Locally-produced short film program, ‘Only in Santa Cruz’
One of the responsibilities of any given film festival is to spotlight local talent, and this year’s shorts program, Only in Santa Cruz, which screened on Saturday, May 12 at the Nickelodeon, exists in that spirit—and, as is the case with many a short film program, this collective is a bit of a mixed bag.
It opens with Good Morning, Day!, in which several strangers interact while waiting for the bus and on the strange ride that follows; ultimately, it’s a potentially interesting concept rendered almost incomprehensible by its nauseating form.
Thankfully, it’s followed by Matthew Anderson’s Franky, Frankly, a lovely and literate piece of work that features a trio of delicately articulate performances, including that of the film’s cigarette-smoking, scarf-wearing, Salinger-referencing protagonist. It’s a film that knowingly challenges the boundaries of preciousness, and yet it’s too earnest to be considered anything but romantic. It’s also happily rich in ambiguity, eschewing a narrative-resolving ending in favor of a gently symbolic one with a perfectly timed final shot.
Rounding out the narrative offerings is Wil Gieseler’s Big Somewhere, its sincere pleasures unfortunately interrupted by technical hiccups (a discouraging trend). Anchored by a pair of fine performances, it follows its protagonist’s decision to leave his home in the middle of nowhere, and the emotional tug-of-war between there’s-no-place-like-home considerations and the longing for something more is an effective one, even if it wraps up a tad too neatly.
The trio of documentaries that close the program are all regrettably plagued by insipid editing cues. The first, Echoes of the Great Depression, a partial chronology of the Occupy Santa Cruz Movement, plays like a one-sided extended montage. Regardless of what side of the debate you fall on, it’s impossible to make a credible argument without letting the opposing side speak on its behalf.
Next is Santa Cruz Reskilling Expo, which covers a MAH exhibition that teaches individuals about reskilling—“a remembering, reclaiming and reviving of skills that were known 50 to 75 years ago.” It’s a worthy subject, teaching individuals how to be self-sustainable, but the film would have benefited from following its subjects beyond the confines of the expo and into real-world practice.
The final offering, The Cornholes, is a 41-minute inside joke about a show that ran on Community TV in Santa Cruz from 2003 to 2008. The film’s novelty wears off somewhere around the halfway mark; that said, the title of the entire program categorically fits the film’s subject matter like a glove.
For the complete Santa Cruz Film Festival schedule, visit santacruzfilmfestival.org.