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The Independent Critic

Isaac Natoli, Kate Skinner, Ben Wood, Charlie Fraser, Duncan Fellows, Peter McAllum
D. Edwardz
15 Mins.

 "The Trophy Thief" Set for a World Premiere 

There are films that instantly touch your heart and make you want to hit rewind to watch them all over again. Writer/director D. Edwardz's The Trophy Thief is just such a film. Set for its world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 25th, The Trophy Thief tells the story of young Ben (Isaac Natoli), who is unquestionably his soccer team's hardest working and best player and who is convinced that winning the team's Most Valuable Player trophy will solve his family's problems. When he doesn't win, Isaac takes matters into his own hands.

While all of this could be incredibly maudlin and patronizing, it's not in the sure and capable hands of Edwardz, an Australian filmmaker with experience in both live-action and animated shorts, who gives the film such an incredible warmth and honesty that you feel immersed in the film even within the short span of its fifteen minute running time.

Of course, it also helps to have a young actor the caliber of Isaac Natoli, an acting newcomer who embodies Ben with a sweetness and a weariness that makes pretty much everything he does touch your heart. It's a raw performance devoid of the usual Hollywood histrionics and brimming with such honesty that even his body language becomes mesmerizing.

Rather wisely, Edwardz doesn't tackle too much in telling Ben's story. So often, a short film can either feel like it's tackling too much or not enough. The Trophy Thief feels just right.

Tim Barnsley's lensing radiates a richness that permeates every moment of the film, making us feel intimate and at one with the characters at times and, in other instances, making us feel the awkwardness and distance of the life that Ben is living. It's a difficult balance to capture it all, but Barnsley does so quite nicely. David Barber's original music companions the film quite nicely, while Bec Sheedy's production design gives us this sense of a world where everything should feel alright but it just doesn't.

While Natoli is front and center as Ben, the film also benefits from terrific performances by Kate Skinner, as his mother, and Duncan Fellows as the Coach.

On occasion, I find myself watching a submitted film and instantly thinking to myself "That'd be a great Heartland" film, a reference to Indy's own Heartland Film Festival, a festival that emphasizes positive and inspiring films that celebrate the human spirit. I can see The Trophy Thief fitting right in. The Trophy Thief is the kind of short film that Heartland's audiences love, but it's also the kind of film that should play well in a variety of festival settings with its weaving together of an authentic story with a hopeful spirit. Easily one of my favorite shorts of this first half of 2015, The Trophy Thief will no doubt also capture your heart. If you get a chance, definitely check it out.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic