“Graça” (a.k.a. Grace) dir. by Anna Clara Peltier, Brazil, 2013
The first (and in my opinion, best) short of the program follows an adolescent girl during her synchronized swimming practice. Grace is going through puberty and has just gotten her first period, a moment that is changing her both inside and out. Her body aches and her mind wanders. Grace cannot bend her body like she once could, despite the dedication she has for the sport. She rebels against her swim coach, who makes no exceptions for a process that every woman experiences, even if the pain is overwhelming for her. This seems to motivate Grace not to continue to swim, but instead to learn about herself and explore her body.
This film was beautifully, yet delicately, done. The water imagery places a balance between the hard work she does during her team practice and the calm exploration she does of her growing body. Without too much emphasis on her imagination, we can easily see how her interests are changing and expanding as she matures. The title of the film and name of our main character reflect the skill she needs to be a swimmer, but also suggest that she is growing more than simply as a swimmer. She has her entire life ahead of her; perhaps synchronized swimming is not what her body wants to pursue.
“Chub” dir. by Samuel Albis, USA, 2014
An obese boy and a goth girl team up to conquer bullying. Diego, our main protagonist, has always been treated differently because of his weight. He gets shoved in the lunch line, his bike is stolen out from under him, and he is called awful names regularly- it is very possible that the others do not even know his real name. His life changes when he meets Steph. Steph is an intimidating girl who commands authority: she will not put up with anyone who has anything negative to say about her. She teaches Diego to “fuel the fire” within him to recover his bike and stand up for himself. He does some personal growing and is finally able to take back his bike and his life.
This short preaches self-confidence and self-worth, but not in the right way. Diego is able to take back what is his through retaliation, a tactic that rarely works for people being bullied by real-life aggressors. This is not the right message for any victim of bullying; retaliation will either get a victim into trouble or will cause him or her even more harm. Why did Diego have such a faltering relationship with his overprotective mother? If this story was written by a 15-year-old, it would be understandable that his mother is characterized so negatively, but truthfully, she was his only ally. She could have been Diego’s true hero.
This short was made in Miami and unsurprisingly became a crowd favorite. A story about bullies is always admired, because who doesn’t love a movie about an unlikely hero who learns how to be brave and stand up for him or herself? Self-esteem must be honed in youth, but self-confidence will not be found when victims sink to the level of the bullies that torment them. –Zoë Brown