“According to legend, Vittorio De Sica cast both the lead actors in his neorealist classic The Bicycle Thief specifically based on their walks. De Sica knew the impact that an actor’s body language could have on an audience. After all, Charlie Chaplin was his favorite filmmaker. When we watch De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief, our hearts droop as we see a desperate father and his son pad the streets in a downpour and souls crack as the film’s end when we see them shamble toward their fate amid a damning crowd and disappear forever. Truly, the walk of shame.
These thoughts came to mind when I watched Emilie McDonald’s vivid and striking short film, Crossing the River at the NuHo Online Film Festival. From the moment I saw Grant (Tyler Williams), the hero of the film, ambulate across the screen, I knew I was in for something different and was instantly catapulted into his world. Tyler Williams is remarkable in this role from start to finish. In fact, his performance in this short film is the finest acting I have seen during the whole run of this festival. Emilie McDonald who not only wrote and produced but also directed this film, has a magical touch with her actors. Bruce Smolanoff plays Ted with the poxy of a homegrown terrorist whose emotions are shooting out of his eyeballs. It’s a harrowing bit of acting that jolts us into the nightmare of racism and the nurturing of hatred. Matt Sarno’s editing on the film is fine indeed. It is storyteller sharp and gives way to a shot at the film’s end that literally took my breath away as he cuts to the angelic Michaela (Desiree Ross).
For much of this fourteen minute film, I felt so much sorrow and shame. I was torn apart again and again by the divides of black and white and the anguish of racism. But then the light came on in a scene without any words or dialogue, just behavior and a walk toward hope. And by the film’s end I understood what Emilie McDonald had been magnificently constructing all along: a film that could help us cross the river to the other side of hate.” – Hans Luttmann, from the NuHo Online Film Festival blog 2-24-14
“This poignant tale based on a true story, brings to light the uncomfortable reality that racism is far from erased..It has so provoked me that I have thought of little else since seeing this extraordinary short film.” – Sue Baldock, from article in Woodside Herald 6-7-13
“Powerfully written, directed, and acted, Crossing the River touches our hearts as it takes us beyond cold, descriptive news headlines to the back-story causes and emotional impact of cross burnings on victims and perpetrators alike, and then, it leads us to hope.” – Monroe Gilmour, Coordinator, Western North Carolina Citizens Ending Institutional Bigotry (WNCCEIB)
“Crossing the River has a delicacy about it – even given the hard-edged topic – that is very compelling.” – Jacques Thelemaque, President, Filmmakers Alliance
“Crossing the River clearly sends the message that prejudice against multiracial children and interracial families is still occurring in our society. The raw truths of this excellent film will be an important tool for educators, families, and society.” – Susan Graham, Founder and Executive Director, Project RACE
“I believe this film will highlight underlining messages and expose issues to a greater magnitude while perhaps grabbing the hearts of many who may not realize the impact our messages/interactions send to children. It will also allow for effective discourse and dialogue on race and multiracial issues and other relative topics that some dare to discuss. I believe that this film will reveal how prejudices (race prejudice) are taught. It isn’t a natural born instinct.” – Cherrye S. Vasquez, Ph.D., Books That Sow: Strength, Character & Diversity and Project RACE Advisory Board Member
“My understanding of the significance of the river and the crossing is the turning away from the ‘way things were,’ or appeared to be and having your eyes opened to the ‘way things truly are.’ The young hero turned away from the hatred that fueled the ‘adult’ to friendship, acceptance, and understanding. In my opinion, this movie may be what we have been looking for to spark more interest in learning the truth about advocacy in the Multiracial population.” – Catherine Lewis, Member, Project RACE Board of Directors