With a large number of new entrants, and several returning filmmakers, the fourth annual Portland Phoenix Maine Short Film Festival was a rousing success, with entrants and fans attending a full-house showing at One Longfellow Square, followed by the Portland premiere of The Rivals, a feature-length film by South Portland-based Lone Wolf Documentary Group about the football rivalry between Cape Elizabeth High School and Rumford's Mountain Valley High School.
These folks set a high standard for local short-filmmaking, and we're proud to call them our own — especially as they have shown us new aspects of life near (Long Island in Casco Bay) and far (Cuba). We're sure they'll travel far and wide again soon, cameras in tow. Join them, and enter next year's festival!
Film of the Year | Hard Rock Havana
DIRECTED BY NICHOLAS BRENNAN
Heavy metal is "not something you think of when you think of Cuban music," says Nicholas Brennan, who grew up in Portland and Falmouth, and is in his senior year at New York University. But during a film-intensive study-abroad session in Cuba, Brennan (a drummer himself) discovered Zeus, and his perspective changed. Here was a band of music-loving, alcohol-guzzling, long-haired hard-rockers, beloved by thousands of fans, about whom the outside world knew nothing. Brennan — who wants to go into documentary journalism when he graduates this spring — had to delve deeper. By interviewing these musicians (with an intermediate Spanish fluency, Brennan was able to conduct most of the interviews himself, though he had help translating the subtitles) and getting their performances and aspirations on film, he shows the viewer a "unique aspect of the Cuban struggle and how metal develops within a country that isn't really open to the outside world." It's a worldly, warm look at a surprising subject.
Best Comedy | Time Travel
DIRECTED BY RITCHIE WILSON
Director Ritchie Wilson, who moved back to Portland three months ago after studying at the New York Film Academy, describes the making of this four-minute, two-actor comedy as "the most complicated thing I've done." How is it that such a short feature could be so brain-boggling? Well, its plot centers on Charlie, an overzealous time-traveler (played with earnest befuddlement by Ian Carlsen) who blasts back and forth between a cereal-stealing present and a Hitler-killing past; throughout the movie, several incarnations of Charlie appear on the screen in the same shot — Charlie even talks to himself! Filming all these Charlies required a green screen, a competent crew, and an assistant director, Jordan Scott, to "keep track of everything for me," says 23-year-old Wilson (who appears in the film as Charlie's deadpan, non-plussed roommate). Not only does the final result make sense, but it also gets laughs. Seems like all that organization paid off.
Runner-up: Zagabits, directed by Tim Ouilette