Living out in South Dakota, it’s not very often one witnesses a world premiere of any kind, be it film or some new kind of farming implement. But last week I was treated to the former. Courtesy of up-and-coming director (and former college classmate of mine) Andrew Kightlinger, the film, You Don’t Know Bertha Constantine, is well on its way to bigger and better things than the Sioux Falls venue. The movie, which clocks in at about 30 minutes, follows the story of Bertha, whose husband unexpectedly croaks on top of her. The series of events that ensues following the unfortunate death takes us out into the rough terrain of the South Dakota badlands, where the film was shot on location. Bertha’s insistence on burying her husband in the spiritual manner to which he’d desired gets our heroine in a little trouble with the law. I’d hate to give any more away, as I’m sure many of you will be hearing about it in months to come (and will hopefully get the chance to see it at some point), as its recently qualified for the AMPAS Student Academy Awards program.
Kightlinger’s choice of story and locale make for a visually brilliant movie. The best of live action shorts tend to be ones that are just as eye-opening culturally and, often, spiritually as their full-length counterparts. Bertha may be a quick journey, but the characterization is wholly effective. Newcomer (and dear friend and former professor at my alma mater) Julia Pachoud Bennett is harrowing as the title character. Thanks to the excellent camera work, the unapologetic close-ups let us in to the highly skilled character work Bennett is able to achieve. All in all, I’m sure I’m highly biased and partial, but the finished product of Bertha is well worth your time. And I’d make the same claim had it been three hours long as opposed to 23 minutes. Check out the home page for the film here.