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High schooler to show noir short at LA film festival

A Northfield High School senior’s short film will run later this month as part of a prestigious film festival near Hollywood.

Luke Ailabouni wrote and directed “Out of My Hands,” a psychological thriller about two high schoolers, a boy and a girl, who take a spontaneous road trip from Northfield into the desert of South Dakota. The unsuspecting girl’s situation becomes grim when the boy’s intentions turn out to be more sinister than he originally let on.

It is clearly a film buff’s movie, full of apparent visual references to other thrillers and crime dramas such as “The Godfather,” “Taxi Driver” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Ailabouni said the film was shot over three days entirely on location, on the outskirts of Northfield, in Badlands National Park as well as Wall, S.D. They did briefly shoot an exterior near Wall Drug, Ailabouni said, but not inside since they were denied permission. However, the Badlands Saloon and Grille across the street was more than accommodating, Ailabouni said.

“They were very kind,” he said. “They let us use their facilities for an afternoon, so that was super cool.”

The film shows just how evocative it is as a horror piece in the first few seconds, when the characters throw their cell phones out of a moving car. Thankfully, this was just an illusion created by filmmaking magic. According to Ailabouni, the actors threw cell phone cases instead of their real cell phones.

Besides Ailabouni himself, the crew consisted of the assistant director, Will Shelby, using a Canon EOS camera as well as a drone. Professional actors Peder Lindell (another Northfield native) and Natalie Tran made up the cast. According to the film’s IMDB page, Lindell sprained his ankle just prior to shooting and can be seen limping in some sequences of the final cut. The estimated budget for the film was $500.

Ailabouni’s film credits already span five years, he said, shooting every summer with his high school friends. After he graduates, Ailabouni hopes to attend film school, possibly at UCLA or the University of Southern California. If he is accepted into USC, he will have one-upped Steven Spielberg, who was rejected due to poor high school grades.

”Out of My Hands” premiered last Halloween. Now, nearly a year later, it will be screened as part of the Catalina Film Festival based in Avalon, California, on Catalina Island, not far from Los Angeles.

“We didn’t think it would actually get into Catalina, because it’s a pretty notable festival,” Ailabouni said. “We didn’t have super high hopes for that … but it was accepted.”

Entered into the Best High School Short category, “Out of My Hands” will compete against other student films from across the country.

The festival will screen “Out of My Hands” Sept. 18 for its “Long Beach Launch” segment at the Scottish Rite Cultural Center in Long Beach. Visit catalinafilm.org for more information.