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Shorts shine in Week 2 of NJ Film Festival

Charly and Eriel Santagado's "Conjoined" stole the spotlight during week two of the NJ Film Festival. – Photo by @njfilmfestival / Instagram

This past weekend, the second week of the NJ Film Festival offered in-person and online screenings of several films from diverse backgrounds, demographics and distinct directions. These films, all unique, presented compelling messages and visions.

One thing the films listed below share is that they ask the audience to become more contemplative of their journey in life — whether presented through grief, spiritual awakenings or dramatic storytelling.

In conveying all these messages, the films include details and imagery that might appear a little bizarre and eccentric, but they nonetheless help advance the motives of the directors. Here are some of the standout shorts from this past weekend.

Sea of Shadows - Hüseyin Mert Erverdi (Istanbul, Turkey)

"Sea of Shadows," a three-minute long film, captures the passage of life via striking imagery of the waves at sea, constantly violently crashing against one another. The short mainly consists of close-up, black-and-white shots of the waves. While there is no dialogue, a meditative and distant sound plays throughout the film, capturing your attention. 

This film captures grief, which creator Hüseyin Mert Erverdi, emphasizes is its objective. Erverdi's personal connection to the film is with his mother, who lost her life at sea two decades ago. This film reflects the journey of Erverdi's grief, loss, acceptance and reconciliation. The film ends with a text saying, "Dedicated to all souls who found their final harbor in the embrace of the sea."

This film has a heavy and meditative objective, which may not be for everyone. But if you enjoy contemplative material and meditation, "Sea of Shadows" will be your cup of tea. 

Unspooling Wind – Jessy Dong (Brooklyn, New York)

"Unspooling Wind" is a film about self-discovery and spiritual awakening. The film has three ensembles — The Amiable, The Spiritual and The Willful, and all three ensembles are presented by actors dressed in costumes that reflect their respective journeys.

The short, at only 10 minutes, gives viewers enough to grasp its essence but also depart with lingering thoughts. This film invites the audience to become more introspective and further understand the human experience through stunning imagery and a movement-based narrative. The scenery is especially complimented by the camera work, which skillfully captures the message. 

This film may not be for everyone. It's more on the artistic and spiritual end, making the performance by the actors a little unconventional — be sure to keep that in mind if you're planning to give it a watch.

Conjoined – Charly and Eriel Santagado (Metuchen)

"Conjoined," a 14-minute narrative duet, is about two conjoined twins who are exploited in the entertainment industry. The conjoined twins, or rather the actors, are attached through a red skirt, in which they dance for most of the film. 

Like the other films mentioned above, this film doesn't include dialogue. Instead, it plays a classical piece and old, unsettling songs. Nonetheless, the music still manages to match the overall theme. There's a slow build-up to a plot twist at the end, which is arguably the most interesting part.

All of the films listed above are serious, either leaving viewers with food for thought or leaving them completely confused. If you're looking for more films in a similar vein or ones that are more light-hearted, check out all the other films featured in the NJ Film Festival.

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