As part of the Annual Arts Fest itinerary, there was a public screening held for two documentary shorts by Boston College student directors Emily Mervosh and Katlyn Prentice, both A&S ’14, on Friday night.
Mervosh’s short, titled “Genesis,” is the story of 11-year-old Genesis who has recently discovered a passion for playing the clarinet through the BC Music Outreach Program.Genesis’ newfound interest acts as a lens, exposing new layers of her situation-she emigrates to the U.S. from El Salvador, only to find very little meaning in her new lifestyle. Faced with the cold reality of the isolating New England weather, Genesis embraces the clarinet as a source of comfort and hope.
Mervosh exposes an interesting dialectic by juxtaposing the mother’s grounded and realistic perspective with Genesis’ sweet and romantic outlook on life. Genesis talks about “improving” and “getting notes that sound like little bubbles,” while her mother feels very grateful and happy that her daughter is using her time to make music instead of spending her time on other activities. Genesis acknowledges that her current house “doesn’t have that much, but it’s very roomful,” a remark followed by a wide shot of Genesis dancing in an empty living space. Her mother equates San Vicente to freedom and her life in the U.S. to a jail.
“Genesis” culminates with the BC Outreach Program’s final recital, an event at which all the kids involved in the program get to present what they have learned to a large audience. Genesis goes on stage with her teacher (Josie Bearden, A&S ’16) and is cheered on by a proud mother and father as she plays “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
Prentice’s film “Mile 21” is an account of the Boston Marathon Bombing framed within the confines of BC and its community. The film begins with a montage of downtown Boston, the Public Library decorated for the event of the Marathon, the finish line, flowers, and sneakers from the memorial.
Although the shots (many of them stills) were taken from this year’s marathon, they have a nostalgic and chilling undertone reminiscent of last year’s tragedy. By concentrating solely on Mile 21, the viewer can look beyond the magnitude of the events that took place the day of bombing and empathize with runners and with a community at a more intimate level. The film follows the runners as they approach the finish line and begin to notice that there is something off.
“Mile 21” stitches together the testimonies of the BC students who ran the 2013 marathon. The opening explores that shared feeling of confusion at the crude contrast between catastrophe and achievement. Tension and intensity rise as runners begin to process their proximity to death and the gravity of the event.
One testimonial makes a reference to the silent and haunted Mods and a feeling that it was as if all at once, everyone had discovered what had happened. The film documents the Bandit Marathon, which serves as closure and a resolution, with BC students running to raise funds for the Campus School.
There is a notion that films tend to flatten and compress reality, yet, there is also a social responsibility to documenting and portraying someone’s story. In an interview with the LA Times, American director David Lynch (Mulholland Drive, The Elephant Man) said, “Life is very, very complicated, and so films should be, too.” Both of these documentary shorts manage to focus and compress without ignoring the complexity of human reality. “Genesis” and “Mile 21” preserve the little details, giving texture to the stories of the people in them, while ultimately shedding light on the heavier issues they’re geared to address.