Reposted from the article “‘Hoop Dreams’ veteran, animated film score at Elgin Short Film Festival” by Dave Gathman at The Courier News (Chicago Sun Times) on 9/26/2014
ELGIN — Famous for his appearance as a hopeful high school basketball player in the acclaimed documentary “Hoop Dreams,” Chicago athlete Arthur Agee made another mark in Elgin Saturday night. Looking at basketball careers from the other end, a short film about an aging, washed-up NBA player that he starred in was named the audience favorite and the best live-action film in the sixth annual Elgin Short Film Festival.
However, for the first time in the festival’s history the overall first prize went to an animated film. And for the first time, one of the finalist movies was based on a script written by a seventh-grader and one of the finalist movies came from a foreign country.
For the first tine, the committee accepted entries in two different categories, animation and live-action.
The panel of four judges named the top animation film, “Drifting,” as also their No. 1 overall prize winner. Directed by Joel Benjamin of Chicago, it shows a businessman drifting in the empty ocean on an airplane wing, apparently the only survivor of a plane crash. As the film continues, we see in flashbacks how he ended up there and how he got a line of deep scratches along his arm.
Benjamin, who said it was his first visit to Elgin, said that “I’m jealous of live-action filmmakers. They get to have people all around them while we animators just sit off in the corner working.”
The film in which Agee starred, “The Journeyman,” was named No. 2 prize winner by the judges and also landed the People’s Choice Award, based on the most votes cast by the hundreds of people in the audience. It was directed by Leo Gilbert, who goes under the professional name “LJG.”
Agee plays an aging professional athlete who lives in Chicago. His career ended by a chronic injury, he wants to continue his career in Europe, but he also feels tempted to stay in Chicago and work with his young son, who is just learning how to play basketball.
The third-place prize went to “Race You to Russia,” whose story was written by a seventh-grader in a screenwriting contest for school students in Champaign-Urbana. Directed by Luke Boyce and shot in Champaign, it tells about a geeky middle-school boy who is persecuted by bullies but is able to exact an unusual form of revenge on them.
For the first time one of the five finalists was a foreign film. “Flowers,” directed by Sabina Sattar of England, is about a lonely young man who figures out how to communicate his feelings to a woman in the park who is deaf, dumb — and allergic to flowers.
The fifth finalist was “The White Room,” directed by Tom Doherty of Rockford. It’s about a man who wakes up in an empty white room with no memory of how he got there. Meanwhile, a worried family is watching over an elderly man in a coma.