We wanted to give a belated shout out to a batch of filmmakers that screened their thesis films earlier this month. Maria Abraham and Tim Tamisea both came out from LA to present their films at Columbia College Chicago’s Film Row Cinema, at the top floor of the film building in the South Loop. Another dear friend, Thavary Krouch, screened the only doc of the night. We were very proud to see our colleagues complete their graduation requirement. Here are a few words about the films.
Girl with Child – I have no hesitation saying that this was my favorite film of the night for a variety of self-serving reasons. The director, Maria Abraham, was my official mentor from the day I stepped foot at Columbia and her husband/cinematographer was my unofficial mentor… If I my academic career was Anakin Skywalker’s, Fielden Nelson would be Senator Palpatine… Also, Diana’s Uncle Flavio, husband of Jeanette Diaz, did some voice over work for the film.
It’s a tough story, born out of work that Maria did as a Fulbright Fellow in Equador, of a teenage girl on a bus with a little boy. She draws faces of the people who wait for them at their destination, friends with elaborate back stories and fortunate lives. She’s a hopeful girl, optimistic to a fault. Reality sets in for us when we realize that the subjects of her stories are sitting on the bus with them and they don’t know her. It becomes clear that she has no one but the boy, her son, and that they may not even have a destination. The only thing uglier than imagining where their path leads is thinking about where it began.
(Super) Dan – Timmy Tamisiea, pride of film/video department, recently worked his way into an internship on Conan O’Brien’s monologue team. He’s a hilarious guy but also sincere. His documentary, Bob Seger Rocks!, was a great film about his nephew that still sends chills down my spine when I see it. I also had a chance to see some of his improv work before he left Chicago. Right Place, Rahm Time explains a lot about Chicago during the post-2008 brain drain. More Chicagoans need to hear the theme song, We Want Change, But We Want Things to Stay the Same.
Timmy’s thesis film delivers the same one-two-punch that I’ve seen in throughout his work. He softens you up with few giggles before getting into a full-blown belly laugh. Once he has you there, he hits you in the gut with some drama. In this case, he captures amazing performances between a father and son that culminate in a scene that shows flashes of Paul Thomas Anderson. Comedy is a tough beast but Timmy holds his own.
Black Ink on Rice Paper – The best part of going the film building during my last year of grad school was visiting Thavary at her office on the third floor. We’d trade stories about the films we were wrangling at the time and offer solutions to each other’s problems. When one of us was at wit’s end, the other would offer a shoulder. My teaching career got off to a rocky start and our talks helped more than she knows.
The boys left it to the ladies to bring gravity to the screening. Much like Maria’s film, Thavary’s doc reminded everyone in the room that our problems pale in comparison to the situations that others were born into. Her doc subject, Linda Saphan, is an artist that works to create dialogue about a period in Cambodian history where The Khmer Rouge worked and starved their people to death, including 85% of their artists. By asking survivors to open up, she does the hard work of pulling back the shroud that keeps Thavary’s generation from fully understanding their Cambodian identity.
Frames by Zach Mehrbach tells the story of a working class guy that married the Prom Queen and feels threatened when his hot-shot rival returns from the city to take his dream job and much more.
The Speaker by Nicholas Ferrario is about a motivational speaker that doesn’t practice what he preaches. He faces the truth about his life when his wife walks out on him after he disrespects her in front of a potential publisher.
Blackbird by Andrew Dena is about a teenage girl who can’t wait to get out of her small town. She kills her boredom by drawing, smoking pot and sleeping with a sleazy, older guy that shuffles her out the backdoor when his girlfriend shows up. Her Father’s return to town gives her hope of a way out.