Highlights Out Of The Oxford Film Festival
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I packed my bags to head to Oxford, Mississippi. All I knew about Oxford was that it’s known for its university (Ole Miss) and for being Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner’s adopted hometown. But neither was why I was coming to this quaint college town. I’d been invited to be a part of the jury of the Oxford Film Festival. A regional festival, it boasted no big stars on its red carpet, or flashy promotional “activations” for gaudy upcoming releases. But I embraced this as an adventure, and a chance to discover something special. Out of all the features and shorts I saw, here are my favorites.
While on a panel about how to market your movie, I mentioned offhand my appreciation for true crime. Afterwards, I was approached by documentarian Skye Borgman, who hooked me on seeing her latest by saying simply, “It’s about a girl who is abducted by a beloved family friend. Twice.” This shocking logline is just the tip of the iceberg in a soul-rattling yet inspiring story of abuse and survival. This is a doc true crime fans won’t want to miss. (Full review coming soon.)
Joseph Sulsenti’s animated short follows a shipwrecked man who crosses paths with a mermaid drag queen (voiced by Amanda Lepore). She cinches her waist with a lobster shell, using its claws as precisely placed pasties. Her fins tromp on his battered raft like platform heels on RuPaul’s runway. And when he begs for her help, she offers him a fierce ensemble that includes big hair, a jellyfish bra, and seashell heels. The fishy visuals will have you gagging. Then the final scene will have your heart swimming with joy.
The Drawer Boy
Winner of the Best Narrative Feature award, Arturo Pérez Torres’s gauzy adaptation of Michael Healey’s celebrated Canadian play ushers audiences into the home of two old farmers, Morgan and Angus. When a young actor stumbles onto their land asking for their story, what unfolds is a tough yet tender tale of love and sacrifice.
Bitches Love Brunch
Brunch is no longer a white girl’s game. Writer/director Sasha Leigh Henry’s comedy short features four Black girlfriends talking life and love over a less-than-ideal brunch date. Dropping hard truths, f-bombs, and bawdy comedy, this short had me howling.
Rodents of Unusual Size
Yeah, like the from The Princess Bride. This reference, plus a curious poster, was enough to lure me into a screening of Quinn Costello and Chris Metzler’s surprising and entertaining crash course on Nutria. This large rat species grows to 20 pounds, and its ravenous appetite for vegetation is shrinking the wetlands of Southern Louisiana, making hurricane seasons more and more dangerous for the state’s human population. This fascinating doc reveals how Nutria are regarded across decades, and class lines. This curious critter is presented as everything from a coveted resource to a dangerous pest, to a family pet, and ultimately as a cruel comeuppance for man, who damned his environment by introducing this invasive species to a place where it has no natural predators, and countless opportunities to breed and feed.
Cop Chronicles: Loose Cannons: The Legend of the Haj-Mirage
If you like Hot Fuzz or MacGruber, you’ll love director Mark Potts’s buddy-cop parody that gleefully mocks the genre’s hokiest and most infuriating tropes. Naturally, there’s a trigger-happy cop who doesn’t play by the rules, a hollering police chief, and a former partner broken from a grisly personal loss. But things get really wild when it comes to robot clones, mystical books, and an outrageous bear attack. Filled with silliness and improv, it’s a bit rough around the edges but nonetheless hilarious. (Full review coming soon.)