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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Fidelia (2013)

Director: Candace Rose
Star: Gina Carrizoza

This film was an official selection at the Jerome Indie Music & Film Festival in Jerome, AZ in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.
Gina Carrizoza is hardly your usual horror movie lead. That she's female is only one factor; she's also Hispanic and as much older than me as I am older than the young and vibrant leads whom you might expect to front a horror short. Her casting is as refreshing as her performance is solid. As the Fidelia of the title, she owns this movie and, in doing so, sends a clear message to the filmmakers of this heavily Hispanic area that it's well worth writing for and casting outside the usual demographic. Carrizoza's is not the only unexpected credit here; I was also surprised to find that Fidelia marks the sole directorial credit for Candace Rose, at least as far as IMDb is concerned. With her husband, Roze, she co-founded Gas Mask Films, which produced Speak No Evil, and the MindPlate.tv website where that movie can be streamed, along with many local shorts like this. She co-wrote his feature, Deadfall Trail, and she's a long term professor of Film Production, Directing and Screenwriting at Scottsdale Community College.

Of course having the credentials doesn't make you a filmmaker; making films makes you a filmmaker. It's good to see that she did as good a job directing this as she did with other roles on other films. It's a ghost story, which could easily fall on whichever side of the drama or horror line you prefer. Carrizoza is a widow, Fidelia del Toro, who may be going senile or may be tormented by the unsettled ghost of her husband Tomás. Ryan, her son, who gives the impression that he's dealt with this by proxy for far longer than he'd have liked, clearly believes the former and wants her to leave her family home for the Wilmington Retirement Community where medical professionals can either cure her or keep her safe while her mind deteriorates, depending on how optimistic you are. Everyone else around her is of the same opinion, which in a ten minute short only constitutes a neighbouring couple and their young son. Is she really as nutty as a fruitcake or is the deceased Tomás del Toro still in residence?

This film succeeds best at imparting the feeling of helplessness. The title character is clearly a strong woman who is struggling to deal with the death of her husband; it's no stretch to imagine that she's in a struggle with her own mind too. This story could easily be read without any supernatural overtones, as a metaphor for aging and lonely parents whose children don't come to dinner very often. It's even better as a ghost story though, because we're then led to wonder about Fidelia herself, whether she's dealing with guilt about something or whether she's drawn against her better judgement into helping her husband's ghost. I could swear blind I saw this film as a festival screener a few years ago but in a different cut that made certain aspects more overt, but maybe I'm dreaming or merging memories, as I do see a lot of screeners. Whichever way we choose to read the film, Gina Carrizoza is outstanding in the lead, a suitably beleaguered woman struggling with what her life has come to.

It does a little less well from a wider standpoint. With Carrizoza so dominant as Fidelia, the neighbours don't get much of a look in. Roze, Katrina Matusek and Gabe Jacques do exactly what they're tasked to as the regular family next door, but they feel shoehorned into Scott Tank's otherwise effective script, interacting with Fidelia rarely and conveniently and without really adding anything of note after their very first scene. I wonder if this would have been tighter with a stripped down cast of two, just Fidelia and her son Ryan, played capably by Cesar Garcia. Each simple but effective scene of mounting terror is diffused somewhat by neighbours lounging by the pool and that isn't a needed contrast. Technically everything is at least adequate and often freakily effective, including solid special effects that refuse to overshadow Carrizoza's performance. They all surround Fidelia though, never the neighbours. I've now seen this a host of times and it still plays very well, but all the goodness is in Fidelia's house.

Fidelia can be watched for free at MindPlate.tv.

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