To the editors:
I take exception to the comments of M. Edward Archer published in last week’s Letters section under the heading of “Local Zeroes [October 20].”
As he indicated, Mr. Archer is obviously not going to a film festival event for the love of cinema, but rather, “as a civic duty.” His feeble criticisms of the short films by Chicagoans Vanessa Buccella, D.P. Carlson, and Justin Krohn make it even more apparent that his future as a film critic is dim, but hey, feeble criticisms never stopped Rex Reed. Calling a film “very amateurish” is fine as long as one backs it up, which Mr. Archer didn’t. Also, when we critique a drama dealing with sensitive subjects, can we please come up with something more original than comparing it to an “after-school special”? That one’s really tiresome.
All three films, Buccella’s Embryo, Carlson’s Sailorman, and Krohn’s Subway 2:36 AM, share an offbeat approach to storytelling, and in some cases, back away from traditional narrative altogether. Each also contains an assured sense of location and an exquisite sound design. Krohn’s and Buccella’s films, both student productions from Columbia College, feature fine performances by nonprofessional actors. But if the nuanced performance by veteran Chicago film and stage actor Mike Nussbaum in Carlson’s film was what Archer was calling poor acting, I’d hate to see what he thinks is good.
Above all, I have a real problem with the Reader even publishing this cruel letter in the first place, especially when they didn’t even bother to have their excellent team of film festival critics review it in a professional manner. As short film programmer of the festival, I can safely say that tapes of all of the films were available for prescreening and review, but the Reader didn’t bite. They opted instead to publish the lazy and after-the-fact comments by Mr. Archer under what I assume to be their own title, “Local Zeroes,” making the whole thing seem as mean-spirited as possible.
For the record, I think these three films stood up quite nicely when compared with the other international shorts in the program. It sometimes takes months and years to get a 14-, 9-, or 6-minute short film completed and the directors behind these shorts often have no one to count on but themselves to bring their films to the screen. With encouragement of the sort that Mr. Archer and the Reader provide, it’s amazing that I have as many Chicago-area shorts to select from every year as I do.