In 2019, Óscar Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Angie Valeria died as they tried to reach the United States by crossing the Rio Grande near Brownsville, Texas. Jon Ayon’s beautiful, poetic short film “No soy Óscar” (15 min.) uses this tragedy to explore the meaning of borders and efforts by people to cross them. The border wall, sections of which are brightened by graffiti, Berlin Wall-style, represents perhaps the most extreme man-made effort to control travel between the United States and Mexico. Such a wall is rather odd, Ayon notes, because it’s Kumeyaay Land on both sides (on the American side, San Diego is partly constructed on lands that used to be inhabited by the Kumeyaay people), and other areas now split by the wall are the traditional lands of other indigenous tribes. Ayon, a father with a young daughter, also reflects on how different his life is to that of Oscar’s, simply because they were born on opposite sides of that border.
New Zealand filmmaker Todd Karehana’s mother has a hobby: feeding stray cats. In itself, that’s not so unusual, but these cats live in her (and his) former home, and she’s becomes so attached to this activity that she has missed important family events, including his graduation. Concerned, he returns home and begins helping her in this nighttime ritual, hoping to come to understand her better and learn more about why this activity is so important to her. Such is the main action in “Night Ride” (10 min.), a beautiful, quiet film that combines clips from home movies, shot in color, with present-day footage, shot in black white.
There’s few things I love more than public libraries, and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s short “Video Visit” (23 min.) has just given me another reason to appreciate them. The Brooklyn Public Library offers a lot of services to its patrons, but the one celebrated in this film is new to me. Since 2014, the library has been offering family members the chance to make free video calls (televisits) to their incarcerated relatives (including those on Rikers Island, where most of those being held are simply awaiting trial). This is a huge benefit to both family and prisoner, helping them maintain strong ties while avoiding the fees charged by private companies (some of which charge $1 a minute for a video call). It’s also absolutely within the scope of the purpose of public libraries: to make resources available to people. “Video Visit” is a straightforward documentary that occasionally recalls Frederick Wiseman’s films in its willingness to let the camera run to capture footage emphasizing the context as well as the main story.| Sarah Boslaugh
These shorts (and many more) are available for home viewing (some may be available only in the United States) as part of the 25th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which runs from 12 pm ET on April 7, 2022, through 11:59 pm ET on April 10, 2022. Further information is available through the festival web site.