The IFP Phoenix Breakout film Challenge took place last week, screening a total of 18 completed films, 4 of which were ineligible for awards. The prizes included 12 pre-paid film festival submissions for the 1st place film, 5 for the 2nd place film and 3 for the third. Reminiscent of the Beat The Clock challenge selections screened in July, two films mainly dominated the awards and ping-ponged between prizes. Here are the winning films in no particular order.
Dino Park – N’Raged Media – directed by Adolpho Navarro
A trio of adorable tykes decide to make a sure fire viral video; their own dinosaur movie complete with cheesy effects and funky foley. Their production is fraught with hazards as they encounter speeding cars, runaway drones and dangerous playground equipment. After several years of violent short films in which two people beat each other up for five minutes and then talk about why they did, director Navarro (finally) returns to his early roots of family friendly, fun and frenetic filmmaking, loading this cute “Jurassic Park” satire and intentional jab at Hollywood reboots with just the right amount of action and FX. 3rd place winner.
Welcome Home – Studio Gaijan – directed by Shawn Esplin
Poor beleaguered Brian (Bill Wetherill) feeds, cleans, carries and tries his best to care for his veteran paraplegic wife (Katie LaPaglia) who not only hates him, but utterly despises him. After meeting with her pal (Susan Jude) she reveals that she needs someone to take care of her (?) The two women agree that Brian is nothing more than a lumbering lummox and she would be better off without him (???). She blames him for ruining her life and demands that Brian assist her in overdosing on pills. He sheepishly complies and she gets even more pissed at him for his complicity. ‘Home’ plays heavy on the acrimonious asperity of the antagonist, and in the process ablates into a prickly, soap-y melodrama. Props to Katie LaPaglia for her performance as the terrifyingly irascible xanthippe. Best Actress (Katie LaPaglia).
Reverie – Emaginariumm Productions directed by Kayla Windsor and Dana Bruhn
After meeting a young man (Shane Banx) at a party, a young woman (Vanessa Benjamin) matter-of-factly narrates the moment she gave completely of herself with him; body and soul in “the heat of passion,” only to get screwed over in the long run. Directors Bruhn and Windsor employ an arsenal of film techniques to tell their story, allowing the images to be the driving force of the film while the narration weaves the scenes together with silky smooth subtlety. Exquisite photography and editing masterfully captures the aurorean magic of finding love, and the dark, inimical wasteland of love lost: lovers are wrapped in blankets of stars, yet the same skies that enveloped them now weep in their separation. The absent lovers become ghosts in the lives of each other, haunting and haranguing. ‘Reverie’ is one of those rare, elegantly frustrating and agonizingly attracting films that spell it all out in no-nonsense ambiguity with relentlessly punishing subtlety. The youthful characters seem ill equipped to handle the heavy emotions and situations they are dealing with, and in the only moment of actual dialogue between them, the young man tries to diffuse a violent confrontation with “Let’s act like adults here!” When it comes to breakup movies, the ladies really know their stuff. The guys… mmmm not so much. See ‘Reverie’ while you can, before this terrific film departs on its festival run. Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Picture.
Furry Fury – LooKitt Productions – directed by Kevin Kittle
After millions of years of genetic mutations and screwed up evolution, humans have devolved into bloodthirsty scavenging animals. Wolf scours the Arizona desert, searching for fire and a ride. He encounters the damsel Furryosa and the two battle it out with Bear, Dog and the double trouble Kangareau. Terrific locations, outrageous characters and over the top gore are just a few of the standouts that helped this film haul home a truckload of awards. “Furry Fury” is a fun furry flick you will want to see again and again. Best Trailer, Best Poster, Best Production Design, Best Music, Audience Choice Award.
Timeout – Backpack Media – directed by Robert lsenberg
Brody (Michael Kinnane) locks himself out of his apartment and spends the day in a breathless soliloquy recalling his past dating track record and ruminating over his chances at a second date with Sandy (the voice of Sandy Kim). Best Sound.
Circadian – 3 Man Crew Productions – directed by 3 Man Crew Productions
A tormented man is unable to get past the memories of seeing his family slaughtered in a violent home invasion. Best use of line (“You know, my dad had a saying…”)
Project Walk Again – Third Productions – directed by Sean Oliver
You know how it is: its late, you’re tired, your team is down by a touchdown with seconds left on the clock and it will take nothing less than a miracle for this to turn around. You leave the stadium and miss witnessing the most incredible comeback and victory in the history of sports. That’s exactly how it went down as the final film of the evening “Project Walk Again” struggled for several minutes to make it to the screen. The audience exited in droves as a team of technicians battled with the blu-Ray, robbing filmgoers of the opportunity to experience a delightful, original and entertaining film that ended up taking home an astounding 5 awards. Filmmakers, this is the last time I’ll say this: the antiquated projection system that is s till in use at the Phoenix Art Museum has always sucked and apparently has no plans of not sucking in the near future. For your sake and the sake of others, please keep it simple and leave the blu-ray discs at home. After being paralyzed from the waist down in a violent robbery, a man (Sean Oliver) turns his wheelchair into a time machine and travels back in time to prevent his injury. He quickly discovers that all he can do with his machine is venture into alternate realities, witnessing worlds overrun with flesh eating nomads and a light-less universe of slimey and deadly creatures. From the makers of the long running web series “Lucidity,” director Oliver and pals have created an enjoyably entertaining sci-fi short with the perfect blend of seriousness and comedy, practical effects and CGI. “Project Walk Again” is well worth the wait. Best use of prop (tall shotglass), Best Story, Best Director, 2nd Place, Best Actor (Sean Oliver).