Now in its third year, the Fast Forward Film Festival has expanded to include 17 entries among its official selections. The films, all created by locals, and each clocking in at five minutes or less, include a balanced mix of independent documentaries and animated shorts.
The festival continues to focus on environmentally conscious films. However, in comparison with last year's offerings, the 2017 selections are overall more uplifting, choosing to tell stories of human problem-solving and engagement in the face of increasing environmental challenges. The juried competition includes 14 short films in the adult category and three works in the youth category. Opening night screenings will take place at The Little Theatre on Friday, March 31, and additional screenings, a gala reception, and a subsequent award ceremony will be held at the George Eastman Museum and Dryden Theatre on Saturday, April 1.
In a preview of what to expect at the 2017 Fast Forward Film Festival, below are five highlights from the adult category as well all the three youth category entries. For more information, including the full list of official film sections, go to fastforwardroc.org or call the festival office at 340-7456.
Youth Category (listed alphabetically)
Mary Moore's "The Decay" reveals a dystopian future in the year 2087, in which an elderly woman reminisces to her granddaughter (played by the filmmaker) about how life was during "The Green Age" and how it went wrong. This film benefits from a brilliant concept and an equally strong message about the power of being proactive.
"Life Through My Eyes" is a film essay with a simple yet inspiring message of hope. Co-directors Juleyka Roche and Tylor Ngourn point to the beauty of nature as a metaphor for human strength and resiliency, and in the process, make a compelling case for the inextricable connection between humanity and the environment.
In "Worm Farms," filmmakers Caleb Holfoth and Colin Ransom visit the Thornell Road School, where a group of students, called the Thornell Service Stars, have built worm farms. This short also doubles as an instructional video about how to build your own worm farm.
"ART Nature" is a film by Cathleen Ashworth highlighting the work of Upstate New York artist Brian Manning, whose vivid, color-splashed paintings and introspective sculptures encourage thoughtfulness about the wonders of the environment. The artwork is effusive and brilliant, but the voice-over is comparatively dull and self-serious and reduces the narrative to a forgettable museum audio guide.
"Babies in the Woods" by Erica Barnabas shows audiences nascent trees growing in a Genesee Land Trust preserve, planted there to prevent the destruction of the tree population by the emerald ash borer. Those trees also provide migrating birds an important place to rest and eat, and the film ends with suggestions for what specific species of trees are ideal to plant with traveling birds in mind.
Brian Larson's decidedly bittersweet "Love Song of the Drone" is essentially an animated music video with an indie folk soundtrack provided by Sam Comfort. While drawing attention to the importance of bee populations in general, the film focuses on the oft-overlooked yet vital role that drones play in the propagation of bees and the success of their hives. Comfort sums it all up with a charming lyric: "If you want some honey-home, just call your honey home / Life is but a dream, as sweet as it seems."
A winner of last year's festival, filmmaker Alex Freeman returns with "Pickers," a concise yet informative peek into the work of Flower City Pickers. Founded by Khoury Humphrey, the volunteer organization collects unused produce and other items from vendors at the Rochester Public Market and then distributes that food to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and other groups or individuals in need. The short documentary also features top-flight, engrossing cinematography from Freeman and an intriguing score from The Moho Collective.
"RIT Beekeepers Club" tells the story of a local fledgling bee preservation outfit, made up of Rochester Institute of Technology students. Oscar Estrada's well-edited film details the benefits, obstacles, and goals of fostering a sustained bee community at RIT, as seen from the perspective of the club's president Austin Quinlan.
Editor's note: CITY film critic Adam Lubitow was one of the Fast Forward Film Festival jurors. He did not participate in the initiation or execution of this article.