This year’s Bentonville Film Festival was 71% comprised of women-directed films. Of those, 75% were works by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) or AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) people. After watching most of the movies by Black creatives, I’m happy to say it was refreshing to see Black films about healing that didn’t involve a crackhead ex or an estranged father played by Clifton Powell. By the way, I like Clifton Powell. Two short films that stood out the most were Ludi and Message Read because of their relatability.
Ludi at Bentonville Film Festival (Directed by Edson Jean)
Ludi is the story of a hard-working nurse in Miami who works to save money to send back home to her family in Haiti. While chasing the “American Dream”, Ludi faces pressures from her coworkers, clients, and patients. One associate encourages her to take on extra shifts as a caretaker for an old man, but she is hesitant because the extra hours are illegal. Ultimately she agrees after her family at home asks for extra money.
How it displays healing:
Most of us have a mindset of chasing “the bag” to the point where we lose track of what matters in life or simply don’t have the time to appreciate life. Taking personal time, having a conversation with your loved ones, and taking care of your overall health are all critical, especially for health care providers like Ludi during times of COVID when essential workers were/are oftentimes overworked. In conclusion, she realizes that sometimes chasing a bag is not worth it: a lesson learned from taking the caretaker position.
Message Read at Bentonville Film Festival (Directed by Spencer Glover)
Message Read is about Gwen, a man serving as a concierge to Heaven in a place called “Firth”, a place between Heaven and Earth. Gwen helps those struggling to let go of their finality by giving up a prized possession (anything from a Black Panther toy to a piece of jewelry). This routine changes when Benny, recently deceased, is unwilling to release his cell phone which holds his only connection to his child. To the surprise of Benny and Gwen, the phone can carry a signal! It suddenly receives a call from Earth. This moment challenges Gwen to deal with his inability to let go of his attachment to his son. This film is beautifully shot and the use of coordinated colors is fantastic.
How it displays healing:
Black men are only recently beginning to accept that it’s ok to not be ok and that talking about their issues is not a sign of weakness. This film shows two Black fathers expressing their love for their sons and dealing with letting go. Benny gives up his phone and accepts his place in the afterlife by the end of the film. In the process, he has inspired Gwen to face his own refusal to move on. This film did a fantastic job displaying how Black men can express themselves, show love, and be vulnerable.
Bentonville Film Festival Final Thoughts
Both of these films were excellent in storytelling and presentation. Other short films that were in step with the theme of healing were Big Touch (Chris Tenzis), Americanized (Sara Saedi), and Cracked (Lin Que Ayoung). As inclusivity and representation in storytelling slowly become the norm, I hope that projects like these will continue to have more exposure and distance audiences from the Hollywood stereotypes.