Embers & Dust
Embers and Dust focuses on the perspective of a young farm boy and his family, and how the night of Orson Welles' dramatic broadcast of War of The Worlds unfolded for them.
Today’s film is the 2016 Science Fiction family drama Embers & Dust written and directed by Patrick Bieseamans and starring Joel Nagle, Henry Gagliardi and Virginia Logan. It is currently being featured in the 2017 winter competition at the Fandependent Film Festival.
Embers & Dust focuses on young farm boy Gene (Henry Gagliardi) as he dreams of the stars in his rural community in 1938. As he wonders the woods outside his home his parents, Dale (Joel Nagle) and Margaret (Virginia Logan), are listening to the radio when the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast starts to play. At the same time a transformer blows out in their town of Concrete, WA sending the parents into a worried frenzy to find their lost child. As they search Gene comes across a strange glowing blue creature and greets it with wonder and no fear as he has not heard the radio warning the citizens of earth of the deadly invasion, all that remains is if the boy simply imagined it like the broadcast or was there something more to the galaxy as he always suspected.
Embers & Dust is a very thought provoking film that brings a sense of wonder through the eyes of a child to the viewer. The 1938 broadcast of the War of the Worlds has long been a infamous and used trope in films over the years to varying degrees of success and this film really nails it in a positive way. The boy Gene’s curiosity and hopefulness that there is more out there among the stars really takes on a new meaning with the backdrop of the War of the Worlds playing in overlay of the film. Make no mistake however this isn’t a Science Fiction thriller where great space battles and screaming victims, no this is a tender tale of hope and family that was really surprising to watch. The writing done for this film was thoughtful and compelling leaving the viewer unsure if what the boy witnessed was real or just part of his imagination and leaves it up to you to decide. I’ve always liked films with ambiguous endings as they really help bring the viewer deeper into your story and director Patrick Bieseamans does this beautifully.
The acting in Embers & Dust is truly impressive especially considering that these three actors have limited titles under their belts. Each of the three bring a unique realism to their characters and really put a lot of passion into their performances. Joel Nagle has the most experience of all of the actors in the film and his character Dale really comes off as a kind good o’le boy who deeply cares about his son despite the fact he is only on screen for a brief time. Young Henry Gagliardi’s portrayal of Gene is heartfelt and his facial expression are some of the most expressive I have seen in a child star, his sense of wonder is palpable throughout the entire film. Virginia Logan has limited lines and screen time but her character of Margaret is well thought out and acted with skill and grace making her seem as worried for her son as Dale is.
Period pieces as very hard to do in any type of film either short films or feature length. Getting the props for a 1930’s era scene can absolutely kill a budget for a small independent film but Embers & Dust not only manages to bring all of the proper time period pieces to the show but also manages to have some quite decent special effects. The clothing, radio and lanterns are all very well made and really bring you back to a time of World War II in a very convincing way. Not only is it rare for a small budgeted independent film to try to do this but to do it successfully is truly a sign of a skilled and dedicated team and a very determined director.
The production quality of the film is very impressive with not only it’s use of the actual broadcast of the War of the Worlds but it’s clever use of CGI on a tight budget. The cinematography of the film is beautiful with it’s crystal clear picture and clever use of darkness to obscure what the viewer sees. Normally I find that distracting in a film but this just adds to the ambiance of being in the 1930’s before everywhere was hooked up with electric lights and the night is just as bright as the day. Each scene is painstakingly shot and worked into a cohesive story that really reminded me of the works of James Cameron and tells a epic tale in only eleven minutes, truly impressive.
The audio work of course is on equal footing as the visual department. All of the characters are clear and audible at all times and deliver the thoughtful dialog to the viewer no matter where they are facing in relation to the camera. This isn’t a small matter as many independent films manage to bungle this very crucial aspect of making a movie but Embers & Dust gets it right. The soundtrack of the film is wonderfully done with both dramatic tension filled moments and a sense of hopeful wonder toward the end of the film and really helps brings the scenes together in a harmonious way, as it should be with any film.
When all is said and done Embers & Dust is a feel good movie with small additions of science fiction added in. The characters are believable and wonderfully written and each one is brought to life by a very talented up and coming troupe of actors. It is visually appealing both with it’s set pieces and it’s use of bright colors and underscored CGI character. At just over eleven minutes it is diffidently worth watching for fans of family friendly movies as well as science fiction aficionados.