The first day of the semi-finalist screening for the 13th annual NBCUniversal Short Film Fest!
This year marks the 13th annual NBCUniversal Short Film Festival; a celebration of new storytellers sharing unique and diverse stories. August 14th was the first day of the semi-finals which was held at the SVA Theatre in New York City. This year, over 70% of the semi-finalist shorts were written or directed by women, and the stories featured people with ethnically diverse backgrounds, members of the LGBTQ community, and women! 7 of the total 15 movies were presented that day: Interference, Kyenvu, B.U.T.S: Spanish Class, Masks, Hacia El Sol, Girl Brain, and Monday. From social dilemmas to huge systemic problems like rape and police brutality, the creators of these movies were inspired by the problems the world faces today to tell real and interesting stories.
The night started off in the lobby of the SVA Theatre. There, the directors, writers, and cast members arrived to take pictures and mingle. Slowly, everyone filed into the theatre and took their seats. That night’s host was stand-up comedian Godfrey who was very energetic and funny. The first movie they screened was Interference from director Ruya Koman and writer/director Robin Rose Singer. The movie was about a couple driving down a country road to a wedding. On their way, they just so happen to be the only witnesses to a shooting between an African-American man and a police officer. The movie, inspired by the overwhelming amount of recent police brutality cases against people of color, tackles how some police officers are very quick to treat people of color with hostility and that more people of color in positions of power can help change that behavior and save innocent lives.
The second movie was Kyenvu from writer/director/lead actress Kemiyondo Coutinho. The movie takes place in Uganda and follows a young independent woman who is taunted on public transportation on a daily basis. One day she finds unsolicited help from a young man who is often on the same bus as her. The man really likes her, so he waits for her at the bus stop every day, presenting her with hand-made gifts in hopes that she would go on a date with him. When she finally accepts, things go sideways as the man is late to pick her up and other men take and rape her for dressing a certain way. The story turns from a very funny and charming quest for love to a very dark, sad, and unfortunately, very real showing of the abusive nature and systemic problems of the patriarchy.
The third movie was B.U.T.S: Spanish Class from director Brendan Colthurst. This was a short but funny film about a couple trying to learn Spanish in a week and their no-nonsense teacher using very extreme and unorthodox methods to drill in the language. The fourth film was Mask from writer/director Mahaliyah Ayla O. This movie is about a closeted Persian-Jewish girl who wakes up to find her younger brother seeing her sleeping in bed with another girl. With her anxiety building on whether or not her brother will out her, she and her girlfriend go to a nightclub to let loose. Things take a turn for the worse when a masked gunman opens fire in the club and gravely injures her girlfriend. The movie was heavily inspired by the Orlando nightclub shooting, the writer/director, who is also lesbian, wanted to bring the struggles LGBTQ people face; from the fear of being judged by your family to potential terrorist attacks by homophobic terrorists.
The fifth movie was Hacia El Sol from co-writer/director Monika Santis. In this movie, a young girl is scared by the threat of deportation as she lives at an immigrant children’s shelter in Texas. Unable to speak to anyone, the counselor at the shelter recommends that she try drawing. As she makes friends in the shelter, she gets the courage to express herself through her art. The movie sheds light on the struggles faced by immigrant children; the lives they are trying to escape and the terrible things that happen to some children on their journey to America. The sixth film was Girl Brain from director Ashleigh Stanczak. This another short but funny film about an exaggerated look at the anxiety of modern dating when a girl doesn’t receive a response from the guy she is dating after one minute.
The last film was Monday from writer/director Dinh Thai. The movie follows a young Asian-American man who sells stolen and illicit goods as his daily hustle. However, he doesn’t do this for his own gain, but to get enough money to afford the pills and medical care his mother needs to survive. His lifestyle puts himself and the people around him in danger, making him question his actions, but ultimately he has to take care of his family. This film was filled with humor and touching moments and it really touches on the fact that the motives for some criminals aren’t as black and white as people think and that sometimes people have to go to the extreme in order to take care of the people they love. The semi-finalists for the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival were incredible. Each one was very well made; delivering laughs, touching moments, and eye-opening moments, all with a diverse cast of directors, writers, actors, and stories.