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Locals’ film earns SXSW award

Locals’ film earns SXSW award

A short film co-directed by North Haven residents Ashley Brandon and Dennis Hohne won a special grand jury award from the prestigious South By Southwest (SXSW) film festival, held annually in Austin, Texas.

The film, “Dia de la Madre,” premiered at the Sundance film festival in January and then was selected to be shown at SXSW, which was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We were incredibly surprised and honored to learn that ‘Dia de la Mardre’ received the award,” Brandon said. “Although we are saddened about the festival not taking place, we are super stoked about this nod.”

The SXSW awards were announced on the festival’s website and by Variety magazine. Brandon, her partner Hohne, and Nevo Shinaar, who produced the film, were notified by email about the award. 

“We didn’t have an opportunity to share the film with an audience in Austin, but it still feels wonderful to know the jury was able to watch and enjoy the film. To be included in the SXSW lineup after our successful premiere at Sundance was already amazing, now this is just the cherry on top,” Brandon said.

SXSW described the film as “unexpected encounters that reveal themselves into just the sweetest thing ever.”

The film, which is just under 6 minutes long, tells the story of a band of juveniles who go on a 24-hour spree of breaking into houses and causing a ruckus, with unexpected results. It was shot on Mother’s Day 2019 with a $300 budget and features the Mariachi Academy of New England.

Brandon, a professor of film, television, and media arts at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, said producing such a short film presents challenges. The filmmaker needs to be “quick and to the point” while still eliciting an emotional response. The documentary filmmaker said she’s most influenced by horror films, because they get that emotional response.

“Our goal is to get the audience emotional and emotion takes time,” Brandon said.

Brandon was always interested in film. Growing up in Defiance, Ohio, she would test her parents’ patience when picking out a movie at the local Blockbuster store because she took it so seriously.

The filmmaker graduated from Wright State University’s motion pictures program and earned a master of fine arts degree in documentary media from Northwestern University in Chicago. It was there where she met Shinaar, the third member of the team that make up Wolf and Me Films along with Brandon and Hohne, who works in the communications department at Wesleyan University in Middletown.

“Dia de la Madre” will be playing across the country at art festivals for the next year, and the team is hoping to schedule a showing in Connecticut.

In the meantime, Brandon is working on teaching her QU students and assisting with senior projects, from a distance. Luckily, the director said, “as filmmakers and artists, we know how to be creative.”

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