Val directs this incredible documentary set in his native Haiti, focusing on their spiritual worship of deities and use of Voodoo as part of their culture. When a Mambo (a Haitian Voodoo Priestess) passes away, it’s up to her children to celebrate the deity their parent served. In this case, it’s Val’s mother who is the child of the priestess, and Val follows his mother as their return to their native land to capture the celebration of life, of spirit and of their family. The documentary captures native dances, lets the viewer hear audio testimonies and beautifully blends everything together to show the process and the duty of the child when their priestess parent passes away.
A Jesuit – This Angus McMaster film (written by McMaster and Coleton Boothby) is a slow, dark and beautiful film about a French Jesuit missionary, lost on their journey in Huron territory. Anthony Jhade stars as the Jesuit, bringing a brooding, careful dedication to the role, which heavily features Jhade pensively wandering the wilderness. There’s something deeply tense about watching this journey, seeing their innermost fears and thoughts, the passion and dedication to their purpose. It’s a fascinating, gorgeous film that is incredibly reflective and cathartic when viewed.
Code Switch – David Alexander James and Mx. Roti come together to bring about a short film that is desperately needed at this point in history. The act of “code switching” has various meanings, but here we see a black trans woman switching to a more masculine persona to navigate the social perils of the barbershop. While feeling the need to do that is a failure of society itself, seeing this act through the eyes of those who have to do it is something that needs to be seen, talked about, and brought to attention so we can not only find ways to be more accepting, but to recognize its current need, as it’s used for marginalized groups to keep themselves safe in areas that may not be as accepting. This film is short, but extremely powerful, with Tiph Browne doing a brilliant job as the eyes of the audience through this usually benign but also incredibly important experience.
Togetherland – Máté Boegi and Árpád Hermán bring the story of a father hatching a half-baked plot to keep his family together, no matter the cost as Cliff (Robert Brettenaugh) takes his son Tim (Elohim Nycalove) and partner Nora (Xan Churchwell) onto a boat that they could potentially call home. There’s a lot to this film, and the emotion and desperation is felt throughout the film, even in the silent moments. It’s an excellently done film that leaves the audience at just the right moment to make them want more.
That’ll do it for this month’s films! Congratulations to everyone who was selected for their amazing work! Be sure to check out these films either in person in Los Angeles on March 29th at the TCL Chinese Theaters, or online from March 29th to April 2nd, only on BitPix!