AIFF: Trammel

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Trammel (shown as part of the “Short Stories & Documentaries: Outsiders,” available April 15 – 29)

“Trammel” both means to restrict one’s freedom, and also can refer to a tool that consists of two fixed points. It is also the title to a short film about one man, Dale, and what seems to be his yearning for friendship—or, at least an attempt to make some human connection as he loiters around an upstate New York general store and reveals stories to the pharmacist Mohammad.

“For the title (of this film),” explains director and writer Chris Bell, “(trammel) is kind of a mix of the two—something to signify the isolation of the character, in a place he can’t necessarily leave and has no community, nobody really to talk to, but plenty to say.”

Dressed in a dingy Green Bay Packer jacket, Dale shuffles through the town, and visits the otherwise empty general store. It isn’t clear whether the pharmacist welcomes or simply tolerates Dale’s rambling and self-revealing stories—and that ambivalence generates an unease mood throughout the film; lonely and anxious.

Not much happens, but then again, nearly all of Dale’s personality and life is spilled on the table—and, in many ways, the 11 minutes mirror a cinematic equivalent for many of the emotions felt over the past year of isolation (which is remarkable, as the movie was filmed prior to the yearlong quarantine).

“This was a pre-COVID film,” explains filmmaker Bell, “but it’s certainly interesting that it is getting out there now. What was already a fragile ecosystem, if you can call it that, got tremendously worse.”

Trammel premiered at Slamdance, and since has been traveling in the film festival circuit. PB

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