Catching Fireflies

Enchanting, touching and visually stunning, CATCHING FIREFLIES is a magical short film with a powerful message

It is not often that I am moved to tears by a film, but when I am it is because I have seen something truly special. Lee Whittaker’s CATCHING FIREFLIES is just that – a captivating, moving and special short film that will move you to tears.

CATCHING FIREFLIES tells the story of 9 year old Latina girl (Gianna Gomez) who uses her vivid imagination to enter into a mystical world full of beautiful women, fairies and fireflies in an attempt to escape the horrors of the ghetto.

Isabella and her addict mother Sofia (Carlotta Elektra Bosch) live in a cardboard house in downtown Los Angeles. But in a place where her mother only sees her next fix, the bright, intelligent and optimistic Isabella sees magic. Helped by the kindness of strangers who take pity on the young girl, Isabella survives by disappearing into her imagination to a mystical place where there is more to life than death, drugs, violence and disease. But Isabella’s strength and optimism is ultimately her downfall as she fails to notice danger until it is too late, choosing instead to see the beauty in a bad situation.

Enchanting, touching, and visually stunning, CATCHING FIREFLIES is a magical short film with a powerful message. Writer and director Lee Whittaker does a fantastic job of bringing the simple yet captivating script to life, capturing both the innocence of youth and Isabella’s unique ability to find wonder in a horrific reality. The film drives home an important message about homelessness, especially amongst young children, leaving a powerful impression on the viewer.

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What makes CATCHING FIREFLIES so enchanting is that it is visually stunning. Whittaker cleverly uses lighting, filters and shadows to transform the backstreets of LA to the magical world of Isabella’s imagination. The story is short, sharp and powerful. The music is uplifting yet heart-breaking. And the cast performances are simply stunning.

The lead character Isabella is played by Gianna Gomez who is a delight to watch on screen. The young actress shows great enthusiasm for her character as her face lights up with a sense of wonderment, making her performance all the more mesmerising. Her bond with Carlotta Elektra Bosch who plays her mother Sofia is also convincing, emphasising Isabella longing to escape with her mother.

Gomez and Elektra Bosch are joined by a small but talented supporting cast with Eugenia Care as Aurora, the lonely homeless woman who longs for company, Michael Edelstein as local cook Bohuslav who teaches Isabella that “If you catch a firefly in the night sky, then your wishes come true” and Stephen Boss as Elijah, Isabella’s dancing companion who provides his magnum opus as a gun battle ensues and fireflies light up the night sky.

The film’s tragic ending drives home an important message about homelessness and its effect on young children in the US.

Heartfelt, captivating and visually stunning, CATCHING FIREFLIES is a short film about finding wonder in the horrors of reality. A stunning directorial debut by Lee Whittaker that worthy of its five star rating.

5 out of 5 stars

CATCHING FIREFLIES made its debut in the US in 28 March 2015 at Phoenix Film Festival. The film has also been accepted into the Carmel International Film Festival and Savannah Georgia Film Festival next month.

This review was originally written for ScreenRelish