Moments & Time – Mom Film Fest 2022

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writers: Christina K. Moore, Susie Singer Carter, Katherine King, Hakima Benjamin, Brandi Nicole, Jen West, Catriona Rubenis-Stevens

Directors: Sarah Moshman, Susie Singer Carter, Katherine King, Hakima Benjamin, Brandi Nicole, Bryan Harlow

All the best films in this year’s MOM Film Fest 2022, which showcases short films written, directed or produced by women, may have found their way into the Moments & Time block. All the six shorts within this grouping are extremely well made and cover a variety of subjects from police racism to Covid lockdowns. All of them are perfectly formed.

Perhaps the most impressive is Unbound which tells the story of Anna Fisher, the first mother in space. She’s the perfect candidate for the Space Program but she presumes that her husband will be selected to go up in the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1984. Actor Lauren Lapkus gives Fisher a slightly kooky persona and so it’s easy to warm to her astronaut. However, she is forthright and determined when some of the press and then NASA seem to suggest that she is being unmotherly in her voyage. What if she dies and leaves her child with no mother? But the same question isn’t asked of any fathers. With some exciting archive footage of space rockets launching, Sarah Moshman’s film is riveting and veers away from sentimentality.

Susie Singer Carter’s My Mom and the Girl also steers clear of melodrama in her film about her mother who has Alzheimer’s. In an inspired piece of casting the mother is played by TV legend Valerie Harper, best know for the sitcom Rhoda of the 1970s. Filmed in 2016, My Mom and the Girl was one of Harper’s last roles before she died in 2019. Often stories about Alzheimer’s are hard to watch as people forget who their loved ones are, sometimes lashing out in frustration. Singer Carter’s film does show this, but her film is balanced by moments of compassion and love, aspects of her mother that are the same whichever time period she believes herself to be in. Harper is funny and astute in her role and reminds us of what a great actor she was.

It could still be too early for films about lockdown and Covid, too triggering for some, too familiar for others, but Katherine King’s Glass Door about two women, lovers perhaps, dealing with physical separation is a classy study of loss. One woman remains inside her smart house on the coast of Long Island while the other must stand at closed doors or shut windows. Their heads and hands would touch if it weren’t for the pane of glass between them. King’s film is an affecting seven minutes, helped by some mournful music.

Also contemporary is Call End by Hakima Benjamin. Its premise is sadly all too common. A young black man is stopped on the streets by white policemen. They want to look in his bag, but the weapon perhaps is in his hand. It’s a certificate from school. The man refuses to stop, calling up his parents for help. They arrive quickly, and the standoff is surprising and the end intriguingly ambiguous. And all in five minutes too.

Brandi Nicole and Jen West’s Spin also packs a lot into its running time. Nicole plays Joy, a baker in a cupcake shop, painted in pinks and blues. Juxtaposed against this glittery and pastel-coloured background is a harrowing story of rape. Nicole and West do not shy away from the details of this sexual assault. The acting, as in all the films in this block, is terrific and Nicole and Miguel A. Lopez both put in convincing performances.

The final film, The One They Wanted, is at 17 minutes a little too long and the twist is signposted way too early, and it rather spoils the examination of the experience of young veterans of the American army. However, the acting is strong and ensures that the film is worth watching. Margo Guzman and Bryan Harlow play siblings who are lost after their stint in the army. Nowhere feels like home. Guzman’s character is taking medication while Harlow’s character appears to be suffering from agoraphobia, not going to the army bars that his sister frequents.  A sense of desperation opens up in Catriona Rubenis-Stevens’s film.

Of them all, it is Unbound, the story of the first mother in space, that could be turned into a feature. The others, with their focus on moments or single incidents, work well within the short film framework but Unbound, with its sweeping narrative, deserves the feature film treatment.

The MOM Film Fest 2022 runs from 19-21 August.

The Reviews Hub Score:

An Impressive collection

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The Reviews Hub - Film

The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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