qFLIX is screening a showcase of shorts by locally-connected filmmakers on October 3 at 10:00 am at the Suzanne Roberts Theater.
One of the highlights is the quirky documentary, “Squirrel Hill Falls,” by queer Philadelphia filmmaker Hilary Brashear. The short is the director’s investigation into the history and future of the titular locked park near her home in West Philadelphia. Brashear interviews neighbors, tracks down public records, and tries to unlock the mystery, history and paradoxes of a public space that sadly is not open to the public. She uses voice overs, direct address, animation, and even some playful aliens(!) to recount her findings. Her short is a charming little homegrown story that folks familiar with Squirrel Hill Falls should appreciate, but everyone local should enjoy.
Another strong entry is “It’s Very Common” by Megah Hessenthaler, who describes herself as a “Philly-adjacent” filmmaker. In this drama, Amanda (Nessa Noricch) has just had a miscarriage. She and her wife Hannah (Drae Campbell) have been trying to conceive a second child, and this unfortunate (and unpleasant) setback has caused Amanda to experience depression and stress. While she receives comfort and support from Hannah, as well as some of the other members of the Brooklyn collective where they live, it is Amanda and Hannah’s daughter Charlie (Frankie Hessenville) who may have the best idea on how to improve Amanda’s mood. “It’s Very Common,” is a thoughtful slice-of-life — Amanda’s phone call to her father adds depth and shading to her character — and viewers may wish this short was longer.
Another short that viewers might want to be longer is “Have You Ever Thought Why,” by gender non-conforming Camden-based filmmaker, krissy mahan. This rhythmic, hypnotic film that runs all of 2 minutes, and offers an abstract fusion of lights, images of the city, and voices that express sentiments like, “Oh! That’s too bad!” and “Have You Ever Thought Why” to address issues of identity.
Another experimental short in the program is a bit more obtuse. “Self Tape,” by queer local filmmakers Austin Elston and Emily Gallagher, is a surreal narrative involving a showrunner (Sharlee Taylor”) and her assistant (Ali Stoner) filming an “applicant”/actor (Janice Amaya) performing a monologue from Shakespeare’s “Othello.” The short is identified as a “zero waste” project, which is admirable, but the story feels underdeveloped, which can be frustrating and may mystify viewers.
University of the Arts student Annalise Woolford’s entry, “Philadelphia, My Love,” is a sweet romantic drama about two women, Nancy (Nikki Scamuffo) and Robyn (Arielle Moore), who meet cute at a Wawa, and then spend the day together. As these two strangers get to know each other — Nancy has just moved to the city — an attraction develops as they talk about their lives and walk through the Italian Market, tour Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens, visit the LOVE statue, and appreciate the city’s murals. Woolford’s short is slight, but it’s winning.
“Nana,” written and directed by Peter Michael Biondolillo, who attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, has husbands Parker (Biondolillo) and Ryley (Ryan Obermeier) grappling with the death of Parker’s Nana, an unpleasant, homophobic woman. But as they recount a story about her not attending their wedding, a photo from their big day shatters. Is Nana getting revenge from beyond the grave? As Nana haunts the couple in their home, even their pet cat is at risk. This skillfully made short develops some real tension (and even a few jump scares) as Parker and Ryley find themselves encountering some unexplainable and intense situations.
“Retribution” is the most ambitious short in the program in that it features multiple locations and an extended courtroom scene, but it is an accomplished production. Writer, director, and Philly native Mel Orpen’s drama has Capt. Nat Hernandez (Diana Romo) returning from deployment and proposing to her girlfriend, Lucy (Mo Beatty). When the couple are out celebrating one night, they get into a car accident that injures Nat, but kills Lucy. Although Nat tries to get justice legally through the court system, she ends up having to take matters into her own hands. While the title suggests how things will play out, “Retribution” is satisfying because of how Nat exacts payback.
The Philadelphia shorts program will also be available online for folks who prefer to watch at home. And don’t forget the documentary feature, “No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics” made by Philly native, Vivian Kleiman, is also available to screen at the fest and online.
For tickets and more information on the festival, visit http://www.qflixphilly.com/.