Gardner’s ‘Long Ride Home’ plays Bentonville Fest

(Gardner wrote, produced and stars)

Charles Andrew Gardner’s Long Ride Home will compete for Best Short Film this week at Academy Award® winner Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival.

In the powerful short film, Long Ride Home, Brandon is an affluent African-American who has climbed the ladder to success, resenting anyone not willing to put in the same amount of discipline. However, his perspective in this powerful film is challenged during an Uber ride to his old neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

Now, after debuting at the 44th Cleveland International Film Festival in April, Long Ride Home will compete for Best Short Film this week at Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival.

“When we first got the news that we were an official selection for @bfffestival I was so pumped. @olympiamovie got in last year and I learned then that I loved what this fest was about. For this year’s film festival, more than 80% of the feature film showcase is directed by women; 65% BIPOC and 40% LGBTQIA+,” Chicago SAG-AFTRA president, Charles Andrew Gardner (Olympia, The Chi, Chicago P.D.) posted on his Instagram.

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Associate Producer Mike McNamara, who also executive produced the 2017 Cannes Selection THEY from Chicago director Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, shared his thoughts on the Bentonville Fest, “For Bentonville to bring our seven minute short onto the national stage is a huge honor. Bentonville is one of the festivals leading the way in championing new voices and powerful stories from underrepresented artistic communities. Hopefully this week can help launch what’s next for Charles, Dame, Mary Kay, and the rest of our team.”

Directed by Chicago-born, now living in Pasadena, Dame Pierre and written by Chicago SAG-AFTRA president, Charles Andrew Gardner, the film is a intriguing and moving effort that explores what Gardner calls, W.E.B. Dubois’ “Double Consciousness” of being a Black American.

“As Black Americans we grapple with being both Black and that we’re American. How do we find that balance?” Gardner tells Reel Chicago, adding, “In the film, Brandon (Gardner) is grappling with that. It’s him taking that path. What happens to those people who are able move from being a ‘have not’ to being a ‘have?'”

The short was proved to be a different creative avenue for director Pierre, where he told Reel Chicago, he hails from a comedy background.

“Comedy is my main genre. I am comedic writer. LRH gave me the opportunity to step away and return to a more dramatic form,” Pierre notes.

Speaking to the power of the almost 8-minute short, Pierre shared, “For me, it speaks to a certain kind of mindset that a lot of people don’t know exists in the Black community. You always hear about White privilege and cultures outside of Black culture marginalizing us – ‘The Black man is lazy. The Black man ain’t shit when it comes down to work ethic. We always come in last.’ What Charles did was explore how this same attitude exists in the Black community. “

Drawing inspiration from the Jay-Z song, The Story of O.J., Gardner felt the creative urge to tell a story that explores Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave,” which is a viewpoint on human connection and how we should care for each other.

“It’s that moment you allow upward mobility to blind you to the systematic oppression at play in the lives of Black Americans. Long Ride Home calls for the dire need and responsibility to help others, no matter how far, or not, you succeed in life.”

After Gardner wrote and developed the script, he received a production grant from Chicago/DCASE’s Individual Artists Program. He then brought it to Pierre, who had been working at a River North Trader Joe’s. “We built a rapport there and then Charles became SAG president. He said, ‘I got this idea and you’re the director to make it happen.’ So, we did it.”

The two-day production took place on the same street where Gardner grew up. Pre-production lasted about 3 – 4 months, but Pierre edited the film in one night. “We knew we had something people were going to react positively to, so we had to start cutting right away. I think we started at midnight and had 75% cut by 6 AM.”

From the film’s riveting open to its shocking end, it grabs its audience right away. Gardner attributes that to how he views short films. “That’s the thing with a short. It needs to be a fully packed story from beginning to end and makes it hard to check out.”

The Bentonville Film Festival is a year-long platform culminating with an annual festival in partnership with founding sponsor Walmart and presenting sponsor Coca-Cola. The 6th annual festival will take place as a hybrid version of virtual showings and local and limited on-the-ground events due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The dates will be August 10 – 16, 2020.

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  • Director: Dame Pierre
  • Writer: Charles Andrew Gardner
  • Producers: Charles Andrew Gardner, Carmen Hines, Mary Kay Cook, Mike Ware, Mike McNamara
  • Editor: Mike Leber
  • Cinematographer: Zoe Lubeck
  • Music Composer: Philippe Pierre
  • Cast: Charles Andrew Gardner (Brandon) Ambria Sylvain (Tiffany), Byron Coolie (Malcolm)

Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1