The offering of short films at the inaugural 2022 Pioneertown International Film Festival was entitled “Buscaderos” which translates as “The Seekers”. In a classic Western film, we might find Seekers as lawman seeking outlaws, outlaws seeking lawmen or explorers seeking gold. These Seekers are looking for a wide variety of things and sometimes – IT’S REVENGE. (Cue the music sting and smash cut to a twitchy hand on the revolver.
A Fistful of Rubbish (Spain) This may come as a shock to some, but there is an old Western movie stage set town, that locals are trying to preserve the history of, that is faced with a problem of trash being dumped and blowing all over the desert and it’s NOT Pioneertown. That’s right, it’s Pioneertown’s identical long-lost twin: Fort Bravo in Tabernas, Spain. Sergio Leone shot many of his Westerns in the movie set towns of Tabernas: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly just to name a few. Now Tabernas faces a new antagonist: the trash dumpers. Citizens of Tabernas and folks from beyond have banded together to seek out the trash and round up as much of it as possible. If Pioneertown doesn’t have a Sister City yet, I’d like to nominate Tabernas, Spain. A Fistful of Rubbish is a must see for anyone who loves Pioneertown or a cleaner desert. It’s like looking in a mirror.
In 20 Years for Revenge (Spain/USA) filmmakers: Director Roberto Jennizi, writer Jay Jennings, and cinematographer Greg Toll, present us with a vivid tale of long-term revenge planning. A small boy witnesses his loving parents shot dead in front of him and sets off through time to seek the killers. Exploding beyond Sergio Leone style and sounds, 20 Years is a visually stunning piece of extravagant spaghetti western cinema. With tight writing and deftly edited storytelling, 20 Years opened the program as a standout piece of work.
Following this was the short documentary All I Have to Offer You Is Me (USA), a biographical look at the life of a true Black cowboy, Larry Callies. An aspiring country western singer in his youth and now historian of Black participation in the cowboy world, Larry tells us he always wanted to be a cowboy. His life has been spent not only on the back of horse or bull, but he also sought out being the next Charley Pride, who was a successful Black country singer and musician. A moving and informative look at a little piece of our history of the West that might otherwise go unnoticed from writer-director Dillon Hayes.
Slip Away (USA) is a music video of sorts, telling a dramatic tale of a young woman in a modern rural environment. Shot in black and white with a fluid editing style, Slip Away’s protagonist seeks resolution of a relationship gone wrong. A fine performance from the actress.
Astral Planes Drifter (USA) is a fun local entry and likely to be popular with those of us here in the very high desert. A wacky trip into the 5th dimension provides more than a few laughs and some excellent Vampire Alien Kung Fu choreography. Shot out in Amboy, writer-director and star of the show, Mike Caravella, a resident of the Morongo Basin, said that the remote desert location was the main creative source for his story.
The Young King (USA) Well written and directed by Larin Sullivan, The Young King is an engaging look at a young drag king that’s just landed in a Vegas motel and is seeking to reconnect with their father. Featuring Frances (Frankie) Orr as the impressive drag king, we see Orr first without makeup and then the transformation process into a cowboy drag king to the music of Rhinestone Cowboy. Orr gives a strong performance, and we are left hoping their starspangled rodeo turns out just the way they want it to.
Cowboy Cookie (USA) a DIY stop-motion animation, is an insane and super cute take on the old Western. A weird looking chocolate chip cookie is the new sheriff in town and seeks to put things to right. Evil churro outlaws have robbed a stagecoach and are terrorizing pastry people inside. Justice will prevail but it’s going to take a minute to bake. For those of you who do bake, I’d suggest baking thoroughly before consuming this tasty bit of foolishness. No. 1 blue ribbon to creators Marco Colosimo and Brandon Kotfila for whipping up such a sweet and wacky treat.
A Rodeo Film (USA) Excellent production values in this Black rodeo story of two brothers and a cheating wife. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Maybe they all are, but no matter – the Rodeo star is going to ride again. Great performances from the actors. Lighting, directing, and editing all strong.
The final short of the collection is entitled simply Spaghetti Western, only the spaghetti is not a reference to the Italian and Spanish made Western movies of the 1960s, but to spaghetti itself. Cast with what appears to be Mrs. Teaster’s 3rd grade class, a saloon full of young spaghetti eaters are shocked by the appearance of a lone silly string slinger and her loyal dog. A string fight ensues when the young silly stringer realizes just what’s in those meatballs. A fun frolic with camera angles and music, Spaghetti Western should be mandatory viewing for all aspiring filmmaking school age students. Lots of fun!