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‘Meat Girls’ filmmaker Gabriella Griego displays Tarantino tendencies


The Youth Shortz package at this year’s Bonita Springs International Film Festival included 11 wonderful films directed and produced by aspiring young filmmakers from the United States, Australia, Canada and Iran, including Meat Girls Inc. by Gabriella C. Griego.

Meat Girls is a futuristic 7-minute short that Gabriella wrote, shot, edited and produced as a class assignment at Design and Architecture Senior High School (DASH) in the Miami Design District, where she is a junior. The film takes us into the future, where we discover that the planet’s human population has burgeoned to 50 billion people. Not surprisingly, food is in short supply. In an effort to prevent widespread starvation and attendant war, people are being induced to “volunteer” for a mind-control program under which they are harvested like a farm animal for their meat. In fact, they assume the characteristics of animals, and in one disturbing scene, the film depicts a young Asian girl crawling on all fours and pushing her face into a plate of food which has been placed for her on the floor as if she were a cat or a dog.

In sci-fi films, Gabriella told the BIFF audience in a Q&A following the screening of the Youth Shortz package, “it’s typically aliens harvesting humans for food, so I decided [in Meat Girls Inc.] to explore what if we did that to ourselves.”

The DASH film assignment called for a silent film, so what little dialogue there is comes in the form of subtitles. But those are intentionally sparse, which gives the film the unsettling feel of a television commercial or advertisement. To accentuate the film’s dire theme and content, she shot the film in infrared on her Sony XA11 to go black-and-white, and added a monochrome filter over that.

The monochrome filter also gave Gabriella’s set a hopeless, somewhat sinister aspect.

“The building that my school’s in was a strip mall back in the 1980s,” the young filmmaker explains. “It has this long hallway in the back that was perfect for several of the scenes.” In fact, so perfect that it the setting is eerily reminiscent of a Tarantino film, as is Griego’s postulation of an amoral universe where survival is capped off by an incomprehensible act of revenge. In Meat Girls Inc., the revenge is exacted by humans against the entire human race as punishment for wanton and irresponsible overpopulation.

Themes of betrayal and retribution also make appearances in the film. She also pays the same attention to detail and sardonic sense of humor as the legendary noir filmmaker. In Meat Girls, makes reference to this new meat source as “non GMO, non-organic” and included a scene in which one of meat girls bore branded or tattooed barcode on the back of her neck. The film also tacitly indicts inhumane farm animal practices.

But to be clear, Gabriella did not set out to make a film that in any way pays homage or makes reference to the renowned filmmaker. In fact, she’ll likely be surprised and perhaps even a little embarrassed that anyone would mention her filmmaking in the same sentence as Quentin Tarantino. Her only goal in shooting Meat Girls Inc. was to do better than her previous short film which, in her own estimation, didn’t turn out as well as she’d hoped.

By that measure, then, Meat Girls is an unqualified success. But Gabriella sees it simply as a stepping stone for self-evaluation, improvement and better films to come.

Unassuming, self-deprecating and even a little “toe in the sand,” Gabriella Griego nonetheless takes her craft seriously. She aspires to go to a college that specializes in film, like NYU. She and her parents are giving Gabriella the best possible chance to make such a lofty goal a reality. U.S. News & World Report ranked Design and Architecture Senior High School (DASH) as the 15th best public high school in the nation in 2009 and 16th best in 2012, with Newsweek placing the school at #5 in 2010. Over 95% of DASH graduates continue on to college, with most students receiving scholarships from many of the nation’s top art and design programs. A Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, in 1994, 1995, and 2005, DASH’s curriculum consists of five strands or programs:  architecture/interior design, entertainment technology, fashion design, industrial design, and visual communications/web design. And it goes without saying that Gabriella has an abundance of school spirit.

“Awesome sauce,” she said when given the chance to promote DASH during the BIFF Q&A.

Yesterday’s screening not only represents Meat Girls’ world premiere, it is Gabriella’s debut on the film festival circuit – an accomplishment she credits her dad with.

“He insisted. I said, ‘Whatever.’ I didn’t expect to get in anywhere and we were on a trip when we learned we’d been accepted here.”

Meanwhile, life goes on for the junior at DASH. Since completing Meat Girls, she’s done a PSA on the Florida wilderness and another project that she just turned in.

“I improved my shot and lighting,” she self-assesses, “although the concept wasn’t as good as this one.”

But then again, she has to work within the parameters of the assignments she’s given.

The future looks bright for this aspiring young filmmaker, and part of the fun of attending local film festivals like BIFF is the chance to meet and support promising young talent like Gabriella Griego.

March 1, 2020.

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