Short Films Review – “Papa” and “Auto-Cowrecked” Demonstrate How Humans Connect

A young boy is helped by his brave knights

(Huntington Beach, CA) August 2015 –Humanity’s need to connect on an emotional, spiritual and physical level (keep those thoughts clean on that last one) has evolved and transcended in many diverse ways. Artists have illustrated man’s journey to connect through their unique creations: painting, sculpting, writing and especially filmmaking. Two particular filmmakers, Hannah Leder and Hendrik Maximilian Schmitt, have each crafted a short film that explores man’s desire to connect. Leder’s film, “Auto Co-wrecked,” has a humorous twist, whereas Schmitt’s “Tschuss Papa” (Goodbye Papa)is more poignant. Overall, both filmmakers show their artistry with these cinematic gems.

Andy (Zach Creggar) is pondering what is going on with his texts

In the comedy “Auto-Cowrecked,” young urban professional Andy (Zach Creggar) is going through a rather chaotic time. Like all professionals who love their toys, Andy relies on his palm pilot to text his professional and personal contacts. However, the “autocorrect” feature on his phone inadvertently converts all of his messages into the most racist and sexist sort of profanity that would make playwright David Mamet blush. This faulty autocorrect feature damages his relationship with his girlfriend (a hilarious cameo by Leder), his supervisor, and the HR manager, resulting in more outrageous results.


(from l to r) Actor Zach Creggar, filmmaker Hannah Leder, and actor John Ducey

The true stars that shine in this cute little short are Leder’s direction and Creggar’s performance. Leder’s directorial debut illustrates her keen eye to detail—she brings a nice composition to her shots and editing—and her tight comedic pacing. It would have been nice to see more examples of how Andy’s phone causes more hell for him with regard to his personal and family life. But it is a minor flaw that doesn’t greatly affect the overall work. Creggar’s comic timing is impeccable with his expressive behavior and line delivery. He is reminiscent of a young Jeffrey Donovan---star of USA Network’s “Burn Notice”---in terms of how certain situations become even more odd and awkward for the actor. “Auto-Cowrecked” is a nice cinematic calling card for Leder that will hopefully lead to future directorial work.

Benedikt (Valentin Teufel) faces a bully at school

Imagination abounds for young Benedikt (Valentin Teufel, whose powerfully compassionate performance is one of the best I have seen from a young actor his age) in “Tschuss Papa,” an exploration of how love, courage, and integrity overcome anger and loss. Benedikt’s bond with his father (a touching Markus Knufken) grows strong through their mutual love of the medieval fantasy stories. Both Benedikt and his papa dress up in expensive armor and costumes—becoming a brave knight and loyal squire—and recreate famous myths that they adore from the bottom of their creative souls. When Papa dies, the young boy copes by wearing his father’s armor to school, embarrassing the school bully (Maximilian Beck) in the process. But his own widowed mother (Nele Mueller-Stofen) sells the armor, and Benedikt uses his innovation and the memory of his father to ultimately discover his hidden courage.  

Benedikt (Valentin Teufel, l) says goodbye to his Papa (Markus Knufken)

Critically acclaimed at the 2015 Newport Beach Film Festival, “Tschuss Papa” is truly sublime when focusing on Benedikt’s point-of-view, especially as his world transforms from reality to fantasy and back again. And Director Schmittmasterfully harnesses those transitions as though he were a cinematic magician himself. His use of symbolic color shading to add to the emotionalism of the scenes almost reflect Benedikt’s moods—warm orange for the father scenes, cold metallic palette for when the young boy feels grief, and hot yellows and reds at the end when Benedikt faces his final conflict. Schmitt’s mercurial style of switching from reality to fantasy, as well as conveying the full emotional power of the overall story, is very similar to that of filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (the Oscar winning “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the upcoming “Crimson Peak”). After directing three short films, Schmitthas the eye, skill, and discipline to take on his first full-length feature.


Both filmmakers are making the film festival circuit with their creative works. And considering the positive responses that have resulted from these debuts, Hannah Leder and Hendrik Maximilian Schmitt will no doubt evolve within their craft as cinematic storytellers.  


Peter A. Balaskas is a fiction writer, copyeditor, journalist and voice over artist.

Photos provided by all both filmmakers.


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