On Saturday, I headed to Physicians' Auditorium to see films by the S.C. Film Commission's Indie Grant winners. Of the several years that I've seen the Indie Grants films, this was the most all-around impressive showing (although to be fair, two of the films were shown in their unfinished forms at last year's festival).
The first, Pencil Point, was animation set to original music by the filmmaker, Ayala Asherov Kalus. The unique animation was bright and colorful, and made the film's two characters seem as if they were painted upon a canvas. After the screening Kalus told us that the animators had used sand in the process, which must have been what gave the visuals their texture.
Second up was the work-in-progress La Nanita, which told the story of an incarcerated woman who'd inadvertently killed her toddler son by locking him in her car while she worked. Although the film clearly needs some more work — the ending, for example, felt incomplete, and the characters need some more development — La Nanita was one of the standouts.
It told the horribly familiar story of child death by neglect from an angle that we don't see when these events are reported. In this case, the woman, presumably a single mom, was working her minimum wage job and came out to her car to bring her son lunch. When she found him, he was already dead. There were no drugs, no abusive boyfriend, no mental illness — just a woman who felt she had no other options. For this alone, filmmaker Deshantell Singleton deserves recognition.
The other three films screened were the ghost story Dig, by Mills Allison; the animated nightmare Supine: a Dream, by Lyon Hill, a part of which was shown last year; and the excellent We Can't Help You by Brad Land and Allan Scott Neale, which was also shown at last year's festival. We Can't Help You, a set piece about three young men caught up in a violent scheme, is even more outstanding now in its final form than it was last year. It's a study in restraint — the filmmakers took what was originally a 40-page script and whittled it down to only its most compelling, vital elements. Indeed, most of the short's theme and story is encapsulated by the chilling monologue, the rat story, that one of the characters tells at the end. Judging from this effort, I'd say Land and Neale are filmmakers to watch.