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Phoenix Film Festival review: Friendships, they make movies better

On April 12, I attended the annual Phoenix Film Festival. I saw three groups of films: documentary shorts, college shorts, and live-action shorts. Here are the best films from each category as I see them.

Documentary shorts: “Jack and Sam” is a heartwarming story of being reunited 

This heartwarming documentary deals with the overlap of friendship and the Holocaust. This film handles WWII and the Holocaust with a unique angle, making the film quite remarkable. The documentary is about two friends, Jack and Sam, young Polish men who met while working in the mines at the Pionki Labor Camp in Pionki, Poland. One day, one of the friends couldn't handle the hard labor and boldly decided to cut down some of the barbed wire that contained them. The other stayed in the labor camp. Once liberated, they moved to Ohio; one settled in Dayton and the other in Columbus. At a gathering for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in South Florida in 2022, Jack and Sam saw each other for the first time in over 80 years. What I love most is that Sam and Jack are strong advocates of continuing to tell the story of the Holocaust and stories from survivors. As a Jewish citizen, I believe that continuing to tell stories of such tragic events as the Holocaust helps ensure that such events never occur again. The film left me with such a warm feeling inside. It showed me that no matter how many years people go without seeing each other, they can still be best friends.

College shorts: “When Beverly Met Rita”: A story of wallpaper full of memories

This was another fantastic film delivered by students at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University. The film focuses on the relationship between Rita, a wallpaper installer in her 80s, and Beverly, a young woman in her 20s living in LA. Their unlikely friendship began when Rita hired Beverly to help install wallpaper in her home. Rita was amazed at how Beverly had put together the different pieces of her house, such as the curtains and the furniture, so Rita hired Beverly to help her with her wallpaper business. From there, their work relationship became a friendship. It was enjoyable to see how Beverly learned from Rita since Rita reminds me of Hirayama from the recent Wim Wenders film “Perfect Days.” The way Hirayama tries to look for the best in everything daily is the same way Rita goes about life. Both women find joy in applying wallpaper and organizing events like gatherings to see their friends. Beverly said she likes that she could be open with Rita about sensitive topics since both women lost a family member to suicide. Ultimately, the short was an incredible reminder that it doesn't matter how old you are or where you come from; you can create an everlasting friendship. 

Live-action shorts: “Stories We Could Have Told You”: Stories that were most moving 

This film's theme seemed like it was going to be on a darker side since the film talked about the death of a loved one, but it turned out to be nothing I could have expected. The film focuses on a four-year-old girl who wants her mom to tell her a bedtime story each night. The girl, however, is figuring out how to deal with the death of her father, who died by suicide. Though she doesn’t realize it, her mom is hiding ways to cope with the death of a loved one in all of the bedtime stories she tells her daughter. I was touched when watching the reactions to the stories from the little girl. It was a way for the mom and her daughter to strengthen their friendship.

In the end, these films and all of the others I saw at the film festival were sensational, and I can't wait to see films at the 2025 edition of the festival.


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