FilmReview

Perseverance – Mom Film Fest 2022

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Directors: Cheryl Bookout, Cheri Gaulke, Florence Buchanan, Terry Ngo, María Velasco and Candice Delevante

The Perseverance theme at the MOM Film Festival is devoted to documentary shorts of around 7-30 minutes, each focusing on overcoming a particular trauma, problem or issue that affects a lifestyle or business and filmed in the last couple of years. Covid, of course, features heavily but the strand demonstrates that telling a satisfying story in a limited time frame is just as challenging for non-fiction.

The strongest piece in this block is also the longest in the festival at over 30-minutes, but writer-director team Cheryl Bookout and Cheri Gaulke use them well in Inside the Beauty Bubble, a fascinating piece set at a desert hair salon run by proprietor Jeff Hafler whose love of vintage hairdressing memorabilia has also turned his beloved establishment into a museum and art gallery. Following the place from Christmas 2019, the story covers the effect of the pandemic that closed the business for several months, Hafler’s family life with partner Mikal and son Cash as well as the micro-impacts pf political and social shifts in this period with a lush cinematography by Nick Lieberman that plays up the sugary colour scheme, making Inside the Beauty Bubble a highlight.

Florence Buchanan’s Right There Part 2 also has an interesting covid focus, revisiting a group of children who experienced 9/11 from a nearby primary school, this 7-minute film contrasts these two significant events in the lifetime of these now 20-something adults, asking whether their lives turned out as they expected and how sanguine they feel about the ways in which it has shaped their responses to subsequent seismic events. Ripe for expansion into a longer film, this short expands on interviews undertaken with this same group years before, building a fascinating social history of contemporary events and their impacts.

Some of the other films in this category look at different kinds of identity formation such as Terry Ngo’s Santa Fe Resident, an interview with the filmmaker’s mother who moved to the US during the Vietnam War and explores all the places she stopped on the way. There is much more to say here about community, the challenges of immigration and even idealised views of American nationality, but it is interesting to hear from different voices as part of this festival.

The two remaining films in this category are arguably less successful in proving analysis of their subject matter. María Velasco’s 15-minute film All of Me: Artists + Mothers about an artist retreat for parents is principally a promotional video with talking head examples but it never really considers why being an artist and a mother is any more difficult than being a parent in any profession, while even the work of the facility itself is hazy. Likewise, Candice Delevante’s film Nkosi Eclipsed about a yoga teacher with a prison record skims the surface of the issues it raises, never delving deep enough into the US prison system and how yoga may have helped the subject gain balance and control.

All of the films here reflect different experiences of perseverance, but the most successful stories don’t just admire the outcome but get beneath the surface of their subject to understand the challenges they faced as well as the human endeavour and fortitude required to endure them.

The MOM Film Fest runs from 19-21 August.

The Reviews Hub Score:

Challenging non-fiction

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

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