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Nashville Film Festival: Wannabe

Jada (Margo Parker) and her friends Sky (Daisy Lopez) and Bianca (Victoria T. Washington) are ready to take the music world by storm. It’s the 1990s and girl groups are all the rage. The Space Girls, as they call themselves, are preparing for an audition in front of an important music exec. They take the stage to perform their newest song and everything is going fine until Jada spots the exec. It’s Landon (Peter Zizzo), the man who raped her at a party months earlier. Jada must face the decision of whether to work with her assailant or to give up the dream she has long worked for.

Written and directed by Josie Andrews, Wannabe is a powerful short film, primed for the #MeToo era while also giving viewers a window into the past. It’s a reminder that these situations have been going on for far too long. The power dynamic in the aftermath of an assault has always favored the man and what Wannabe effectively demonstrates is how rape victims face impossible decisions for how they should live their lives moving forward. The film is a personal project for director Josie Andrews. In her director’s statement she says:

“Wannabe is not just a plea to believe those who have come forward, but a cry to consider the thousands who have not.”

Josie Andrews

I would love to see Wannabe developed into a full-length feature. But it’s also quite potent as a 13 minute short film. The three lead actresses are fantastic and by the end you’ll want to continue following their characters’ journey, wherever it may take them.

Wannabe is part of the 2022 Nashville Film Festival. Visit the director’s website for more information about the film.

Fantasia Festival: Diabla

When 17-year-old Nayeli (Ruth Ramos) is raped by the neighborhood gringo Rayan (Cesar Mijangos), she seeks help from her brother Uri (Daniel Fuentes Lobo). Uri sides with his friend rather than his sister calling her a whore. Spurned by her brother, she visits the local coven of witches to enact her revenge. Not only is Rayan about to pay the price for his violent act against Nayeli but Uri will have to watch it all go down.

Directed by  Ashley George and set in present day Mexico, Diabla packs a punch in a mere 17 minutes and will linger in your mind long after the film is over.  For female viewers especially, Diabla will serve as a visual representation of all of the revenge fantasies that we have for the men in our lives who have hurt us in one form or another. In this way, Diabla is highly gratifying even when it shocks and disturbs.

Ashley George’s impressive short horror film speaks directly to women who have been hurt physically and emotionally by men.

Diabla is part of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.

Fantasia Festival: Don’t Text Back!

Directed by Mariel Sharp and Kaye Adelaide, Don’t Text Back! is a highly satisfying queer horror-comedy short film about toxic masculinity and the literal horrors of dating.

Kelly (Danielle LaPointe) is a 30-something woman who is seeking the help of an energy healer Jaren (Nancy Webb). She’s in dire straits as the necklace she wears is strangling her and cannot be removed. It tightens every time the guy she’s seeing texts her and only lets up when she texts him back. Jaren helps Kelly uncover that her heteronormative relationship with a men’s right group activist is toxic on many levels. But Kelly needs to discover something about herself first before she can be free.

Gratifying and funny, Don’t Text Back! is a must see for any woman who has felt the effects of toxic masculinity… so pretty much everyone. And I definitely want to see much much more from this filmmaking duo!

Don’t Text Back! had its Canadian premiere at the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.

SXSW: Figurant

A middle-aged man (Dennis Levant) sees workers line up for a day job. Not knowing what the job is but eager for some paying work, he lines up with them. He signs in and is asked to remove all of his clothes and dress up in an old military uniform. A make-up artist puts a fake scar filled with blood on his forehead. A prop guy gives him a holster and rifle. The group of men head out into a field. The man’s scar begins to bleed and the shots begin to fire. What exactly did he get himself into?

“Short film is a full-fledged format that can capture and point out something that would not work on a feature scale.”

Jan Vejnar

Directed by Jan Vejnar, Figurant is a short drama from Czechia about curiosity, expectation and disappointment. It’s 13 minutes and 45 seconds long and holds its mystery long enough to engage the audience even though we figure out pretty quickly what’s going on. It’s expertly choreographed, especially the battle scene where we witness a POV shot that’s unlike anything I’ve seen before in a film.

Figurant was set to have its US premiere at the SXSW film festival. You can get updates on the film over on the official Instagram page.

SXSW: Blackheads

“Don’t you ever want to do anything destructive?”

Sophia just broke up with her boyfriend. When she calls up her therapist, Dr. Blady, to discuss the matter, Sophia is hit with some outdated advice about gender roles and romantic relationships. It doesn’t help that she can’t get her mind off of her ex or the huge blackhead on her nose. Sometimes you just need to clear your life of toxic people… and clogged pores.

Watching Blackheads is as satisfying as squeezing a clogged pore and watching all the pus come out. I couldn’t help but connect with the story of a woman struggling with anxiety, a bad therapist and self-destructive tendencies. And for those of you who love to pop a zit, the climax of the film features a glorious stop motion extraction. Blackheads clocks in at 7 minutes and 46 seconds and features stop animation with 2D animation. It’s directed by Emily Ann Hoffman, a fine artist and animator who, according to her website, explores “female sexuality, body and vulnerability through a comedic lens.” I’m definitely impressed with Blackheads and eager to see more work from Hoffman.

Blackheads was set to premiere at this year’s SXSW film festival. Filmmaker Emily Ann Hoffman is making Blackheads available to the public on Vimeo from 3/15 to 3/16. You can watch it here. For more information about Hoffman’s work, visit her online portfolio.

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