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Truth versus lies, settling for safe versus going for it all ‘Collide’ in Niche Visual short film


Among the short films that will be screened at this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is Niche Visual’s Collide, directed by filmmaker Ralph Klisiewicz. It’s a character-driven piece written for and starring Chicago’s Jeff Award-nominator actor Heather Chrisler.

Chrisler plays a character named Sally, who comes home from a run and starts talking with her boyfriend, Tim. Initially she raises the subject of having a baby. But the conversation takes a sudden turn when Sally mentions having witnessed a car accident as she was jogging. She reveals to Tim what an emotional impact the accident had on her. She saw a man “under the sheet, they were carrying him away”. However, there was no accident. The man under the sheet was actually a young, athletic, and charming artist named Kevin. [View trailer here.]

The story reveals Sally in a way that seeks to portray her as neither a heroine nor a villain, but rather as a frightened woman who is trying to reconcile her desire for adventure and spontaneity (symbolized in the film by a spur-of-the-moment affair) against the need for stability and security (represented by partnership and raising a family). The film doesn’t disclose whether the source of the latter need emanates from societal, parental or peer group expectations, only that Sally finds the consequences stultifying and suffocating. What has brought Sally to this precipice in her life and relationship is the realization that “anything could break, anyone could die without a moment’s notice and so what do I want now when I can still have it?” She imagines a woman without compromise, who has everything she wants. “That should be me,” she says, as tears stream down her cheeks. But the film intentionally leaves ambiguous the outcome of this collision between settling for safe (the lie) or going for more (being true to oneself).

Audience reactions to the film vary sharply, which is a testament to the complexity of the protagonist and the believability that Chrisler infuses into her character. As she spins a web of lies about what she did before coming home that day, many viewers conclude that Sally is a pathological liar who is toying with the man who loves her. Others find her to be deeply dissatisfied with their relationship (or just herself) and searching for a way to let him know or let him go.

“The feedback clearly illustrates that each viewer has a distinct psychology that colors his/her perception,” Klisiewicz told film critic Matthew Toffolo in 2019. “[T]he responses also illustrate that our film has layers that speak differently to each viewer.”

The film has screened at half a dozen festivals throughout the United States and Europe and has won awards at Chicago Shortcut 100 International Film Festival and Chicago Feedback Film Festival. In addition, Heather Chrisler (Sallie) has won best female lead actor at the 2019 MLC awards.

Luke Daigle plays Tim; Jalen Gilbert is Kevin.

Collide will be screened in the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center on Friday, October 23 at 6:00 p.m. during Shorts Block Six (which includes Alexa, Bad Kiwis 2: Kiwi Driver, El Cavil and After the Beep).

September 27, 2020.

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