Writers: Vanessa Shealy, Lauren McCann, Micheel Mortensen, Sly Garmendia, Jason Chiang, Yiron Yu, Susan Skoog
Directors: Vanessa Shealy, Michael DiBiasio, Lauren McCann, Rob Margolies, Alexandra Torterotot, Jason Chiang, Susan Skoog
In every film festival, there are always one or two movies that stand out, memorable experiences that even in a selection of very good work stand above the rest. In the MOM Film Fest, that movie is Lauren McCann’s Girl Boxer, the second piece in Block 4 which is subtitled Moms Are Human Too, and nowhere is that clearer than in McCann’s impressive 20-minute short.
Set in the underground world of bare-knuckle fighting, bar worker Laura is forced to return to boxing when her imprisoned husband needs money for protection. What sets McCann’s movie apart is the complex world of fighters, gangsters, friends and family she creates around the central character, giving impetus to the story while loading the narrative with plenty of avenues for development.
McCann’s film is only a snapshot of what could be a much longer film, ending with a dramatic change of fortunes that implicates the characters in a wider web of intrigue that you will long for her to explore. The cinematography is superb, filled with the neon-lit shadows of grimy bars, while using the tropes of the working-class sports movie to great effect. Styling this female narrative in the clothes of masculinity is particularly smart; this could be the pick of the festival.
Other shorts in this Block look more broadly at character flaws, dramas and experiences of women in addition to their parental responsibilities. Sly Garmendia’s 12-minute piece The Mermaid’s Journey uses the surface charm of the beach movie with languid shots of a heat-filled day on the sands to make a poignant political statement about the plight of refugees and the deportation of individual parents from the USA. Beautifully shot by Alexandra Torterotot, the carefree visuals belie the rapid escalation that afflicts the final moments of the film.
The equally well-managed Naked by Vanessa Shealy places a young mother at the centre of a life drawing class as the increasingly uncomfortable model. Across the 15-minutes of this short, the writer considers the declining body-confidence that leaves the model unable to remove her robe while her verbosity and openness contrasts with her physical discomfort. Shealy and co-director Michael Di Biasio extract lots of humour from the awkward scenario, using a jerky cutting effect to imply time passing as the protagonist uses the experience as a confessional exercise.
The other three films in this piece include warring mothers whose class division in Susan Skoog’s Breeding Ground has some amusing scenarios as opposites find common ground and then lose it again while working together on a Bake Sale. Jason Chiang and Yiron Yu’s Sugarland focuses on a child’s love of music as a pushy mother has to learn to really listen to and accept his choices. The only duff note is Michele Mortensen’s Going My Way a dewy-eyed euthanasia story about a grandmother with a brain tumour that feels like a cheesy disease-of-the-week TV-movie.
The message that mothers are people too is loud and clear in this theme; they can be people that make stupid decisions, hide their pasts, and make snap judgements as they try to protect their children from the worst experiences of the wider world. But Block 4 is really McCann’s segment with a movie that has plenty of bite and a filmmaker we hope to see more of in the future.
Available here until 17 August 2020