Fantastic Fest XVII Review: GIVE ME AN A, Natasha Halevi’s Hellish Assortment Of Horror And Dark Humor Sends A Message To All
Virginia Madsen plays coach to a team of cheerleaders who perform a jubilating screed against the patriarchy, inaugurating the brutalist, vividly gruesome, horrific and satirical multi-angular stories among the fifteen shorts told in Give Me An A, the latest feature-length call to action shepherded by writer/director Natasha Halevi.
Supported in part by crowdfunding efforts over at Seed And Spark following a four week shoot, the new anthology now arises at film festivals to make its case following the Supreme Court’s leaked opinion overturning Roe V. Wade back in May and their ruling a month later. The film’s inspiration from this eventful decision is made abundantly clear in Meg Swertlow’s “The Voiceless,” the first of fifteen shortfilms from Halevi’s team of directors in which here, a woman is resigned to panic and grief when she looks in the mirror and notices her mouth has been completely sealed off.
The tone shifts briefly with Bonnie Discepolo’s “DTF,” where a prospective young surfer is obligated to abide by legal conditions before engaging in sexual intercourse with a beautiful contract lawyer. Monica Moore-Suriyage’s bizzare and equally shocking “Medi-Evil” is the sixth short in which men operate as “beekeepers,” using imprisoned women as incubators as they perform tasks with grisly results. Caitlin Hargreaves’s “Sweetie” takes a more dramatic turn as it spotlights what life is like in a new dismal reality for a young woman whose father installs a new phone, supplying her with a woman on the other line as her only outlet.
Other shorts like Sarah Hopkins‘ “The Walk”, Danin Jacquay’s “Good Girl,” Megan Rosati’s “Plan C,” Hannah Aline’s “Hold Please,” and especially in Loren Escandon’s Gina Torres-led The Last Store and Francesca Maldonado’s horrific sci-fi horror, “Traditional,” resume the cinematic depictions of oppresive and abusive anti-womanhood in dystopian America. The more absurdist satirical takes Halevi’s “Abigail,” dramatizes the debate of womens’ rights between Alyssa Milano’s titular first lady and her husband, John, played by Paul Gunn, while Erica Wright’s “Our Precious Babies,” laden with comic villainy and sitcom style laugh tracks, follows a couple at a fertility clinic where they are suddenly held to scrutiny over a woman’s frozen embryos. Avital Ash’s “God’s Plan” throws in a patch of catharsis following a cop’s detainment of a pregnant woman, while Danielle Aufiero’s “Crucible Island” centers four philanderous men in an enticing reality show that takes a risible twist. Mary C. Russell’s “Crone” toggles back and forth in time, showcasing the psychological toll of being catcalled while on the road.
Each short takes its own unique and distinctive creative approach to the subject matter of the challenges womens’ rights in America. Veracity is not lost on the stories either, regardless of the artistic liberties from the filmmakers and producers involved, because it’s about the all too important task of standing with women going forward, listening to, and amplifying their voices against the disrive, toxic opposition of anti-choice politics and ideology with future pending elections. Halevi, rightly, achieves this with full effect, to her own astute standards in Give Me An A, with rousing cast of actresses and well-knowns to co-sign her efforts.
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Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.