Directed by: Kristian Comer, #JTMaguire
Written by: #KristianComer
The innocence of youth and the bludgeoning effect of reality collide in this short film Riding With Sunshine, directed by Kristian Comer and J. T. Maguire.
Comer (who also writes here) plays the lead character Vikki, an effervescent student and wannabe actor who is out for the day with her friend Mario (Rahiem Wilson Morgan). After an enjoyable and fruitful stop at their school, the friends travel home in Mario's car. Soon, however, they are pulled over by two odious cops (Rick Levi and Scott Churchson) who unfairly scrutinize Mario and leave the pair bereft of hope in mankind.
Bold themes of police racism and brutality were not to be expected in a short film called Riding With Sunshine. However, this juxtaposition is essential to the foundation of the movie, most notable in the visual gimmickry applied to Vikki. From the outset, she is the only character in colour, the rest of the people and settings are in black and white, and it is not until her turbulent interaction with the police that she too loses her colour, most likely representing her loss of innocence or naiveté.
Strong thematic prowess aside, there are a lot of flaws with this piece. The performances are amateur across the board (except for one of the teachers who was fairly decent) and the dialogue is clunky and wooden. Many scenes feel contrived to get the characters from A to B without any sense of dramatic intrigue. It's not until the car sequence that some semblance of conflict arrives and this is over fairly quickly.
The sound was off in parts and the #cinematography was far from nuanced. Whilst this didn't undermine the central point of the story it will likely jolt audiences and leave them struggling to look past the student filmmaking production values.
By tapping into the same social-realist well as dramas such Crash, Gran Torino, or Mississippi Burning, the filmmakers are wading into a genre full of heated topics such as race relations, white privilege (Vikki cannot seem to comprehend why the cops are pulling a black driver over), and embedded bigotry within the system. It's hefty stuff and fortunately Comer and Maguire prove themselves capable of handling such hot property intelligently.
Their short posits that there is still a glimmer of hope to be found in the promise of youth, that perhaps everyone, if not at least the majority of people, will be lit in full colour one day.
Watch the short film trailer below.