Shorts leave lasting impressions

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by Sayaka Matsuoka

Short films don’t get enough credit.

Creating the same effects of action, conflict and resolution in a normal length feature film in under 40 minutes is no simple task.

The Lunafest, which ran at the Hanesbrands Theater in Winston-Salem on June 20, showcased eight films that exceed expectations in telling both real and imagined stories of women inside a 15-minute run time.

The film festival’s tagline is “Short films by, for, about women” and focuses on the diversity of women all over the world with films of American, British and Spanish origin. All exhibited vastly different themes but highlighted the struggles and lives of women and women’s issues.

This year, the event was hosted by the Echo Network in Winston-Salem, a nonprofit that works to bring diverse groups of people together. Local organizations have the opportunity to host the film festival yearly and split profits and send proceeds to the Breast Cancer Foundation which is the chosen charity of Lunafest. Almost 20 people gathered for the showing of the films; most were women ranging in ages from teenage to adulthood with a few men sprinkled in. And due to the focus of the festival on women, the relatability factor was on point.

One specific film, “Good Match,” humorously reveals one woman’s lasting relationship with her ex-boyfriend’s mother after the couple had broken up. Scenes with the woman asking the mother if she likes the new girlfriend and a particular one of her spying on the new couple and the mother at a dinner date struck home for many in the audience as women laughed and whispered to each other.

“Miss Todd” brings to life the lesser-known story of E. Lilian Todd, the first known woman to design an airplane.
“Miss Todd” brings to life the lesser-known story of E. Lilian Todd, the first known woman to design an airplane.

Among the myriad of live action films were animated creations like “Tits,” which told of one woman’s obsession with breasts from a young age, and “Miss Todd,” the stop-motion creation heralding E. Lilian Todd, the first woman in the world to design airplanes.

Others celebrated the triumph of women in male-dominated spaces such as “Lady Parts,” which follows the story of Mae de la Calzada, a woman who opened her own auto-repair shop with women in mind, and “Flor de Toloache,” a film about a group of women who challenge gender norms as an all-female mariachi band.

And while all of the films were impactful each in its own way, bringing light to underexposed issues, two films in particular stood above the rest.

The first opened the festival and was the longest of the bunch.

“Tryouts” follows the struggles of an American Muslim girl as she goes through the process of auditioning for her high school’s cheerleading team. Though Nayla makes the team due to her agile and almost perfect routine, she meets an obstacle as the judges tell her point-blank that she wouldn’t be allowed to wear her hijab if she were to join the squad.

Tryouts_still
“Tryouts” delves into the life of an American Muslim teenager struggling to reconcile her family’s cultural wishes and her personal desires to join her school’s cheerleading team.

While the film may not be relatable to all viewers, the feelings of rebellion against one’s family or cultural background is something most people are familiar with. And the way Nayla resolves her conflict is powerful. Reconciling her mother’s wishes to not show her hair and her own desire to join the team, Nayla shows up on the field at the end of the short and triumphantly takes off her hood, revealing a neatly shaved head.

Juxtaposing the victorious ending of “Tryouts” was another affecting short called “Chica’s Day.”

This one chronicles a woman and her daughter as they dress up, play and enjoy a relaxing afternoon by the pool only to be interrupted by the return of the girl’s father from work. The woman who seemed to be the mother disappears from view and returns in maids’ clothing and it is revealed that the she is just a servant to the girl’s rich family. In a mere 10 minutes, “Chica’s Day” moves viewers almost to tears as the once perfect day is ruined by social status. After the film ends, the director includes a dedication to her parents who were “always there for her,” indicating that the girl in the film had a stronger bond with the maid because of the lack of her real parents’ presence in her life.

All eight of the films succeed in celebrating women’s lives, but the most incredible aspect of the shorts lies in its ability to evoke a strong range of emotions in remarkably short time frames and create lasting impressions on their viewers.

There’s just something about having your heartstrings pulled by a film that only lasts 10 minutes. Some films lasting two hours don’t that.

Learn more about each of the films and the festival at lunafest.org.