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A Life for a Life (2013)

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A Life for a Life is a 2013 American short film written and directed by Chandra Kilaru, produced by Ramfis Myrthil and Dallas Brennan, and starring Ato Essandoh, Frank Dolce, Taylor Dior, and Natalie Knepp. A Life for a Life centers around a young boy who witnesses his mother getting shot and years later stumbles upon the killer.


The film opens on Central Park in New York City. A young man, Jack, sits, drawing a stranger. A young girl, Cathy, comes over to see his drawing and looks through his sketchbook. Upon questioning, she reveals that her mother has “gone to live with the angels.” Jack says that his mom is “with the angels” as well. They agree to be friends, before Catherine’s dad, Boyle, calls her away. Cathy tries to point out her “new friend” to Boyle, but Jack has already left. Boyle and Cathy play in the park, while the young man watches from a distance and eventually follows them. On their walk away from the park, Cathy points out her “friend” to Boyle once again. Boyle and Jack make eye contact, and Boyle continues walking.

Meanwhile, in a flashback, a mother and her son (a younger version of Jack) are introduced, as the mother reads Jack a bedtime story. Young Jack says that he does not want his mother to go to work. She makes him promise to always be brave. As she gets ready, she packs a gun.

Boyle hands off Cathy to her grandmother, then goes into the subway. He calls out for Jack. He tells Jack that he will not hurt him, but wants to talk. Jack has a flashback to Boyle fighting with and shooting Jack’s mother with the gun from earlier. She instantly dies. Boyle leaves as young Jack cries. Back in present day at Boyle’s apartment, Boyle and Jack talk. It is revealed that Cathy was named after Jack’s mother, Catherine. Boyle and Jack discuss Catherine’s death. Jack reveals that he has the gun, and points it at Boyle.

The scene cuts back to the events right before Catherine’s death. Boyle asks Catherine to marry him. After she says no, he tries to kiss her while she struggles.

Back in the present, it becomes clear that Jack is planning on shooting Boyle in order to avenge his mother’s death. Cathy watches from the sidelines, hidden. Jack eventually lowers and tosses the gun, deciding not to go through with it. He asks the father to tell Cathy about the woman she is named after. Cathy enters the room and looks down at the gun by her feet. As the screen cuts to black, a gunshot is heard.


Ato Essandoh as Boyle Frank Dolce as Jack Natalie Knepp as Catherine Taylor Dior as Cathy Logan Floyd as Young Jack


The film was produced by Beast of the East Productions, Wild Invention, and Lolli Brands Entertainment.


A Life for a Life premiered on April 5th, 2013 at the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival and WorldFest Houston. It appeared at the Charleston International Film Festival on April 10th, 2013. It also appeared in July 2014 at the Manhattan Film Festival.





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