By Andrew Carter | Drama
3 friends go through home movies to inspire a eulogy for a classmate's funeral.

Kenny's childhood friends are converging at a funeral for Sid. As kids, they played together, riffing on films like Jurassic Park on an old camcorder. But as they grew up, they grew apart, as many childhood friendships do. Kenny became a filmmaker, while others in the group scattered or stagnated.

Catching up at Sid's funeral is stilted, and when Sid's mother asks the group to speak together at the funeral, it puts everyone in an even more awkward position. But when they watch the old films they made on their camcorder, they remember their innocence and friendship -- and try to reconcile that with their grown-up selves.

Written and directed by Andrew Carter and Kahlil Maskati, this heartwarming short dramedy is a funny, sweet portrait of a collective friendship, captured both in the past and in the present day after a long separation. But it's also a poignant examination of the gap between the childhood self and the adult reality, with all its sharp disappointment and aching longing.

With the shaggy charm of lo-fi, DIY moviemaking, there's humor in the childish reenactments of the action-thriller films the group of kids prefers to make and their sharp, sometimes profane banter. The storytelling has fun with the camcorder footage, as the kids collectively possess an unbridled sense of expression and creativity. And while they might give each other a hard time, they also accept one another for who they are, making for genuine bonds of friendship.

Juxtaposed against the footage are scenes from the present day, as the group reconvenes as adults. The writing, directing and editing are excellent, toggling with ease between past and present. It also deepens the emotional resonance, transforming initial childhood cuteness into a gently comic, light but sincere meditation on the passage of time and the inevitability of change.

The ensemble cast of the film is fairly large for a short, and by nature, the story can't go deep into any one character. But there's enough to suggest a longer, more sustained series or feature, and even with limited time, all the actors are excellent. The child performers have the unfocused, cheerful anarchy that characterizes real kids, while their adult versions dial down that childhood exuberance with the believable weight of maturity and unresolved emotions. But they also fall into their old chemistry easily, and in doing so, they help one another rediscover and reconcile their fractured friendship, their guilt at growing apart and, finally, their grief for their childhood friend.

Warmly resonant, scrappy and amiable in spirit, "Camcorders" captures just why childhood is so important. In playing together and imagining stories, we not only have fun but plant the seeds for our adult selves. We discover passions; we learn what it means to be loyal, fair and caring. Adulthood might fill our lives with other obligations and pull us away from that sense of unfettered freedom and possibility, so much so that we forget these lessons of youth. But as Kenny and his friends learn, those seeds are still there waiting to be rediscovered, with the help of our memories and one another.

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