In the May 5 installment of AZPM’s Arizona Spotlight, film essayist Chris Dashiell took a closer look at three of the films that premiered at the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television’s annual I Dream in Widescreen event, including Changing of the Guard, 9TEEN, and A Man’s Man:
“I can’t help but be impressed by the professionalism of Zoe Lambert’s documentary about the U of A Women’s Basketball team this past season called Changing of the Guard. The 2020-21 Wildcats, led by their amazing star Aari McDonald, made it all the way to the championship game, losing in a squeaker to Stanford. So in the 2021-22 season, with McDonald gone to the WNBA, the players talk about maintaining their standard of excellence. Interviews and voiceover from Sam Thomas and other players are accompanied by footage from team practices and games, while they share their thoughts about the challenges of the upcoming season along with their admiration for each other and the coaching staff, especially head coach Adia Barnes. Lambert’s film conveys the essential information in a short running time. That’s how you do it.
9TEEN is an affecting personal documentary by Desiree Bourret. It’s about a young Tucson rapper, Dakota Dylan Wester, whose name as a rap artist was Dax. He died from an overdose of Fentanyl, a pill he was told was a Xanax. I admire the way Bourret centers the film on Dakota’s mother, brother and friends, who talk about their love for him, and how special he was, along with a lot of photos and clips from home movies. There’s no judgmentalism. The main point is the appreciation of a young man’s life, while along the way the risk posed by Fentanyl is acknowledged. A fine, sensitive tribute.
In my opinion fiction shorts are more difficult to do well than non-fiction, simply because it’s harder to create a story with enough style to make its mark in such a limited running time. A Man’s Man, by Jacob Robinson, can veer at times towards being too glib, but it’s ambitious enough to make an impact. It’s the story of a very depressed young man who attempts suicide and his brother who desperately wants to save him from himself. There’s good acting from the leads, with an ending that is funny and touching, and the story smartly depicts how supposedly masculine ways of communication can end up preventing guys from asking for help.”