The filmmakers featured in the The New Nostalgia short film block at Indie Grits were trying to capture the effervescent. Those fleeting moments or oddball stories tucked away where no one can find them. The short film block, which screened eight short films from filmmakers and documentarians across the Southeast, is one of the two-day showings showcasing the “emotional archeologists” of Indie Grits.
The identity of the South itself lends itself to a sort of nostalgia, where the remains of the past still linger. The directors captured those lingering stories in a remarkably vast array of ways — from the experimental to the character-driven, The New Nostalgia gave distinct voices to the obscured past. Of the eight short films shown, three stood out as detailed and provocative character studies.
“Sweet Love,” directed by Stephen Crompton, highlights seventies Renaissance man and retiree Alvin Bojar. Bojar spends his days in a massive Florida retirement community, experimenting with agriculture and lounging by the community pool. His Hawaiian polo shirts and socks with sandals package a seemingly normal old man finishing his life in the humid bliss of Sun City Center.
But beyond his appearance, Bojar hides a past as a member of the “Theatre of the Absurd.” Bojar, along with a Harvard law degree and Wall Street past, created the absurdist soft-core porn film “Fongaluli.”
Crompton delves into the wacky journey Bojar embarked on to create his controversial comedy, including clips from the film and Bojar’s admittance that they were “making it up as they go."
Yes, the clips from “Fongaluli” are definitely NSFW and ridiculous, but the film maintains its gravity through its cinematography. The shots of a humble Bojar shuffling along the pool deck or smiling to himself as he watches his “lobster porn” movie remind you Bojar is hanging on to a memory, and can’t help but relive that sweet nostalgia.
“All Skate, Everybody Skate” by Nicole Triche is another look into a one-of-a-kind life in Topsail, North Carolina. The film, which runs 19 minutes, is about Doris, the postmaster and skating rink owner of the small seaside town. Doris wears thick-rimmed glasses, khaki shorts and her quad roller skates as she speaks into her thirty-year-old microphone, alerting her skaters it’s time for a game.
“Nothing’s changed since the eighties,” one Topsail resident says, and neither has Doris, who keeps the same routine she’s had for 48 years: post office by day, skating rink by night.
But the nightlife of a 78-year-old isn’t wacky, it’s tradition, and Triche finds the earnestness in an outdated hobby and the sounds of old vinyl become the soundtrack to a life full of routine, love and skates.
Local filmmaker Gerry Melendez’s short, “House of Saints,” is a reflection on redemption and those we carry with us. The documentary follows Reggie Scott, a Columbia native and jazz musician who served 32 years in prison for second-degree murder.
“I shamed all of them," Scott says of the women who raised him, his mother Geneva Scott and her sister Harriett Cornwell. But Scott knows they’ve forgiven him, because he knows the women are still with him, even after death.
Scott sees those who’ve died before him as his saints. He keeps his mother and aunt with him and his musical idol John Coltrane, who once simply stated, “I want to be a saint,” a statement that has stuck with Scott for decades.
Melendez interweaves Scott’s musings on his spiritual companions and the sins of his past with footage of Scott rediscovering his history. He walks through his childhood home, he sits with his mother and aunt’s grave, he places flowers on Coltrane’s statue in High Point, NC.
The reflective tone of the short isn’t nostalgic and it’s not repentant; Scott isn’t asking us for forgiveness. The film is revelatory; it’s Scott rediscovering what shaped him, which helps us find Scott.