This past month, I began my work as a contributor for the Slug Line blog through Cincinnati-based indie film organization Cindependent. Cindependent, in place of their in-person festival, has started a streaming program that allows film enthusiasts to watch 70-85 minutes of content per month made by local creators for a small subscription fee. By subscribing to this service, you're supporting independent artists and fostering a community of cinephiles who like to see diverse and interesting work.
The original post is available here: https://www.cindependentfilmfest.org/slugline/aprilandchill2021
Ainhoa is a poignant and polished short film from Spain framed through the lens of a child, with a style a la Jean-Pierre Jeneut’s Amélie. Before we are even introduced to the titular Ainhoa, we are presented with a black screen explaining the political context: the 2008-2014 Spanish financial crisis, during which numerous families were evicted from their homes. Then, the home: muted colors, greens and blues. The young Ainhoa, a wide-eyed yet independent girl, arranges her Playmobil characters, which will serve a synecdoche-like purpose as she grapples with the fear and hopelessness of her parents. But, don’t get me wrong - this film is also quite playful. There’s a delightful atmosphere in the Spanish streets, at times almost sumptuous, as Ainhoa, clad in crimson like Little Red Riding Hood, makes her daily rounds. There’s even a nod to the slapstick of Charlie Chaplin when she befriends a homeless man. What I like the most about Ainhoa is its conflict of internalization: should Ainhoa take on the burden of her parents, or continue to view the world in contented naivety? Alas, you’ll have to find out.
45 is a true Indie film. If I counted correctly, there are fewer than 10 different shots between two locations during its fourteen minute runtime. Its small budget in mind, there is a great deal of reverence due: a particular scene where our main character stands at the stove, reflecting upon the loss of a loved one, stands out for its intelligent use of jump cuts- who knows how long he’s really been standing there in deep thought? By keeping the film contained within a single house, we hone in on one individual and his singular thought process. The first scene, which follows a woman walking down the street and up to his door, we never even see the other woman’s face. One shot is all that’s necessary. It’s minimalist, and it’s honest. See it for its locality (straight from Columbus), and for the potential of director Siriah Miller.
For Champions, we head to a NYC high school best known for its excellent baseball team. In the locker room, teammates get dressed. But it's not in your face or rowdy- it’s observational. The two young men who will become our protagonists gradually peel away and we get to know them better. From then on, it’s all about subtlety: what they don’t say, as opposed to what they do. Furtive glances, awkward pauses, a hesitation to talk to girls - the suppression of feelings, but without confidence of what to do with them. So, baseball: if you’d never considered the intimate connection between a pitcher and a catcher, you might now. Filmed elegantly and almost in a haze, Champions capitalizes on mood, and genuinely brings out the best in actors Dharon Jones and Brian Lucas.
Too Like the Lightning
The short film-meets-PSA type is often hard to nail, but I can confidently say that Too Like the Lightning is legit. In fact, it’s awesome. In framing snarky, sarcastic “love letters” to obnoxious “breeds” of men, it achieves a wonderful balance of intelligent poetry and genuine badassery. Its six segments each take on a different flair, utilizing rock and classical music alike to make their point: this sort of behavior sucks. Its women are condescending and obviously so, jokingly sexualizing the unwanted comportments while professing wisdom in Shakespearean-style prose that would, probably, make Shakespeare proud. This is a great satire with clear technical prowess from the editing team. Fourth wall breaking and a man in a body suit wearing a cardboard box have never felt so fresh. Thanks to Teresa Spencer for writing these poems, and thanks to Cincinnati arts group Walterhoope for bringing them to life.
Fridge to Table
Ah, yes, the classic cooking show spoof. A woman is passionate about food and she wants to get better at cooking. It clearly did the trick, as I was convinced it was serious for the first two minutes. And then, the overenthusiasm revealed itself and the documentary became a mockumentary.
This was probably really fun to shoot - I imagine there are a lot of extra jokes cut for time. My personal favorite was “I remember when we were kids and Samantha wanted to make microwave popcorn (a beat), and that’s how we lost the house in a fire.” The silly names for awful-looking dishes and the committed lead performance make this a very entertaining short.
The Ghosting of Elise Montgomery
It may seem like I’m biased for me to call this great, as this was produced with help from the Cindependent team, but The Ghosting of Elise Montgomery, dare I say, is extremely competent. It tells the story of a woman confronting her exes who have apparently died and come to settle their minds on why, exactly, the relationship ended. Everybody has some skeletons in the closet, and for that, it is endlessly intriguing. I particularly enjoyed Allison Shrum’s lead performance (especially her comedic timing), and on the technical side, the color editing looks fantastic: a cabin on the water was a great choice for this setting. Self-analysis is required as the titular Elise comes to understand not only other people’s toxic traits, but her own. I give this one a thumbs up.
Thank you for tuning in, and stay tuned for more Cindependent content.