NashFilm52: Short Films Reviews

As a filmmaker, we all start somewhere and somewhere is at making short films whether those are narrative or documentaries. The Nashville Film Festival provided a lot of incredible short films provided by their virtual cinema component this year. Now, I honestly cannot make a review for every single short I watched that I want to talk about because I would spam the site. So without a further ado let’s get into this master post of reviews of short films I was able to watch at the Nashville Film Festival this year!

Águilas (2021), directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Maite Zubiaurre

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Águilas takes the viewer right into the journey for migrants who have gone missing while they are travelling through the Arizona desert. Our titular group is an organization that helps locate lost migrants who disappeared while on their journey through the desert. This film is masterful in so many ways. I had shivers going down my spine at specific moments that I am still thinking about now. The film works so well at taking you right into the heat of the rescue mission. They detail everything that they are looking for in order to track down these lost people. This is such a powerful and important documentary that I am not surprised it took the winner of Best Documentary Short at the festival. You do not want to miss this one whenever it becomes available.

Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma (2021), directed by Topaz Jones, Simon Davis, and Jason Sondock

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Now, this film right here until I watched a certain film from tis festival was my favorite for a bit. Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma is exuberant in every aspect possible from its rich cinematography to its beautifully poetic structure. This documentary influenced by the Black ABC’s aims high with its ambition and hits every single mark available. This one had my attention through it all and never lost me. It felt like it was highly influenced by the films of Marlon T. Riggs. A delight of short documentary and just so important beyond comprehension.

Burros, directed by Jefferson Stein

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Burros is a beautiful film about friendship and the dark realities of the immigrant experience. Throughout this film, we view the friendship between an indigenous child who befriends a migrant child who lost her way through the desert and cannot find her father. All while the indigenous child’s father’s work is closely related to the US Border Patrol in the area. We look the two blossom a beautiful friendship no matter their inability to communicate due to a language barrier. The film aims to discuss the immigrant experience and the harsh realities of it. It is expertly crafted by such compelling cinematography and beautiful performances by our cast. This film warmed my heart but at the same time decided to stomp on it.

I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face, directed by Sameh Alaa

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This is my favorite film of the festival and what I believe to be one of the most riveting pieces of art I have seen this year. From the very beginning I am invested in this film about loss, love, and a repressive government. We embark on a journey as a man tries his hardest to be able to see his dead partner while not being allowed by his government to see her. The film is crafted with some of the most claustrophobic cinematography that is reminiscent of Son of Saul. This thought provoking film blew me away in every way possible and has left still shook to my very core.

Chuj Boys of Summer, directed by Max Walker-Silverman

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As I round out these reviews of some excellent short films you’re probably thinking, “Raul why are you not ending this on the film you literally just called the best of the festival?” Well, I was planning on that until I watched this beautiful film. I can sit and explain so much about the immigrant experience based on many of my family’s lived experience but this film does it so well in such a short timeframe. Everything from the homesickness to the desire to want more out of life that is not just work. This short is so beautiful in every way and we truly watch a coming of age story about a teenager who just wants to be given an opportunity to flourish like everyone else. It is so important to also have a film that has their protagonists speaking throughout the whole film in an indigenous language.

All of these short films are so special in their own way. Each of these films are different in their own way like genre, execution, and story. All of these films are movies that you all should keep an eye out for once they are publicly released. Once again, thank you to Nashville Film Festival for giving us this opportunity and here is to more festival coverage to come!

NashFilm52: ‘Clean Slate’ Review

Clean Slate is a brutally honest documentary film that presents the difficulties of being an addict and trying to make a film.

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Art is a reflection of us as humans. It is a reflection of the human condition whatever that means to you. I believe that art needs to be honest and it needs to speak your truth. That is when, in my opinion, art works best and creates something that is extraordinary. These are all things I try to follow as I continue on my journey as a filmmaker. It is not easy though, all of this comes with a certain amount of vulnerability. Some people are not ready to pour themselves out to people and that is completely fine. Clean Slate does all of this well and creates a very personal documentary about recovery and the production process.

Clean Slate directed by Jared Callahan and starring Cassidy Detmer and Joshua Litton looks at these two Southern friends who are in a recovery program and trying to film their passion project, a short film called On The Fence. Their short film covers the pain they have caused their families through their long fight with substance abuse. We are presented to our filmmakers through their ups and downs. We examine their fight with their mental illnesses. All of this is done without being sugar coated and it is very personal. This film is a masterclass of the documentary filmmaking medium.

Clean Slate is incredible in every sense of the word. It is honest, patient, and not afraid to show the sides that we do not want to talk about. We care about our protagonists from the get go and want to see them succeed. That optimism is what also takes us through the rollercoaster of a journey, but there is a constant through it all. Film is our constant, the passion to want to continue making this short film even when things are at an all time low. That very passion is what keeps us moving forward and this film expresses the importance of having something to look forward to in life to fight our battles.

You are going to definitely want to watch this one when it eventually releases because I know that I already want to watch it again.

NashFilm52: ‘The Good Traitor’ Review

The Good Traitor is an interesting look into the life of Henrik Kauffmann that falls apart because of its uneven storytelling choices.

I adore my historical dramas especially as someone who is a major history buff, I can thank my brother for teaching me that. This film caught my eye because this was always something about World War II that interested me. I never thought that I would see a biopic on Henrik Kauffmann ever be made. Also, it was being presented in conjecture with the upcoming Nashville Jewish Film Festival which caught my eye while watching the introduction before the film. This was my last film of the festival but I did not want to end my coverage on such a negative note so I still have much to discuss.

The film is directed by Christina Rosendahl and written by her along with Kristian Bang Foss and Dunja Gry Jensen. The film stars Ulrich Thomsen, Denise Gough, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, and Zoë Tapper. The Good Traitor looks at the life of Henrik Kauffmann who was the Danish ambassador to Washington DC during the beginning of the second world war. Kauffmann helped to sign the United States’ acquisition of Greenland in order to help his country of Denmark. Sadly, I cannot report back that The Good Traitor is anything other than a messy depiction of a flawed man.

This film is beautifully shot by the cinematographer, Louise McLaughlin. I actually do like Ulrich Thomsen’s quiet and patient performance. My main gripes with this film comes from its very clunky script. The film tries to juggle his personal affairs in his family life while also trying to remind the viewer that the nation of Denmark is occupied by the Nazis. Every time we somewhat get to the interesting fluff of the film it gets interrupted by having to go back to the lackluster depiction of his tumultuous relationship with his wife, Charlotte. A clunky script followed by an uneven pace that makes having to get through this film difficult. I also just could not get behind some of the performances other than Thomsen in the film. I did find the set design and overall production design of the film to be exquisite. You could tell that the team was dedicated to portraying the time period in Denmark accurately. Even though, I did not think highly of this film, I do recommend people watch it as it is discussing an important part of world history that easily helped the US’s involvement in World War II.

Watch The Good Traitor on Hulu and consider attending the hybrid Nashville Jewish Film Festival on October 14th.

NashFilm52: ‘Ayar’ Review

Ayar is an ambitious work detailing life’s struggles that falls flat ahead of juggling what it wants to be.

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I was really looking forward to this film. When we received our press release document with all the films that would be playing at Nashville Film Festival this one in particular caught my eye. I suppose I gravitate a lot to these stories because they are stories that are far too known in my community. Of course, the relevancy behind it dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic made it more topical. All of that and more led for me to watch this film in my first few days of the festival.

Ayar is directed by Floyd Russ and written by Russ along with our two main actresses Ariana Ron Pedrique and Vilma Vega. The cast also includes Henry Foster Brown, Simon Haycock, Calliah Sophie Estrada, and Caeser Hartman. The film is magnificently shot by Corey C. Waters. Ayar looks at our titular character as she returns to see her daughter after years not seeing her during the height of lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, it’s not as easy as we think and Ayar needs to go through her own set of obstacles to be able to see her daughter. The film mixes narrative and a documentary style into it to create an ambitious directorial work in Russ’ filmography.

Ayar does not work most of the time and when it works is when it is not juggling the two types of films it is trying to present. The film includes some beautiful cinematography and a wonderful score by Victor Magro. The editing is jarring and is so difficult to pinpoint a pace it is trying to go for. The performances are solid but I feel like the strongest aspect is our story and the themes it presents. The concept’s ambition is really what makes this movie contrived in a sense. There is a lot that can be done if the film did not have to juggle so much. It does not work but that does not mean it was not a worthwhile watch because what we learn through the message of the film is important.

Overall, this film did not much to move my needle but it was a worthwhile watch from this wonderful festival.

NashFilm52: ‘Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine’ Review

Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine is an ambitious project that presents humane themes but does not work to capture itself coherently.

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As we continue to the last international film featured in the International Lens program of Nashville Film Festival we make our way into an Uruguayan film about escapism. Now, this is where it gets a bit embarrassing for me. I am hopelessly in love with Latin American cinema. I love the films from this region where my ancestors are from and I have watched so much from the countries in said region. I have never seen a film from Uruguay or even knew about the work that they have producing there. I was looking forward to finally exploring Uruguayan cinema but also after reading the synopsis I had interest in watching this film.

Written and directed by Alex Piperno in his directorial feature debut and shot by Manuel Rebella. The film stars Noli Tobol, Daniel Quiroga, and Inés Bortagaray who most of the cast is making their acting debuts as well except for our main actress. Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine looks at a story that connects three different sets of people through a mysterious corridor that leads to a different place along with a mysterious shed in the Phillipines that is believed to be supernatural. Throughout the film’s runtime, we explore the lingering lives of our protagonists as they escape into other parts of the world. The film explores themes of love, escapism, and a stagnant life that leads to our window boy to want to travel into a different area to get away from his mundane life.

I would like to focus on the positives of the film first, for example, this film is beautifully shot and its color palette is beautifully muted. I love color grading like this because usually people don’t find such muted colors so beautiful. It is not like that in this film at all. Our performances are patient and really sell you on our characters. The concept is very interesting and so ambitious but that is where a lot of its problem surface from. The film crumbles apart through its high ambition and suffers from some very dragged out pacing. By the time we make it to the third act, it feels like we have been watching this film for three hours but we have not even passed more than half of that. I respect a lot of what is being tried here but if this could have been pieced a bit more coherently together there would be a strong film to find in here.

All and all, not everything has to be amazing and I am still very appreciative of being able to watch this. At least I was able to explore a corner of cinema I had not delved into yet so that is to me a win!