Three months have passed, which can only mean one thing… the time has come to announce the winner and runner-up in the Hammer To Nail Short Film Contest, Fall ’14 edition!
First off, a hearty thank you to our judges this go ’round: Alex Ross Perry (whose Listen Up Philip ***OPENS THIS FRIDAY OCTOBER 17th*** so you better go see it), HBO’s Film Programming Manager Amanda Trokan, and Efrén Hernández Jr. (director of Spring ’14 Contest winner Master Muscles).
Second off, an equally hearty thank you to the participating festivals in this particular contest, all of whom were gracious enough to grant submission waivers to both the winner and runner-up: Ashland Independent Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, IFFBoston, Maryland Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, Riverrun International Film Festival, Slamdance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival.
Third off, thank you to the filmmakers who submitted short work of so many excellent shapes, genres, and sizes. By submitting to this contest you are showing a brave gesture of support for our humble little website and independent film in general, so t-h-a-n-k y-o-u!
Fourth off, stay tuned for details regarding our Winter ’15 contest. But enough about the future. It’s time to celebrate the present…
If the name Reinaldo Marcus Green rings a bell, it most certainly should, as this marks the first time a filmmaker has landed in our winner/runner-up post for the second time! Green’s previous contest winner Stone Cars heralded the arrival of a fully formed filmmaking voice, yet even with that knowledge, Stop is an exhilarating sideswipe. Full disclosure: after watching it three times, I’d go so far as to call it a short film masterpiece. There, I said it. Removing recent headlines from the equation, Green’s condemnation of New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy remains a pressingly vital work, made all the more powerful due to Green’s understated, matter-of-fact treatment of his volatile subject matter. Eschewing a tension-building score and any “big” confrontations, Green nonetheless viscerally depicts how interactions between police officers and young black males need not end in spent casings or choke holds to reveal themselves to be what they truly are: racist, demeaning, violating, and shameful. Yet just when you think Green might be veering into sentimentality—albeit of a mature and restrained order—he concludes with an unexpected twist that only deepens the film’s overall meaning and impact. Stop is a quiet tour-de-force, a pent up cry for humanity and fairness in a system that feeds off its own worst instincts. While Green’s film has yet to world premiere, it’s only a matter of time before it takes the fest circuit by storm. Everyone needs to see this film. Soon enough, they will.
Did I just use the word masterpiece? Am I about to use it again? Maybe so, folks, maybe so. Anyone familiar with Ahmed Khawaja’s work—particularly his feature Kwak, made in collaboration with Andre Puca (watch it on Vimeo in its entirety for free)—is well aware that he is a brutally honest docu-diarist. But Best Friends might very well be his finest one-third-of-an-hour yet. A slice-of-daily-life home movie that triumphs on multiple levels, Best Friends is a sneakily miraculous achievement. Not only is it laugh-out-loud funny—I have no idea how many takes it took Khawaja to nail the timing and performance in so many of these scenes but there are way too many to attribute it to “getting lucky”—it is also a piercingly honest and touching depiction of 20-something creative frustration. As someone who felt similarly suffocated by the world during those oppressive post-collegiate years, this film struck a particularly deep chord within me. It’s strange, though, it wasn’t until it ended that I realized and embraced the irony of this particular situation: by making such an excellent film, Khawaja had actually conquered that creative oppression—take that, world! The climax—featuring Khawaja’s thirsty cat—is a perfect encapsulation of this growing artist’s voice: a funny face with a tender, inquisitive, heartfelt soul. Stay tuned for my full review, but for the time being, do yourself a favor and WATCH BEST FRIENDS RIGHT NOW!!!