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By Angela Case
“Crossroads” is a compilation of five short films about people at crossroads in their lives. Using widely different techniques and plotlines, the first four films in the series each explore themes of female sexuality. The last film, by contrast, takes a look at kindness in a war-torn world. Together, the films create a diverse yet coherent portrayal of the messiness of life, love and growing up.
“The Line,” a documentary by Nancy Schwartzman, analyzes the victim-blaming culture of sexual assault. Using interviews with sexual assault victims, assailants themselves, lawyers and sex workers, the film takes an open, unconventional look into sexual assault. Schwartzman crafts the film around her own experience of sexual assault, and its candid, personal nature makes the viewer feel like a friend sitting next to Schwartzman on a couch, listening as she tells her story.
The second film, “PARK” by Liz Cambron, is the story of a bored and curious teenage girl living in a trailer park. Through a series of somewhat disturbing intimate relationships with friends and neighbors, she begins to not only explore her own sexuality, but also to figure out what “being sexual” means. In a Q&A session after the screening, Cambron said the film’s cast was composed mostly of non-professional actors. This realism is evident in the film’s physical setting, an expertly rendered representation of an average trailer park. The film contained little dialogue, relying on facial expressions, clothing, sets and silent character actions to tell a powerful story.
If “PARK” portrayed some slightly unsettling relationships, the next film in the series, “Sis” by Deborah Haywood, grabbed viewers with an unabashedly disturbing portrayal of pedophilia. After their inattentive teenage caretaker tells them a pedophile is “someone who likes children,” two young girls decide to visit a “pedo” at home and show him their gymnastics skills. In one of the most powerful scenes in all of “Crossroads,” the girls dress themselves in preparation for the visit, childishly over-applying makeup and adorning themselves with grown-up accessories like large-framed sunglasses. They make their way to the pedophile’s house, and the resulting interaction is alarming. One question courses through the viewer’s mind throughout the film: Do the girls know the implications of what they are doing? This lingering question adds another layer of uneasiness to an already disturbing film.
“Fifth Time Lucky”
In a direct contrast to “Sis,” the next film was the most lighthearted of the series. “Fifth Time Lucky” by Susannah Lane Bragg is a touching and comedic story about a young woman living in the shadow of her parents’ passionate yet on-again, off-again marriage. The young woman is cynical but eager to begin a romance of her own and she falls for a captivating man she meets in a library. The film intertwines the two love stories, juxtaposing the young woman’s innocent affair with her parents’ tumultuous relationship. The quirky and charming film garners more than a few laughs from the audience at “Crossroads.”
“Protect the Nation”
The last film in the series, C.R. Reisser’s “Protect the Nation,” was completely different from the first four. Due to either a technical issue or a simple lack of organization, the film wasn’t shown until after most of the “Crossroads” audience had left the theatre. This unintentional separation between films was not only literal, but also thematic. Unlike the other four films, in which males play only supporting roles, the main character is a young boy living in the midst of xenophobic violence in South Africa. After receiving an unexpected favor from a stranger, the boy reflects on the importance of kindness in his violence-filled world. The other four films in “Crossroads” each incorporated themes about the nature of femininity, whereas this final film made no such statement. It had a male main character, contained scenes of violence and steered away from gender issues. In a festival full of feminist films, “Protect the Nation” reminds us women don’t just make films about women. Just as women’s experiences span the entirety of human experience, their films can–and do–as well.
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