By Julia Marino
Ohio University graduate and filmmaker Todd Rohal's first feature film will make its public screening debut at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival this month. "The Guatemalan Handshake" is set to screen Jan. 21, 22 and 24 in Park City, Utah, as a narrative competition feature. Slamdance will screen over 90 films and will host 150 speakers, including festival distributors, directors, producers, industry leaders, musicians and executives involved in independent filmmaking for the festival's forums and "fireside chats."
Rohal, BFA '99, who wrote, directed and produced "The Guatemalan Handshake," has written and directed four short films, including the 1999 short film, "Knuckleface Jones," starring acclaimed actress Piper Perabo and fellow Ohio University students. Rohal's classmates, many of whom quit their jobs to work on the film for free, also had a hand in the making of "The Guatemalan Handshake." Volunteers included Ohio University graduate and accomplished cinematographer Richie Sherman who developed the film's distinctive visual style.
Set in rural mid-America rather than Central America, the movie is a story about a community of eccentric personalities as it tries to deal with the disappearance of a demolition derby driver and an immense power outage. These dilemmas set in motion a series of events affecting the idiosyncratic lives of its characters, including the demolition derby driver's pregnant girlfriend and a ten-year old girl named Turkeylegs as she ventures out to find her missing best friend. Described as "a feast for the senses" and a "challenge for the brain" in its trailers, "The Guatemalan Handshake" dares to be different, featuring cars that drive circles in the dirt, a lactose-intolerant roller rink employee and a sun that rises sideways.
But if driving in circles on the way to Utah is not on your agenda for this month, fear not. Another option is a short stroll uptown, where "Guatemalan Handshake" will be featured at the 2006 Athens International Film and Video Festival which will run from April 28 to May 4.
Julia Marino is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.