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“Shoot to Kill Film Festival showcases diverse student films”

By George Gonzalez
On December 21, 2014

Wednesday afternoon on December 3rd, the Fall’s Shoot To Kill Film Festival was underway at the Texas A&M International University’s Student Center auditorium. Held from 2pm to 4:30pm and co-hosted by student film directors Mariana Clark and Javier Palos, the anticipated event showcased the various short films made by Marcela Moran’s Video Production 1 students.

A total of five unique films were premiered, each with a different premise, style, theme, and message. Many of the films contained mature themes and most of the content was not suitable for younger audiences. Aside from showcasing the talents of the students, the film festival also doubled as the final exam for the aspiring filmmakers.

After close to an hour of delays, which mainly involved difficulties regarding the sound, the festival began with Karen Jasso’s 30-minute documentary entitled, “Unheard Voices.” The first and by far lengthiest film at the event, “Unheard Voices” exhibited the true stories of three different individuals who have all been a victim of different kinds of abuse. The first segment of the documentary followed the story of Andres Sanchez who shared his experience of being a victim of unlawful police brutality, followed by Karen Jasso’s emotionally powerful feature in-which she tells her story of being mentally and physically abused by previous boyfriends. Lastly the segment that followed was the story of a 20-something homosexual Hispanic man who had been subjected to homophobic abuse growing up.

Nevertheless, “Unheard Voices” was an emotional and very powerful film, with each interviewee sharing deep and candid moments of their lives. The heavy subject matter was something that was definitely felt throughout the auditorium.

During the question and answer portion of Unheard Voices, Sanchez followed up questions dealing with his unethical treatment by police, emphasising that he has been an advocate against police brutality since controversial slaying of Jose Garza this past September. “It’s been about four months now since the killing of that man and they still haven’t extracted any real justice, so it’s pretty disappointing to say the least- that police brutality is accepted,” proclaimed Sanchez.   

The second film at the festival was “Lana,” directed by Lydia Johnson. Starring Karen Jasso as the lead titular character and Alec Martinez as Lana’s love interest. The 15 minute drama was a dark and somewhat somber look at young love with lots of imagery dealing with alcohol, smoking, and adult situations. According to the films director the inspiration behind the film was that, “it’s very mainstream to say that love is easy, and that when it happens you go along with it. But sometimes, as much as you want it, you literally can’t because of a lot of variables,” elaborating that, “I wanted to show a girls perspective that even though you find a right guy, there is still wrong timing. When it’s meant to be, it’s meant to happen regardless of what you want.”

After a round of applause, the film was complimented for it’s very believable acting with the on-screen chemistry between Jasso and Martinez. Director Lydia Johnson commented, “I feel really blessed that when I took this class and Karen was in it. When I pitched this movie, she said, ‘you know, that fits me in a way.”

Explaining that Alec Martinez was a last minute decision after an actor previously dropped out of the project, the young director was grateful that the new addition ended up working much better. “He embraced it and it really did look like they were ‘going out.’ It was very believable and they were very passionate,”  

After the “Lana” panel, the third film was Jacqueline Jimenez’s 10 minute mystery entitled “Unhinged.” Taking on a very different tone that the previous two films, “Unhinged” was a dark and cryptic revenge fantasy of that dealt with a jealous psychopathic female antagonist.

In answering a question about the films’ ambiguous ending, Jimenez explains that the deadly ending is suppose to be left for the audience to interpret but does emphasize that the lead male character in “Unhinged” is killed. The female antagonist, “couldn’t handle that he [the male love interest] wanted someone else beside her,” states the young director. Surprisingly enough, Jimenez revealed that much of the film’s sound was created or added during post production.

The fourth film, entitled “Three to Four Minutes” was co-directed by the Shoot to Kill co-hosts’ Mariana Clark and Javier Palos. Taking it’s name from the average duration of a song being three to four minutes, the film was a drama about lost love. Using music to link various imagery together, the short film was praised for it’s unique and out of order flashback sequences.

During the Q&A portion of the festival, Palos elaborated more on their use of music as a narrative by saying it was the closest thing we have to a time machine. The director clarified, “it really sets us back to a different time with each specific song linking to a specific memory. It really throws you back and you really go to this state of mind where you’re just thinking and remembering certain things that you went through.”

In discussing their inspiration of what drove the filmmakers to go this direction, Palos commented that, “Mariana and I got together and we talked about our experiences in high school, and we wanted to have a kind of film that exemplified those ideas and things that we’ve gone through. So we came up with this idea after hours of writing.”

Clark elaborated, “I think what we really wanted was to make a drama, but not tragic. It’s not really a tragedy, it’s just what happens to most people. In the end, he [the male protagonist] is supposed to be married, but it’s obviously not with the girl he has been day dreaming about.” The director concludes that, “it doesn’t really result in a disaster or anything. They seem happy at the end. It’s just that he settled.”

Last but not least, the final film at the festival was “Love Me, Love Me Not.” Directed by Dulce Cruz, this romantic tragedy deals with a young college student who moonlights as a serial killer. In some ways, the film was similar to the themes of “Unhinged” or other popular serial killer films such as American Psycho or the Showtime original series, Dexter.  

After the movie was aired, Cruz mentioned how her staff and writing team were originally going to go on a different direction by making the films lead antagonist a vampire. However, due to several restrictions, the team ultimately opted out, leaving the main character to just remain a psychopathic woman.

In closing, the Fall 2014 Shoot to Kill Film Festival was one of eclectic and creativity. The young filmmakers showed a strong passion for each of their projects. The talents of their actors and post production crew were also prominent in each of the movies showcased. Despite the unfortunate hour delay at the beginning of the festival, the student short films were enough to make the event a rewarding and entertaining experience.


Shoot to Kill Film Fest Poster Cropped.png

The official logo & poster of the Fall 2014 Shoot to Kill Film Festival

Courtesy Photo

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