By Mike Szymanski
With more than 300 diverse film festivals throughout the world, only one of them leaves boxes of tissues at the seats because the programmers know that you’ll be reaching for one to dab your eyes at some point during the evening.
Flicks4Change (https://www.flicks4change.org) is the only film festival that focuses on short films that create meaningful social change. Because of that, the issues often cover difficult and unpleasant topics like sex trafficking, immigration, clean water, environment, animal rights and gun violence through dramatic, tragic, and sometimes comic ways.
After three years the festival has gone international, having screenings in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and now in Sydney, Australia.
“We want to have a platform for filmmakers because we know how hard it is to make a good film,” said actor James Hawthorn, one of the co-founders whose debut movie was “Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer.”
Co-founder, actor Andrew Steel (“The Wish Man,” and the TV show “The Justice Lease”) said it is important that their fledgling film festival coordinates with nonprofit partners and helps them grow.
“We see the news, we see the suffering,” Steel said. “Art has this incredible ability to rise above the fray of social media bickering and the often depressing world news. It has the ability to change hearts and minds and she light on our shared humanity.”
On a rare rainy day in Los Angeles, the downtown venue was still packed with celebrities for the festival that turns films into philanthropy. Each night features 90 minutes of movies and then audience members are invited to interact with the filmmakers to ask questions and find out what else they can do to help with the cause.
For example, “Stand with Sanju” (https://goodweave.org/stand-with-sanju) starts off with animation about a girl in the Himalayas and then tells the story of a young girl sold into sewing slavery. Then, the 3-minute movie shows the real Sanju and explains that if buyers look for the GoodWeave label, the product is guaranteed to avoid child slave labor.
Before the screenings, celebrities, filmmakers and lovers of independent film gathered in the lobby to see art and Hollywood memorabilia being auctioned for the charities. Stars included Bruce Davison (“X-Men”), Jason Stuart (“Birth of a Nation”), Kelsey Scott (“How to Get Away with Murder”), Lucas Lockwood (“Ballers”) and many others who war supporters of the cause.
The halftime show between the series of short films featured Leonard, Coleman & Blunt who are former singers from The Temptations, Platters and Drifters.
Jabu, one of the artists, explained his large colorful paintings of his native South Africa.
“I am inspired by Nelson Mandela,” said Jabu standing in front of his Mandela painting. “I want to represent the voiceless in my work.”
Some of the most dramatic movies this period of programming included “Love the Sinner” (https://www.lovethesinnerfilm.com) by Jessica Devaney whose mother is an evangelical Christian, who has two gay children, Jessica and her brother. It turns out that Jessica’s brother was caught up in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, and injured. Jessica’s brave movie confronts the evangelist who used to preach against gay people, and gets him to change his ways.
“SuperMaarko” (https://vimeo.com/192525122) by Winston and Aaron Tao (the TwinTaoers) features a boy narrating what he doing over the Internet for viewers. The 7-year-old says, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but some days I get a Popsicle.” The movie about cybersex and child porn trafficking shows how arrests get made, and stops the 7-year-old before he is asked to recruit his younger sister.
“Good Guys With a Gun” (https://goodguyswithgunsmovie.com) by Jordan Ancel is a farcical spoof that shows how a hold-up at a mini-market gets out of hand when every good guy shoots everyone else who is holding a gun, causing over-the-top carnage.
One of the Best Documentary winners, “Annie’s Story” (https://player.vimeo.com/video/260156849) chronicles a 54-year-old mom dying of an incurable disease who is asking the Australian government to let her die with dignity. Her husband and two children are determined to not let her die a painful death and go the way she wishes.
“Inclusion Makes the World More Vibrant” (https://www.siff.net/festival/inclusion-makes-the-world-more-vibrant)by Genevieve Clay-Smith is one 3-minute movie that can easily make you laugh and cry. A young boy’s blind mother takes her son to an art museum where he explains the artwork to her. While standing in front of one particularly spectacular painting with a battle scene, the boy is so dramatic that sighted-people around the museum ask him to tell them about the next painting.
Other award winners this year included “Sleep Well My Baby” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs-7ufYdcJs) by the Twin Taoers about trafficking along the Chinese and North Korean border, which won best cinematography, best female performance by Jihak Chung
“It’s Just a Gun” (https://itsjustagun.com) about gun violence won best Male Performance for Joshua Jackson and best script for Brian Robau.
The best Documentary for this year’s Los Angeles show is “The Spring: 10 years of Charity: Water” (https://vimeo.com/180467014) and Melissa Center the filmmaker for “R.V.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqqr2wfOpws) won the honor of “Voice4Change” marking a filmmaker with a good voice.
Other honorariums were handed out for writers, musicians, trailer editing and money for costuming.
Sure, you can see a lot of these movies online on your computer, but it’s far more fascinating to watch them in a big theater and meet the people who made them, and then discuss them, too.