The second week of October 2022, Digital Ocean hosted the 11th fall Katra Film Series at Regal Union Square. Katra’s mission is to champion diverse and multicultural filmmakers around the world, a promise the festival certainly delivered this season.
From the flashing lights of the photographer to the Q&As with the filmmakers this event went beyond your typical movie theatre experience.
Here were some of our favorites from the Fall 2022 Katra Film Series:
This fun short film was directed by Phillip Russell, and starring his wife Cat Sully as a wig. Yeah, you heard that right. Filmmaker Russell and Sully, a producer and artist, were scouting for another feature project when they discovered the idea for Sally.
Russell plays a man who seeks refuge in a mansion after his car breaks down and finds a sentient wig that dances and plays ping-pong with him. This silly sentient being was created by Sully dancing around in a wig and green morph suit.
While this film had some comedic elements, it focused on a much more serious topic. Director Jason Spagnuoli noticed a lack of stories about men who suffer from eating disorders in the media.
Spagnuoli wrote and directed the character Lenny played by Mark Shock, who suffered from an eating disorder. The film finally came to fruition after many months of production being intermittent through the pandemic and having difficulty casting actors.
In Lenny, the audience is taken through the main character’s daily routine which includes sorrowing scenes in front of the mirror and using laxatives to maintain his desired weight to be an actor. Eventually, he is faced with an embarrassing moment with a lover that leads to him getting help.
This short focused on the archetypes of girls in modern society. Co-writer, director, and producer Anthony Vasquez wanted to create an app-like experience for the audience as if they were selecting the best version of a girl.
“We wanted to portray these boxes that people put each other and themselves in,” Vasquez says. “We focused on different aesthetics but also showed that not picking a box is also aesthetic.”
Co-writer and lead actress Presley Weber played six different characters who portrayed stereotypes of women such as “the tomboy,” “the influencer,” and “the good girl.”
“I was playing against myself,” she says. “But we wanted to make these women feel caricature-like to lean into the satire.”
A LONE STAR LOVE
This 25-minute-long film seemed as though it came right out of horror series Black Mirror. David (Ronan Colfer), the main character, is an Irish man who has just moved to Texas. He makes his home and finds love with the help of his human-like android named Viva.
Director and supporting actor Ben Myers used his connections in Austin, Texas to bring authenticity to the stories and their characters. While everything seemed to be falling into place with location scouting for production, Myers found a location that did not suit his character Hunter.
“So I said ‘Let’s use what we have,’” he explains. Myers pivoted and rewrote the character to make for a better location and use the resources he was given to make this intriguing film.
& THE BATHROOM
This micro-series was nothing short of 17 minutes of laughter. The co-writers and directors Alex Saltiel and Nathaniel Jameson portrayed two goofy roommates who had to contend with the adult responsibilities like love, paying rent, and employment all while living in a bathroom.
This universe they created was comprised of bathrooms. Each set whether it was the apartment, the workplace, or even a restaurant took place in a bathroom. Not only did the set and various situations the characters went through make it funny, but also the dialogue. This just might have been a satire about the tiny living spaces New Yorkers are often forced to inhabit. So even though it is silly, the bathroom series is kind of relatable.
Reservations, directed by Joshua Kaufman, focused on a woman who “seeks intimacy from unseen conversation partners.” Set in a dark hotel room, this 3-minute film consists of the main character on the phone. While there is not much dialogue or action to go off of, we can see what a sense of longing she has.
“It shows the loop of emotions one can go through when we say, ‘Oh I’ll be right there,’” mentions Photography Director and film editor, Matthew Kyle Levine, “It’s showing who a person can be behind closed doors.”
THE THIRD DEFECTOR
Get out your Google translator because this film is in French. Set in the lovely city of Paris, The Third Defector is a 16-minute spy thriller reminiscent of Bond films. The film follows a woman spy who is tasked to keep tabs on an Iranian defector, but she faces some challenges—including betrayal.
Directed by John Gray, this cat-and-mouse game was such a pleasure to watch. The audience was thrown for a loop with plot twists. And hey, who doesn’t love a good French film?
With the same thriller energy as The Third Defector, writer, director, producer, and lead actress Monica McCarthy created an exciting 12-minute film in Survival Job. Tessa Wren, played by McCarthy, is a struggling New York actress who is auditioning for Chekov’s THE SEA-GULL. However, her audition takes a drastic turn due to a surprise caller.
“It was a challenge,” she says. “But I learned so much.”
McCarthy filmed the project within two days in an Off-Broadway theatre in the spring of 2021 right before vaccines were made available. Despite the challenges of production and wearing multiple hats, McCarthy ensured that the film made it to this festival.
For the final block, only two films were shown—a short film and a feature-length film.
AARON WITH 2 A’S
Director and co-writer Michael Goldburg wanted to highlight the difficulties of being an older guy in the acting biz. The film focuses on Aaron, played by the film's co-writer/executive producer Steve Lichtenstein, who’s starting his second career at 65 years old as an actor. Not only did the film focus on a novice actor, but this was also Goldburg’s first project as a filmmaker.
Speaking at Katra Film Series, Lichtenstein called his participation in the short "a learning experience."
Lichtenstein guided the audience through an all-too-common experience of getting stuck in your own head. When Aaron rid himself of self-deprecation he was able to do what he always wanted to do—act.
This was, by far, my favorite film at the fest, and it was deemed Best Narrative Feature by Katra. This feature-length film was written and directed by Graham Winfrey. The main character Carl (Tyler Cook) is a handyman in Cape Cod that becomes entangled in various scandals within an influential family.
Winfrey focused on various relationships like family, romance, and even substances. Alcoholism was a key factor in the film and personified the troubles between the family members and Carl.
There were also some young characters who added some silly dialogue, like Griffin, a 10-year-old boy more or less playing himself. The child chosen for the role had never acted before being cast in the film. He was actually present at the screening.
“I always wanted to film something at the cape,” Winfrey notes. “So I chose the location and then built the script around it.”
From the music to the beautiful backdrop of the cape, this film is a rollercoaster of silliness and seriousness.
What's Next for Katra Film Series?
All of the films were entertaining to watch. Congratulations to all who showed their work at this Katra film series. We can’t wait to see what the filmmakers, directors, and actors do next.
Join Katra Film Series next month for its FINAL TWO festivals of the series: New York Pause & Bowery Film Festival.
Find Out More on Social
@a_lone_star_love (A Lone Star Love)
@benjaminlawrencemyers (A Lone Star Love)
@lavidaterrible (& A Bathroom)
@bayrdge (The Third Defector)
@missmmccarthy (Survival Job)
@michaelgoldburg (Aaron With 2 A’s)
@capecarlfilm (Cape Carl)
@instagrahamwinfrey (Cape Carl)
Geoffrey Guerrero (Founder & CEO of Katra)
Jason Spagnuoli (Lenny)
Mark Shock (Lenny)
Monica McCarthy (Survival Job)
Graham Winfrey (Cape Carl)
—— (c) Photos by Nano Leon