In “The Send-Off,” a documentary short named as one of 12 finalists in this year’s ShortList Film Festival, viewers are given a glimpse into an event almost everyone in the U.S. knows about: prom.
But instead of highlighting the actual prom night itself, directors Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas focus on the intimate moments before the big night as the predominantly African American community in rural Pahokee, Florida, comes together to prepare.
“It’s a true testament to how strong the community is to see everybody there in support of their kids and their neighbor’s kids,” Bresnan told TheWrap. “Many families, they spend everything they have and the kids are doing odd jobs like rabbit hunting and hair braiding, so there’s so many things that have to come together for prom day to be successful.”
Bresnan said that he and his wife, Lucas, accidentally stumbling upon a prom send-off in 2014, and decided to make an intimate film that showed “how important and unique” young black students are — especially following the growing violence in Florida against young black students such as Trayvon Martin.
“Prom day encapsulates something that people can relate to regardless of race, and so I think prom is kind of an excellent way to enter the world of a young person,” he added. “It’s a day where they’re really celebrated by their community and they’re kind of transitioning into adulthood.”
Bresnan and Lucas have already shot five other films featuring the Pahokee community, including the story of how one of the boys featured in “The Send-Off” went rabbit hunting in the sugarcane fields in order to afford his suit and other prom night expenses.
“Sometimes we shoot the short films as research, and then the short form allows us to make a film, share it with the community, develop an audience,” Bresnan said. “We’ve learned that being isolated, working on a feature for many years is not a good way to be a documentary filmmaker for us.”
The goal is to depict the communities honestly and dispassionately.
“We’re making observational films because we really don’t want to alienate any audiences,” he said. “We’re just trying to make films that everybody can enjoy on a really humanistic level.”
Watch the film above. Viewers can also screen the films at any time during the festival at Shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 9-23.