Some things just can not be avoided – death may be the least elusive of them all. Most people try to ignore their own inevitable demise, yet the emotional impact of losing a loved one may hit someone as hard as a speeding train. The mourner is left to piece together their emotions with whatever aid they stumble upon.
Sanford D. Jenkins, 25, explored the idea of useless pacifiers in times of grief with his short “Social Studies” that had its final screening at PhilaMOCA on Saturday November 29th.
After the doors to the North Chinatown gallery/performance space opened, a steady stream of 20-somethings made their way inside – the usual networking and small talk ensued. At around 4 o’clock Jenkins hopped on stage to introduce the opening acts Beano and Reek, a little odd for a film screening but it worked. Reek performed three songs all of which had a feel-good Hip-Hop kind of vibe. Beano only took the stage once to accompany Reek on the hook of one of his songs – regardless his sweet crooning left a lasting impression.
Soon after the performances wrapped up “Social Studies” began. The first image that the audience saw was a shot of a young brown woman in her mid-twenties with most of her face obscured by a gas mask – the opening credits follow. The short film, details the life of Scout, a young black woman who recently lost her grandmother. Scout’s grief is overwhelming. She becomes a recluse: her camera has gone untouched and her friends are missing their homegirl. Scout is blocking out the world with the hopes that it will keep her from dealing with the loss of her grandmother when in actuality she is wallowing in sorrow. After hearing an old voice message from her grandmother, Scout almost immediately regains her sense of purpose.
“When I Wrote this film I was in this transition period where I’d come from Wall Street into film and I was trying to figure a lot of stuff out. I realized that most of the concerns that I had were internal things, things that I can sort of fix myself, but it took a little while to get there. I think a lot of us reach for things outside of our control, things that are external and that take all of our problems away from us. When most of the time when there is something that you are going through you can fix it yourself,” said Jenkins.
The film is beautifully shot features black and white composition and a music score that jazz and jazz inspired Hip-Hop.
“This film was inspired some by a lot of films that I have watched over the last Winter – they came out in the period ‘59-’65 – a lot of European films, a lot of French films. A lot of those films were shot with Jazz scores and in black and white. Taking a lot of that, I spent much of my time listening to old Jazz scores. I have a friend who I went to undergrad with, who I was talking to over that period of time, I was talking to him, ‘We should take what we enjoy out of those scores and make a contemporary idea of the type of music we like to listen to,” said Jenkins
One of the most enjoyable parts of the film is where Jenkins choose to flash carefully selected images across the screen to emphasize the current moods and thoughts of Scout. This choice of technique occasionally gave the film a bit of comic relief.
As mentioned this particular screening was the last one on the east coast. In the next coming weeks Jenkins is starting school at USC. His plans are to have a few screenings in the West and get “Social Studies” into the film festival circuit.