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Tuesday 25 June 2013

Mission Control (2013)

Director: Brandon Nazari
Stars: Serenity Starr Foreman, Miah Gonzales and Melissa Masters-Foreman
This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in Phoenix in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.
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.
I first saw Mission Control at the IFP Breakout Challenge screenings in February, where it won four awards including Best Picture. I liked it but with major reservations, as it felt like an overdose of cute. Even during my first time through, I had flashes of it on NHK or some Japanese TV channel with a cartoon logo over the bottom right hand corner featuring a sailor suited schoolgirl flashing a V sign with her fingers and a speech bubble reading, 'Kawaii!' Since then, it seems to follow me around, selected by what seems like every local festival, along with the eight it won a submission to for winning this challenge. It played twice at the Phoenix Film Festival, as part of the Arizona Shorts selection, then in the IFP finals where it won third place of all the year's challenges, after The Duel and Screaming in Silence. Last week, it also played at Jerome and each time I see it, it gets better, but without ever losing that cuteness factor.

I think what I missed the first time is a single line of dialogue, which grounds the entire story, but I noticed it second or third time through and it played differently because of it. We start out in the bedroom of a young girl with an infectious grin, who's engrossed in the Apollo 11 launch playing on her TV. Of course she's not going to stay there when her mum tucks her in, she's going to get up and surreptitiously start drawing up plans for a mission to the moon of her own. The rest of the film outlines the three days it takes her to get ready to go. The theme that writer/director Brandon Nazari picked for the IFP challenge was, 'If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.' That line of dialogue I missed, while Astronaut Serenity Dexter is building a cardboard rocket and inviting people to show up to her launch party, is, 'I know it's a lie, but mum told me that to do the impossible you have to believe the impossible.' That's a crucial line to keep things real.

Nazari keeps things moving well, with an appropriately uplifting score and use of Apollo mission commentary. The technical side of things is so good that we simply don't notice it, caught up in the grin that young Serenity Starr Foreman maintains throughout. I don't how old she is, though I'm sure it wouldn't take too many fingers to count her age, yet she's the standout on screen. It doesn't hurt that she's the focus for almost the entire six minute running time, but the camera certainly likes her and her enthusiasm is infectious. It's no surprise that mum and dad play along with her plans and make sure there are plenty of people to see her launch. The biggest flaw to me was that her fancy dress audience is conspicuously not her age. Surely a girl with this amount of charisma would have many friends, but I do understand that wrangling them on set would be a nightmare. Then again, if that's the biggest flaw, Nazari doesn't have too much to worry about.

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