Hijabs and lace panties. Black men in prison. Polluted drinking water. Saturday afternoon’s shorts at the Tacoma Film Festival featured seven of Filmmaker magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film, and they didn’t pull any punches with their topics. They were also there in person to talk with an admiring audience about their innovative, character-driven shorts.
Not all the concepts worked: Jess dela Merced opened with “Wait ‘Til the Wolves Make Nice,” a meditation on why arsonists do what they do that was rife with stilted teen acting from her nonactor cast. As the kids idly trashed an abandoned Detroit church and set it ablaze, the deeper disaffection and disconnection with their roots was intended but not convincing amid the disturbing pyrotechnic filming.
Amman Abbasi’s poetic analogy of a long-term prisoner, set in a rural South, was thought-provoking and created excellent layering of past, present and future with on-screen text of the narration. His vision of a oil-fracked Arkansas, with polluted water that sickens and kills, wasn’t helped by its narrator, a mentally-retarded man who didn’t quite seem either believable or likeable.
Shawn Snyder is a filmmaker to watch, infusing his work with a musician’s sensibility and a keen eye for that part of the human condition that makes us cringe in sympathy, whether it be for a hapless guitarist who’s landed a romance he didn’t quite expect or a sad character at an open mic whose appalling lack of ability is only matched by his heartfelt passion.
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Nicholas Pilarski was there with Destini Riley, who drew the animations and narrated a poignant and little-heard story of how it feels to have a brother wrongly imprisoned. The audience favorite seemed to be Nadia Manzoor and Radhika Vaz, also known as Shugs and Fats from their web series characters who blend conservative Islam, black humor and shock-value with an irresistible (and these days, much-needed) wit.
More 25 Faces shorts screen 6:30 p.m. tonight at The Grand Cinema, 608 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma. The festival continues through Thursday: tacomafilmfestival.com.