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America The Beautiful
by Karen Pecota

In the Special Events category of the Slamdance Film Festival 2019, filmmakers James Kaelan and Blessing Yen, co-direct a collection of 5-minute-segments of short films in America the Beautiful,  the screening was located at Park City's historical St. Luke's Episcopal Church. A wonderfully quaint venue. Cozy and intimate.

Shot entirely on vertical iPhone, Kaelan and Yen believe their film is, "the found-footage thriller for our turbulent political moment."

Set in Southern California in the city of San Bernardino which lies at the base of the Big Bear Mountains. We are introduced to two young couples living in the same neighborhood who get acquainted after a chat on the street. One of couples just move into their new home and the other is visually documenting a bathroom remodel for YouTube. Their relationship develops over time but the couple new to the neighborhood wonders if getting to know these neighbors was a good idea.

Kaelan and Yen's home-video-style of filming is super annoying to watch, but if one is patient and can look beyond their purposeful, amateur-styling, you will be amazed at their storytelling. The challenge is there to go deep in thought.

This was by far, the most annoying type of filming to endure, but the compilation of these segments tell a unique story of how friends, family and associations can have a huge impact on one's behavior and one's life. When we are open to make new friends it's not a bad thing to be cautious. We might get involved with people we wouldn't necessarily seek out for friendships. We might become someone we are not when around continual adverse ideology. If we are not strong enough to stand up for what we believe, think or feel often peer pressure can be detrimental to our personal development and future.

Kaelan and Yen creatively show how easy it is to succumb to peer pressure and the lasting effects of its consequences.