Posted: 09/03/2004

 

The Christmas Party

(2003)

by Barry Meyer



A holiday short that unwraps the childhood horrors of Christmas. Official site here.


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The Holidays can be an awesome time of the year — that is if you’ve got some good family or friends around. Otherwise, it can be a hell of a time. In Jeremiah Kipp’s poignant short film The Christmas Party the holidays are a bit uneasy for Gabriel, an introspective, lonely 9-year-old boy. Gabriel lives with his grandparents because his alcoholic mother is unable to care for him, so to lift his spirits Gabriel’s grandfather drops him off at a Christmas party advertised in the local paper. The party is hosted by a kindly minister and his wife who throw young Gabriel for a loop when they ask straight up: “What church do you go to?” As the party goes on, the children sing unfamiliar religious carols and bow their heads in prayer. Gabriel begins to realize that the minister and his wife aren’t just hosting a Christmas party, but are attempting to save the children. Caught off guard, Gabriel finds himself poised between a traumatic experience and a moment of hope.

The Christmas Party is a truly unsettling story that honestly reflects the confusion and frustrations of a child’s vulnerable desire to expand into new horizons, while still longing for acceptance. Childhood is a fascinating place, where everyday occurrences can be both menacing and wonderful all at once, and this whirlwind of emotions is manifested by Gabriel’s day at the bizarre Christmas party. Just as any boy his age, Gabriel probably has a running list of questions about anything from God to girls. These questions can’t always be so easily answered like the usual “why is the sky blue?” so the answers need to be discovered through real life experiences — and Gabriel is about to get a mind-full of experience. It’s a pretty scary way to learn things, but such is the horror and delight of growing up.

With wide-eyed vulnerability, Gabriel’s curiosity is invoked by the minister’s friendly persuasions. All the children seem so happy as they sing and listen to religious stories, and the young boy soon discovers that when he participates in the fun he earns praise. The virtuous nature of the art projects the kids are involved in seem daunting to Gabriel, but he quickly warms up the more he is accepted. By the end of the party he’s opened himself up to new friends, and has naively accepted Jesus as though he’s not even close to understanding why or how. During the ride home with his grandfather, though, Gabriel is given another bone to chew on, as his grandfather gives his own strong-minded views of what God is. This leaves his grandson, once agaon, bewildered and with even more questions to tack onto his running list.

Director Kipp does a fantastic job reflecting the confusing and curious world of a 9-year-old child, not just in the smart script and direction, but also with Jon Miller’s wonderful photography. This is a great Holiday treat, but not in a normal warm and fuzzy type of way. Anyone who’s ever been a kid (and I think that includes you) will absolutely relate to Gabriel’s wide-eyed enthusiasm and curious confusion.

Barry Meyer is a writer living in Jersey, and he still believes in Santa.



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