Diggers (2006)

35mm, 13 min.

Diggers is a comedy with serious intent that explores the unusual friendship between two mismatched memorial park workers as they go about their business. It premiered at the 2007 Seattle International Film Festival and has screened around the world on the festival circuit, including England, France, India and Egypt, and all across the U.S. It features the award-winning British character actor Phil Davis and gorgeous 35mm cinematography. One favorite festival logline: “What do you talk about when digging a grave?”

International Sales Agent: Ouat Media
Official Website: diggersthefilm.com

Cast: Phil Davis, Marie Matiko, Jimmi Parker, Austin Farwell, Nathan Gamble
Writer/Director: Cheryl Slean
Producers: Mark Titus, Susan LaSalle
Director of Photography: Sean Kirby
Production Designer: Etta Lilienthal
Editors: Cheryl Slean, Jeff Erwin, Lynn Shelton
Composer: Paul Benoit
Sound Design: Eric Johnson, Clatter & Din

Original format: 35mm film
Screening formats: 35mm film, HDCAM, digiBeta, DVD

Diggers - Synopsis

It’s better to go with a bang! DIGGERS explores the unusual friendship between two workers at a memorial park as they perform their duties at the funeral of a stranger. The workers couldn’t be more different: Keiko is a young Japanese-American woman, and Fred a middle-aged British emigre, but despite their disparate backgrounds, the two have a special comaraderie, stemming from the fact that life has been something of a disappointment for them both. They also share an enjoyment of repartee, argument and plays of the imagination-- a mutual delight in talk which drives the action of the story.

Someone named Margaret Rutger is being buried, and while waiting for the funeral to end, the gravediggers play their usual game of imagining how she died, based on hints in the obituary. As the storytelling proceeds, the stories begin to take on personal significance, incorporating hints from each teller’s past. Fred sees his own failures reflected in Keiko’s youthful nihilism, and he tries, with his tales and commentary, to convince her to repair her ruptured relationship with her mother. Tough, self-sufficient Keiko resists both his argument and the paternal impulse behind it, and their competing stories develop into an existential dialectic about one’s approach to life given the fact of an inevitable yet unpredictable death. They come to an impasse, until a close call involving a rowdy little boy finally shuts them up. What’s left, then, is the silence, the pure presence of aliveness, that is bigger than any argument or way to think about life-- it is life itself.

Official Film Festival Selections

Seattle International Film Festival (World Premiere), La Femme Film Festival, Los Angeles, Northwest Film and Video Festival, Portland, OR, Beloit International Film Festival, Beloit, WI, Moondance Film Festival, Boulder, CO, Park City Film Music Festival, Park City, UT, San Francisco Women’s Film Festival, Short Film Festival of India, Chennai and Guwahati, India, Women’s International Film Festival, Miami, FL, USA Film Festival/Dallas, International Film Festival England, Tamworth, UK, International Asian American Film Festival, New York, NY, Baltimore Women’s Film Festival, Ismailia International Festival for Documentary and Short Films, Cairo, Egypt, British Film Festival Los Angeles, NOW Film Festival (online)

Other Screenings

Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Market, Clermont-Ferrand, France, Asian CineVision Festival tour (national screening tour), WJLA TV, Washington, DC, Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) Moving Imaginations Series, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, VA


IFP/Seattle Spotlight award
Silver Medal for Excellence, Park City Film Music Festival
Best Short finalist: International Film Festival England, National Short Film & Video Competition, Moondance Film Festival, NOW Film Festival
Honorable Mention, Short Film: The Accolade Competition