Just Scream

These days there are more options than ever to get your fifteen minutes of fame, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s easy to make fun of the idea — fame is so fleeting and yet still so tempting — but it can also lead to good things. If you can inspire just a few other people with your passion for Kashubian embroidery, you might create friendships, even an online community. Or more seriously, you might also find ways to help yourself and others heal after a tragic event. That’s what Emma (Ewurakua Dawson-Amoah) tries to do in the short film Just Scream, though unfortunately in her case it’s particularly difficult.

Still from Just Scream
Emma tries to explain the unexplainable.

Emma is appearing on a talk show to discuss the abuse she suffered as a child, ten years ago, at the hands of a popular and well-respected teacher. It’s depressing how often it’s the popular and well-respected teachers who do the most awful things, but I suppose the worst offenders would develop that sort of protective camouflage. It’s an impressively brave thing she’s doing, and the show’s host, Carl Peterson (Timothy J. Cox), repeatedly says this along with other encouraging things, but the atmosphere of the show still isn’t what you’d call supportive. And when Emma is asked an incredibly tone-deaf question, she’s driven to speak her mind in powerful, moving fashion.

Dawson-Amoah, who also wrote and directed, packs a great deal into this film while still keeping it simple and real. Everything is shown through the unchanging lens of a single fixed camera. Emma’s experiences — both the abuse itself and the way others approach the subject — are all too common, but the film faces both head on in a way that’s still not common enough. Cox’s portrayal of the fussy Carl, focusing on all the wrong things, creates the perfect foil for the overwhelmed but determined Emma, leading to a memorable and deeply affecting ending. In times when anything can and will be reduced to a hashtag, films like this are needed more than ever to remind us of the people behind the stories.

The Maids Will Come on Monday

There’s no stress quite like holiday stress. Familiar routines are broken, journeys undertaken, and you have to try to coordinate plans with a lot of other people who are just as stressed as you are. That isn’t even getting into the worries about what gifts to buy and how to keep everyone happy with the food selection. With all this going on and more, it’s no surprise that there can be a lot of tension mixed in with the joy of seeing loved ones again, as evidenced by the short film The Maids Will Come on Monday.

This is the latest from (writer-director) Harley Chamandy, the filmmaker behind The Last Act of Joey Jumbler. Here the focus is on a well-to-do family gathering together to celebrate the spirit of the season, though from the very first something about that spirit is more than a little frayed around the edges. Julianne (Anana Rydvald) can’t seem to say anything right to her expectant daughter Chloe (Charlotte Legault), while the hosts of the party (Julianne’s sister Christine and her husband Henry) are apparently trying to get through the evening as quickly and quietly as possible. Julianne’s husband Craig (Charlie Ebbs) just seems to be trying to drink everything quickly and quietly.

When the tension finally breaks, it explodes, and more of the truth than anyone’s really comfortable with comes spilling out. As in Joey Jumbler, Chamandy shows us a realistic glimpse of vulnerable families — the backdrop is different, but the heart of this story is something we can all relate to. Like life, the film offers no easy solutions. We can’t be sure which direction any of the characters will go or whether things will ever quite be the same for any of them, but the film creates a masterful portrait of a family at a crossroads, with a chance to either change things for the better — or fall right back into the same comfortable yet destructive habits.