Latest posts by Alexander P. Garza (see all)
- Review: Little Rooster’s Egg-cellent Adventure (Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos) - October 30, 2015
- Review: Behavior (Conducta) - June 17, 2015
- Lorís Simón Salum and the Literally Short Film Festival - June 12, 2015
“We like films that have a message.” Lorís Simón Salum told me last Friday during a phone conversation around lunch time. I was sitting in my car on my lunch break, scribbling notes in my notebook, and Lorís was running around to complete her commitments for the day.
She was telling me about how the films were selected for the upcoming Literally Short Film Festival which she organized and coordinated. She continued, “not necessarily films that tell just any story, but ones that can answer: Why did you make this film? Why do you think it’s important for people to watch this film?”
Lorís Simón Salum, Creative Director for Literal Magazine and the event organizer for the film festival, was delighted to answer my questions on this humid summer day in Texas. She continued to tell me about the history of the event, picked out a few favorites from this year’s festival, and discussed some of the other projects she’s working on.
The Literal Short Film Awards is a project that grew out of Literal Magazine, Houston’s Latino-focused arts, culture, and literature magazine. They raise Latin American artists onto a higher platform in the U.S.. Lorís explains, “we’ve been going for 10 years now, so as it’s progressed, we’ve kind of changed from focusing on Latin American authors to looking at all artists and international artists.”
Their movement into film was a combination of a natural evolution to cover film topics, Lorís’s passion for film, and the magazine’s 10th anniversary last year, which prompted them to formalize their presence in independent film. “And so, it was opened worldwide, and the submissions had a maximum time of 10 minutes and we awarded 3 winners. This year, we wanted to expand, so we’re establishing a new festival in the process, still have three winners, but also have an official selection,” she said.
The festival is growing quickly. Lorís explained, “last year, we received over 200 submissions, and this year we received a little over 400. We have 3 winners and 7 for the official selection. So, we really had to filter many good films out.” The festival had a 100% increase in submissions from last year to this year. The speed of growth of the festival was no easy feat, and I heard a sense of exhaustion but justified pride through the phone. I also heard Lorís smile as she said, “I think we’re off to a good start.”
The jury panel that chooses the films changes every year. This year, the jury included Patrick Smith, an animator known for his unique drawings and for his work on major network channels like PBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, FX, Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. They also have screenwriter Amy Lowe-Starbin. She’s an L.A. screenwriter, known for her film, Kelly & Cal, which was released theatrically by IFC. Finally, Kat Chandler, a Texas filmmaker known for Hellion starring Aaron Paul, is also part of the film jury panel this year. “We try to add a lot of variety on our jury panel. Our staff held a pre-selection, we gave the panel quite a few films, then they’re the ones who made the final decisions,” Lorís said.I asked her what her favorite films were from this year’s festival line-up, and she quickly named her top three. Before proceeding, she pointed out that she “really liked all of the films. There were some other ones beside the official selection that were very good, but we couldn’t choose them all. There were three that really struck a chord.”
The first one she told me about was Beach Flags which is from Iran. “I had a long history with women’s issues,” Lorís explains. She got her degree from Rice University and immediately launched her career in film and the arts by crowdfunding and then shooting her first feature film, the award-winning Ensoulment, which covered women’s issues. “This film touches on that issue, but with a very unique story and told in a way that hasn’t been told before. I just love the spirit of it,” she said. The second one she named is an Official Selection, the Canadian film titled Hole by Martin Edralin. “That is a very strong film, it’s really hard to watch at times, but it’s one that stays with you for days. I was really happy when I saw that that one made it into the official selection,” Lorís said.
The last one she mentioned is the third place winner, a film from Sweden, Northern Great Mountain by Amanda Kernell. The film is about an elderly woman who denied her roots for a long time, but returns to her small hometown to come to terms with who she is and where she’s from. Lorís, with Lebanese roots and having immigrated to the U.S. in 1998 from Mexico City, was able to connect with the story. She explains, “I related to being from a different place, having to adapt to a completely new culture, and the whole idea of being a minority- and the idea of whether you want to integrate that with who you are or do you forget it?”
I could relate to this sentiment as well. I am Mexican-American, first generation U.S. citizen on my Mother’s side and second generation on my Father’s. I instantly understood what Lorís meant. It’s what most Mexican-Americans in the U.S. feel at some point in their lives. A sense of questioning cultural identity and a desire to feel like you belong. “It got me on a personal level”, she went on, “also, there was very little dialogue and I thought it was beautifully told.”
Lorís was kind enough to answer my questions about her personal career as well. She recently wrote a short screenplay called The Test. The screenplay won 3rd place at the L.A. Independent Film Festival and Best Debut Script Award at the ColorTape Film Festival in Australia.
“After Ensoulment, I wanted to get into narrative, because that’s what I’m more passionate about at this stage of my life,” Lorís said, “this short script has no dialogue and it sheds light on the darker side of where women could also go. You hear so much about women empowerment in film and rarely hear about men, so I wanted to explore that area and tell a different story where the woman is showing a different side of herself.” Lorís will begin shooting The Test toward the end of July 2015.
Lorís has a busy schedule as it is. Aside from organizing the Literally Short Film awards, she runs the day to day creative initiatives and administrative work at Literal Magazine, writes feature articles, hosts their podcast called Literally Everything, and continues to write and produce film. “I have another script that I’ve been working on,” she said. After Ensoulment, the filmmaker wrote a feature, but then took a step back from it as part of the process. She explains, “I had just finished the feature, so I just let it rest and I’m waiting until I finish this short before I move on to that one again.” If all goes according to plan, her second feature will be a narrative and will be produced within the next couple of years.
I returned to the topic of the festival and awards ceremony and asked about what attendees can expect this year. Some of the official selections and winners come from an impressive list that gives the festival much wider global reach. Some of the filmmakers are from Denmark, Iran, Sweden, the U.S., and others. “It’s going to be an international experience. I think that here in Houston, when it comes to film, it’s harder to find films that come from all over the world,” Lorís said, “this is going to give everyone a very different taste of what filmmakers are doing today.”
The awards ceremony will begin at 6:00pm and will feature live music by the non-profit called Musiqa. The group puts a modern twist on classical music. The ceremony will open up with saxophonists Dan Gelok & Mas Sugihara along with a talk about the importance of art in culture by Anthony Brandt, composer & co-founder of Musiqa. The ceremony will also feature an art exhibition by artist Jonathan Leach. Food and drinks are being sponsored by The Phoenix on Westheimer. The first night, there will be a cocktail reception, the awards ceremony, and a screening of the winning films. On Saturday, the official selections will be featured at 4:00pm and at 7:30pm. If you don’t have your tickets already, get them here. The 2nd Annual Literally Short Film Festival will be held on June 26 and 27, 2015, and hopefully, I’ll see you there.
Our conversation came to a close, and we said our thank yous and goodbyes. I set my notebook down, under the sun that poured onto the passenger side seat. I thought about how Lorís said her team liked films with a message and about the theme in Northern Great Mountain– the theme of coming to terms with one’s identity. I thought about how much I relate to that. Theme isn’t always apparent before creative work begins, and hopefully, the artist learns something about themselves in the process of creating it. I am Mexican-American, but does that automatically make what I write Mexican-American writing? I suppose that’s up to me. But why deny who I am when producing creative pieces? When we discover who we are through the process of creating something, and it shows through the final work, then that seems to be when people connect and relate to the material the most. I sighed, quickly ate what was left of my sandwich, and headed back into the office to finish out the work day.
2nd Annual Literally Short Film Festival
June 26, 2015 at 6:00pm
June 27, 2015 at 4:00pm and 7:30pm
5425 Renwick Dr.
Houston, TX 77081
For ticket information visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/literally-short-film-awards-tickets-16949688976.
For the official film festival schedule, list of winners, and additional information visit http://literalmagazine.com/literally-short-film-awards-2/.
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