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Screen Gems

By LEVI AGEE Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published May 23, 2014 at 2:03 a.m.

Mark Thiedeman's short film Sacred Hearts, Holy Souls was one of the highlights of the just-concluded Little Rock Film Festival and the film's buzz and audience reception translated into a win for the Best Made in Arkansas Charles B. Pierce Award during the closing night gala on Sunday. Afterward I reached out to director and writer Thiedeman as well as some of his producers and cast to ask them to reflect on their win.

Thiedeman was emotional during his acceptance speech and it is easy to see why. His films are very personal and could be seen as somewhat autobiographical. Sacred Hearts, Holy Souls details the coming of age story of a young man dealing with sexuality and identity issues within the context of a boys Catholic boarding school.

The film itself is a more conventional, straightforward narrative compared to Thiedeman's earlier, more lyrical and atmospheric projects. Thiedeman also commented during the award ceremony on how watching the audience actually enjoy one of his movies was a bit of a welcome culture shock. Sacred Hearts is by no means a romp, but handles ennui, religion, and same-sex attraction with a lighter touch than, say, his brooding, but equally beautiful, Cain + Abel.

"As a filmmaker, I typically make movies for myself -- because there's something I need to grapple with or explore emotionally," he says. "But to see an audience connect, relate, and enjoy it is really the best feeling in the world."

Tony Taylor, who produced the film along with Elizabeth Strandberg, notes the importance of the film's cast, who were for the most part nonprofessional actors save a few in key roles.

"More than anything, I was overjoyed for Mark and our cast," Taylor said. "They worked so hard on this film. For their work to be recognized by not only the audience but also the film festival." The impressive cast includes Quinn Gasaway who was nominated for Best Actor, Harrison Tanner Dean, Schafer Bourne, C. Tucker Steinmetz, Karen Clark, Byron Taylor, Harley Burks and Jim Linsley.

As for what is next for the filmmakers, Thiedeman says he is in the process of working on his second feature (after 2013's Last Summer) which he hopes will "push me to try new things, learn, grow and become a stronger storyteller."

To find out more about the winners and nominees of the eighth annual Little Rock Film Festival, you can visit littlerockfilmfestival.org.

Levi Agee is a filmmaker and programmer for the Little Rock Film Festival. Write him at

levifilm@gmail.com

MovieStyle on 05/23/2014

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