I was only able to see one short at The Attic Film Festival, but I got to take home a copy of a previously winning short for review. The one I saw in Austin was Journey to Jamaa, a film directed and produced by Michael Landon, Jr. which indirectly underscores the ministry of World Vision International. This short won several awards at the festival, and rightfully so. It was extremely well done, it held my attention (after all, how do you successfully retell the starving-kids-in-Africa storyline again?), and it had an unpredictable message.
On her deathbed, the mother of two soon-to-be orphans tells her children to go find and live with their aunt in a far away city. The story is their journey through trials and near misses to find a new home after their mother’s death. It’s a compelling story that if nothing else makes you appreciate the life we live in America. Here, it’s funeral homes and hearses after a loved one’s death. It’s plane tickets or bus fares to go live with the new family that parents have set up in their wills. There is communication by phone, plans made by adults, and children are protected (if nothing else by the legal system) from homelessness and danger. Not in Africa. Journey to Jamaa is a film that drives you to compassion, but it also instills a sense of respect for all humanity. Even in third-world countries (and perhaps more so than in America), respect, honor, and family are strong. They are binding and real, not pithy, vapid and self-serving as they are often portrayed here in the States. Spiritually speaking, this film calls into question the broader meaning of family, and how that applies to each one of us in our cushy lifestyles.
Ragman was a 2010 winner, and was directed by Dale Ward, who also directed Walther. Let me just say, my kids loved this story. They loved the simplicity of the imagery. They didn’t understand what was happening at first, as a homeless man took the stained rags from people he passed by and gave them new clothes. But as the people he encountered were healed, the homeless man took on their injuries. It’s amazing how they connected those dots. With a little prodding and conversation, I helped them see that it was an allegory of Christ. He takes on not only our sins, but also the pain, abuse, and injustice we suffer because of sin. He takes it all—not just the payment for sin, but all the repercussions of sin in our lives. He is a healer, not just a savior.
These two shorts did exactly what shorts ought to do. Rather than simply telling good stories, shorts should strive to make a lasting impact. Like a quick punch, they should provide an instant awakening. Good shorts make us examine a different aspect of something we thought we had figured out, and then shed new light on it. These two did exactly that, and deserved the awards they received from TAFF and other film festivals.