Directed by: Alec Ybarra
Having grappled with the topic of bullying in his previous short film Unmarked, filmmaker Alec Ybarra turns his attention to high school tragedy with his latest short, Prism of Light.
Ybarra plays Seth, a student whom we meet at the beginning of the film getting into a car crash when a gem dangling from his rear view mirror distracts him. The consequences of this momentary distraction become clear three months later when Seth attempts to talk to his former friend Mark (Jack Armstrong) one Saturday in school. The pair's thorny tension may need to be put on hold, however, when an alarm goes off in the school and all hell breaks loose.
Ybarra implements some fantastic devices to heighten the atmosphere of his movie. Prism of Light is littered with impressive camerawork, such as a glorious tracking shot of Mark walking down a hallway, or a static distance shot of the two main characters atop some stairs. This is complemented by a dramatic score which is, for the most part, effective in driving the audience's intrigue.
The performances are fairly stilted and melodramatic. Ybarra utilises candid dialogue that leaves little to the viewer's imagination and has a habit of jumping too quickly into the crux of the matter. The interaction between him and Armstrong is enjoyable but the drama comes gushing out rather than being thoughtfully released.
Prism of Light touches on aspects of tragedy and friendship, and the role of forgiveness in both. Ybarra, in his movie, provides plenty of thematic depth for the audience to ponder, especially in the final sections which are potently poignant. Mark's anguish makes for particularly engaging stuff, as his turmoil and anger mutate during the running time into panic and fear when that alarm goes off. This change is visually represented after he is knocked to the ground by a stampede of students and looks lost and terrified. The catalyst of an impending doom working brilliantly here.
A few high school dramas have dealt with subject matter like this before and the machinations of high school friendships is certainly familiar ground for most. Ybarra does, however, provide some noteworthy cinematic flair to the proceedings and works hard to create an immersive dramatic tension. With stronger performances and dialogue it would be interesting to see how he does with another high school genre movie.