Admittedly, the dynamics of those with whom I attended tonight’s Green Slate of films were altered (the majority of our group caught an earlier viewing while I waited for my trusty film buddy Hunter to finish work so that we could make it back to Artstation for the 6:30 show), but I would not consider the change in population to account for the drastic change in appreciation that I felt for the second set of submissions. Whether it was subjective mindset or objective analysis, Hunter and I agreed that we enjoyed this particular group of films far less than those in the Orange Slate; however, there were some selections that out-shined the others, and we found one in particular to be just as likely a winner as last night’s El Gato.
The first half opened with the faux documentary footage, Last Call, directed by Stephen Kinigopoulos. The piece was a nice blend of lighthearted humor and tragic romance set in the face of a current pop culture favorite: the zombie apocalypse. The film was interesting enough to give me high hopes for the next four. The Christopher Dickerson comedy Running Girl followed and offered several recognizable homes from my own neighborhood, but otherwise felt less innovative. Maverick filmmaker Phillip Jordan Brooks was next with the unbearably depressing thriller Ruby and the Dragon, a remarkable entry, but one that left me with the only truly visceral reaction of all twenty films. When it ended, I turned to Hunter and simply breathed “…Jesus…” to which he flatly agreed. A haunting period piece, Red River Ode, gave us some of the most beautiful cinematography of the night and was followed by Jessy Williamson’s Seventeen Summers, the last film for the first half. The final entry was fairly matter-of-fact and somewhat curious, but it was Red River Ode that we spent the intermission discussing. The plot was a bit more ambiguous than the other concrete examples in the festival, and we were left with more questions than explanations. Were the woods haunted? Were the police trying to drive the convict out and inadvertently driving him insane? Hunter wasn’t happy. Much like the film’s plot, I simply was not sure.
After the intermission, we got Eric White’s Elysian Equation, Jeffrey H. Hunter’s The Curators, the sweet, black comedy Necrophilia: A Love Story, and the rather cumbersome finale, 5ive Courses, which Hunter summed up rather simply: “that was excruciating.” My thoughts were not far removed, and having completed a viewing of all twenty films, my only wish was that the best film of the Green Slate, Samson, would have run last – everything that followed it was something of a let-down. The Chris Armand/Noah Scruggs/Thomas Woodruff comedy was absolutely pitch-perfect in every way, and I found myself immediately wanting an opportunity to watch it a second time. Since this was my first time to attend the Louisiana Film Prize, I wasn’t aware that the Armand-Scruggs-Woodruff trio were the winners of last year’s festival. If Samson is any indication of their previous work, I can definitely see why.
When we left the theater to cast our votes for our top three favorite films, Hunter and I discussed our overall impressions. Two of the shorts were obvious winners, but the third selection would be something of a more difficult choice. In the end, we both picked El Gato for first place with Samson as a very close second (if only the films could tie and each be rewarded the full $50,000). Our third place picks were both from the Orange Slate, but not the same film. My vote went to the mesmerizing love story Silo; Hunter’s went to the slapstick comedy Clowns and Robbers.
The Awards Brunch is to take place from 11:00 until 2:00 later today, and a link to the streaming broadcast will be posted at www.lafilmprize.com. Good luck to everyone who is participating, and thank you to everyone for giving Shreveport something more to appreciate.