SMC film project goes to Cannes

The International Cannes Film Festival in France, the world's most famous gathering of the cinema world, will be welcoming a short film written and directed by former Santa Monica College student Dustin Brown and produced by SMC's Film 33 production course. Cannes features both major premieres by famous directors such as Ridley Scott and Wong Kar Wai as well as new, emerging talents. Cannes is where the world first heard of films such as "Apocalypse Now," "E.T." and "The Tree Of Life."

"‘Solidarity’ has been selected to the American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase. This is a competition at the festival which features only 10 to 15 selected films which are a combination of student films and films from emerging, first time directors," explained Brown. While Cannes is famous for its glitz and celebrity atmosphere, for new filmmakers it can be a matter of being recognized and hopefully expanding career opportunities.

"Hopefully, this will create more interest from distribution companies, and help to meet contacts interested in producing or financing a feature film," said Brown. "It is really exciting being able to go to Cannes for the first time. I love to travel and experience different cultures, people, and points of view. It is great to be able to share this film with the French who really seem to value and show such a unique appreciation for art and short films."

"Solidarity" was the first film project shot as part of SMC's Film 33 production program overseen by professor Salvador Carrasco. The program is meant to immerse students in an environment that prepares them wholly for the professional film world. Every semester a project is selected from amongst classmate scripts which is then produced and shot by the class itself as one, big film crew.

The short tells the story of two immigrants, a woman from Mexico who works at a sweatshop, and a Lithuanian man who works as a butcher. Both undergo the trials of loneliness and hardship as two foreigners in modern, urban Los Angeles where capitalist society can show little compassion for cheap labor.

The woman is played by renowned Mexican actress Elpidia Carrillo, who appeared in the original "Predator" alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Oliver Stone's Oscar-nominated "Salvador." The Lithuanian man is played by former SMC film student Mantas Valantiejus, who is himself from Lithuania and was a producer on the film as well.

Two weeks of shooting with long hours was an experience Brown reveled in.

"There is such a rush of excitement and creative energy even waking up at five or six in the morning sometimes and working long hours isn’t a problem," he said.

But for Brown there is a deep, social message behind "Solidarity" that carries universal import.

"In a broad sense, the essential message of the film is compassion. I think one of the greatest things we can do is to expand our circle of empathy, to see from someone else’s point of view," said Brown. Brown is continuing to pursue his film career academically as well and was recently accepted into the American Film Institute. For him filmmaking has the potential of being a greater force than just entertainment.

"I look at cinema as a tool to fight injustice," said Brown. "I believe we all as artists have a responsibility to influence in a positive way and to try to make a difference."