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8 ¾ [Shawn M. Cheatham, USA, 2020]

Film always has and always will have the power to transcend simple moving images to create an honest reflection of life. No director was arguably better at this than the great Federico Fellini. 8 ¾ is at once a reflection of this venerable filmmaker, while also maintaining an honest sense of identity that may have you shedding a tear or two of your own by the time the credits begin to roll.

8 ¾ follows a young eight-year-old protagonist as portrayed by Austin Cheatham who has a deep love and admiration for the films of Fellini. In the short he mentions he has seen each film twice, with the lone exception being Fellini Satyricon [Italy, 1969]. As the boy visits his grandfather, he can’t help but notice the sadness that has taken over him since losing his wife, the boy’s grandmother. In an attempt to cheer him up, the boy decides to make a movie with his grandfather, channeling many moments of Fellini’s filmography.

What is most striking about this film is the honest portrayal it offers of the struggles of grief, and the almost naïve stance that a young boy takes trying to understand what meaning that has to someone. The language of this eight-year-old is steeped in film, and he thus resolves to capture the magic the world in which he is so well versed, and bring it into the world of his grandfather. He knows that he can not bring his grandmother back, but he can offer some reprieve from the pain through his own filmic preoccupations.

This short film stands not just as a simple tribute to Fellini, but as a love letter to youth, the power of cinema, and the things that all too often get lost in the minutia of the day-to-day. This is a soulful, heartwarming, genuine film to which one could easily imagine Fellini standing up and cheering a loving “Bravo!” by the end.


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