PBS Short Film Festival 2020/2021 Review: For Our Girls, Mothers for Justice, Learning to Breathe …

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I like to relate these films to the video game, Detroit: Become Human, because common viewpoints can be discovered in each body of work. Such as the deviant robots in the video game feel trapped within their programming and pre-determined roles in society. As the game progresses, their quest for a better way of life forces them to rebel against the system that created them. It is a very ‘human’ desire to want to feel like you have a place in this world, a purpose worth fighting for, even if that purpose is simply loving yourself.

For Our Girls

A sad film about a mother’s lingering fear for her daughter’s well-being: she soon learns that her fears are not all her own, but a feeling similarly resonating in the lives of many other mothers in communities harried by racism.

This is an essential film to view because it is a mother’s honest conversation with herself about how she views her daughter and her realization that despite her most incredible efforts, her children will never have a “normal” life.

Mothers for Justice

This is a film about mothers who have all faced hardship and loss at the hands of violence.

To me, the prospect of losing a child is the worst scenario you can ever endure as a parent. A feeling made worse when your child’s death happens at the hands of a person with no regard for their life. These courageous women march to honor the children they lost and frequently gather to make society care.

Unfortunately, because violence is non-ceasing, their numbers continue to grow by the year.

Learning to Breathe

What struck me most about this film is the varied ages of the people affected by racism and violence. It is easy to look at films like Learning to Breathe, Mothers for Justice, and For Our Girls and say, “this is too much, I can’t watch another video,” but it is essential to remind yourself that each film is self-sacrifice. A human being is in pain, pouring their heart out in front of you and millions of people, asking for change, asking for help, and some compassion. That is why Learning to Breathe is an important film to watch, because we are trained by society that showing your pain is a sign of weakness. By documenting and acknowledging our struggles, we are engaged in crucial emotional learning. This personal sacrifice makes it easier for others to make connections, heal, and find strength in their own pain.

Preston’s Gone (PBS Short Film Festival 2020)

This film discusses the topic of mental illness as it pertains to military veterans. Preston’s Gone is a vital narrative because Preston’s story gives voice to the voiceless. Thousands of military veterans are dealing every day with mental illness, and it is a scary feeling to know that upon being discharged from the military, they and their families are not supported by their community.

Yes, things are ‘better’ now in terms of support, but I think about the number of lives lost before we got to this point.  I do not know how to respond to this film or the actions of the police officers in this situation. I want to know the backstory. What were the events that led up to the phone call? What could have been done differently?

All 2020 and 2021 short films are still available for viewing on the PBS Short Film Festival website.