No Moment was Wasted: Highlights at the 2023 Indy Shorts International Film Festival | Festivals & Awards

The Grand Prize for Documentary Short was awarded to Justine Martin for her lovely and observing ode to the bonds of brotherhood, “Oasis,” where twin siblings Raphaël and Rémi are gradually awakening to the challenges of adulthood that may cause them to split off in different directions. Amber Sealey’s 2019 shorts, “How Does it Start,” which was screened as part of Indy Shorts’ retrospective devoted to the production company Vanishing Angle, is a phenomenally well-crafted and sensitively handled vignette about a sexually curious 12-year-old played to perfection by Lola Wayne Villa. And I couldn’t help being reminded of my favorite feature film of 2023 thus far, Kelly Fremon Craig’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”, while watching Maria Mealla’s marvelously nuanced “The Macana.” It stars Kayen Manóvil in a quietly captivating performance as the young daughter of divorced parents. Her reluctance to visit her father immediately after getting her first period is achingly authentic, resulting in a final scene that had my heart singing. I have no doubt that Judy Blume would love it.

“The film happened very organically,” said producer Bianca Beyrouti. “As someone who also gets periods and has divorced parents, I just found those points of connection immediately. It’s all told from a Latina/Latinx perspective. My director is originally from Bolivia and being able to tell stories with and through that identity is important.”

Maria Mealla’s “La Macana”

The most high-profile name to receive a prize at Indy Shorts was Alden Ehrenreich, who won the Directorial Debut Award for his electrifying “Shadow Brother Sunday,” executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola, who cast the actor in his under-appreciated 2009 effort, “Tetro.” Tim Blake Nelson lent his indelible voice to “Ninety-five senses,” an endearing and heartbreaking animated work from the “Napoleon Dynamite” duo of Jared and Jerusha Hess. Photographer Cig Harvey honored her late friend in River Finlay’s extraordinary “EatFlowers,” in which both the visuals and narration have an awe-inspiring poetry, such as when a compost heap dotted with plant life resembles the night sky. Similarly, “Subject to Review,” the ESPN documentary helmed by Theo Anthony (whose brilliant “Rat Film” made my top ten list in 2017), juxtaposes pixels on a screen with sand on a baseball field, showing how both allow history to be inscribed on their surfaces.

Among the most stunning directorial debuts I caught at Indy Shorts was Sebastian Delascasas’ “promise,” a symphony of emotionally charged silences disrupted by sudden revelations. In the role of Chris, a teen who reveals a horrifying truth to his pal (played by Delascasas) during a night of video gaming, Rupert Fennessy is utterly mesmerizing—and his work is all the more impressive when one learns that he only had five hours to prepare for it. While speaking with Delascasas, he told me that he was born in Colombia, South America, and moved to Qatar in the Middle East at age seven before attending college at NYU.