Citizen Jane Film Festival’s Family Fun series featured a collection of shorts ranging from cute to melancholy. Each told its own story but meshed to celebrate the truths in life.
The series kicks off with "Wallbangers," a comedy about two middle-aged men who find their routine game of racquetball interrupted by a young 'Stud' who wants to challenge them. The short, directed by Adele Franck, has no dialogue, but meaning is conveyed through sound effects, music and noises made by the actors. This upbeat short is lighthearted fun for all ages; kids will enjoy the pratfalls and banter, while adults are sure to appreciate the chemistry between the two best friends. The body-consciousness of the older men is relatable, but by the end their friendship outweighs all, making them the true victors of the match.
In contrast to the upbeat opener, "Negative Spaces" makes a place for itself in the series by visualizing what it means to suffer emotionally. Director Michaela Wadzinski, animates a sketch of a ballerina traveling between surfaces of her creator's workspace, struggling to cope as pieces of her are removed by various forces. Her journey is one of healing, and by the end it is satisfying to see that she endures and overcomes.
"Apricot," directed by Lara Del Arte, gives insight into the world of 10-year-old Margaret Mary, who challenges the idea that adults know best. Margaret simply wants a piece of toast, but is blocked by the gross old woman (presumably her grandmother) sitting across the table. The elder's smugness and parental ignorance give the viewer a sense of indignation on behalf of the child, and what happens next comes as a delightful (and disgusting) victory.
The juvenile animation style behind "Contigo" does not subtract from the heart-wrenching story. The silent short tells the story of Maia, who loves to write, but abruptly loses her passion when her father dies. Directed by Julia Margarita Quiceno, the 4-minute film is incredibly moving in its play with viewer emotions, and gratifies at the end by reuniting the main character with her long-forgotten journal and memories of her father.
"Play Pretend," directed by Madeline Dimayuga, puts the viewer back in school, centering on the story of young Grace, who is harassed because of her Asian heritage. Her only comfort is her imaginary friend Bruce, a stuffed bear. Her protector might be imaginary, but the theme of bully-tolerance in schools is all too real. It is a necessary commentary. Adult vigilance can make a world of difference in real life, where the teacher in the film fell short. For kids, it shows that sometimes just introducing yourself can change life for others. Kindness is a plentiful commodity, and "Play Pretend encourages us to share it freely.
"In the Tallgrass," directed by Erin Anfinson, is a brief but magical journey into the prairie. Each shot follows a creature of the grassland, gracefully transitioning between bugs as they move about in their natural habitat. It uses an unusual but beautiful art style in its animation, evoking a sense of peace in the harmonious wildlife world.
Dreams are forever for the young girl in "7 Planets," whose ambitions reach to the stars. We see her moving through various stages of life, a bit awkward but devoted to her fascination with sustaining life on one of the planets beyond Earth. The film, directed by Milda Baginskaite, celebrates her dedication, encouraging the pursuit of dreams no matter what.
In "Average Mom," directed by Cathy Lynn Yonek, Sam's mother is anything but. They share a unique relationship, and though at times Sam grows frustrated with his parent as all children do, he narrates to the audience that her life lessons make him a better person. It is refreshing to see a teenage boy have a nurturing relationship with his mother, especially one who is eccentric (but ultimately lovable).
The Family Fun shorts ended with a narrative about a girl, Milly, and her guinea pig. "Sherbert Rosencrantz, You're Beautiful," directed by Natalie van den Dungen, praises uniqueness and truth to oneself despite the opinions of others. Milly loves Sherbert, and though no one else understands their connection, it is the bond they share that makes her a new friend at the end of the film.