Oceanside film director, photographer screens short film at Cannes

Oceanside native film writer and director Mike Suchmann, center, screened one of his latest releases at the Cannes Film festival last week.
Oceanside native film writer and director Mike Suchmann, center, screened one of his latest releases at the Cannes Film festival last week.
Courtesy Mike Suchmann

Oceansider Mike Suchmann says he is fascinated by the power of striking imagery. Whether it convey as he puts it, “heightened beauty or abject horror,” the pursuit of documenting such themes drove him to become a professional film director and writer.

Now, after making the rounds in the independent film festival circuit, one of Suchmann’s latest releases, “Ponožky,” a short film shot in the Czech Republic, the title of which translates in English to socks, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival last week.

Speaking from France as he awaited his screening, Suchmann, 23, said he was looking forward to seeing the audience reaction to his film, “That’s always the most exciting part,” he said.

“Ponožky,” a dark comedy, explores the theme of control — or lack thereof — over one’s life, specifically in marriage, “Plus,” he said, “there are socks involved.” It was filmed in 2016 during a semester abroad where Suchmann and his fellow Syracuse University classmates studied at the The Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, or FAMU. “Ponožky” has since been screened at festivals including SHORT to the Point in Bucharest, Romania; the Centrally Isolated Film Festival in Ithaca; the Miami Independent Film Festival and more.

“Michael was always a storyteller,” his mother Kaye said, adding that as a child he would perform puppet shows at their home and hand out scripts for guests to follow along. Suchmann became drawn to photography and later film while at Oceanside High School, she said, where the interest grew into a passion.

“It’s very exciting to see somebody know so clearly what it is they want to do,” his mother said. “It’s very satisfying as a parent to know that your child is doing something they really enjoy.”

But she also acknowledged the challenges of breaking into the film industry. “It’s a very difficult field,” she said, and expressed concern over her son navigating the rejection and criticism inherent to filmmaking. Still, she said it has been fun to see her son find a way to tell stories that bring him not only personal satisfaction, but recognition as well.

Although it was not the first time a film by the young director was screened at an independent festival, this year was Suchmann’s first at Cannes according to Audrey Miller, his high-school video production and broadcasting teacher. She said that as her pupil he was initially unsure of his filmmaking abilities. “He was one of those students in my class who didn’t think he was very good,” she recalled, but after a bit of encouragement “he just went with it.”

Miller said Suchmann’s original talent as a photographer — skilled in color and composition — was in some measure what allowed him to excel in her class. “That’s part of the reason he became such a good filmmaker,” she said, but added that he would put a great deal of care into his projects, care she said she was happy to see pay off.

“He worked so hard,” she said. “It’s great to see it coming back to him.”