Death, Theft, Violence, and Catnip: The M-ASFF In Review

LIllie Hedges

The M-ASFF revealed that M-A is host to several very talented filmmakers.

Madeline Drace
May 5, 2011

On Tuesday, John Giambruno’s Video Production class put on M-A’s first student film festival in eight years, showcasing films written, directed, and produced by the students. The films showed the immense creativity of the Video Production students and covered a broad range of topics. Below are short reviews for each film.

“Peace” Directed by Jade Vaughn

Vaughn stars in her own film, playing a girl who is coping with the loss of her sister who died in a rope swing accident. The film is very well shot, especially in the beginning. The camera shots and angles show the imbalance of the girl’s life, from panning to where the audience expects someone to be– such as when Jade holds up skirts or shorts as if asking for her late sister’s opinion– to including an empty cereal bowl at the dining table. Vaughn simply but poetically captures the bond between two sisters by attributing to each of them a bracelet with a silver peace charm, a sort of connection that they still share, even though one of them has passed away.

“To open a box” Directed by Atzin Sanchez

Sanchez added a throwback to old-fashioned silent films with her contribution to the festival, showing us just how difficult it is to open a taped-up box. Upon receiving the box in the mail, Sanchez attempts to open it, but cannot, as she has mislaid her scissors. After several seconds of futile searching, all seems lost for our heroine, who collapses into charmingly exaggerated sobs, her despair almost keeping time with the Chopin waltz playing in the background. She is revived, however, when a text message– heralded into the scene by Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”– finally tells her how to open the box by using the “flippy thing on the side.” Sanchez opens the box to find nothing in it, but all’s well. In this case, it was the experience, not the result that was the reward.

“Murder at School” Produced by Monica V., Danielle P., Michelle K., and Selomit O.

Danielle P. plays a detective trying to solve a recent murder at her school. Armed with her trench coat and infallible wits, she sets out to find out just what happened to the now deceased student. She speaks to the victim’s boyfriend and ex-best friend, imagining how either one of them could have been involved in the murder. The film’s end was rather predictable– a teary confession from the Danielle’s third suspect–, but the black-and-white ghostly return of the victim ominously pointing at her murderer was a nice touch. Also included a cameo by English teacher Ana Ventura.

“American Dream” Directed by Jonas Jacobsen

“American Dream” is a simple, monochrome vignette starring Jacobsen. Its charm lies in its simplicity. The film consists mostly of just four clips: Jacobsen’s eyes opening, him doing pushups, and two angles of him doing crunches. The sequence of these four clips gets faster and faster and is soon interrupted with a cut of armed marines walking in front of a military compound. Overall, a poetic film, especially with Jacobsen’s disarming smile at the very end.

“The First Job” Directed by Bryan Garcia, Brenda Gomez, and Alexis Rodriguez

Garcia plays an avid gamer who goes out for a drive, only to have his car stolen. He seeks the help of a middleman, played by Dustin Fosgett, who will presumably hire an agent to get the car back. At first, it seems as though Fosgett was the one who would retrieve the car, but his somewhat untimely disappearance places the responsibility on the shoulders of Gomez, the actual agent. She is ultimately successful in finding the stolen car, thus giving her character the edge of female empowerment, which is always welcome to see.

“Bullies Bad Day” Directed by Jason Paulin and Cody Richenberg

Richenberg plays “a kid who can’t fight,” but who manages to fulfill every wimp’s fantasy of triumphing over the schoolyard goons. After having his own money stolen, he seeks revenge on the bullies, played by Paulin and Charles Washington, but solely for his own gain. His vengeance on the bullies is paired with his trying to retrieve and return a wallet stolen by the bullies that belonged to a girl played by Destiny Mitchell. While violent retaliation is rarely commendable, Richenberg’s good deed at the film’s conclusion– giving Mitchell’s wallet back to her– shows that even the downtrodden can follow a wholesome moral compass.

“Odd Family Business” Directed by Katie and Jonathan Morataya

Family ties can be remarkably powerful, even to the point that they can wake the dead. After swearing to get revenge for the murders of some of their own, a family, presumably headed by Jonathan Morataya, finds themselves the targets of another vengeful plot, carried out by their otherwise sweet-looking friend. However, though it appears that this friend has succeeded in killing all of her enemies, she ultimately meets her demise when that same family comes back from the grave, pushes her over, and kicks her while she’s down. Commendable parts of this film include the well-presented and believable familial unit of the main characters, as well as the ninja skills of one guy who jumped off a tree to gun someone down.

“Ya-ssassins” Produced by George B., Dan M., Drew U., Adam S.

This was the only film of the evening to drop the F-Bomb, but that wasn’t the only thing that made it entertaining. George B. plays a well-seasoned secret agent who takes on an apprentice to get “The Goods” from a fabulously wealthy criminal by stealing into his remarkably well landscaped home. George remains true to his character, rarely removing his really shiny aviator glasses, except to peek around corners. For a film of barely eight minutes, “Ya-ssassins” holds a fair amount of suspense. The audience is kept guessing as to whether the agents will succeed in their mission, whether the New Guy will prove his worth, and whether George actually drowned in that pool, or was just absorbed in the acting of it all.

“Saltwater Tafty” Directed by Andy Nixon

This was the longest film of the evening, filling 11 minutes and 4 seconds, but it was entirely entertaining. Colin Sutton plays the laid-back, cool shorts-wearing version of a cyborg William Howard Taft. After his creation, his father, a mad scientist played by Nick Cuisinot, tries to get him to socialize. Taft manages to find somewhat of a friend in Esteban, played by Alex Fioretti, but their capture by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Cyborg People) cools their relationship, though they manage to make amends in the school hallway. The film’s historical cast includes John Wilkes Booth, Benjamin Franklin, and Macaulay Caulkin. We should expect great things from the young men at Pork Row Productions.

“Youth Discrimination” Directed by German Romero

A departure from the comedies and dramas of the evening, Romero presents a short documentary telling the story of three young men who have felt the discrimination of racial profiling from police officers. Hakim Scott, Angel Marrientos, and Josh Branner each tell their story of how they’ve been stopped on the street, even handcuffed. This documentary is simple, but effectively reveals to the audience that profiling in any neighborhood is unfair and unjust.

“We have a Visitor” Directed by Charles Washington

Three young men are disturbed at home– in the middle of playing video games, no less– by a drunken, armed intruder. However, despite being at the mercy of a potentially violent madman, the three youths manage to maintain a sunny disposition. They rid themselves of the “visitor” thanks to their own wits, and their assumption that he isn’t very good at hide-and-seek. After the intruder leaves, having been chased away by his own hallucinations, the three boys revel in their escape from certain death by playing Black Ops. A wise choice, men.

“What Happens When No One’s Watching?” Directed by Katie Vallarino and Lauren Diller

Diller plays a bandana-shrouded, sweats-clad serial killer. Vallarino plays her first victim. After Vallarino’s disappearance, her friends, played by Stephanie Sabatini, Sammi Scharninghausen, Blair Johnson, Amy Kim, and Brianna Mack search all over town for her, passing out fliers and asking neighbors if they’ve seen her. When they stumble upon Diller’s eery death cabin, Sabatini insists on going inside, despite the hesitance of her peers. When she doesn’t return, Johnson goes looking for her, only to find a heap of mangled limbs and Vallarino, surprisingly still intact. Diller, who’s otherwise quite amiable, pulls off being a maniacal killer quite well, even wielding a chainsaw with panache.

“Boxygen: A story of an American Canada” Directed by Alex Youngberg

Alex Youngber and Andy Nixon revive their historical characters, Macaulay Caulkin and John Wilkes Booth, from “Saltwater Tafty” to try to answer the impossible question: When you poop in your dreams, do you poop in real life? At the mention of dreams, the film immediately takes an Inception turn, complete with overpowering music and slow motion running scenes. The film’s synopsis states that, “It’s not a blog.” If it had been a blog, it would have been an awesome blog.

“A Glass of Tang” Produced by Michael McDonnell and Jake Meyers-Snowball

Based on a short story by Snowball, “A Glass of Tang” depicts a “disillusioned man,” played by Dean Wilkins, who finds he must accept and come to terms with the death of his wife, played by Rebecca Snowball. The film gently and poetically tells the audience of the wife’s death, running through sequences of Wilkins’s morning routine, all of which include his wife who always appears in the same outfit, and having Snowball tell Wilkins that he “can’t keep living like this.” The actors are believable, as is the denial of Wilkins of his wife’s passing. The camera work is simple, allowing the subject matter of the film to capture the audience’s attention. What editing there is, including turning the landscape purple and meshing several sequences of Wilkins walking into the kitchen to get breakfast clad in several different sets of pajamas, is flawlessly incorporated into the film, exemplifying the melancholy of the loss of a loved one.

“Catz and Drugs, Meowvie” Directed by Peter Freschi and Brittney Badduke

The “Meowvie” ended the festival with a message to the youth in the audience that it’s possible to overcome peer pressure. Tom Liggett plays the new kid at school. While the other kids seem friendly, they’re peculiar. They don’t swim, they lick themselves. Ergo, they must be druggie cats. And they are. Suzie McMurtry, one of the feline junkies, tries to lure Liggett away from his law-abiding life with promises of yarn, scratching posts, and milk pong, but Liggett refuses to become involved in such a shady bunch, instead finding a friend in Dan Moritz-Rabson. Maybe this was also send a message to parents: if you don’t tell your kids about catnip, who will? Also included a cameo by English teacher Liane Strub.

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