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Recap of August’s T.G.I.M. screenings

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Eric Raddatz 01The Fort Myers Film Festival opened its seventh season last night inside the darkened grand atrium of the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. A crowd of well over 100 cineastes gathered to view and offer their comments on four films that are being considered for inclusion in the festival, which takes place March 8-12, 2017. But first, Eric Raddatz and the Master of Tech Mike Kiniry aired a special film featuring members of Melissa DeHaven’s Crue that celebrated the FMff Co-Producer’s birthday. Yes, it was that kind of evening.

Birthday WishesLast night’s films included:

  • a 4-minute short film that featured a woman with an ax screaming with an abject expression on her face as she ran through and around a warehouse (Rinse);
  • a 4-minute animated film in which a man at a beach loses his head and then ventures out into the ocean in a fruitless attempt to find it again (Head);
  • a 10-minute film in which a kindly old man Justin Verely 07suffering from Alzheimer’s is confronted by a young woman he raped when she was but a child (Reflection); and
  • a 10-minute film in which a couple on the way to their wedding in the backseat of an Uber driver deal with her sudden disclosure that she’s had an affair with his 17-year-old brother followed by the groom’s admission that he’s quit his lucrative six-figure job at her father’s company so that he can pursue a career as an artist (The Wedding Ceremony).

Dillon Dailidonis 01“We watch every single one of the hundreds of films that are submitted to us each season,” warned Raddatz. “Some are very, very good,” he added with his signature dry wit. “Others are really, really bad. We want you to have the opportunity to sample some of each. Of course, it’s up to you to draw your own conclusions about each of tonight’s films.”

The evening’s celebrity judges took on that challenge with fresh-faced enthusiasm. For the season’s inaugural T.G.I.M. (Thank God for Indie Mondays), Raddatz and DeHaven convened a youth brigade – two young Kaycie Lee at TGIM 13filmmakers and a 15-year-old indie film and stage actress: an FSU sophomore by the name of Justin Verely, who is a freelance artist, photographer, screenwriter, filmmaker, editor/cinematographer and co-founder/producer of a national network of student-run microfestivals and film societies; a UCF sophomore by the name of Dillon Dillodonis, who is an indie film producer, publicist and actor as well as the founder of the Orlando Edge Festival; and SAG-eligible actress by the name of Kaycie Lee, who has appeared in several indie films and has been cast in a TV pilot called Just Believe as well as an exciting new Melissa Tschari DeHaven Canvasses Audience 01family television series set in Montana that airs beginning in 2017 called Big Sky. And throughout the night, Verely, Dillodonis and Lee took turns giving the audience a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the technical, cinematographic and theatrical devices screenwriters, directors and producers employ when casting, shooting and editing a film.

But it was left to the audience to weigh in on the content, theme and message conveyed by each film. Not surprisingly, opinions varied and every Audience Members Weigh in 03audience member had the opportunity to rate (with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent) and thereby vote on whether the films should be admitted or denied admission into March’s film festival.

And therein lies the magic of Intellectualization Mondays. Every opinion counts, and everyone who Audience Members Weigh in 01comes out for T.G.I.M. gleans a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the films they see. Because like the evening’s judges, each audience member brings a different set of experiences that uniquely affects what they see, what they hear and what it all means.

Reflection is a good case in point. In this film, the writers and filmmakers employ an array of Audience Members Weigh in 04theatrical devices designed to gain viewers’ sympathy and empathy for an old man with Alzheimer’s who struggles to remember who he was and the life he once enjoyed as his nurse sweetly and patiently assists him with his daily routine of dressing, eating and staring out the window. Then a young woman arrives with two View Masters depicting her as a little girl at her birthday party, hoping to spark a glimmer of recollection – but not because she was his Audience Members Weigh in 05daughter, not as an act of kindness, but because she wanted him to remember that he had raped her when she was a young child.

Almost everyone applauded the plot twist, although the audience split fairly evenly on how well the female actress conveyed the anger, outrage and indignation her character tried to Al Holland Weighs in 01express. But what were the screenwriters and filmmakers of Reflection really trying to convey? That rape has a devastating effect on the mental health of victims, with nearly one-third (31%) of all rape victims developing Rape-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD) some time during their lifetime? Perhaps. That a rape victim can only get some semblance of closure if and when she confronts her attacker? Maybe. But it is Eric Raddatz and August Celeb TGIM Judges 03equally plausible that what Reflections has to say is that where the attacker suffers from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, there can be no justice for the victim because even if she could force him to remember and admit what he did, that victory will be fleeting since the memory will fade if not immediately, with the next day’s rising sun. But perhaps the film’s message is even Eric Radditz, Leila Mesdaghi and Mariapia Malerba 01simpler – that it’s not about the attacker at all and for the victims of sexual assault and pedophilia, recovery is complicated and there is no quick and easy fix (like peering into a child’s View Master).

Therein lies the brilliance of indie films and screenings like last night’s Thank God for Indie Mondays. Sure, some films are bizarre and seemingly incomprehensible. Others are allegorical, with a simple, straightforward and minimalist meaning. Still others are simply entertaining, filled with sight gags, plot twists and Melissa Takes a Selfie 01surprise endings. But every once in a while, there’s that gem that can be disassembled and deconstructed on multiple levels, leaving you thinking, pondering and wondering about important life issues for hours, days or weeks to follow – all wrapped up in a low-budget, compact film made by people who engage in the exercise not for fortune or fame, but because they have a Artists Group at Intermission 02passion for film as an art form that’s potentially even more powerful than a great painting or avant garde sculpture.

It remains to be seen if Reflections makes it in to next year’s festival. But if it does, be sure to make the effort to take it in for yourself. In the meantime, if being challenged by films of this ilk appeals to you on a visceral, intellectual or spiritual plane – or you just like to hang with the smartest, Kaycie and Friends 02sexiest, savviest people in all of Southwest Florida – don’t miss any more TGIMs this season. Click here for the schedule of future TGIM screenings, and return to Art Southwest Florida for more on the screenings you’ll see and the celebrity judges you’ll meet. You’ll be glad you did.

Posted August 2, 2016.

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