While Okie Shorts provided some great works this year (such as the comedy sketch My Own Prometheus _about morning coffee and multiple morning identities, or the much talked about faux- documentary _Faith Healer, who’s documented protagonists leaving a project reveals less about the film than the metaphor for audience and film-subject relationship), my interest was in two shorts that made analyses of Oklahoma a primary part of their structure.
Jerry Melichar’s Landlocked is a confidently executed piece that follows a Tulsa high-school biology teacher, Martha Hall, who is driven more by her passion of the aquatic than as an educator. The plot, revolving around a resentful student’s false accusation about Hall embezzling class trip funds to a Florida aquatic center, suggests larger political influences. Martha Hall is trapped within a financial context in which there is no support for educational engagement for students (something both regionally and nationally specific), but she is guilty of imposing her desires of escape within this field trip that conflicts with education’s primary selfless purpose. With Hall’s apathetic and violent daydreams, the film also suggests that in these times of educational poverty educators are just as prone to moments of dangerous explosion as any kids with weapons. The subtext of financial struggle urges a resolve over complaints of high taxes and problematic budget allocation that does not result in escapeing the “brain drain” of not just graduates, but educators. While the film’s ending is satisfactory in Hall’s eventual escape, it satirically implicates our sympathy as apathy –perhaps the real reason behind any educational budgetary problem is our own indecision and inaction, resulting in our criminal complicity with Hall at the end of the film.
Patrick George’s Heroin Hymn is described as a poetic tale about the homeless in downtown Oklahoma City, but there is a realism that underlies the physical context of the narrative that is implicitly critical as much as it is emotionally sympathetic. We follow a homeless couple who place their disease of addiction before their own abilities to anticipate safety and needs in a series of scenes that are quite familiar: panicked cravings, begging and scheming for drug satisfaction, prostitution, and emotionally unstable conflicts between addicted partners. While these are situations seen in many drug pictures, it’s the talents of Kevin Pollard and Andrea Moser that allow these moments to take on an immediate presence and emotional weight. The locations of the work also present a keen eye towards describing an Oklahoma City landscape that is often relegated to more exploitive genre works rather than the more quiet and contemplative exploration of the hidden imagery of the city. These sections of the city are “projects” for commercial update, and George is able to describe the flip side of such development, that of both dependence and dismissal. These characters are caught between those incoming classes that begin to enable their habits through sexual or drug transactions, and the refusal to empower or support them through any assistance supplied by organizations in these areas. The world drafted in Hymn depicts no supportive activities, and suggests these necessary needs of transition from overlooked landscape to a ‘revised’ neighborhood can result in the symptoms of these characters: isolation, dependence, and ultimately death. The last place to which these characters can turn are the hidden apartment rooms where deals go bad, and lost dreams never find their redemption. Although the humanistic execution of Hymn implies these thoughts, the work could be expanded upon to balance out the argument, and potentially deepen the power of the piece, through more explicit scenes that addresses the daily ramifications of gentrification, commercial redistricting, drug market and the limitations of local organization support.