NHFF Saturday Short Block 8 Tackles Difficult Social Issues
Saturday afternoon the New Hampshire Film Festival continued with a selection of diverse short films at the beautiful historic Moffat-Ladd house in downtown Portsmouth. Combining drama, comedy, documentary, and animation, the eighth block tackled serious social issues and explored the power of short films to create the atmosphere of suspense and absurdity.
The opening feature, Mrs. Drake, directed by Caitlin FitzGerald, follows Laura – a mother who is losing control of her unruly son, Jack. Honest and unapologetic, the film offers a glimpse into the most difficult moments of motherhood. Mrs. Drake stars Rachel Fowler, Ashton Jonnard, and Gabra Zackman as the title character, Jack’s icy and intimidating first grade teacher. More information available on Twitter and Facebook.
Whiskey Fist is a “what-if” satire that takes an absurd premise and runs along with it to expose gender stereotypes in the workplace. After a chance encounter with a mysterious blonde, a flamboyant male intern experiences the dramatic reversal of roles. The short film takes itself with a healthy dose of humor: an early disclaimer informed the audience Whiskey Fist entered a contest run by a national whiskey maker, but didn’t win. The short is written and directed by Gillian Wallace Horvat, starring Chase Williamson and Heather Kafka.
Poignant documentary I Have Something To Tell You focuses on Adrain Chesser, a photographer who was diagnosed HIV positive. Seeking refuge in his art, Chesser began shooting a series of portraits, documenting his friends’ reaction to the terrible news, each time starting with a phrase, “I have something to tell you…” Created by Ben Joyner, the film is a deeply personal story, but also a beautiful metaphor of the way art can be a quest for healing.
Echoing back to Scooby-Do, Ghostbusters and other cult favorites, The Privates is a sci-fi comedy with an eerie edge. When four friends form a band, their music has an unforeseen effect, liquefying tapes and summoning electric charges. On the brink of fame, the band must consider the possibility their next concert will burn the house down in more than one sense. Complete with goofy jumpsuits, spooky tunes, and crackling Geiger counters, The Privates is a true delight. The film stars Lilli Stein, Rachel Trachtenburg, Omar Maskati, and Alex Herrald. Dylan Allen wrote and directed the feature. For more information about The Privates please check their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Director Adam Roffman brought a stunning documentary The Collection to the Festival and visited the screening to take questions from the audience. The film is a dedication to the lost craft of motion picture advertising – printer blocks and plates. Once used to create newspaper advertisements for virtually every movie in the United States, the blocks were replaced with new technology and might have been destroyed, if it weren’t for two friends, DJ Ginsberg and Marilyn Wagner, who bought the collection of 60,000 items for $2,000. Today its estimated value is $12-15 million. The blocks feature stunning artwork for films like Casablanca, Lolita, Bambi, Rashomon, House of Wax, and many others.
The documentary encouraged many questions, one of them concerning the fate of the collection. Roffman revealed that while blocks appraise at millions of dollars, it hasn’t been easy to find a buyer. The documentary is his attempt to generate interest in the collection and to ensure it receives the place in motion picture history it deserves. After playing at 74 festivals this year, the film will be available online in January. Visit their official page on Facebook.
As a special treat for NHFF audiences, Roffman brought a few printer blocks from his own collection and stayed after the show for an informal chat.
Australian short Creswick changed the mood, sending the viewers into a secluded house in the woods where Sam (Dana Miltins) is helping her ageing father, Colin (Christian White). The house that Sam left years ago when her parents separated holds a dark and ominous presence. Creswick plays with traditional elements of a horror genre – haunting woods, a dark shed, a motion seen out of the corner of the eye. One of the most striking images in the film, however, is quite unique: the sinister, skeletal backs of chairs that Colin carves out of wood. Natalie Erika James directed and co-wrote the film with Christian White. For more information, please check the official Facebook page.
For anyone who has been trapped in the car with his or her parents, wishing for all the world to be elsewhere, The Backseat delivers eight minutes of sheer hilarity. A couple of octogenarians find their routine disrupted when their adult daughter asks for a ride to work. Joe Stankus and Ashley Connor directed from their own script. The Backseat is pitch-perfect in its details, from a glut of fridge photos, to obsessive checking of appliances before leaving the house.
The block concluded with Mountains, a psychedelic, awe-inspiring video that explores fluid lines and vibrant sound.