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Short but powerful
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In advance of last year’s Savannah Film Festival, we profiled young filmmaker Joel Fendelman, whose documentary short Writing Through dealt with local spoken word artist Rena Zance. At this year’s festival, Fendelman screens another film about a very different type of artist, Pientre de la Terre (“Painting the Land”). “I was in Lacoste, France, as part of a study-abroad program with SCAD,” Fendelman told us by phone from last week’s Chicago International Film Festival, where he also screened the eight-and-a-half minute Pientre de la Terre. “Lacoste is a little town in Provence, in southern France, with only about 200 people,” he says. “In the valley I found this farmer. Growing up in Miami, I had no connection whatsoever with farming, so I began thinking, ‘how does it work, what’s going on here?’ That was the initial inspiration to check him out.” Though the farmer, Georges Adrian, speaks no English and Fendelman little French, the filmmaker says the two found a way to communicate. “In a way, it helped that we couldn’t really speak to each other, because it forced us to use the camera to communicate,” Fendelman says. “I’d go down there in the valley, me and my sound guy, and just exist with him.” Much of the film features Adrian speaking in French, which was translated into subtitles later. Occasionally, Fendelman says, Adrian’s American wife would translate on the spot during times that she was there. “We’ve got him talking about pruning an olive tree, or putting plastic over melons to get earlier ripening,” Fendelman says. “We’re seeing him go through this process of painting the land.” While the protagonists of Joel’s two entries in the Festival are very different -- Rena Zance is an African American in the South, while Georges Adrian is a white European -- they are both thoroughly working class. “I would say in one way the films are completely opposite -- Writing Through is very urban, whereas Pientre de la Terre is very rural,” Fendelman says. “In another way, though, they’re similar. Both films have a meditative feel to them. Even if you don't understand what the farmer's saying, the way he talks, the rhythms of his voice, all bring you into this meditative vibe.” In addition to Fendelman’s film, another SCAD connection is presenting a film at the Festival. Luke is an 11-minute short film written and directed by local filmmaker Michael Chaney, a professor of film, TV and sound design at SCAD. Filmed locally in an area intended to represent the Middle East, Luke “was based on my reflections on the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan found in the Christian Gospel of Luke,” Chaney explains. “By using an Arab soldier as the Samaritan character in a contemporary setting, my objective was to challenge certain cultural presumptions of an American audience,” says Chaney. Pientre de la Terre by Joel Fendelman screens Monday, Oct. 25, 10 a.m., at the Lucas Theater, and Friday, Oct. 29, 3 p.m., at the Trustees Theater. Luke by Michael Chaney screens Sunday, Oct. 24 at 3 p.m. at Trustee’s Theater and Saturday, Oct. 20 at 12:30 p.m. at the Lucas Theater. For festival information visit Ticket Information call 525-5050.