FREE THE WORK is thrilled to highlight some incredible shorts from our creators in consideration this coming awards season.

Voters, please reach out ([email protected]) if you would like a link to a full project!

María AlvarezLast Days of the Lab

Synopsis: Last Days of the Lab reflects on the end of an era as you follow a mother and daughter’s conflicting emotions surrounding the closure of their family-run photo lab. It is a story about how each of us grapple with the passage of time and the tangibility of memory.

Our Take: Step into the poignant world captured by Director Maria Alvarez as she invites us on a deeply personal journey through the final days of a cherished family-run business. Exploring the themes of memory and grief, Last Days of the Lab portrays the challenging nuances of saying goodbye and concluding a significant chapter. Through the evocative lens of vintage darkroom photographs and heartfelt home videos, the film beautifully unravels the bittersweet tapestry of letting go.

Director’s Note: “Last Days of the Lab” is a story about time, and the different ways that we try to control its passing. So much of our film was a vessel to talk about each of us grapple with the end of an era and the tangibility of memory.”

Liam LoPintoThe Old Young Crow

Synopsis: In the twilight of his life, Mehrdad, now an elderly man, reminisces about his transformative journey from Iran to Japan, a poignant odyssey that began in the wake of his mother’s passing when he was just a young boy. His narrative unfolds around a heartwarming encounter with an elderly Japanese woman, forged amidst the hushed serenity of a graveyard and facilitated by the pages of his cherished sketchbook.

Our Take: The Old Young Crow poignantly meditates on loss, cross-cultural connection, and the cyclical nature of death and rebirth, using a singular mix of live-action and squiggling sketchbook animation. It’s sure to resonate with anyone who has ever searched for home within an unfamiliar landscape, and found unexpected guardian angels.

Director’s Note: “This is a film about reclamation. It’s about finding your own culture within another culture which is the story of many immigrants. I hope many people claim this film. Whether you’re Iranian or Japanese or anyone who needs to be reminded of the fact that your culture doesn’t disappear when you go somewhere else.

Sean WangNǎi Nai & Wài Pó (Grandma & Grandma)

Synopsis: A personal love letter from director Sean Wang to his Nai Nai and Wài Pó, a grandma super team that dances, stretches, and farts their sorrows away.

Our Take: Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó unfolds as a vibrant celebration of life. Director Sean Wang graciously invites us into a realm of pure joy, where we intimately witness the daily lives of his two grandmothers. In their endearing friendship, the film becomes a reminder of life’s simple pleasures and the prevailing delight that transcends age.

Director’s Note: “As hate crimes targeted at elderly Asian people dominated headlines in 2021, I turned a camera on my grandmas who live together in my childhood home and are inseparable best friends. Despite being in their eighties and nineties, Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó have infectious youthful spirits, and together we made a film that humanizes and honors them. We couldn’t have imagined then that Disney would acquire the film and give them a global platform, but today my grandmas are the newest Disney princesses.”

Varun ChopraHoly Cowboys

Synopsis: In small-town India, where cows are considered sacred, a teenaged boy and his group of friends set off on a quest to become saviors of the holy cow.

Our Take: Holy Cowboys is a remarkable look at radicalization, employing a hybrid approach to documentary (similar to what’s been used in feature docs like “The Act Of Killing) in order to paint a dark, palpably human picture of one boy’s indoctrination into a cow defense vigilante. Chopra has discussed the “politicization of compassion,” a core concept which fuels the violence running throughout this dazzlingly-shot short, and serves as an increasingly relevant caution for our divided world. 

Director’s Note: “The guiding principle behind Holy Cowboys was the intricate knowledge of the world, the story, and how it resonates with my own internal discord in an increasingly intolerant world. This is an urgent story that has a timely, universal appeal in today’s overwhelming, violently unstable world where, like the protagonist, we are pushed to constantly question the timbre and worth of our beliefs and values.”

Liz SargentTake Me Home

Synopsis: Anna is an adult with a Cognitive Disability living with her mother in Midland Florida. When her mother is unresponsive, she calls her sister for help, but without the language to be believed, Anna is brushed aside. Emily returns home and is immediately engulfed in a futile struggle for medical information, while Anna’s world is deconstructed. In this sadness, Anna sees the bigger picture and with a straightforward strength, Anna holds her own. The uncertainty for the sisters’ future independence remains but they are now a team against all odds. 

Our Take: Take Me Home offers an exploration of independence and the discovery of self-agency in the wake of a parent’s passing. Director Liz Sargent, drawing inspiration from personal experiences, casts her sister, Anna Sargent, in the lead role. Sargent invites us to transcend conventional notions of representation and enter a realm where individuals with disabilities and their unique perspectives take center stage.

Director’s Note: “Take Me Home captures a moment of fear for people who worry about how their lives will change without a plan for their siblings who cannot live on their own. So many people’s lives are altered the moment a parent dies, but even more so when they inherit their sibling’s needs. It is a sudden learning curve to figure out the bureaucracy for a disabled sibling. In the end of the film, we are left with a sense of hope. Anna understands how to share, how to remember, and how to move forward. It is what we all strive for in intense moments of change.”

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