New Directors Features | Nashville Film Fest ’21

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

The New Directors portion of the virtual catalog of this year’s Nashville Film Festival features only three films from three different areas from reasonably to brand new directors in the field. 

Ludi

“Ludi, a hardworking and exhausted nurse, battles coworkers, clients, and one impatient bus driver to learn her self-worth as she chases the American dream in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.”

Written by Haitian-American actor Edson Jean and Joshua Jean-Baptiste and directed by Jean, Ludi is a deeply personal social commentary on the changing landscape of the American dream and investigates if it even exists anymore.  Despite this being Edson Jean’s first feature-length directorial effort, he displays a mature and unflinching vision and ability to relate a story that is so misunderstood in today’s culture.

Ludi is brilliantly acted by Shein Mompremier and also stars Alan Myles Heyman and Madelin Marchant.  It is Mompremier playing the titular character who shines the most.  Her performance is heartbreaking and heart-wrenching as the dedicated nurse who breaks the rules to send money home to her niece in Haiti who wants a dress for graduation.  To get the money, Ludi moonlights to take care of the cantankerous, George (Alan Myles Heyman), an elderly Jewish man who swears he doesn’t need a nurse to take care of him.  Over the course of the night, the exhausted nurse discovers that this life of hers is not all that it is cracked up to be.

This may be the best film in the bracket and if rated by the scale that the festival provides, it is definitely a “Loved It.”

‘Ludi’: A Modest, But Powerful Critique Of The American Dream [SXSW Review] (theplaylist.net)

Luzzu

“A man risks everything to provide for his wife and newborn son by entering Malta’s black-market fishing industry.”

After completing a number of video shorts and short films, Luzzu is the first feature-length film written and directed by Alex Camilleri.  It stars Jesmark Scicluna, Michela Farrugia and David Scicluna.

Set in the coastal area of Malta, Luzzu is about a fisherman, Jesmark, who continues the family business in the handed-down luzzu, a small fishing boat.  With the pressure of providing for his wife and their newly born son, Jesmark turns his back on tradition and joins with the underground fish market to make ends meet.

By using the actors and their real names in the film, Camilleri creates a seemingly personal tale about family values and parental legacy, the line between duty and sacrifice and honor and truth. 

In an interesting composition, Luzzu speaks to a father’s love and the lengths that he will go to provide for his family.  A good film, it rates a “Liked It” on the Nashville scale.

Luzzu review: a neorealistic Maltese fishing drama | Sight and Sound (bfi.org.uk)

Pebbles

“An alcoholic wife-beater embarks on a journey, dragging his young son along to fetch back his wife whom he had chased away.”

Set in the distant rural landscape of Tamil Nadu, India, Pebbles is the story of a journey.  Less of a narrative, this piece is more of a cinema verité where the audience experiences the journey with the principals; a chain-smoking, violent brute of a father looking for the wife he chased away and the young son that is being dragged along to help get his mother.  At first, they ride a bus to the home village of the wife but when they find that she has left the village for home, they walk the 16 kilometers back home to find her.  

Pebbles is written and directed by P.S. Vinothraj and stars Chellapandi as the son and Karuththadaiyaan as the father.  It is the first film for all three.

Vinothraj makes great use of the barren landscapes between the two villages.  The land becomes a character in and of itself.  A force for reckoning, it holds perils and delights which seem to be reflective of the character viewing it.  The son rejoices in rocks and other people.  The father finds a snake and stubs his foot on some of the same rocks that the boy enjoys.  It is a psychological trip that exemplifies the theory of individual differences in responding to stimuli.

There is plenty of stories along this journey but there also is plenty of nothingness as well.  This is not the classic narrative story but it is a well-told one.  Unfortunately, most Western audiences will not accept this type of tale.  This movie receives a “Liked It” rating.

Pebbles Review: PS Vinothraj’s Film is a Marvellous Portrait of a Landscape and Its People | Silverscreen India

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