Library to show short but sweet films

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By Kelly Dolejsi

“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder,” Alfred Hitchcock once said.

Well then, sprinters rejoice: Next up in the library’s Free Film Series is a selection of short films, none more than 30 minutes long.

After the success of last year’s program of short films by New Mexico filmmakers, which drew upwards of 70 moviegoers to the library’s illustrious second floor, organizers of the Free Film Series have decided to try it again. For Thursday’s screening, Thad Hahn and Phil Kilgour have chosen a collection even more diverse, engaging and hilarious than its predecessor.

The evening begins with a 10-minute documentary by high-school junior Lizzie Wasilewska of Los Alamos. “Lewis Hine: Focusing the American Conscience” discusses egregious labor practices in America around the turn of the 20th century. It won the 2009 New Mexico National History Day state-wide competition and was New Mexico’s entry for the 2009 Kenneth E. Behring National History Day screening at the University of Maryland.

What sets the film apart is not so much the information Wasilewska provides about common, if horrendous, child labor practices during the late 1800s / early 1900s, but rather the photographs she highlights, each taken by sociologist Lewis Hine. It becomes obvious to the viewer how these startling, face-on images of small children standing beside huge, industrial machines could have affected public opinion and lawmakers – how art has the power to change the course of history.

Christopher Walsh’s “The Real Pinocchio,” while only five minutes long, nevertheless was my favorite film of the program. It tells the tragic tale of Rupert the Puppet, who tries to sustain a loving, physical relationship with his human wife, to be a good father to his step-daughter and to catch a bus, amongst other pathetic attempts at ordinary activities we humans take for granted.

The short won the Audience Favorite award at the 2010 Friends of Film Funny Film Fest. Walsh, a member of the Blackout theater troupe in Albuquerque, is currently working on a feature-length documentary about traveling in Mongolia.

Next up is a Jean Gindreau / Larry Campbell documentary about the Romero Cabin, located right here in Los Alamos, behind Fuller Lodge. The cabin, a relic of the Homestead period, was very recently de- and re-constructed by the Los Alamos Historical Society, of which Campbell serves as Historical Properties Committee chair. Gindreau is the executive director of PAC 8, the Los Alamos cable access channel, as well as an independent film producer.

I expected this film to focus on the history of the cabin, the lives of the homesteaders who dwelt in such cabins and the authenticity of the recent project. Instead, “Romero Cabin Restoration” explored the physical work of restoration – the step-by-steps of the actual process.

I liked this. I really enjoyed watching the building crew pull the logs off the truck, strip the bark off, carve in the notches where the logs would intersect and fill in the gaps between the logs with small pieces cut to size. I now have a much better idea of what the previously abstract phrase “historical restoration” means, and a far greater appreciation.

“Preschool’s a Bitch,” written and directed by Christopher Boone of Albuquerque, tells of a couple’s quest to enroll their daughter in their third-choice preschool, despite the child’s lackluster talent for finger-painting and complete lack of algebra skills. The film never strays from its perfectly deadpan  and hyperbolic portrayal of what can be a serious issue for many parents: giving their children the very best start in life.

The short has won several awards, including Best Comedy Short at the 2009 New Mexico Filmmakers Showcase and the Audience Award at the 2008 Duke City Shootout.

Anne Stirling’s “A Quirky View” offers a four-minute look at Corrales resident Russell Trujillo’s collection of old cars, or rather, parts of old cars. The mechanic has fashioned dozens of classic-car doors into a fence, and cut foot-wide slices of cars – starting from one fender and ending at the other –  as sculptures. Looking at a passenger in the window of a ‘50s Chevy from the side, you would swear she was seated in a whole car. The illusion is striking and fun to see, as is the film.

Stirling, a resident of Albuquerque, founded the non-profit Friends of Film, Video and Arts in 2004 as a tool to help independent filmmakers stay connected.

The evening’s finale, “Delivery Date,” is another award-winning comedy. In it, commitment-phobic Chad goes on a blind-date with a woman whom at first he really likes – before she reveals something that perhaps this guy should have already known. I can’t say anymore, except that even if you figure out the surprise before Chad does, it’s still a great little film with a lot to it.

The film’s writer and director Matt Page, of Santa Fe, has won numerous awards for his film work, has directed commercials, and owns local video and web production company Riff Raff New Media.

“Short and Sweet: A Program of Short Films by New Mexico Filmmakers” will screen at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Mesa Public Library. As always, admission is free. This week’s film is the final in this season’s series, which has highlighted movies filmed in New Mexico. The series will resume in September.

The Free Film Series is made possible by Friends of the Library and is co-sponsored by the Los Alamos Arts Council.

For more information, call 662-8240 or visit www.losalamosnm.us/library.

Kelly Dolejsi is a member of the Los Alamos Arts Council.