Brooklyn Film Festival Review #1

Three-pack screening of Bye, Freckle, and Hank and Asha at Windmill Studios

The Brooklyn Film Festival is in full swing at indieScreen Cinema and Windmill Studios, both on Kent Avenue. With over 106 films from 24 countries spanning every genre, you are certain to find something you will enjoy.

Saturday, I went to the three-pack screening of Bye, Freckle, and Hank and Asha at Windmill Studios.

Bye is a three-minute short from Canadian filmmaker Chris Muir that straddles the line between sketch and experimental film. Bye follows the arc of a relationship with only one camera set up and only one line of dialog, the word “Bye.”

It’s rare that three minutes and one word can pack such an emotional punch, but Muir manages to pull it off with the aid of actors Richard Charles and Celine LePage. Bye embodies the chief element needed for a good film, regardless of length, intelligence.

This short film is the perfect visualization of Longfellow’s famous saying: “In all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”

Oakland based visual artist Mike Cantor is the creative force behind the experimental short, Freckle. The synopsis describes it as “19,000 velcro dots. 18 months. Two Velcro dot suits. 20 volunteer ‘Velcro pushers.’ A girl. A guy. Space. Skin. Atoms…Freckle!

Yea, I am not really sure what any of that means either.

A song by New Haven based musician, Brandon Patton, accompanies the experimental Freckle. The style of animation Cantor employs, paired with the music, appears to be a direct nod to Michel Gondry’s video for The White Stripes “Fell in Love with a Girl.” Unfortunately, in this case, neither the song nor the technique quite hit the mark. I found Freckle to be disjointed and difficult to follow and only marginally interesting.

Of the three, I was most apprehensive about the feature film Hank and Asha, by husband and wife directing and editing team James E. Duff and Julia Morrison. The synopsis sounded contrived: “In this modern love story, an Indian woman studying in Prague and a young New York filmmaker begin an unconventional correspondence—two strangers searching for human connection in a hyper-connected world.” UGH! I honestly did NOT want to like this film.

I didn’t either … I loved it.

Yes, the story is super hokey, but that fact is very quickly erased by the talents of everyone involved. In particular, director Duff, the cinematographer Bianca Buti, editor Morrison and the performers, this film is a true testament to the definition of collaboration.

Andrew Pastides plays Hank, a marginally privileged millennial living in New York, who receives a video message from Asha, played by Mahira Kakkar. She saw a film of his and they begin a back and forth courtship dance, via video messages.

Even though Asha is in Prague and Hank is in New York, their video courtship unfolds like any other, full of flirting and innocence. It reminded me of what that dance is like before the complexity of sex creeps in. Both Pastides and Kakkar completely embody their characters and truly shine.

Mahira Kakkar is a real gem to watch as Asha grows more and more interested in Hank. She plays cute and coy perfectly, as almost every girl does in those early stages of courting. Kakkar also has that truly rare acting gift of being able to express so much by saying so little.

Andrew Pastides quickly makes you realize that Hank is not just another marginally privileged millennial, he’s just another young guy trying to figure it all out. He’s exceptionally charming and particularly shines in a Bollywood tribute to Risky Business, it’s a moment in the film that every guy watching could easily picture himself doing.

Perhaps that is what makes the Hank and Asha so likable, the simple way it charms the viewer into so easily identifying with both characters.

Sadly though, cultural differences ultimately prevent the Hand and Asha from meeting up in Paris. And speaking of Paris, Hank and Asha is a wonderful millennial tribute to the Generation X story of unrequited love, Before Sunrise. As that movie begat a trilogy, is the same in store for Hank and Asha?

It’s the simplicity of Hank and Asha that makes it so damn delightful to watch. Making something appear that simple is a true testament to the entire creative team involved because making any film is never simple.

While I remain unclear where the cockles of any one person reside, Hank and Asha is sure to find them and warm them.

Bye, Freckle and Hank and Asha will be shown again Saturday June 8th at 8pm at indieScreen, 289 Kent Avenue.

You should go.

Published 6.4.13 on The WG News + Arts site.