Saturday at #NBFF20

Welcome back to the Newport Beach Film Festival presented by Pacific Sales. It was a full day for me, as you?ll see when you see the nine films I have to talk about. Okay, I?ll admit that six of them were shorts, but that still seems like a full day to me. Note that I?m including my votes for audience awards (Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor)

I started the day with a shorts program, ?Irish Lads and Lassies Shorts?. NBFF always has a good representation of Irish films. (Screen Ireland and Culture Ireland are two of the Cultural Arts Sponsors of the festival.) Saturday is also a day with programs aimed at young people. These shorts all featured young actors and themes. The films in the program were:

  • All in Good Time, directed by Bonnie Dempsey. A story of two ten year-olds who magically communicate through notes in a bottle. The trick is they lived 100 years apart. Yet they manage to solve each other?s problems. (My vote: Excellent)
  • First Disco, directed by Helen M. O?Reilly. This is the story of a teenager who is due to go to her first school dance, but just got braces. How will she ever get the attention of the boy she has a crush on when she feels her looks are ruined? The film has a very pleasant soundtrack of 80s music. As I watched I though this would be a nice companion to the film Happy Face I saw at the festival on Friday. (My vote: Good)
  • Low Tide, directed by Ian Hunt Duffy. This one has a bit of a horror vibe. A father and son go out fishing, but on the way back the father demands his son jumps in the water to confront the sea monster below. It?s a life changing encounter. (My vote: Good)
  • Honest, directed by Matthew Roche. This one takes place in church. A young boy fears the Jesus at the front of the church, knowing that he is always watching him. It brings up questions of belief and what it means to us. (My vote: Good)
  • Cry Rosa, directed by Imogen Murphy. A mixed-race girl must deal with bullying in school because of her color. It is a story of finding the strength to prevail in embracing her identity and self-worth. (My vote: Excellent)
  • The Wiremen, an animated film directed by Jessica Patterson. In the 1930s as electrification is coming to rural Ireland, an imaginative girl thinks she sees a fairy circling a light bulb. Her grandmother warns her of the dangers of the electrical box, and tells a story of Wiremen, evil beings that come with electricity. But the girl is just too curious and may be in danger as she pursues the fairy. (My vote: Good)

The joys and trials of having a child are the focus of Babysplitters from director Sam Friedlander. Two couples both have a dilemma, they don?t agree on having a baby. Sarah (Emily Chang) is anxious to start a family, but her husband Jeff (Danny Pudi) is dragging his feet. When they meet with friends Don and Taylor, it turns out that Don (Eddie Alfano) is ready, but not Taylor (Maiara Walsh). They talk about if they could share a child, it would give them the joys of parenting, but still give them time to enjoy life. The plan becomes more and more complicated, and each complication brings new laughs. The sex scene removes romance and eroticism from the act with very funny results. Eventually the film makes it all work out with an affirmation of family and parenthood. (My vote: Excellent)

Go Back to China was another comedy about family. When spoiled party girl Sasha (Anna Akana) is forced to go to China to work in the family business, it is with great resentment. Her father (Richard Ng) is demanding and mercurial, but he also seeks to give Sasha and her various half-siblings the benefit of his lifetime of working. The father believes his financial support of his children is fulfilling his responsibility. But what of his absence and emotional abandonment all those years? It is a time of self-discovery for Sasha, as well as for her father. In the Q&A following the film, director Emily Ting, noted the autobiographical aspects of the film. She returned to China at age 24 to work in the family business. (The factory in the film is the actual factory the family owns. My vote: Good)

The Canadian Spotlight of the festival fell on A Colony (Une Colonie), a Quebec film from director Genevi?ve Dulude-De Clelles. This is a coming-of age, fish-out -of-water tale of Mylia (Emilie Bierre), who must go into town for high school. She has always been in a rural setting, and the large school setting is chaotic for her. She never quite fits in with the other girls, even with her cousin who is also at the school. She develops a friendship with another outside Jimmy (Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie), a First Nations boy who lives nearby. Together they discover that ?coloring outside the lines? may be the secret to finding happiness. There are some family issues and backstory that could have been fleshed out a bit, but overall, this was a nicely done film. (My vote: Good)

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