UCLA students have joined filmmakers from around the world to showcase their short films at the French Riviera.
Two student films, titled “Run” and “Wreck,” found their place in the Short Film Corner, a subsidiary event of the 2018 Cannes film festival that aims to connect industry hopefuls from all over the world. Directed by first-year English student Tiger Zhong and fourth-year English student Isabella Bradley, respectively, the films will be screened May 15.
Zhong, a Daily Bruin staffer, and Bradley are members of UCLA’s Film and Photography Society. The students initially made their films in fall 2017 for Campus MovieFest, after which their shorts were chosen and submitted to Cannes for consideration.
“Run” strives to portray the ugly side of romantic relationships.
The film tells the story of a man who hunts down his ex-girlfriend with a crowbar following a messy breakup. It starts out as the conventional suspense film with a man following a woman in the middle of the night, said Samantha Mallari, a third-year international development studies student and the film’s editor. But as the story progresses, it becomes unclear which of the two characters is more devious as the film hints that the woman is possibly just as crazy through spilt-second flashbacks of her professing her love for him. It shows how relationships change in complex ways that can’t be predicted, Mallari said.
“It’s a very muddy situation, where you don’t know the relationship,” Mallari said. “You are expecting something traditional, but you are getting something different.”
Mallari said music also plays an important role in the film, encouraging the audience to hold its breath through the use of heavy drum beats. Unlike other suspense films, the filmmakers didn’t use shrill sounds that function as jump scares, she said.
The tension between the two characters ultimately culminates in a confrontation scene toward the end of the film. They argue about their relationship before the woman stabs the man in the eye with a pencil, showing that she is just as capable of violence and aggression as he is. The film then cuts to the final scene, which shows the crowbar on the floor surrounded by a puddle of blood. The scene, however, does not reveal or suggest which person killed the other, despite the woman’s initial attack on her ex-lover, said Angel Herrera, a second-year theater student and the film’s director of photography.
Zhong said he intentionally crafted an ambiguous ending because he wanted to challenge the audience to consider both sides of the relationship instead of sympathizing with one particular person. The underlying danger of the relationship appears to be the physical confrontation, but the slow psychological manipulation may be the real danger.
“A broken and abusive relationship that hurts both ways is in no way purely one person’s wrongdoing,” Zhong said. “Everything seems fine and fun on the surface, but a snap in a person’s head can turn everything upside down.”
The protagonist of Bradley’s film is followed by a ghost – or so she thinks.
“Wreck” tells the story of a woman who accidentally runs over a skateboarder in a fatal car accident. Consumed by guilt, she begins to see visions of the dead skateboarder, and struggles to contend with her own mental and emotional instability.
Michael Evangelista, a third-year applied linguistics student and the film’s editor, said he used flashback scenes of the accident to emphasize the woman’s recurring sense of guilt, and to remind the audience of the incident. The woman’s increasing sense of culpability builds up to the final scene, which shows her taking her life right as her mother walks in.
In the film, the mother was previously unaware of her daughter’s struggle. She represents people with mental health struggles not sharing their problems with those around them. Evangelista said the protagonist’s decision to take her own life shows the extent to which guilt can affect a person, preventing them from seeing that there are people who could support them.
“The big thing we show in the film is that she’s dealing with this monster that is her guilt, but she is dealing with it alone,” Evangelista said. “But it doesn’t have to be like that.”
Director of photography and third-year sociology student Daniel Vallejo said the psychological aspect of the film is important because it emphasizes issues such as mental health and suicide. To portray such themes through the camerawork, Vallejo said they used close-up shots to highlight the actress’ fearful expression, as well as shots where the skateboarder’s ghost stands over her with a dominant and overwhelming presence. Even though most people have never accidentally run someone over, Vallejo said the film is still relatable for most audiences because they likely go through tough situations that make them feel guilty and alone.
“The presence of her guilt becomes stronger and stronger as the film progresses, and eventually she takes her own life,” Vallejo said. “That’s what happens to a lot of people when they feel trapped.”