The nearly seven-minute short doc Still Sophie seems practically tailor made for Heartland Film Festival audiences and one can expect the spirited, winning short film to prove as popular at Heartland as it was at Nashville Film Festival where the film picked up the prize for Best TN Doc Short. Life-changing cinema is in abundance at the acclaimed and incredibly popular Heartland Film Festival where the fundamental belief is that cinema changes lives and, indeed, Still Sophie lives into that value in abundance.
Still Sophie is co-written and directed by Caroline Knight, whose gifts are obvious from the get go as she tells a tale that inspires without crossing that line into the dreaded "inspiration porn" that so irritates folks with physical challenges. Of course, it helps to have such a charismatic subject as Sophia Salveson, a delightful 24-year-old woman who had a stroke at the age 19 that left her as one of an estimated 2 million people in the United States with Aphasia, a communication disorder that to the uninformed can look like an intellectual disability but is, in reality, a muddling of the connection between brain and mouth. Experienced differently by each individual, Aphasia is a life-changing challenge but, as Sophie so beautifully proves, it is not necessarily a life defining one.
Knight, along with co-writer and the film's producer Chad McClarnon, will be present throughout the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis and it's hard not to imagine that they'll prove to be popular with both audiences and local media throughout the festival.
In addition to the film's win at Nashville Film Fest, Still Sophie has picked up prizes at Red Dirt Film Festival (Best Documentary), deadCENTER Film Fest (Best Doc Short), and Mid Tenn Film Fest (Best Doc Short). Supported by the National Aphasia Association, whose Executive Director has been quoted as saying “Quite a few people set out to capture aphasia, all of them are proud of their work, but, very few of them succeed in producing something that is compelling. STILL SOPHIE has nailed it!," Still Sophie magnificently captures the spirit, determination and transparency of a young woman dealt a huge challenge who steps into that challenge with persistence, determination and quite a bit of style.
What's perhaps most refreshing about Still Sophie is that even within the confines of a less than seven minute short film it doesn't minimize nor trivialize Sophie's ongoing challenges, acknowledging that while she retained her ability to sing, and sing incredibly well, simply speaking is quite the challenge and you can see that challenge in Sophie's eyes and in her body language. While the emphasis here is on inspiration, that inspiration is even more inspirational because we get a full-on glimpse into Sophie's everyday realities alongside her triumphs.
Chad McClarnon's lensing for the film is beautifully aligned with Knight's vision, while the original music from Adam Bokesch dances alongside all of it with energy and electricity.
For more information on Still Sophie, visit the film's Facebook page linked to in the credits. For information on Heartland screenings, visit the Heartland Film website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic