Robots, Romance, and Reels – Reflections of a Film Festival

The Marblehead Festival of Arts’ Long Winter Short Film Festival, shown on February 10th, starred all kinds of characters, from a robot with human eyes to a kidnapper trying to buy supplies from a convenient store. A mixture of documentaries and fictional stories, it displayed a wide range of creativity from various film makers. I was delighted to have a second opportunity to see many of these films, which had been shown in the summer Film Festival during the Marblehead Festival of Arts. Some of the films were new and selected specifically for this winter festival. The following are ones I found noteworthy.

After seeing the photo for Stephen Larson’s In Capricious Hands, I was nervous about watching the video. It appeared to star a creepy looking robot that had human eyes. But the robot turned out to be adorable in its actions. It kept trying to escape it’s box prison by going towards the light coming through a window up high in one of the walls. Every time it got a little closer, the window would slam shut. But each time, something new would happen to get it closer to the window. Stairs appeared out of the floor, but they went back down each time the window slammed shut. It seemed as if the poor creature would never reach his goal but, like Sysiphus, continue in vain to pursue his (or her, or its) goal. Its actions showed the creature’s personality and feelings, which just goes to show that a good story does not necessarily need words.


Sidewalk by Celia Bullwinkel was similar in that there were no words, just actions and movements that displayed the character’s personality. The whole movie consisted of one character walking on a sidewalk, and as she walked, her life went by. It was her life story told in the simplest way. We saw her grow up, meet her future husband, have a child, and grow old. Sidewalk reminded me of the brief series of scenes in Up in which Carl and Ellie Fredricksen’s love story is shown in a couple minutes but in the most romantic and intimate way. There just simply are not words for the emotions conveyed in the silent scenes.

Speaking of romance, 81 Year Old Sweethearts by Danielle Lurie was the sentimental story of how Jack, an 81-year-old the filmmaker met on a plane, reunited with his high school sweetheart, Bettie, after they had spent 62 years apart, living their own lives. This documentary was almost like live coverage, showing the events play out as they happened. That’s true love for you!

Not all the films showed good relationships. Elizabeth Orne’s Crazy Glue starred a couple who seemed no longer crazy about each other. But perhaps they just needed a little glue to stick together?

After one film had finished, the presenter Skype called Boston-based filmmaker Will Lautzenheiser, who starred in the film Stumped by Robin Berghaus to follow up on the film we had just seen and to answer any questions. The film was a short documentary about how Lautzenheiser lost both arms and both legs after getting an infection when he moved to Montana. The film showed how he performed standup acts, joking that he lost each appendage to separate incidents such as a shark attack. The film concluded with him getting a double arm transplantation, and we witnessed him moving his “secondhand” appendages (he still has humor after all he went through!). He mentioned that Berghaus was working on making a full-length documentary about the history of transplants to follow up on Stumped, and that he would write a memoir about his experiences and continue filmmaking.

Stumped showed that no matter who you are or what you go through, if you love something enough, like a quadrilateral amputee loves filmmaking, than you have a good chance of being able to follow your dreams if you work hard enough at it.

For a list of the films and other information about the Marblehead Festival of Arts, visit their website at


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