The 2013 PVCC Student Film Festival almost got away from me this year. Had it not been for an invite from student filmmaker Afshin Razi during the ASU Capstone screenings I might have missed it altogether. Barely making enrollment, the Spring 2013 TCM 134-136 Motion Picture/Television production block was allowed to proceed with a scant seven student filmmakers. This year’s batch still provided something very unique, however, revealing a more ‘hands-off’ involvement from the instructors and allowing the students to skip the deeply personal purging that usually takes place in the process of a PVCC film school production. The films ran the gamut of hysterical and historical, while others fell into the student film genre’ of “completed in time to receive a passing grade.” Here are the films I saw in the order they were screened.
Forgotten – Teryn Young
An imprisoned serial killer suffering from amnesia sits in a barren room with only a chessboard before him. A man in black enters and the game begins. With each move the mysterious man berates the bad guy to the point that he goes berserk. With no moves left, he realizes he has been challenged by the tormented soul of his last victim; his violent death graphically recalled. Imprisoned in a permanent purgatory, the killer must relive the torment of his victims every moment, the clock never advancing and the chessboard continually reset, ready to be challenged by his next victim. Worthwhile acting and interesting dialog. With the exception of the folding lawn chairs in a prison cell, good use of an extremely minimal set.
Final Take – Glad I got that off my chess.
The 4th – Logan Reiser
O.k, I have watched this film way more times than anyone should have to, so I’ll just give it my best shot: Gay student Kyler is angry with his roommate Richard for inviting fellow student and former friend Ashton to move in. Richard doesn’t realize that Kyler has had a secret crush on him for many years. When Kyler sees Ashton and Richard together, he divulges his true feelings and affection for his roommate and becomes enraged, killing his rival Ashton with a knife. Unable to face a future without his lover, Richard commits suicide. I think. Before anyone decides to champion this student film for it’s bold portrayal of gay characters, it is important to point out that this only became a film about a gay love triangle when the filmmakers female actress was a no-show, forcing the male actor into a dual role. About as bad as it gets student film wise, but turned in on time and duly recorded, reinforcing the all-important film school adage: Complete the assignment first, then worry about Sundance.
Final Take – Plead the 5th.
The Hybrid and the Hot-Rod – Chad Lawrence
Community college tough guy driving a not-so-souped-up Scion challenges his MPG minded, Hybrid driving pal to a race. Hot rod burns rubber through Paradise Valley (BIG mistake) while battery boy checks Bluetooth communication, powers up and heads for the pumps (??). Equally economical cops pull over the big block and give him a speeding ticket, just as the humble hybrid putters past. A modern take on “The Tortoise and the Hare” revealing a small story in a film that is bursting with talent, incorporating promising cinematography and editing by director Lawrence. Cheesy, free download FX are used extremely effectively, while engaging, contrasting photographic styles and techniques keep the story going. Made cheap, easy and very entertaining, revealing the potential talent of an emerging filmmaker.
Final Take – On the fast track.
Nintendo 3DS – Eddie M Stefan
Dad wears a “Minor Threat” T-Shirt and listens to vinyl records while reading Snooki’s best-selling autobiography. His bearded sixth grade son Jimmy pleads for a new Nintendo 3DS so he can be popular with the other kids, maybe even becoming a sex god. Dad humiliates him for his request but has a change of heart when his son proves how desperate he is. Pops agrees to buy Junior the Ninboxto 650 PDQ if pee-wee agrees to eat the cleaved, butt-looking part of an apricot. As Jimmy chows down on the embarrassing fruit, dad takes a snap and tweets it to all of the tykes’ school chums. As the tweets arrive, his classmates are repulsed, confronted with irrefutable evidence that Jimmy is not cool. Jimmy learns the most valuable lesson of all: Don’t mess with Dad. This film is stoopid in the best way, generously providing ridiculous dialog delivered with hilarious performances. No serious statement to be made or any real lesson to be learned, just another fun Friday frolic with filmmaking friends.
Final Take – Game on.
The Death of Maranzano – Jameson Weston
Only one man stands in the way of Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano’s Las Vegas empire: Salvatore Maranzano. Three men gather in the home of Meyer Lansky to plan the murder of Maranzano, and with the help of Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel and his cohorts, the mobster is executed on September 10th 1931 in his New York office, thus paving the way for Siegel, Luciano and Lansky to begin construction of the Las Vegas strip. A very interesting b/w film with good acting and a startling attention to detail. Excellent set design and clever photography bring a very convincing 1930’s look and feel to a zero budget Arizona student film.
Final Take – An AZ hit.
Storage – Brandon Mckeown
Rowdy Community College kids drink air from plastic cups and trash their parents home/student center (??). Their fun abruptly ends when the (low) life of the party is kicked out of the house/PVCC cafeteria by his angry 19 year-old father. The punch-drunken sod awakens in a storage unit, abducted and held captive by his oxygen guzzling pals from the previous night. It’s all good when he discovers this is his new home! He and his new roommate happily romp through self-storage city, rummaging through junk and tastefully decorating their 3x5 estate. Nothing really going on in this sophomoric snoozer that’s worth hanging on to.
Final Take – Yard sale.
Piano Lessons – Mark Krajak
A psycho piano teacher smashes his students fingers with a hammer until he gets it right. Outrageous nonsense ensues for five minutes as the lead actor dumps out a Hefty bag of hyper-frenetic comic book characterizations and meaningless dialog. His students’ playing never improves, so the histrionic instructor chops off his students arm. A lesson in patience just to sit through. Excellent use of cartoon sound FX.
Final Take – Barely passing.
Daydreams – Afshin Razi (special engagement)
These are the rare moments I have, when I am rewarded for the hours I spend in darkened theaters, watching countless films, many of which will (hopefully) never be seen again. It is the moment when something new and original illuminates the screen and energizes the audience, witnessing the culmination of experience and the discovery of the talents the filmmakers possess when they find their muse or finally listen to their own inner voice. It makes it all worthwhile to discover that rare gem, and to be there when it is revealed for the first time. Former PVCC, now ASU film student Afshin Razi returned to PVCC to premiere his short film “Daydreams.” A young mother says her prayers, adorns her neck with a small cross and relaxes while she enjoys a cup of coffee in her kitchen festooned with Christian icons, that seem to occupy every inch of her home. As she finishes her coffee, she fantasizes about her babysitter who is in the next room making sure the baby is asleep. After mom departs, the babysitter drifts into her own fantasy of the young mother, the two ultimately embracing and caressing in a deep blue erotic dream. The babysitter’s fantasy is interrupted by the mom’s return, who has forgotten her bible, so she seizes the moment to express her true feelings. This superb and simple film is powerfully and sensually told with only minimal dialog (none of which is used to develop the characters or story) and excellent lighting and music. While easily perceived as love denied due to religious beliefs, the filmmakers still subtly leave that open for interpretation, evenly and expertly expressing the depressing dark blue void of unrequited love. Do not miss your chance to see this excellent film, screening during an evening of FREE short films on Friday, January 24 at 4:30pm during the Desperado LGBT Film Festival, taking place at the PVCC Center for the Performing Arts. The Desperado LGBT Film Festival runs from January 24-26, 2014.
Final Take – Dreams come true.