A comedy about a narcissist who meets his match, an actioner about a high school student out for revenge, dramas about an abused girl caring for her cancer-striken father and a lonely, self-harming girl with an imaginary friend, as well as documentaries about an adult female surfing club, the craft brew scene and the undocumented dealing with being undocumented make up this year's Newport Beach Film Festival "OCC Shorts" program.
Space constraints with the Film page story on the 10th anniversary of Orange Coast College's shorts program at the 14th annual NBFF prevented introductions of the "OCC Shorts" filmmakers and their cinematic stories that will roll in the Lido Theatre at 1 p.m. Sunday.
And so, here they are now:
Americans have made plenty of documentaries (and dramas) about folks who cross the southern U.S. border illegally, many of them by Mexican-Americans. But director Gabriela Peñúñuri brings the unique perspective of an international student from Mexico. Her 14-minute doc profiles a man struggling to raise a family, an anonymous OCC student who was brought here illegally as a child and people who congregate at the border's Friendship Park. "Growing up in Mexico, I experienced and witnessed many people's difficulties for finding work opportunities and providing for their families," Peñúñuri tells me. "I would constantly hear people talk of the American Dream and saw many leave to the U.S. in search for it. I immigrated as a student, but I understand where millions of undocumented immigrants come from, and their reasons to take such a big risk as to enter the country without legal documentation–and so I felt that I could voice their side of the story in a more personal way." She continues: "I'm not sure if my background made this documentary any different from others on the same topic, but it definitely helped me in the process of developing the film. The people featured in The Undocumented are mostly those who I randomly (but luckily) met at the locations where I was filming. I can't say much about them, but I will say they are people who love and respect this nation just as a native, and if given the opportunity to legalize their status, they would undoubtedly contribute positive things to society." OCC Acquisitions Librarian Carl Morgan awarded his annual $1,000 scholarship to the documentary, which guaranteed it a look but not necessarily a selection from festival programmers, according to Scott Broberg, the OCC Film/Video coordinator.
Seven Carlsbad women, who range in ages from their 30s to 60s and are known as "The Cupcakes," share their passion for surfing and how it has changed their lives. Lily Young, who made the 13-minute documentary with Minerva Alvarado, says a Cupcake who is her ex-boyfriend's mother was the inspiration for the first film Young completely shot and edited. "They find it very relaxing," Young said of the women in her film and surfing. "It's their therapy." She called making the film "a huge learning experience," one she hopes to take to Cal State Long Beach (finances willing) next fall.
Based on the poem of the same title by Bay Area poet Sharon Olds, director/co-writer Justin Ramirez's 9-minute drama is about a girl caring for her father dying of cancer–and thinking back to when he abused her. The project was part of the last class editor Amrit Khalsa took at OCC before receiving her certificate. She now interns at MacGillivray Freeman Films, the Laguna Beach production company that makes large-format nature and environmental documentaries and employs many who have been through OCC's Film/Video program. "That's how well they trained us," observes the 23-year-old from Holland.
A high school student sets out to kill the hit man who murdered his sister in the 19-minute action short written and directed by Nathan Laolagi, 20, of Cypress. "I shot it in my house, a Motel 8 and a warehouse in LA," he says. He gave actor Chris Gutierrez a co-writing credit for helping with the dialogue. Laolagi looks forward to networking with other filmmakers at the festival.
A narcissist finds his ego challenged when he encounters a woman that is even more narcissistic then he is in this 12-minute "intelligent dark comedy" that Richard Purvis wrote and produced. It was directed and edited by the skin care company owner's 22-year-old son, Alastair Purvis, who is now a UCLA film student. But before Alastair became a Bruin, the father followed the son into OCC Film/Video, and assuming the same roles their short drama Discarded made last year's "OCC Shorts" program at NBFF. "We had a bit of fun with it," Richard says of Wangled. "It is not distasteful in any way. It's fun, stylish." The father and son are scoping out more projects they can do together this summer, with dad angling for a Sundance-worthy feature some day.
Finally, a documentary that truly speaks to me. Director Oscar Ussern parlayed our shared love of beer into this 15-minute examination of Southern California's craft-brewing scene, which had the filmmaker, his crew and on-screen host Joshua Davis (not to be confused with producer Josh Lang, as I did in the first draft … hic!) traveling everywhere from Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido to people's garages. Davis is also a film festival intern, so he knew before everyone else their doc had made the lineup. Editor CJ Sato has never been a big drinker, but The Art of Beer turned into a "passion project" for him. "It was a lot of fun," says the working editor of commercials and short films. "We had a good team." Among the team members was Mike Lucas, who shot the film and appreciated my saying I'd list him as the director of photography. He was used to working alone as a cameraman before enrolling at OCC, where he learned about being a team player. "Meeting people in classes, sharing the same ideas, everyone having that passion–that's what I like. Everyone wants to be here."
A lonely, self-harming girl develops a friendship with an imaginary friend after using the Tibetan mysticism concept of "Thoughtform." Matthew Caponi says kids he knew who cut themselves inspired the 21-minute drama he wrote, produced and directed. The Huntington Beach resident has had other films in high school festivals, but his project from his first semester ever at OCC is also the first to ever make it into a professional festival like NBFF. He just finished working as the cinematographer on another student's final project, will be looking for paid gigs this summer and may also direct a music video for a contest. He's definitely got the beats.
"OCC Shorts" at the Newport Beach Film Festival, Regency Lido Theatre, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach, (949) 253-2880. Sun., 1 p.m. $5. For tickets, visit newportbeachfilmfest.tix.com/Event.aspx?EventCode=564354. For more information on the program, visit facebook.com/OCCShorts2013.