Bethany Lutheran College hosted their fifth annual Speechless Film Festival this past weekend from March 16-18 at the Verizon Wireless Center. This year was the festival’s biggest one yet, playing host to over 90 films from across the globe, including a handful made right here in Minnesota, and kicking off with a concert by Minnesota band, The Last Revel, at the Kato Ballroom.
When I first walked into the Verizon Center on Friday night, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect—this being the first real film festival I’ve ever attended. After attending my first couple of showcases, however, I soon realized that Speechless is all about the craft and artistry of filmmaking. It’s a place where filmmakers and enthusiasts of all genres can come together to share and discuss their passion for film (both making and viewing) and visual storytelling as a whole.
The films were grouped together into showcases that were themselves organized into a broad range of categories, including Animation, Art, Experimental, Features, Fantasy, Mind Games, Minnesota Loud, and Minnesota Quiet, among many others. Here are just a few of the many wonderful films that stood out to me at the 2017 Speechless Film Festival.
This charming film from Spain made its debut in the Lost category, which featured films that have something missing in them, whether that is a loved one, a possession, or some kind of control, among other things. This particular film follows an elderly married couple as they relive old memories during a road trip. This short film was both funny and sweet and finished strong with a hilarious ending that served as a nice break from some of the heavier themes featured in this category.
As part of the Mind Games category (for films that invoke a sense of intrigue and mystery), this short film from France starts off innocently enough, but quickly descends into something much more tense and sinister. An unsuspecting woman named Marion opens her door to find a strange man asking for someone named George. The man abruptly enters the house and things quickly spiral out of control from there, wrapping up with a twist of an ending that was both thrilling and frightening.
Part of the Minnesota Loud category (for films made in Minnesota that feature intense situations and/or really strong characters), this hysterical comedy pokes fun at the recent political arguments over undocumented immigrants. This film was perfect for fans of satire or for those wanting a light-hearted break from all the seriousness of politics and current events.
The Car Pool
Another comedy in the Minnesota Loud category, this short film follows four co-workers as they carpool to work one bright and sunny morning. It ends with a hilarious twist that comes right out of left field and left many of the viewers (myself included) in fits of laughter.
This touching drama debuted as part of the Minnesota Quiet category, which showcased films made in Minnesota that feature some highly personal stories and sympathetic characters. Half Smile follows two men as they move a bunch of old valuables to the dump. As the two men bond while they work, one of them comes to grips with the past he tried so hard to forget. This was one of the most touching films I’ve seen in recent months.
Another entry in the Minnesota Quiet category, this student film follows a middle-aged actor named John as he waits for an audition that just might rejuvenate his stagnating career. Things pick up when a younger, more confident actor arrives and John must wrestle with his own confidence and sanity. Featuring elements of both comedy and drama, this film had some of the best acting and camera work I’ve ever seen in a student film and, in many ways, reminded me of the Oscar winning film, Birdman. This film was highly enjoyable from start to finish and might possibly be my favorite film from this year’s festival.
These were just a few of the many delightful and profound films that graced this year’s Speechless Film Festival. I wish I could have seen and wrote about more of the films at this year’s event, but with over 90 films, the festival as a whole is a heck of a lot to take in. All in all, the fifth annual Speechless Film Festival was an amazing event for those who are interested in films and the craft of making them and I’m thoroughly excited to see what other amazing films will be showcased at next year’s event.