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Film Review: MOM Film Fest: Block 1: Growing Pains

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writers / Directors: Louise Flory, Laura Fielder, Julianna Pitt, Robin Noonan-Price, Tamieka Briscoe, Annika Young and Yucong Chen

The film industry with its irregular hours and complicated shoots can be a difficult place for parents to work but Tonya McCornell’s MOM Film Fest, running from 14-17 August, is a celebration of female filmmakers, bringing together a broad selection of shorts each one written and directed by a mother and arranged in six thematic ‘Blocks’.

Block 1, subtitled Growing Pains, looks specifically at parental relationships and how children of all ages navigate the world around them. Of the seven films in this strand, two directly reference the Coronavirus pandemic; What We May Be by Louise Flory is a sweet child’s view of lockdown narrated by her preschool son describing the reasons for staying home and developing their own indoor adventures before outside events are slowly reintroduced. The idea of playing ‘superheroes’ by wearing masks is particularly adorable.

Less successful is Julianna Pitt’s Pandemic Zoom in which a small claims judge attempts to preside over a case via Zoom. There is a goofiness to Pitt’s film that is enjoyable but the parent unable to use technology aided by her teenage daughter is an overly familiar trope. After 5 months of lockdown, as participants accidentally mute themselves or the camera freezes, mining the perils of video calls for comic relief feels less fresh than it did in March.

Some of the most interesting short films in this Block focus on the limited opportunities for teenagers and the struggle to set them on the right track. Tamieka Briscoe’s And One is a little repetitive but considers the impact of social status after 15-year old Cameron is caught stealing trainers to fit in at school. The only film in the series to use a father-figure relationship, there are plenty of interesting themes here, particularly how wealth inequality shapes the destiny of young men, how pride prevents people asking for help and the value of community in supporting their development.

Annika Young’s similarly themed Noise uses interesting freeze-frame techniques to explore the conscience of a young man wondering “who is rooting for me”. Speaking to a version of himself on the school steps, this 4-minute piece tackles feelings of isolation, lack of potential and needing to drown out external opinions. Although a tad sentimental, Young and Briscoe’s films nonetheless have a grittier purpose than others in this first collection with the possibility for expansion into longer pieces.

The final shorts in the Growing Pains Block look at rites of passage including Laura Fielder’s Kickstarter-funded Milan’s First Day with a back to school experience in which primary school-age Milan deals with the reluctance to participate and repeated public humiliation before making a real connection. Robin Noonan-Price’s strange Tell Me About Orange is an incomplete story about Elliot, a blind boy, learning his female friend has feelings for him, while Yucong Chen’s Lessons takes the perspective of a stressed mother learning to understand her daughter’s point of view on one dramatic day.

Growing Pains is an eclectic mix of techniques and subjects covering the experience of parenting children of all ages. With a running time of just 70-minutes, this is an interestingly curated collection that considers the broader challenges of society and self-development in very different circumstances. The MOM Film Fest is off to a good start.

Available here until 17 August 2020

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The Reviews Hub London is under the editorship of John Roberts.The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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