By TRINA BERNAL
The fifth annual Benicia International Film Festival commenced August 31st, which was the night gala, I was honored to cover. Upon entering the foyer of the film venue, lovely kind ushers showed me to the alluring and appetizing food catered by First Street Café in the adjacent room. Moving onto the next space, the film area brightened with lively music, courtesy of Jazz Explosion, and multi-colored light beams shone. The Veteran’s Hall opened for the rest of the weekend at 12:30, where films played from 1-3pm, then 3:30-5:30pm, and another round from 8-10pm.
Committee member Telma Moreira loves the unity Board-sponsored program brings from Benicia. She muses, “I love all things when movies bring a community together downtown.” The featured films had to go through a selection committee, but most were, of course, short films.
The featured films fell in one of seven categories:
First category was ‘Art in Film’, which is of course about the arts, including but not limited to music, photography, painting. An example of this was “Georgia O’Keeffe and Me” (6mins) by American director Robert Belinoff. It was the second-shortest picture show of the night. The summary goes as follows: “Love and art in the age of Trump. Chaos and order compete as a married man falls for an artist ingenue. Art prevails.” The beginning reveals a quote by mathematician M.C. (Mauritis Cornelis) Esher which reads “We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” Interpret as you wish, but consider the fact that M.C. Esher is an artist with a perfectionist complex who thrives on flaws in the design— Esher is now one of the most highly-respected graphic artists. By this knowledge, the male lead used the quote as inspiration as he transformed his dirty and one-dimensional window to multi-dimensional. The window refracted bright colors back into the house of the struggling married man.
Second category was ‘Eco-Sustainability’, where the film in question focuses on an environmentally-sensitive topic. The press release from City of Benicia says this film category “increases public awareness of environmental problems, present solutions and inspire personal action.” The first film of the Gala Night was “Green Zone” (7min) created by Turkish director Mehmet Kanadlt. “Green Zone” touched on the unspoken agreement that nature is fragile and must be protected. Kanadlt perfectly executed this through the lottery holder-exclusive forest environment, where a simple ticket can expose the naive trespasser to the effects of the untamed forest.
Third category was ‘Smartphone Films’, which is exactly what its name entails— a singular film media through your smartphone. Using an iPhone 5s, the short “Brothers” (16mins) by American Jack Ballo takes a good portion of the night. However, it is worthy because the crowd can clearly see the huge effects one impulsive decision can have on your life. While the other features are fiction, this is non-fiction— it’s the ultimate visual of the rhetorical saying “Do you think before you act?” As a consequence of Jack and Mark’s (the brothers) alcoholism, they’re compelled to fend for themselves by living off-the-grid. The brothers produce their own tomatoes, for example, and must dig a hole in the dirt as a toilet substitute. During a clip, an airplane flies over them, obviously showing the lack of the simple luxury for them buying a plane ticket. Nearing the end of the brothers’ self-sufficient livelihood in the forest, Jack grows tired from the difficult day-to-day routine and moves to a cabin in the woods. After much persuasion, Jack calls for his brother Mark to join him in the home-owner lifestyle with success. Present-day they live in separate apartments now. “Brothers” won ‘Best Smartphone Short.’
Fourth category was ‘Animation’, or “visual arts in motion” as the Press Release describes it. A French short by Clementine Frere, Aurore Gal, Yukiko Meignien, Anna Mertz, Robin Migliorelli, and Romain Salvini called “Gokurosama” (7mins) features a frozen grocery store employee, of which the whole animation is based around on.
Fifth category was ‘High School and Younger Student Shorts’, where the youth can express their innermost thoughts through a camera’s perspective. The last film of the night “Are We?” (7min) is filmed by, directed by, and starring Indica DeRose, an American high-schooler like us. It is refreshing— the lead is portrayed to be crazy and an imperfect person overall, but her mind could not be clearer. Thinking back on it, DeRose confessed, “Just a second ago I was eleven in my room making my first film with these little toys. It just seems that we’re always still busy.” An unnamed audience member spontaneously stands up to say DeRose is “self-taught and educated.”
Penultimate category was ‘Short Shorts’ that are less than six minutes on any subject. An American feature “Rag Dolls” (4mins) by Justin and Kristin Schaack is the shortest of the night’s film lineup, and the sequence of events compensate for the short time slot “Rag Dolls” is allotted. A little girl and her mom head to an antique shop and the girl is later left alone in a corner where her imagination runs free as she controls the lives of threaded figurines’ real-life doubles. “Rag Dolls” is a portrayal of the innocence surrounding love from the perspective of childhood, before that very perspective is corrupted later on (though the latter part doesn’t explicitly show, it’s written between the lines and between the cute albeit cheesy moments between the lives of the dolls’ real-life doppelgangers.) “Rag Dolls” won ‘Best Short Short’ of the Festival.
And last category goes to ‘Film School Shorts’; the Press Release describes it as “Any live action narrative, documentary, animated shorts or experimental films.” A Spanish feature “No Correspondence” (13mins) directed by Nuria Audi is about a young postman who’s enamored by one of his deliveries named Marina, reigniting his long-hidden passion for art. “No Correspondence” ends with the phrase proudly proclaimed by the protagonist: “Maybe it’s time for me to fly.”
In the longer weekend days Saturday and Sunday, hour-long films were shown. The festival allowed all filmgoers to stroll historic Benicia during intermissions on the weekend.
This film festival is thanks to the film festival committee comprised of members from Arts and Culture Commission, Penny Burrows, Jackie DuBois, Frances Fields, Gordon Gray, Telma Moreira, Getsemane Moss, Greg Niemuth, Greg Plant, Pat Plant, and Craig Snider. The proceeds from the Film Festival will go to Arts and Culture Commission, public art, and light boxes— some boxes already exist by the library, where on the box a picture of a girl reading books is painted.