BendFilm: ‘Clara’s Carma’

If you’re still trying to decide how to start your Friday morning routine at the BendFilm festival, you might consider the lineup at the Tower Theatre.

The opening short is The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger, a certain crowd-pleaser from master animator Bill Plympton.

The feature presentation is Lovely, Still, a winter-of-life romance starring Oscar winners Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn.

And between them is a little movie that you may remember long after either of its companions.

Clara’s Carma is the work of young actress Alex Dawson, who wrote, produced and stars in the seven-minute film.  She plays a woman in spiritual crisis consulting her therapist, played by veteran actor Stephen Tobolowsky.

Although it is making its first festival appearance, the short film has already received great reviews. “Stephen Tobolowky and Alex Dawson’s performance in Clara’s Carma is nothing short of brilliant,” wrote David Doerre in Starz! Movie News. “They add color, light and laughs to the roles of therapist and patient, and do it with such comedic dexterity, it would leave Woody Allen green with envy.”

Taking a breather before a yoga class yesterday afternoon, Dawson — who is also a yoga instructor — confessed to me that she raised money for the production by bartering yoga sessions.  “It cost me 25,000 ‘down dogs,’ ” she joked.

“I wanted to create something I could act in,” said the actress, among whose recent films was The Doorman with Peter Bogdanovich. “This is the perfect example of an actor in Hollywood saying, ‘OK, I’ll do it myself’ … and then discovering that I like writing, and I like producing.

“I think there isn’t much difference between yoga and acting,” Alex continued. “In either case, you must be in the moment. You are listening and responding, whether it’s to your student or to your co-star.  It’s not rote.  You have have lines, but it is still improvisation.”

BendFilm tickets are still available at the Liberty Theatre, next to the Tower on Wall Street, or online at http://www.bendfilm.org.

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