Reflecting on Reflection: A Short Film Review
Jessica Kladerman – Editor in Chief
Los Feliz films production and director/screenwriter Timur Bootzin present a short film called Reflection, 2020. The film was released March 1, 2020, on youtube.com just before the global pandemic. The crew was bare bones, including David Charry who did cinematography, Timur Bootzin, who directed and wrote the short film and produced it in partnership with Sequoia Sheriff.
The main characters are Manuel, played by David Anthony McGill, who we see experience two different possible lives with his mother portrayed by Karla Rodriguez, father played by Jose J Santana, sister played by Giselle Diaz.
The film begins with clips less than a minute each, fluctuating between Manuel getting ready for school; one with a Nipsey Hussle poster and the other with a Tupac Shakur poster. As Manuel begins his day in both realities the viewer can immediately see differences in cleanliness and the responsibilities on Manuel. In one reality he’s also making sure his little sister is getting ready for school.
We see further divisions even in how each Manuel arrives to school, one is with his father alone in a newer model SUV, the other arrives on the public bus with his little sister after escaping a yelling battle between his parents at home.
The former Manuel is in a calm school environment, allowing him to focus on his work; the latter Manuel is in a completely chaotic school environment that likely has a low staff to student ratio, keeping students from being able to concentrate on their studies. There’s much to be said on a systemic level on the differences in education and opportunities for each Manuel through the school system each appear to be in.
After their school days end, the first Manuel is seen walking through a suburban neighborhood with his peers heading to a small get together he blew his father off for. The latter Manuel passes by some older men hanging out on a stairwell and greets several of them on his way to his after-school job, busing tables at a small restaurant. As the hours pass the first Manuel is partying with his friends at a pool party until dusk, while the other Manuel collects his tips on his way out of work.
As the get-together winds down, Manuel and his peers gather inside a cabana as one student pulls out something wrapped in paper towel. At the same time, the other Manual hands an older man some cash and is invited into his apartment. Throughout this part of the short film, the camera cuts between both scenes every few seconds unraveling each story.
The students at the get-together begin passing around a crack pipe while the second Manuel is shown in a recording booth, very excitedly and passionately, making music, revealing what he has been saving his money for throughout the film.
This short film presents two, of many, dynamically different narratives of the Latino experience in America. In one, a young Latino has every basic need to succeed met, including security at home, a stable family life, with parents who are involved in his life, a school that encourages student growth.
This Manuel has time to pursue extra-curricular school activities if he wanted to that would help with college applications, as well as having access to the resources he needs to succeed as a student.
The opposing Manuel is living in a cramped space, with parents who are too busy working to make ends meet and arguing the rest of the time about things that don’t get done around the house, leaving no time to be present in their children’s lives.
This Manuel takes on more responsibilities and takes his future into his own hands by working an after-school job to pay for studio time to pursue a career in music as opposed to preparing, at least on camera, for college after high school.
Reflections is a deeply thought-out film that reminds viewers life is not as simple as having money and all the opportunity in the world. Success takes work and gratitude, which is a lesson both Tupac Shakur and Nipsey Hussle often rapped about in their music.