Cocksure Cinema

Adolescence is a strange time in a young man's life. Girls, for those who swing that way, suddenly become interesting; hair begins popping up in brand-new places. And that's not the only thing that starts popping up. So what does the average young man do when faced with these changes? Two things: He tries to grow some facial hair, and he starts masturbating like there's no tomorrow. Two up-and-coming filmmakers have documented these, um, seminal experiences, screening works at the Texas Filmmakers Showcase focused on facial follicles and spanking the monkey.

Mike Woolf's Growin' a Beard chronicles a beard-growing contest in Shamrock, Texas. Each year on New Year's Day, contestants begin cultivating authentic Donegal beards (a whiskery fringe around the lower chin and jowls), and the results are judged on St. Patrick's Day. It's a time-honored tradition for the residents of this Panhandle town, which has been all but forgotten since the rerouting of historic Route 66.

This year, Scotty McAfee, a hairy outsider who "grows hair fast and thick," has entered the ranks. His cockiness grows at an even faster rate than his bristles. "It looks like I chop wood for a living, or at least for a hobby. Most men would have a difficult time growing this quality, this type of a beard," he muses after a month of growth. McAfee does admit there's a downside to his abilities, though: "I also have a lot of hair on my back."

The documentary has some hilarious moments, especially the segments showing the lengths these gents go to in order to spice up their hoary presentations: vitamins, green Epson printer ink and "authentic green Irish chlorophyll tablets." Yet director Woolf swears the film is not a mockumentary. "If you make fun of these people, then what kind of man are you?" he says. "I was so appreciative that those guys let me into their bathrooms. The way you make these kinds of things is you just let them speak for themselves, and if it's funny, it's funny." And it is funny -- very funny.

Waiting for Trains is a visually stunning short film set during a fictional civil war in North America. While awaiting execution at the hands of his own countrymen, the silent protagonist reflects upon his adolescence and…here it comes…his masturbatory journeys of self-discovery. But the film is about far more than nudie magazines and punchin' the munchkin; it's a tale of loyalty and innocence, of sticking to your guns no matter the cost.

The film also has an eerie backstory. Filmed in New York state in 2001, this vignette about a fictional war in America was cut short by the events of September 11. "Everything happened, and the state shut down," explains producer Jason de Leon. "The film got cut in half." Either art was imitating life, or life was imitating art, or something else was going on entirely, but the uncanny synchronicity of events is one hell of a coincidence. We'll never know whether Waiting for Trains would have been better had it reached its intended conclusion, but the film is indubitably majestic, even if part of it does focus on a young boy wiping jizz off his trousers.

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Keith Plocek
Contact: Keith Plocek