ASHLEY/AMBER (2011) – The Short Review
“What does it take to get America’s attention?”
The perfect tagline for an introspective short film about American politics and a skewed sense of morality. Written and directed by Rebecca Rojer, ASHLEY/AMBER is a 22-minute short film starring Diane Guerrero as Ashley, an attractive young woman who recently lost her boyfriend to the war. Heartbroken and conflicted by her loss, Ashley struggles to reconcile her boyfriend’s duty and commitment to fighting for his country with her pain and sadness, even a little anger over losing her loved one.
Ashley is also struggling financially, so following a current American trend (and let’s be honest, a global trend), Ashley responds to an ad to make some quick cash performing in a fly-by-night, amateur online sex video under the assumed name of Amber. Now, not only is Ashley conflicted by her boyfriend’s death, combined with the constant pressure from her anti-war activist friends to protest with them and speak publicly about her own experience of loss, she now has the added weight of having sold herself to pay the bills looming on her conscience. Ashley will soon discover just how volatile, fickle and hypocritical society can sometimes be about sex, war and free speech.
ASHLEY/AMBER is a small, independent project, as are most short films. This drama is gritty and honest, but the pacing is decidedly slow and methodical. At times, I do feel the editing lingers just the tiniest bit too long, leaving the camera to linger just beyond the point of comfortable observation, but I also feel that perhaps this is intentional, hoping to convey a sense of relentless voyeurism. In a society obsessed with reality TV and celebrity gossip, ASHLEY/AMBER also touches on these themes indirectly, even if unintentional. As Ashley comes to terms with her situation in life, with the circumstances she is both forced into and entered into by choice, she takes a chance and reaches out as an anti-war activist but finds that instead of her outspoken message of peace making a positive impact, the two-sided Internet proves to be the curse that subjects her life to further ridicule.
Diane Guerrero does a fascinating job, portraying an emotionally scarred woman stunted by her confusion and pulled apart by a society that deems sexual freedom far more morally reprehensible than a controversial war and the corrupted comfort we have developed for violence in general. Her emotions are reserved, but dwell just beneath the surface of her skin. ASHLEY/AMBER has some very minor production flaws, but the message and direction of the film on display from filmmaker Rebecca Rojer are of a respectably high caliber. This is an intelligent film, even subversively, darkly humorous film on a subconscious level. ASHLEY/AMBER plays as a smarter, far more poignant counterbalance to the trend of mindless, frivolous reality programming that clogs the bandwidth of television and the Internet. Rojer clearly has a strong vision for storytelling and encourage her to follow this path and discover in what direction this compass will lead her.
ASHLEY/AMBER was nominated for a Golden Berlin Bear award for Best Short Film in 2011 and can be purchased in Europe as part of a DVD compilation titled BACK TO POLITICS.
Originally from Maplewood, NJ, Rebecca produced her first short films and animations as a student at Columbia High School. In 2004 she was selected to participate in the William H. Cosby Future Filmmakers Workshop at NYU and the Innerspark-CSSA Animation Program at CalArts.
Rebecca currently studies film production in the Visual and Environmental Studies department at Harvard University. She also illustrates for the Harvard Lampoon. Her most recent film, Beauty Machine, received an Award of Merit in the Accolade Film Competition and has been selected to screen at Anthology Film Archives in New York as part of the New Filmmakers Program.