Writers: Mohana Rajakumar, Kali Bailey, Emily Billig, Shara Ashley Zeglar, Daryn Strauss, Susie Sparkes, and Amy Sparkes,
Directors: Kali Bailey, Emily Billig, Shara Ashley Zeglar, Lily Hayes Kaufman, and Susie Sparkes,
A film festival showcasing the short films of mothers may suggest that pregnancy and children will be central themes in their work, but the reach of MOM, a nonprofit organisation, is much wider, and almost every subject is touched on across the 38 entries. The films in the Seeking block are, as its title suggests, about looking for things whether than be searching for love, discovering an orgasm for the first time or obtaining information on how to kill your husband.
The best of the lot is Mohana Rajakumar and Kali Bailey’s Me Against The World in which a bright American South Asian student tutors an African-American basketball player who is struggling with his grades. Neither of them wants to be in the library for the tutorial. He’d rather be with a girlfriend who calls up at the start of the session while Mala would rather be watching basketball than teaching English Lit to one of its budding stars. It may have a few clichés and Mala may acquiesce a little too easily, but the excellent acting talents of Priya Pappu and Darian Rolle carry the film through to a clever yet an abrupt ending.
Touching on a similar subject is Just Friends about a saxophonist teacher who begins to date one of her students. They have known each other for years, but this will be their first date. We see both get ready; the woman helped by her friend, while the man’s father offers advice on how to handle nerves. Unfortunately, these scenarios feel a little stilted but the film – no writer or director is named – saves itself with an ingenious ending that flash-forwards into the future.
Another kind of date is explored in Emily Billig’s The Big 3-Oh. Emily is not so much looking for a date, but for a sex date. Her friends are shocked when she tells them, on her 30th birthday, that she hasn’t had an orgasm before, and they decide to something about it. While acted well by Gabi van Horn, the short movie comes across as a more risqué episode of Friends. However, there is some nice detail in the film’s early scenes where Emily’s ex-boyfriend’s dog tags bash against her face as they have sex.
Although still about dates, I Moustache You is a complete gear change. Played with no dialogue at all Shara Ashley Zeglar’s 13-minute short plays like a dream sequence from an old Hollywood musical. A woman who lives alone battles her agoraphobia and OCD to rendezvous with a mysterious lover in Manhattan. Despite her fears, the city beguiles her. She’s enthralled by the clothes in boutiques and entranced by the make-up on sale. She dresses up trying to find herself, an image that will give her confidence in the city. It’s a little long, but the cheerful music keeps things moving.
Tracey is seeking a lost sandwich in the comedy The Young and the Lunchless by Daryn Strauss and Lily Hayes Kaufman. Mixing the sitcom and Film Noir genres, the five-minute film is a smart office whodunit, featuring nonsensical jargon and low-level bullying. Strauss and Hayes Kaufman’s film is quirky and fun and those who have ever worked in a corporate environment will recognise plenty here.
The Australian Only a Dollar initially feels out of place in this collection as a middle-aged woman remembers the abuse she suffered from her husband after buying cheap donuts out of the housekeeping money. It takes a while for the humour to come through. Filmed almost entirely as a talking head, Susie Sparkes’s film feels more like digital theatre than film. There were lots of these kinds of shows, where the protagonist would talk to the audience over Zoom, produced in lockdown. The monologue is cut with images of her husband eating food that Sparkes’s character hopes will kill him, but these short sequences undercut rather than add to the tension. Sparkes is a good raconteur, and needs no supporting cast.
Seeking with its emphasis on comedy perhaps feels a little lightweight when compared to the other blocks in the MOM Festival, but the films within it are sure to put a smile on one’s face.
The MOM Film Fest 2022 runs from 19-21 August.