Texas-made short films fill the schedule of today's Houston Film Commission First Thursdays screening. The Texas Show 2010 follows the same lineup as the closing night of last year's Dallas VideoFest and includes a few hits and a couple of misses.
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On the hits side is Red Wednesday by Nazanin Shirazi. Centered on the life of Sholeh, a nine-year-old Iranian American girl who wants desperately to cheer her ill and despondent mother, Red Wednesday is stirring and heartfelt. Trying to revive their homeland's Zoroastrian fire celebration (where people jump over small fires as a way of symbolically cleansing themselves) in the American suburb where the two now live, Sholeh instead alarms her mother. "What will the neighbors think? They already think that we're strange," her mother chides. Red Wednesday is about longing for normalcy when nothing is normal anymore.
Another hit is Katrina's Son by Ya'Ke Smith. Raw and confrontational, Katrina's Son is the story of a young boy who loses his grandmother during Hurricane Katrina. He travels to San Antonio to reconnect with his long-absent mother, only to find her on her knees in the shadows of a darkened street, giving a drug dealer a blow job. His mother's only reaction to the news of the grandmother's death is, "Well, you can't stay here!" In anger, the dealer pulls his gun on the boy, eventually shooting the boy's dog. The sense of abandonment and betrayal is palpable as the boy watches his mother stumble away, his innocence and hope both lost in the same moment.
On the miss side is Tough Crowd by Anne S. Lewis, an animation of a daughter's visit to her elderly mother who lives in a retirement home. Fraught with concerns for the staff's reaction to her making a rare visit and apprehensive about the other resident's snide comments (which are mostly in her imagination), the woman turns her visit into an existential crisis. If Lewis is seeking sympathy as the overly busy daughter who is dutifully visiting her mother, she is way off the mark. Instead, the character comes across as a self-absorbed whiner.
You can see all nine of the shorts in the Texas Show 2010 at the Houston Film Commission First Thursdays screening. 8:30 p.m. The Fairview, 315 Fairview. For information, call 713-437-5249 or visit www.houstonfilmcommission.com. Free.