This Wednesday evening, March 31, from 5-7 p.m., anyone who happens to be in Coolidge Corner, Brookline, MA should definitely attend the screening of five outrageously talented, independent filmmakers. All five just happen to teach at Emerson College but their work is anything but academic! For those who can attend, plan on staying for a very lively Q and A with the directors after the screening.
Jean Stawarz’ 16 minute short, “The Hunters” is an actor-driven narrative about a young girl who insists that her dad (Charlie) take her on a hunting trip in the wilds of Ontario. The season is Autumn and deer abound. It’s not so much that Danni--- a child of divorce--- is a hunting enthusiast, as a calculating 12 year-old who wants to feel closer to her estranged dad. After all, his plans to take his son Jim on the trip are inconveniently dashed when Jim come down with mumps.
At the hunting cabin, they join Charlie’s friends and Danni finds herself ensconced in ritualistic male society---a situation most females of any age would find intimidating. Being precocious, with ambiguous tendencies she manages to turn the tables on the men and steal control of their hunting activities and their hearts.
In the end, she and her father bond, and with much admiration, he admits that she is an intelligent child with a mind of her own.
Stawarz, is primarily a screenwriter. She created this film debut from her own coming of age experiences. This is something all great writers do when they want their stories to be believable. Beautifully directed and filmed in Super-16 and 35mm, certain nighttime shots possess a magical quality---an aura that puts us on edge. These coupled with the complexity of the young girl, instill a provocation that makes the film multi-dimensional in its possibilities. The only problem, if this is a problem, is that we feel let down when the film abruptly ends. Newcomer, Jean Stawarz is definitely a uniquely strong filmmaker and someone to watch out for in the future.
Robert Sabal’s, “We Lived There” is an avant-garde masterpiece with a definite feel of horror, though he claims this was not his intention. Still, for those of us with unnaturally keen imaginations, the chill is definitely in the air as we view this short film where an empty house is the main character and sundry voices tell its story. These voiceover-ghosts of past residents emerge quietly at first, seemingly attack, and then stumble over each other in their attempts at possession. The detached language is sparse--- barely there--- as unseen owners claim, ‘they lived there’.
Sabal is no stranger to filmmaking and screenwriting. His career began in the 1980s with experimental pieces then ran the gamut of genres including documentaries and narrative features. He is very much at home in the psychological thriller/horror genres though he may not want to admit this. Here’s one viewer who hopes he soon comes to terms with his pronounced talent in these areas, and stays there for a while.
“Proverbial Wisdom” is an experimental film by Jan Roberts-Breslin. This non-linear, abstract narrative seems more a film-installation than cinema. There is one character in the film---a young woman. Most of the action unfolds inside a house, though furnishings and the young woman herself are primarily seen in abstractions, devoid of any context. Sparse voiceover, assumed to be the woman’s voice, represents her continuous thoughts as she engages in mundane tasks like sewing, sweeping and patting her dog. Oddly, objects such as fabric incite and become thoughts as they appear, then fade into memories. The film concludes outside the home. The woman sweeps while the detached voice says, ‘sweep clean’, as if some outside clean slate can magically wipe all thoughts away. Unlike Sabal’s multitudinous voices eventually stretched to their limits, the hypnotic and solitary language prevails. Voiced thoughts seem proverbial--- in fact that is the filmmakers intent. Yet there is nothing academic about this piece that simultaneously breeds calming-contentment and overriding fear.
Roberts-Breslin’s media art is much acclaimed in this country and abroad. Some of her works have also aired on PBS. Her strong interests in philosophy and religion lend subtle depth to her art yet never remove it from the more common grasp of humanity.
Anya Belkina’s “Insurgency of Ambition” is a very provocative and disturbing cinematic, gem. Wholly animated, it consists of a solitary traveler en route to glory. When he overcomes copious obstacles and finally arrives at his destination, he discovers disillusion and horror. Seemingly effortless in its portrayal, Belkina’s tale of our all too human condition is anything but simple.
Belkina’s cinema is derived from her great skills in drawing, painting and artistic design. Not surprisingly, her paintings are held in many collections throughout the United States. Amazingly down to earth, she is an artist and filmmaker worthy of all our attention.
Tom Kingdon’s two films, “Beowulf “ and “Interfaces” vary greatly in their cinematic approach yet manage to arrive at the same conclusion----mainly, that heroes are often monsters in disguise.
Roughly based upon the ancient character of Beowulf, Kingdon’s modern, experimental interpretation hits very close to home as we live out our lives in modern society. Superbly acted and expertly filmed, magnificent landscapes camouflage vile rapes, murders, stealth monsters and prancing dragons. Inside the Ale House, political war business is conducted as usual, while drunken and fickle subjects fawn over their King. In this world where nothing is what it seems, Kingdon asks, ‘Who are the real monsters here?’
The recently awarded, “Interfaces” is Tom Kingdon’s takeoff on John Cassavetes film, “Faces”. All action takes place in a livingroom. The date is 1964 on a beautiful Summer’s Sunday in Hollywood Hills. Sara is a homemaker who transcribes and types screenplays for well- known film directors. Her husband Eric owns a restaurant. In his effort to acquire a liquor license, he has somehow managed to get involved with shady characters that are extorting money from him. Both husband and wife are so enmeshed in their jobs they are never available to each other. Unable to speak to each other without arguing, they veer further and further apart.
Suddenly, the doorbell rings and John Cassavetes appears. He is there to pick up his typed script. Without a clue as to Cassavetes’ identity, Eric answers the door. Surreally, Cassavetes takes over the place and attempts to counsel the battling couple. The result is unbelievable.
Kingdons career as an experimental, narrative filmmaker shockingly began in mainstream, BBC television and theater. Not surprisingly, this son of controversial journalist, Frank Kingdon and his actress wife, Marcella Markham, rebelled. After both parents were placed near the top of Joseph McCarthy’s infamous, Black List, Kingdon decided mainstream directing was no longer for him and began to make his own style of cinema. Thank goodness for the rest of us, he did.
Coolidge Corner Theater
290 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446