Have you ever wondered what would happen if everything collapsed?
I mean, seriously. Have you ever wondered what life would be like if life wasn't like this? Like it is now here in America?
I may be morbid, but I've thought about it a lot. I've thought about what would happen if this paraplegic/double amputee didn't have access to helps support my ongoing independence.
I've thought about what would happen if suddenly the differences that make us so extraordinary became the things that tore us apart.
I've thought about how that our entire nation, along with other parts of the world, is consumed by electronic everything - records and entertainment and information and so on. What would happen if suddenly our entire network collapsed?
Ultimately, I guess, I've thought about what would happen if the United States of America became not so united.
Odessa, directed by Sean Turrell and written by Doug Johnson, exists in this very world. In the wake of a global economic collapse and social chaos, Texas has seceded from the union. It's a brand new dynamic in the United States and, at least it would seem, a harrowing way of life for all involved.
But our story here, it's not so much about that. It's a smaller story, yet it's a smaller story that clearly adds up to the bigger one. It involves a young mother, Estrella (Grace Santos, Dhoom 3), a young woman whose fierce determination goes unexplained throughout much of the film. We know that she is braving this new world, this border. We know that she's relentless in her pursuit of something so incredibly simple that we sort shudder at what must be a post-apocalyptic world where we're not left with walking dead but those struggling to survive.
I suppose what's scariest here is that Odessa doesn't really exist in a post-Apocalyptic world, but in a world where everything has been turned upside down. Watch the film. You'll understand what I mean, though you may need to really think about it.
Yet, if we're being honest this isn't a world that feels all that far away. It's a world where Estrella and husband Sam (William Haze, television's Red Band Society) struggle to rebuild. It's a world where hiring a "criminal" (Ricky Wayne, The Town That Dreaded Sundown/When the Game Stands Tall) to try to make a miracle happen reveals who the real criminals really are.
Odessa is a film that not only dares us to think about such things, but it practically demands us to do so. The film premiered at the Gasparilla International Film Festival, where it picked up the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film. Now, it's headed to the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival. I'd love to see it in Indy's own Heartland Film Festival, because it's a film that matters and inspires and unnerves and kind of makes you ache inside.
Grace Santos is the focus here as Estrella. Santos avoids histrionics. It seems like she trusts this story to be "enough." She gets it. She understands it. You can see it in her eyes and her body language and as she speaks Doug Johnson's sparse yet intentional dialogue. There's a "What if?" around every corner and Santos captures that unknowing, that fear and that doubt.
It's anxiety-inducing drama and it makes you think and feel and wonder.
Stephen Chung's lensing is intimate yet slowly widening, while composer Louis Romanos's music pulsates with every word and every action. In fact, the entire production crew deserves credit for crafting a film that doesn't so much come to conclusions as it does make you think about things for yourself.
Odessa. It's a world that looks so very far away. You know what's really scary? It's not.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic