The 3rd Annual Jerome 89A Independent Film and Music festival took place during the Labor Day weekend with several film events covering a wide area along historic highway 89A. Among the festival attractions: films screened on the return trip aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad, filmmaking panels and discussions in the town of Jerome, and films screened throughout the weekend at the Clark Memorial Clubhouse in Clarkdale. Despite steady rainfall and a few power outages, the festival completed its scheduled run, concluding with the presentation of the film festival awards by festival creator and director Toni Ross. Here are the films that received special recognition at the conclusion of the 2015 Jerome 89A Film and Music Festival.
Best Narrative Feature: Sarah’s Room – Grant McPhee
A young, lonely wife takes in a young female boarder named Sarah. Her husband returns, and he can’t keep himself away from the alluring Sarah, and the exotic mysteries hidden in Sarah’s room. Made in Scotland in just five days for a wee six grand, “Sarah’s Room” is an intriguing and artistic tale told in haunting tones, smoky interiors and often voyeuristic camera techniques. Outstanding low budget indie recalling the contemporary mood and feel of David Lynch with the dreamy depressing draw of “Last Tango In Paris.”
Best Narrative Short: Fathers – Jamie Rivera
A man visits a shrink and describes the nightmares that have haunted him his entire life: A homicidal child who is constantly trying to kill him. The man goes on to describe his own son; the crazed and dangerous manifestation of all of his fears and terror who is now his own offspring. Deeply psychological short film that relies heavily on subtleties for the plot, but makes up for it with exquisitely spine tingling, classic horror cinematography.
Best Documentary Feature: Power’s War – Cameron Trejo
The last great Arizona shootout didn’t take place on the dusty streets of Tombstone, but at a lonely mountain cabin in the rugged, snowy mountains north of Tucson back in 1918. With a scant amount of photographs and a stack of (often dubious) documents, filmmaker Trejo captivatingly weaves this intriguing and tragic moment in Arizona history into a remarkable and compelling documentary. With several recollections from local historians including Marshall Trimble and researcher Heidi J. Osselaer, Trejo honestly and endearingly presents this sad and shocking Arizona tale with a dogged determination for the truth. A local tragedy startlingly relevant to today’s political climate and jingoistic fervor.
Best Documentary Short: Searching for Posada – Victor Mancilla
A little rough yet extremely effective documentary, ‘Posada’ travels through Mexico to discover the true motivation behind the massive body of work created by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada. Posada’s art and satirical cartoons helped ignite revolutions, and inspire revolutionaries.
Best Arizona Feature: Unsound – Darious Britt
With a bulging list of awards, this outstanding Tucson indie continues to dominate every film festival, and Jerome was certainly no exception. Director Darious Britt flawlessly brings to the screen all of the vital elements that seem to elude local feature filmmakers including: A personal, original story, excellent editing, sound and cinematography as well as superb performances by the actors and above all, the ability to captivate, illuminate and educate.
Best Arizona Short: Surrender at Crow Lake – Boise Esquerra
Times are tough for faith based filmmakers. The tired old allegories and silly symbolism that used to be the crux of any faith lost/faith restored indie film just doesn’t cut it anymore. Mixing languid, sepia toned images with stark colors, ‘Lake’ presents an excellent example of the new direction in faith-based indie: gritty realism, coarse language and frank depictions of personal transgression. A mildly surreal and almost grindhouse departure into a tenuous and sometimes eerily tepid return to Christian faith.
Best Music Video: High – Guro Ekornholmen
Recording artist Rebekka Garden sings a sultry and seductive homage to her lover while Norwegian teenagers experiment with drugs. Lyrical and effective presentation of the dangers of addiction; either by substance abuse or obsession.
Best Horror Short: Stomach – Dan Dixon
People line up outside the door of a dirty and disheveled man for the opportunity to communicate with the dead. After placing their hand on the man in his dingy apartment, the spirits of the dearly departed are channeled through a gory, pulsing and swelling growth on his stomach. Not for those with a weak, well, you get it.
Best Comedy Short: Myrna the Monster – Ian Samuels
An insecure alien from the moon turns to self-help groups as she struggles with the earthly distractions of body image, dating, youthful angst and life on this planet. Equally humorous and serious short film that seamlessly combines puppetry, CGI and animation. A very entertaining and thoughtful film recalling the ‘elephant in the room’ style of awkward anxiety contrasted with lethargic mundanity seen in the early work of visual artist Charlie White.
Happy Trails Award (Tribute to Western Films): The Woman of the Mountain – Ryan Johnson
A tourist exploring an Arizona ghost town discovers an old book buried in the dirt. In flashbacks to the old west, the book reveals the long forgotten tale of a secret gold mine and the sexy, deadly witch that protects it. Slick and stylish student film paying homage to several movie favorites; from “Star Wars” to “Taxi Driver.”
Rising Spirit Award (Trey Brayden award for most inspirational film): Send Me Your Smile – Paul Vernon
A cowboy wanders through the desert, hopelessly searching for water, his horse and the gal he loved the most in this dark and violent poetic western-themed short film.
Change the World Award (Most socially impactful film): Shadow Nation: Under the Crooked Sky
Documentary follows rock guitarist George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob) as he teams up with several other politically engaged musicians as they travel across the US in an old station wagon. Pulling a vintage horse trailer retro-fitted to carry band equipment, solar panels, generators and camping gear, the musical road trip visits the Apache, Navajo and Hopi reservations in Arizona, Zuni and Tewa in New Mexico (as well as several others) in the search for universal harmony, clarity and peace.
Best Cinematography: Myrna the Monster – Ian Samuels
The only film to double-dip, ‘Myrna’ took home the awards for “Best Comedy” and “Best Cinematography” at the 2015 Jerome 89A Film and Music Festival.