This Sunday, you’re all invited to HIGHER HOPES, a FREE sometimes-weekly screening of strange and exciting short films.
My own ASHLEY/AMBER shares the program with films by the super talented Olivia Jampol (a rare screening of JEANNIE!) & Doron Max Hagay, among others. Get there on time because you don’t want to miss these! But also because there is a happy hour special where $5 gets you 2 slices of pizza and a beer. Not bad!
A Film+Video Screening Series
Sunday April 14th, 8:30 PM
L’asso East Village 107 1st avenue (btwn 6th & 7th st)
$5 = two slices of pizza and a beer!
I want to express how much a fan I am of this fun, informal (sometimes drunken) screening, and not only because my film is on the line-up. It’s got a very different vibe than short film festivals, which can often run too long and have pointless awards. And it’s also not like watching youtube, which let’s be real, is kinda a weak way to experience a film — I can’t compete with your 30 open browser tabs. Films are better with audiences! Especially when the audience is other filmmakers, and friends, and strangers who feel like they could be your friends, and there’s beer.
But okay, mainly I love this screening because of the flyers. This is the closest I will ever get to being in a punk band.
Blizzard gods permitting, Ashley/Amber will screen this Sunday at Higher Hopes, a weekly film screening at L’asso in the east village. Showing with a bunch of other sweet short films, so come out even if you’ve already seen mine! Screening is free, plus cheap beer & good pizza. 8:30pm.
The perfect tagline for an introspective short film about American politics and a skewed sense of morality. Written and directed by Rebecca Rojer, ASHLEY/AMBER is a 22-minute short film starring Diane Guerrero as Ashley, an attractive young woman who recently lost her boyfriend to the war. Heartbroken and conflicted by her loss, Ashley struggles to reconcile her boyfriend’s duty and commitment to fighting for his country with her pain and sadness, even a little anger over losing her loved one.
Ashley is also struggling financially, so following a current American trend (and let’s be honest, a global trend), Ashley responds to an ad to make some quick cash performing in a fly-by-night, amateur online sex video under the assumed name of Amber. Now, not only is Ashley conflicted by her boyfriend’s death, combined with the constant pressure from her anti-war activist friends to protest with them and speak publicly about her own experience of loss, she now has the added weight of having sold herself to pay the bills looming on her conscience. Ashley will soon discover just how volatile, fickle and hypocritical society can sometimes be about sex, war and free speech.
ASHLEY/AMBER is a small, independent project, as are most short films. This drama is gritty and honest, but the pacing is decidedly slow and methodical. At times, I do feel the editing lingers just the tiniest bit too long, leaving the camera to linger just beyond the point of comfortable observation, but I also feel that perhaps this is intentional, hoping to convey a sense of relentless voyeurism. In a society obsessed with reality TV and celebrity gossip, ASHLEY/AMBER also touches on these themes indirectly, even if unintentional. As Ashley comes to terms with her situation in life, with the circumstances she is both forced into and entered into by choice, she takes a chance and reaches out as an anti-war activist but finds that instead of her outspoken message of peace making a positive impact, the two-sided Internet proves to be the curse that subjects her life to further ridicule.
Diane Guerrero does a fascinating job, portraying an emotionally scarred woman stunted by her confusion and pulled apart by a society that deems sexual freedom far more morally reprehensible than a controversial war and the corrupted comfort we have developed for violence in general. Her emotions are reserved, but dwell just beneath the surface of her skin. ASHLEY/AMBER has some very minor production flaws, but the message and direction of the film on display from filmmaker Rebecca Rojer are of a respectably high caliber. This is an intelligent film, even subversively, darkly humorous film on a subconscious level. ASHLEY/AMBER plays as a smarter, far more poignant counterbalance to the trend of mindless, frivolous reality programming that clogs the bandwidth of television and the Internet. Rojer clearly has a strong vision for storytelling and encourage her to follow this path and discover in what direction this compass will lead her.
ASHLEY/AMBER was nominated for a Golden Berlin Bear award for Best Short Film in 2011 and can be purchased in Europe as part of a DVD compilation titled BACK TO POLITICS.
The undergraduate thesis of writer/director Rebecca R. Rojer, Ashley/Amber is a dark comedy centering around Ashley (Diane Guerrero), a young woman whose complicated grief for her soldier boyfriend leads her to seek a temporary escape from her pain by becoming Amber Jones, start of an internet porn video. On the very same day as her porn shoot, Ashley attends a meeting of anti-war activists and, encouraged by co-worker Winona (Evalena Marie), agrees to speak out at an upcoming rally. When her fiery, impassioned speech at the rally wins her praise and ends up on online, Ashley’s two worlds collide and Ashley is challenged to reconcile her loss while experiencing her 15 minutes of fame.
Rojer, a recent graduate of Harvard College, has managed to pull off a challenging dark comedy within the short span of 22-minutes largely thanks to her intelligent script and Guerrero’s winning performance. Ashley/Amber was nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival, and has also played at festivals in New Jersey, Cincinnati, Virginia and Toronto in addition to New York. The film picked up the prize for Best Student Film at the 2011 New Jersey International Film Festival.
Ashley/Amber is a darkly satirical film that asks the essential question “What does it take to get America’s attention?” Having viewed the film on the same weekend as the funeral for Whitney Houston, it was a question I found myself contemplating quite often this weekend as I reflected on just how America chooses its idols, role models and such. Rather than going over the top with the comedy, Rojer wisely allows the film to play out naturally. While this approach may mute some of the potential for genuine laughs, it also makes the film a far more satisfying and impacting one.
Diane Guerrero is terrific as 19-year-old Ashley/Amber, a character who’d be right at home in the midst of a Todd Solondz film. She’s surrounded by a strong ensemble cast that seems to be right in step with Rojer’s vision for the film. Rest assured, while the film is dark and humorous you can also tell that Rojer is quite serious about her message but has found a creative, intelligent and effective way to get her point across. While there are times when the film’s lower budget hinders the film, especially with the sound mix, Ashley/Amber serves up a unique cinematic voice I’ll be looking forward to hearing from again.
For more information on Ashley/Amber, visit the film’s website listed in the credits.
I am so pleased to write that as of the past month, my short film has become outdated. Ashely/Amber is now a relic of another era.
The American protest movement has found it’s fighting spirit. Throughout the nation, the people are out in the streets. Normal people, by which I mean people who’ve never lived in a nudist cooperative house in the Bay Area, are debating the merits of consensus-based decision making and self-governance. We are openly asking: should we play by the rules, control our image, present a simple & easy message? Or is protest not just a means to an ends, but an assertion of democratic sovereignty, which therefore must accommodate the messiness of many opinions, values, and approaches?
The Occupy Movement has thus far negotiated this dilemma beautifully, adopting as its slogan a simple and appealing statement that asserts the rule of the people. The means is the end. We are the 99% and we want a government that represents us. So we assemble in the streets, and represent ourselves. But beyond the initial catharsis of overthrowing our apathy and helplessness, can we keep this going? I hope so, and I hope my film can contribute in some small way, if only to remind us of how impossible this moment felt half a year ago.