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

Courtesy of NashFilm

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

Courtesy of NashFilm

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

Courtesy of NashFilm

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

Courtesy of NashFilm

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

Courtesy of NashFilm

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.

Courtesy of NashFilm

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.

The Young Fables Talk The Relationship Between Tragedy and Art

Our very own nerdy Chicano, Raul, sat down with Americana duo The Young Fables ahead of their documentary premiere at Nashville Film Festival. They discuss all about their documentary, songwriting process, and how important it is to collaborate in art. Watch the interview to learn more about The Young Fables. If you are in the Nashville area the film will be premiering at the Nashville Film Festival on October 2nd at 9:30 PM CDT. You can purchase tickets here or watch through the virtual cinema.

NashFilm52: ‘The Fable of a Song’ Review

Andy Strohl’s deep dive into the Americana duo The Young Fables is a pleasant examination of life and art’s symbiotic relationship.

Courtesy of Hope Tree Entertainment

Life is filled with various obstacles. Sometimes we are able to move past them, or sometimes it is tough to move on. The road to healing feels so long that you feel it may never end. Some of us have been dealt a tougher hand than others but it still doesn’t take away from the various challenges we face. Us artists have a special relationship with these hardships. At times we can use our art to help move on from these hardships, for example I talk a lot about one of my favorite albums of all time, The Notorious B.I.G’s Ready to Die. Ready to Die is poetic in every sense of the word. Biggie Smalls gives us a raw and honest look into his life and he never looks back on it. Sometimes we just feel that art is the only way for us to move on.

The Fable of a Song is a music documentary that chronicles the songwriting process of Americana duo The Young Fables members Laurel Wright and Wes Lunsford. Throughout this documentary, we are watching the writing process of “Daddy’s Girl” which is being written after Laurel Wright’s father had suffered a heart attack. We also hear about the writing process of other songs like “Your Kind of Company” that is about Laurel’s sister’s fight with her personal demons. Along with the process, we are also dissecting the importance of the group’s faith, family, and experiences.

It is always a pleasure to watch documentaries like The Fable of a Song because we rarely see the real people behind the instruments. Most of the time we are just left to get to know these artists by their music or their shows. Rarely, are we given the chance to actually get to know what makes them unique. That is what I loved about The Fable of a Song, we had the chance to really get to know these musicians. We got to see them laugh, smile, and cry throughout this film, but we also had the chance to get to know those who inspire them to create music like Laurel’s family. Even though there were moments where the documentary felt like it was straying off of the path of its central direction it still found its way to make its way back. The most important part lesson we leave with after credits roll is the role of everyone in Laurel’s life and how she needs all of them to continue being the musician she is.

This is a wonderful documentary for people like me who have never heard of The Young Fables as it includes their music so you get to experience their music for the first time and get to know the artists. The Young Fables can be found on their Instagram and YouTube channel. You can listen to The Young Fables on Spotify, Apple Music, and other music streaming platforms.

The Fable of a Song will have its premiere on October 2nd at the 52nd Nashville Film Festival at the Rocketown at 9:30 PM CDT in Nashville, Tennessee. You can buy tickets to its premiere by visiting here. If you are not able to attend the event the film will be available to watch through their virtual cinema.

No Strings Attached

A Review of ‘Free Solo’ (2018)

Photo Credit: National Geographic

An imposing visage of vertical granite, El Capitan stands at a dizzying 3,000 feet.  One of the most alluring vertical challenges within Yosemite National Park.  Since 1905, there have been over thirty recorded fatalities (including experienced climbers).  Though many had made it to the summit using equipment and rigging, none had done so free solo or, in simpler terms, without the use of ropes, harnesses, or protective equipment.

This is where “Free Solo,” the National Geographic documentary on the eight (8) year efforts of Alex Honnold to be the first to free solo El Capitan, begins. From the opening shots, the viewer is brought into a story where tension, along with adrenaline, continue to build.  Directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, along with their crew, bring the audience behind the lens and into their shoes, possibly even more so than in those of Alex’s.  With the camera crew being relatively safe from any real danger (thanks to proper training along with the necessary ropes, gear, and protective equipment), they are left with the discomfort and stomach-turning feeling of possibly watching, as well as recording, their friend fall to his death.

With a runtime of an hour and forty minutes, the film chooses in no way, shape, or form to slow down but bombards us with beautiful, anxiety inducing imagery. If this might be a documentary of a man falling to his death, then the counterbalance may be the awe that is Yosemite.  The cinematography captured by Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin, and Mikey Schaefer is almost beautiful enough to make us forget that we might be watching the prequel to someone’s demise.

However, our eyes become fixated on a man who appears to never be satisfied with his accomplishments, even if he succeeds in his next conquest. Continuously chasing that next thrill, he will push himself until he perishes and  we are all allowed to ride shotgun in this narrative where the hero’s obsession might just be his undoing.  In all honesty, this might be the only documentary to have ever increased my pulse rate.

Normal society would call Alex Honnold’s choices irrational as he willingly puts family and friends as secondaries in his quest for that next perfect climb.  Others find him to be a hero and true adventurer, proving the human spirit (along with the human body) can vanquish what was deemed impossible for so long.  For this reviewer, I will cling to the comfort of my couch where “Free Solo” receives a deserving 9.5/10. Go watch it while it’s still on Hulu. YoungYoda out.