The San Diego State School of Television, Film and New Media held a student film showcase Friday night in Don Powell Theatre. Friday’s showcase, the second of a two-night festival, focused on longer-form student films with run times of 10-15 minutes. Despite several technical problems involving improper DVD encoding that prevented several student films from screening, the six films that ran all demonstrated a multitude of talent across genres.
The festival kicked off with the hilarious sex comedy “Deep Dish.” The hapless virgin protagonist Todd (“the Rod”) is coerced into delivering a pizza for a co-worker. When Todd shows up to the house, a sultry voice asks him to come inside. This quintessentially-‘80s porno plot turns on its head as Todd realizes that, in fact, a porn is being filmed in the house and he is mistaken for the talent. Sharp acting and clever visual gags will appeal to fans of Farrelly brothers films and the Trey Parker and Matt Stone comedy “Orgazmo.” Behind-the-scenes footage of “Deep Dish” is available on YouTube.
The lone documentary of the showcase, director Pat Clark’s “Language of War” focuses on the complexities of cross-cultural communication in a war zone. At the onset of the Iraq War, American and coalition forces swept across the country without any training in Arabic or competency in Iraqi culture, leading to unnecessary bloodshed and distrust on both sides. Americans recruited Iraqis as translators and embedded them with troops during patrols into hazardous regions. However, terrorist cells in the country view the translators as traitors and target them for attacks. As the U.S. troops and the protection they provide for translators withdraw from Iraq, the documentary raises questions about the human cost of American foreign policy and the deleterious effect it has on its allies. Clark combines news footage with interviews featuring Iraqi translators while providing minimal commentary — allowing the translators to tell their stories themselves.
Director Hilary Andrews’ twee, “Amelie”-esque comedy “The Linguist” tells the story of a word-obsessed SDSU student with a sesquipedalian vocabulary who suddenly finds himself at a loss for an appropriate descriptor when he spots a certain female student in the library. This leads him on a search to find her identity and the bon mot that appropriately encapsulates his feelings. To aid him in his quest, she leaves little fortune cookie clues that he must follow if he wants to find her. Andrews uses on-screen dictionary definitions and smart narration to keep the main character’s obsessive personality playful.
Director Stephen Crutchfield’s heavily symbolic drama “El Abuelo” focuses on the friendship between an autistic, nonverbal 12-year-old and a migrant worker. After the 12-year-old injures his leg at the bottom of a canyon, a paternal migrant worker takes him back to his camp. The worker shares information about his family and his experiences with the boy while the boy’s family fears he has been abducted. The trailer for “El Abuelo” is available on Vimeo.com.
If “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” and “This Is Spinal Tap” were united in unholy matrimony with Ben Stiller as the officiant, “Rock Off” would be their hilarious offspring. Director Greg Nicolayeff’s mockumentary features the finalists of the “Triannual Rock-Off.” A faux news anchor interviews the two competitors, Emo Chris and Kevin the Shredder, before launching into pitch-perfect parodies of emo and ‘80s hair metal during the competition.
The last film of the night, and arguably the best, was director Josh Krohn’s tightly constructed comedic thriller “Firesale.” After a guy and girl spend the night in his apartment, she hires movers to steal all of his possessions. However, she fails to recognize that he is a con artist as well. This leads to a series of smart twists and escalating traps between the two. With excellent pacing, great acting and sharp writing, “Firesale” begs to be expanded beyond its 15-minute run time. For more information about “Firesale,” visit jaydeekay.com.