Among the best films I saw at the Orlando Film Festival were several musical shorts. I'm going to talk about two now and I'll be posting a follow-up article with two more. To me, they are all tremendous films--ones that show a lot of polish and speak well of the young filmmakers who made them.
Fell For You at Auld Lang Syne
I felt a bit sorry for Michael Hunsaker and I spoke with him before the screenings began. This is because he seemed very nervous--which isn't surprising for a guy who was about to screen the first film he ever directed. He seemed even more nervous when the moderator asked if there were any of the filmmakers in the audience, as he wanted them to come forward after the shorts were shown so they could answer questions and talk about their pictures. I encouraged him to go forward--which turned out to be even tougher because another popular short shown just after his had a huge group of folks go to the front--directors, actors, producers and they were all very rowdy and enthusiastic about their film. Afterwards, I wasn't sure if Michael was thankful I pushed him to go forward or if he wanted to punch me in the nose! Considering he took a few minutes to meet with me and talk about his picture and pose for pictures, I assume it's the former!
The film is a simple story. A young man and a young lady both are very alone and New Years Eve is approaching. As they are at their respective parties and everyone is celebrating, it's clear the two are lost--pining for each other yet also afraid to take that step and call their old partner. The camera cuts back and forth between the man and the lady and both sing about their loneliness and longing.
While the idea is simple and the short is just 6 minutes long it works for two good reasons. The direction is very nice and Hunsaker did a nice job of setting a really nice mood. The other reason is that the singing is just terrific and the actor and actress playing these parts sound like professional singers not young actors. Interestingly, when I talked to Michael, he told me that he, too, was a singer and will be working on a cruise ship in the very near future doing just that. But, he explained that singing and directing at the same time was just too difficult and he wanted to put all of his energy into the production.
Blue Thunder (Bleu Tonnerre) is a French-Canadian musical that is very deceptive. Instead of pretty young folks like you find in Auld Lang Syne, the film is full of ordinary or even less than ordinary folks approaching middle age. It's the story about a mid-life crisis, and Bruno is having a doozy of a crisis! His partner just miscarried and he's depressed about himself and his life. He's also depressed about his career and you see him just muddling through at his job at the lumber mill. Eventually, he even gets himself fired. But that's okay, as Bruno can now follow his dream...to become a professional wrestler! Who cares that he last did this when he was younger and is now rapidly approaching 40?!
While the plot sounds a bit unconventional, it's the singing that is the real surprise. Often the singing is rather terrible and the words are far from the usual polish you'd expect in a musical. However, because of this, not in spite of, it works so very well. Danny Placard (Bruno) is far from a matinee idol and he's an easy guy to like despite his problems. Additionally, everything comes together well for the characters and it's a very satisfying combination of a comedy, a musical and even a romance. Philippe David Gagné and Jean Marc E. Roy did a great job directing and writing this quirky and very likable little film.
Both movies make great date films and are well worth your time. They also speak very well of the filmmakers, as many left the screenings very impressed with these shorts.