By Eron Jenkins
Manship Theatre’s Young Director Showcase gave an ample crowd of Baton Rouge patrons a distinct taste of Philadelphia with three short films directed by Drexel University graduates last Sunday. The event was emceed by W. Ian Ross, a Baton Rouge native and Philadelphia transplant.
The first film Rest, directed by Ross, is about a young man, eight years after his father’s death, struggling to support his younger sister and their middle-aged mother dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I’ve never had the experience myself,” Ross said of dealing with Alzheimer’s as someone’s caretaker. “I saw what my parents had to do to support my grandmother as she dealt with this in her later years though.”
Rest captures monotony of caring for a sick parent with genuine spurts of frustration and passivity. The film shows the family’s home as both comforting, as it’s warm juxtaposed to the cold winter scenes as movie starts, and terrifying, as the children come to understand that their mother is never going to get better. With an entirely volunteer cast, the effortlessness of the writing and acting to tackle such a dense topic in 13 minutes bodes well for Ross’ vision.
Ross also appears in the second film, OutRunners, directed by Eric Teti. In OutRunners, Ross is the caricature of a ‘80s style movie villain. His character dominates an arcade with a posse of older teens over their less developed counter parts—the character wears a letterman’s jacket and has a cigarette tucked above his ear for the entire length of the film. The film’s protagonist, Eli, has a much younger appearance, and it’s his lot to stand up to the arcade’s bully vis-à-vis a winner-take-all race on the arcade’s toughest game—OutRunners.
Through more than one ‘80s-style montage, Eli and his fantastically nerdy best friend work to outsmart the bully as they prepare for the race. Just as the race is about to start, Eli’s friend cracks the game’s code giving him the upper hand. In the end, Eli wins the race, claims the rights of the arcade for everyone, and steals the villain’s would-be girlfriend.
Ultimately, OutRunners is a lovable spoof of ‘80s filmography. It makes up for what it lacks in subtlety and originality, with how much it gets right. From the way film is cut, to the hair and makeup, the score, the color, the costumes, the vernacular, and the cinematography, no one will walk away from the film unentertained or confused about its point—the good guy wins in the end.
The final film was, as Ross described it, “an experimental film” called Tiger by Connie Chung.
The film starts with a young girl standing with an older woman. The older woman goes away and the subtitles tell us that the girl’s mother is dead. As the young girl reaches adolescence and strives for success while she only meets failure, the audience interacts with the character’s emotions through still images, color and sound instead of plot or words. The film follows the character through finding love, starting a family, her domestic problems, her sickness, and, finally, her death.
The unorthodox style of Tiger changes the way an audience member has to understand the film, so it’s obvious we can’t critique in convention ways. Ultimately, what Tiger gets right is that it doesn’t lose all objective meaning. Yes, it’s abstract. However, the abstraction is to such a degree that the audience cannot hear Chung’s voice. Her vision is unique and creative, yet it’s understandable to an observer untrained in some of the art’s finer nuances.