For the past five years, Tulsa has hosted a wondrous exhibit of film. From short-film to classic film to music videos, the Tulsa American Film Festival showcases an array of the amazing artwork created by talented filmmakers. This year marks five years since the festival’s start. The festival stretched over five days, beginning on Oct. 9 and ending on Oct. 13. On Oct. 12, TAFF had a showing of narrative short-films hosted at the Circle Cinema. Starting at 4:00 pm, a series of eight films were shown. Each film had its own story and message. The first film titled Mni Wiconi: Water is Life was directed by Miguel Antonio Genz and Jeremias Galante. It was a beautiful animation that depicted the relation of fracking and mining to climate change.
Without any words, viewers were taken on a short journey of fossil fuel being harvested from the ground. Viewers were able to see the effects of fracking on the water supply of the local community at the end when a woman reaches down to get a drink from a lake. The lake, once a lighter color, was tainted and became shades darker. During the end credits, the directors tributed the film to the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors.
The next film was by Sheldon Wong Schwartz. Within nine minutes, Schwartz told a sensitive story of a young girl named Ava and her teacher in a juvenile detention center. Ava has a brand on her forearm in the vague shape of a heart. Unbeknownst to Ava, her teacher has an identical brand on her forearm. When given an assignment to share something about themselves, Ava shares the story of how she was given her brand. Ava explains that a friend inside the detention center tattooed a heart on her brand. After the class adjourns, the instructor meets with the principal and explains her desire to help young Ava. She is told to not involve herself any further with the students past teaching, however, she meets with Ava a day later and finds the name of the person who branded her. The teacher visits the home of the man who assaulted Ava and comfronts him. Eventually, the two get into a physical altercation and the assailant loses his life in the process. At the end of the film, the teacher and Ava share their brands with each other and Ava draws a heart on her teacher’s arm to replicate the tattoo she has on hers. It was a moment of solidarity and an excellent way to end the film.
Both of the short films executed their points wonderfully. The remaining films on the roster were just as entertaining and had creative plotlines. The film festival was beautifully organized. At the end of the event, organizer Ben Arredondo invited the audience to attend the awards ceremony and after party that was to take place at Studio 75. He thanked everyone for coming out and personally spoke to every attendee. Overall, the Tulsa American Film Festival was an enlightening experience. So far, there has not been any information given in regards to next year’s festival. However, the host of the festival, Circle Cinema, has a plethora of events taking place for the remainder of the month. Please visit their website, circlecinema.org, for more information.