Stars: Finley Forsberg, Laura Berger, Tyler Warren and Brad Wiatr
While Titus won best feature at the IFP Masterpiece Challenge in November, I'd have voted for this one instead. It's a much quieter movie, far less action packed, even though half of it is built out of ninja battles, and with a lot more space to breathe. It's shot well with some beautiful composition of frame, especially against the sun, director Aaron Kes having a keen photographer's eye with a cinematographer's sense of motion. He says he's 'Christopher Nolan minus the budget and talent' but he's underselling himself. What sold me though was the glorious subtlety of the piece, rooted in the script by Mark Broeske. The point of the story takes some time to manifest itself but, when it finally does, it rooks us between the eyes in the best possible way. It's clearly a short film that deserves multiple viewings, though I sadly haven't been able to return to it yet, but it impressed from moment one and it's stayed in mind far more than any of the other submissions.
Like many of the best films, it initially doesn't appear to be much at all. It's just a kid called Andy going to play in the park, while his mum reads 50 Shades of Grey and keeps an eye open for him. He has a good fight with the air, cleaving it with a big stick, while we're intercut to the white clad ninja in his imagination battling his black enemy. It's great fun to see, child actor Finlay Forsberg doing a solid, mildly hesitant, job as Andy and Laura Berger adding a neat sense of humour as his mum. And then we realise what a few mild hints were pointing to, which naturally I can't tell you without spoiling the piece. Let's just say that every fun aspect, and there are many of those, has a fundamental grounding in seriousness and there's an impressively strong message underpinning the whole thing. To me, this was not only the best film of the five submitted for competition, but the best film shown by far. Titus was a good short, but this was a great one.
It did win something, thank goodness. For a while it seemed like Titus would win everything, with the exception of best ensemble, which was hardly a difficult win for Letters Home. However, Laura Berger won as best actress for La Lucha and the film took home the audience favourite award too, which was a good way to close the evening. This was my introduction to Silly Grin Productions and my lack of background with their earlier work is a state of affairs I aim to remedy as soon as I can. There isn't much online to tell me what they've done but the cast and crew have other credits on other films, enough that a pair of them, T J Houle, who co-wrote and co-produced, and Aaron Kes, who did likewise and also directed the film, have become co-directors of IFP Phoenix. That means that they got to help judge the Breakout Challenge, so I doubt we'll be seeing anything from them in future challenges. I just hope that they'll continue to make movies of this quality elsewhere.