Mag Film Fest 2019: Best of the Fest – Shorts Edition

This year I was lucky enough to have attended The Magnolia Independent Film Festival located in Starkville, MS. While this city may not sound like much, it holds the best kept secret in Southern Film fests. As someone who helps run a film fest, I know how hard it is to pull off both a great experience and quality films… the Mag Fest’s team did it and made it look too easy. I had the chance to watch a huge slew of short films and decided that I would highlight a few that impacted me the most. Don’t get me wrong, I saw a lot more films that were good, but these are just a few of my favorites.

The Black Basilisk
Dir. Edward Loupe

This film was almost designed for me to love and (almost) felt like cheating to me. It is shot on 16mm film in black and white, giving it the look of an early creature feature. I love how they blended the tropes of both “teens-in-peril” movies with the traditional monster flick, giving an oddness that was hard not to love. The story is crafted perfectly for a short and tells a complete story, never giving you a “pitch film” vibe. So often filmmakers want us to sit through their film pitches in the form of a short, but Edward Loupe decided to make a complete film. I can’t get over how much I loved the texture and look of the film. The choice to shoot on 16mm makes so much sense and hope to see more from this team… and please stay in the genre… you folks are what horror needs these days.

Being Here
Dir. Sydney O’Haire

I am not usually moved by true stories, especially when it is steeped in things like cancer. But Being Here shows how to do it correctly. The short film is a semi-autobiographic story about a young woman who is trying to overcome her inner demons and re enter society. She is thriving in rehab and has developed a strong bond with an older woman who is dying of cancer. Their relationship makes sense and feels genuine, avoiding the saccharine-sweet trappings of this type of relationships. What I think Ms. O’Haire does best is present an honest “slice of life” that is presented in a natural way. The film thrives best in its quiet moments, when the filmmaker allows the movie to breath. Those moments of prolonged silence give you all the information that you need about these characters and that is (at least in my book) the sign a great filmmaker.

Mama Bears
Dir. Jeremy Burgess

Basketball is more than just a sport for some fans and this compelling documentary shows exactly what a team can mean to two very different families in Memphis. Mama Bears is a briskly paced short that highlights the joy and stress of raising kids, but through the lens of basketball (the Memphis Grizzlies to be exact). While at first this seems like a puff piece about fans of a local team, it quickly changes its focus on two amazing single moms and the challenges they face. The two mother’s lives are very different, but their love for their kiddos are the same. This is a beautifully shot film that is both emotionally moving and hypnotically beautiful. Jeremy Burgess makes bigger than life heroes of these women and shows how sports teams can be so much bigger than what they are.

Sac De Merde
Dir. Greg Chwerchak

The final film that I want to highlight that was a huge surprise to me. I was initially turned off by the glossy presentation and heavily narrated opening, but I was incredibly caught of guard when the movie takes a big comedic turn. The film follows an inspiring artist who trying to find love in New York City, but seems to have the shittiest luck. I really wish you saw the movie (which in English means “shitbag”), then you would know what a fun pun that last sentence was. This film is wonderfully perverse and kept me laughing throughout its thirteen minute runtime. I love when a director can embrace their inner grossness and swing for the fences. I don’t want to say too much, in fear of giving anything away. Let’s just end this with a hearty “go and see this fucking movie!”.

Blaine McLaren
Bald and Beautiful / Exploitation Guru
Blaine McLaren was born in Texas, but has called Atlanta his home for over 20 years. He has spent a lifetime obsessed with cinematic oddities, with a soft spot for rubber monster flicks and gore soaked head scratchers. He is the lead writer and owner of mondomclaren.com and is a regular contributor for multiple sites and podcasts.
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