‘CAMP PLEASANT LAKE’ (2024) an ode to genre fans

Deskpop Entertainment logoCAMP PLEASANT LAKE

Camp Pleasant Lake poster

In CAMP PLEASANT LAKE, Rick and Darlene Rutherford breathe life into the eerie remnants of an old campsite, unaware of its dark past. Strange occurrences haunt the area, mirroring the tragedies of the old camp, where two decades earlier, a young girl was kidnapped and her parents brutally murdered. Amidst chilling atmospheres and long-forgotten secrets, the couple grapples with a horrifying revelation—they are entwined in the camp’s history. And as the shadows of the past collide with the present, the Rutherfords must confront the haunting histories of a sinister crime.


Camp Pleasant Lake group stillThomas Walton‘s CAMP PLEASANT LAKE centers around a horror camp created based on a 20-year-old legend of a missing child and the brutal murder of her family on their way to the very same camp.

Michael Paré is magnificent playing camp owner Mr Rutherford. Bonnie Aarons plays Esmeralda with a perfectly sinister air. The audience deserved so much more of her. Brainwashed son Lou gets the proper treatment from Mike Ferguson.

Camp Pleasant Lake_Still5Christopher Sky is the former vile camper turned Camp of Terror counselor, Mike. He is a sufficient asshole and you will revel in his inevitable demise. Jonathan Lipnicki is hands down the best part of CAMP PLEASANT LAKE. His unfettered commitment to the role is genuinely awesome.

Camp Pleasant Lake Jonathan LipnickiIt is evident the film is made by genre fans. Practical fx are bloody good, even if the pace and dialogue drag. The kills get better as the plot rolls along. I did wish the variety of attendees had been more eclectic. At $10k each, I was looking for fewer numbers and more development of these characters because the possibilities were endless.
The final scenes are seriously satisfying. Lipnicki earns the chance to reprise his role.

DeskPop Entertainment will release Thomas Walton’s refreshingly indie new horror film CAMP PLEASANT LAKE in select cinemas and on VOD February 27th!
The picture, which stars 90s screen icon Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry MaguireStuart Little) alongside a bevvy of genre film icons, is a loving throwback to the thrilling, violent summer camp slasher films of the 1980s.

 

Written and directed by Thomas Walton, Camp Pleasant Lake stars Lipnicki alongside Bonnie Aarons (The Nun 1 and 2Jakob’s Wife), Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster 1 and 2), Michael Paré (Eddie and the CruisersStreets of Fire), Kelly Lynn Reiter, Robert LaSardo (Death Race), Maritza Brikisak, and Greg Tally.

Jared Safier produces the film alongside Walton, with Jeremy Hirsch, Matthew Macur, Damien Douglas, Lenny Vitulli, Jackson Everest, and Michael Mahal acting as its executive producers. Production companies on the picture are Safier Entertainment, PhilaDreams Films, Lux Angeles Studios, Stag Mountain Films, RMR Productions, and Movies By Misfits.


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‘ORDINARY ANGELS’ (2024) soars with sweetness

Ordinary Angels poster

Based on a remarkable true story, ORDINARY ANGELS centers on Sharon (Hilary Swank), a fierce but struggling hairdresser in small-town Kentucky who discovers a renewed sense of purpose when she meets Ed (Alan Ritchson), a widower working hard to make ends meet for his two daughters. With his youngest daughter waiting for a liver transplant, Sharon sets her mind to helping the family and will move mountains to do it. What unfolds is the inspiring tale of faith, everyday miracles, and ordinary angels.


Jon Gunn brings audiences the story of personal redemption and a real-life miracle.

Alan Ritchson as Ed and Emily Mitchell as Michelle in Ordinary Angels. Photo Credit: Allen FraserNancy Travis is a lovely addition as Ed’s mother. Her down-to-earth attitude solidifies generational Kentuckian views. Travis has fantastic chemistry with each cast member. You might think she was their real-life relative. Skywalker Hughes and Emily Mitchell, as the Schmitt siblings, are darling. Each provides precisely what the other needs in each scene, giving the audience (especially parents) a genuine emotional stronghold. Alan Ritchson gives Ed a prideful authenticity. Ed is kind and quiet but mired in grief. Ritchson creates a safe space to express the nuances of loss and masculinity.

Ordinary Angels Hilary SwankHilary Swank gives Sharon a spitfire vibe. She’s smart, organized, and motivated to make a positive mark on one family’s life. Initially going through the motions as a high-functioning alcoholic, this hairstylist-turned-advocate does her best to save the life of a little girl and her family drowning in debt and personal loss. Swank delivers on Sharon’s renewed sense of purpose. A backstory brimming with unresolved trauma speaks volumes. Swank navigates the underlying complexity like the pro. Franky, she is a tornado of energy that makes ORDINARY ANGELS a sweet and inspiring watch.

Hilary Swank as Sharon and Alan Ritchson as Ed in Ordinary Angels. Photo Credit: Allen FraserORDINARY ANGELS have genuine ERIN BROCKOVICH energy. The film is a quiet indictment of the healthcare system and insurance industry. Mostly, it’s a Good Samaritan story of our wildest dreams. Stay during the credits for the 1994 news footage, updates on Sharon and The Schmitts, and Dave Matthews‘s beautiful song “Pretty Bird.”


ORDINARY ANGELS will be available in theaters nationwide on February 23, 2024.

 

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Shudder Original ‘HISTORY OF EVIL’ (2024) is aptly named and terrifying

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HISTORY OF EVIL

History of Evil poster

Horror and politics go hand in hand in the latest Shudder Original HISTORY OF EVIL. Filmmaker Bo Mirhosseni takes audiences on a plausible what-if journey 20 years into the future. This terrifying tale navigates the fallout of stolen democracy, homegrown terrorism, and the evil that we cannot leave in the past.

HISTORY OF EVIL - Still 3Christofascism and government-sponsored militia, paramilitary gear and all, provide immediate rage and fear. The J6 patches are a brilliant touch. Ron goes undercover to rescue his wife, reunite his family, and get to the safe house for extraction. HISTORY OF EVIL shifts from a governmental apocalypse to a haunted house story about 20 minutes in. It’s a clever device. The script has honest echoes of Amityville Horror with Ron’s slow indoctrination into White Nationalism through hauntings and hallucinations. Bo Mirhosseni has created an incredibly disturbing arc.

Murphee Bloom plays the daughter of the resistance leaders. Her debut role as Daria proves she has that “it factor” to be a star. Jackie Cruz plays the opposite of her ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK role. Author and inspiration for The Resistance, strong-willed Alegre is a solid foil for Wesley.

HISTORY OF EVIL - Still 2Rhonda Johnsson Dents plays T, a modern-day Harriot Tubman for The Resistance. Her character adds weight to the film, and Dents gives a breathtaking performance. I’d love to see a spinoff where she leads. Paul Wesley captured the world’s attention in the CW series The Vampire Diaries. As Ron, Wesley transforms from an undead teen heartthrob to a protective father. He is charming and funny until the plot spoils him from the inside out. It is a fascinating turn.

The film smartly utilizes classic tropes while leaning into cyclical violence and our racist past and present. The script delivers multiple acts and a phenomenal final ten minutes. HISTORY OF EVIL is undeniably entertaining.

Premieres On Shudder February 23rd

Writer & Director: Bo Mirhosseni

Cast: Paul Wesley, Jackie Cruz, Murphee Bloom, Rhonda Johnsson Dents

Genre: Horror

Language: English

Runtime: 98 min


For more reviews of Shudder films, click here!
 

AMC Networks’ Shudder is a premium streaming video service, super-serving members with the best selection in genre entertainment, covering horror, thrillers and the supernatural. Shudder’s expanding library of film, TV series, and Original Content is available on most streaming devices in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Over the last few years, Shudder has introduced audiences to groundbreaking and critically acclaimed films including Rob Savage’s HOST, Jayro Bustamante’s LA LLORONA, Phil Tippett’s MAD GOD, Coralie Fargeat’s REVENGE, Joko Anwar’s SATAN’S SLAVES, Josh Ruben’s SCARE ME, Kyle Edward Ball’s SKINAMARINK, Christian Tafdrup’s SPEAK NO EVIL, Chloe Okuno’s WATCHER, Demián Rugna‘s WHEN EVIL LURKS, and the latest in the V/H/S film anthology franchise, as well as the fan favorite TV series THE BOULET BROTHERS’ DRAGULA, Greg Nicotero’s CREEPSHOW, and THE LAST DRIVE-IN WITH JOE BOB BRIGGS.

 

‘VESELKA’ (2024) doc follows a restaurant entering the global stage

VESELKA:
THE RAINBOW ON THE CORNER
AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD

VESELKA: THE RAINBOW ON THE CORNER AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD

New York City’s beloved Ukrainian restaurant Veselka is best known for its borscht and varenyky, but it has become a beacon of hope for Ukraine. As the second-generation owner Tom Birchard reluctantly retires after 54 years, his son Jason faces the pressures of stepping into his father’s shoes as the war in Ukraine impacts his family and staff.


The first time I ate at Veselka, I’d only lived in New York for six months. A friend of mine, a lifelong New Yorker, walked us in at 1 am. We were sober but sleepy. The palpable energy of the packed wood-paneled room woke us up before a dish was served. I remember being a little awed by the fragile ecosystem – here, Wall Street players were sitting shoulder to shoulder with grinning grandmothers. Warm chatter and the smell of fried onions filled the space. That environment, that first bowl of borscht at Veselka, was one of the many little moments that helped me feel at home in a busy, sometimes uncaring city.

Michael Fiore’s documentary, Veselka: The Rainbow on the corner at the center of the world, takes the viewer into both the history and heart of the beloved Ukrainian restaurant. With the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the restaurant finds itself catapulted onto a transformational crossroads. Already tested by the global pandemic, its owner, Tom Birchard, hands the reins to his son, Jason. Jason finds himself at the helm of a world-famous family business, trying to put his own stamp on the restaurant while understanding its rapidly evolving role in both the local and global Ukrainian community.

VESELKA_Press ShotThe documentary is by turns uplifting and shattering. Most powerfully, it is a stark reminder of the human costs of ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. Unbelievably, this week will mark 2 years since Russia’s invasion and escalation of the conflict. While the war may not be at the forefront of the public conscious in 2024 to the same degree as it once was, it remains a constant for the staff and families at Veselka. This is not an overseas battle for them – these are their loved ones and families fighting and dying while the world moves on to the next crisis.

As a leader, Jason Birchard is equal parts toughness and warmth. His determination for his staff and community is inspiring.  Early in the Russian invasion, Veselka hosts Mayor Adams and his delegation to advocate for additional support for Ukraine. Watching this scene gives the viewer the rare experience of seeing an elected official being written off by a constituent in real-time. This superficial political moment stands in stark contrast to Veselka’s kitchen, which is humming with empathy and support.

Veselka: The Rainbow on the corner at the center of the world is many things. A  reminder of a brutal ongoing conflict. A challenge to the audience to remember how far the support of individuals can go in the face of global needs. A testament to the grit and determination behind a family business….And a reminder that you’ve really been craving borscht lately.


In Theaters This Friday 
February 23rd, 2024

Written, Produced, and Directed by Michael Fiore

Narrated by Golden Globe Award-winner David Duchovny (“The X Files”)
Score by Ryan Shore, featuring Grammy Award-winning saxophonist David Sanborn (“Lethal Weapon”)

Poster designed by Neil Jamieson (TIME “Person of the Year” cover artist – feat. President Zelensky)

Featuring interviews with father-son owners of Veselka Tom and Jason Birchard, additional Veselka staff as well as footage of New York Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul


For more of Sam’s reviews, click here!

Riveting ‘LAND OF BAD’ (2024) wows with story and performance

LAND OF BAD

Land of Bad 2024 posterLand of Bad 2024 poster

SYNOPSIS: Starring Russell Crowe and Liam Hemsworth, a covert Special Forces operation in the South Philippines spirals into a brutal 48-hour battle for survival. When an elite extraction team is ambushed deep in enemy territory, rookie officer Kinney (Hemsworth) is left outnumbered but determined to leave no man behind. With an air strike closing in, Kinney’s only hope hinges on the guidance of Air Force drone pilot Reaper (Crowe), navigating unknowable danger where every move could be their last. 


Director William Eubank gives audiences a high-octane story with outstanding performances in his new film LAND OF BAD. A spectacular cast, including Russell Crowe, Liam Hemsworth, and Milo Ventimiglia, takes viewers on a mission filled with twists and turns, action-packed thrills, and a genuine heart.

Land of Bad StillChika Ikogwe gives Sergeant Nia Bransona a brilliant coolheadedness. She brings a nice rhythm as Crowe’s number two. Simply put, Ikoqwe makes the film better. Milo Ventimiglia plays Sugar. Serving as Master Sergeant and Delta Force team leader, his measured badass attitude feels incredibly authentic. He is a tremendous addition to the cast.

Liam Hemsworth is the rookie drone operator, Kinney. He exudes innocence, passion, and humanity. He easily carries the vast majority of screen time. Russell Crowe is Reaper, a veteran Air Force drone pilot. His chemistry with every single cast member is magic. He and Hemsworth share a strong bond. Crowe elevates each film he appears in. LAND OF BAD is no exception.

Land of Bad PicturesHandheld camera work gives the film a solid, immersive feel. Slow motion dynamics and augmented sound editing make your palms sweat. The pyrotechnician team displays every bit of explosive goodness.

Land of Bad Russell CroweForty minutes in, LAND OF BAD switches lanes. The intensity ramps up as Reaper and Branson navigate Kinney to safety. Eubank and co-writer David Frigerio deliver a heart-pounding story of loyalty, determination, and trust. The screenplay’s evolution is applause-worthy. After a fifteen-minute setup, the plot shifts multiple times, never allowing the audience to be complacent. It is impressive for a genre that might get stale and cliche. I may have yelled, “Oh, Shit!” at the screen. No. I most certainly did. LAND OF BAD is undeniably entertaining and deserves a watch on a large screen with the highest-quality sound system.

Film Trailer: https://youtu.be/dKcHOR-V1G4

ONLY IN THEATERS: February 16

 


DIRECTOR: William Eubank 
WRITER: David Frigerio, William Eubank    
CAST: Liam Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, Luke Hemsworth, Ricky Whittle and Milo Ventimiglia 
RUN TIME: 110 Minutes 
RATING: Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout 
GENRE: Action 
DISTRIBUTOR: The Avenue 


Film Website: www.landofbad.com



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Matt Vesely’s intense ‘MONOLITH’ (2024) takes podcast storytelling to another realm.

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Monolith 2024 poster

One suspect article takes down a once respected journalist. Holed up in her wealthy parent’s estate while they are on holiday, our leading lady tries to revamp her image by creating a conspiracy theory podcast. While wading through emails, she spots one that is particularly eye-catching. Following up on the information, she continues down a path of potential otherworldly objects influencing people around the globe. But truth and lies are closer aligned than you might want to believe. Matt Vesely‘s SXSW 2023 sci-fi feature MONOLITH pulls you into oblivion.

Lily Sullivan in Monolith The film takes place in a single location where The Interviewer records her podcast. The secluded and expansive modern mid-century estate allows her to wander, but most of the action happens at a desk or in front of the wall of windows that contain her discoveries. Our journalist creates an episode of her first phone calls. Editing the calls at her will, the audience questions her culpability. This small moment puts your morality compasses in a tailspin. It is a slick move from writer Lucy Campbell. Podcasts are my nightly ritual, cleaning motivation, and my travel companion. Since SERIAL, the industry has exploded. In MONOLITH, the story goes viral. People begin contacting her directly with their stories, always warning her to stop.

Lily Sullivan in MonolithAt some point, the danger reaches the front door of our journalist’s secluded location when she receives a package related to the mysterious story. The darkness attached to the object feels slightly Faustian and not of this planet. No one remembers how they received their object, but each reaches a point in questioning where they feel compelled to hang up out of fear.

Lily Sullivan plays The Interviewer. Her emotional arc is mesmerizing, acting as a therapist to her callers, a manipulator for personal gain, and a target of the unknown. As the only onscreen actor in the film, her ability to carry such an intense and mysterious film is quite a feat. Sullivan owns the audience.

Matt Vesely's MonolithIs this a case of mass hysteria? In many ways, the plot mirrors today’s conspiracy groups like QAnon. Our leading lady goes down the rabbit hole, and the audience follows. MONOLITH boasts a jaw-dropping final ten minutes. This is one hell of a sci-fi thriller. It is a must-see.

IN THEATERS AND ON DIGITAL: February 16, 2024 

 

For more Well Go USA film reviews, click here!

 

‘GOD & COUNTRY’ (2024) explores the twisted reality of Christian Nationalism

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GOD & COUNTRY

God & Country 2024 poster

What the hell happened to Conservative Christians? Growing up Catholic taught me that you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the refugee, and love thy neighbor as yourself. What we’ve come to see is that none of those so-called values matter these days as long as the underlying hatred and cultlike lies fuel a fired-up voter base. GOD & COUNTRY takes us down the rabbit hole of skewed ethics and the genuine danger we found ourselves in at those moments in our country’s history.

God & Country 2024 Rally FlagsOn-the-ground video from January 6th, up close and personal from cell phones, retraumatizes the viewer. The new footage is mind-boggling and will undoubtedly fill you with rage and disgust. The film features sociologists, authors, historians, lawyers, and pastors. We examine the Constitution and the precise articles requiring separation of church and state. We look at evolving statistics on social issues through the years. The interconnectedness of women’s rights, race, and power is undeniable.

God & Country Faith & Freedom ImageViolence as a means of “spiritual defense” comes directly from the pulpit over and over. The film effectively builds towards January 6th by wading through the madness swirling in the years prior. It is utterly bewildering and 100 percent terrifying. This coordinated effort to keep people in a cult is deliberate and well-funded. History repeats itself. Wait until you find out the architect of Evangelical sermons.

God & Country 2024 Washington StillGOD & COUNTRY keenly explores the long history and bastardization of Christianity through White Nationalism. It is a political movement about power. America is a ticking time bomb encouraged by social media, media, and billions of dollars. Stay vigilant and show up at the polls because democracy depends on it.

Oscilloscope Laboratories’ GOD & COUNTRY,  produced by Rob Reiner and directed by Dan Partland (Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump), is opening in select theaters nationwide beginning This Friday, February 16th.

 

For more reviews from Oscilloscope Laboratories, click here!

 

‘BLEEDING LOVE’ (2024) a beautiful journey through cyclical addiction

Bleeding Love 2024 poster

Director Emma Westenberg takes an estranged father-daughter duo on an impromptu road trip to reconciliation in BLEEDING LOVE.
Ewan McGregor and Clare McGregor

Clare MacGregor (who also contributed to the story alongside screenwriter Ruby Caster) is spectacular. Her unfiltered and vulnerable aura immediately reels you in. Her resentment is palpable and entirely earned. Clare owns the character’s beautifully written arc, capturing the yearning to connect. Ewan MacGregor is a man on a mission. He is gentle, patient, and kind in his quest to break cyclical addiction. Coming to terms with his past mistakes, his earnest attempts at redemption are messy, brave, and relatable. He is fantastic. Clare and Ewan have magic chemistry on screen. Read More →

Review: ‘LAST PARTY’ (2024) shines in its camera work.

LAST PARTY

In Nicolas Dozol‘s LAST PARTY, one final hoorah to celebrate high school graduation takes a weird turn when four of its attendees experience subtle hallucinations.

Last Party (2024)Cleverly choreographed camera work by Aurel Ganz makes us think the film is one long take. Just as impressive is the actual shot list. 28, to be exact. It is one hell of a visual feat. The flip side of these takes is the narrative feels draggy even at 110 minutes. The sci-fi element does not seem necessary to the plot. Ultimately, it goes nowhere.

Last Party (2024) final scenePerformance is solid from our four main leads, each one bombarded by misogyny, judgment, and outright hateful behavior. LAST PARTY might be more successful as a series. There is much needed in character development, although the breadcrumbs are there. It feels more like a treatment for a larger project than a stand-alone piece.


“Last Party” the feature film debut of Swiss and French filmmaker Nicolas Dozol will make its US debut at Laemmle Monica Film Center from February 9 -16th in Santa Monica.  The film is being distributed by LA-based Synergetic and is the first feature film produced by the young Swiss company Lights Rush.

 

A mystery coming-of-age story, part horror, part fantasy, part thriller, the film takes place during a high school graduation party where four teenagers in the midst of an existential crisis are confronted with their angst. When they suddenly find themselves locked up, they wonder if it might be their last night ever. The film is choreographed by 28 long takes, giving the illusion of a single real shot and was shot in just five days.

“Last Party”, a New Breed Entertainment production, is directed by Nicolas Dozol, written by Leah Ladoux, Paul Tomasini, Chloe Vittenet and Dozol, and produced by Mathilde Errand and Dozol.  The film stars breakout newcomers Lucie Cecchi, Remi Gerard, Uma Condolo and Teddy Hardy.  Cinematography is by Aurel Ganz.


For more French film reviews on RND, click here!

Now in theaters, ‘SCRAMBLED’ (2024) earns a glowing review

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SCRAMBLED

 

Scrambled (2024) poster

34-year-old single Etsy seller Nellie is getting pressure from all angles to get her shit together, find a life partner, and have a baby before “it’s too late.” Post-breakup and opinion bombardment, she decides to freeze her eggs and revisit previous conquests for connection or clarification. SCRAMBLED is an honest exploration of self and patriarchal structures.

Leah McKendrick in Scrambled. Photo courtesy of LionsgateAuthentically hilarious, audiences get to know Nellie through a series of sexual romps, engagement parties, weddings, baby showers, and pregnancy panic stories. The inundation of opinions and horror stories sounds familiar to me. I got pregnant at 35 and 36, so, naturally, I was deemed a “geriatric.” The combination of rage and fear was no joke. Leah McKendrick nails the ups and downs of that stage of life. It’s an existential crisis that you only truly understand if you’ve experienced it firsthand.

Leah McKendrick as Nellie Robinson in Scrambled. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate

The witty banter between Jesse and Nellie is laugh-out-loud funny. Clancy Brown (The Mortuary Collection) plays Nelly’s Boomer Dad with snappy comebacks and loveably curmudgeon vibes. He is spectacular. Ego Nwodim plays Sheila with a genuine best friend chemistry. One of the most poignant scenes springs from Nellie and Sheila’s relationship. Nellie finds herself an unwitting participant in a mourning group, leading her to share the most prolific monologue. It is insightful, loving, heartfelt, and candid.

Leah McKendrick as Nellie Robinson in Scrambled. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate

McKendrick deserves all the accolades as she has skillfully crafted an intimate narrative with equal parts comedy and care. SCRAMBLED is an outstanding film and a surprisingly deep dive into the female psyche.


SYNOPSIS:

Quintessential eternal bridesmaid Nellie Robinson (Leah McKendrick) constantly finds herself between weddings, baby showers, and bad dates. When she begins to feel like the clock is ticking and is faced with bleak romantic prospects, Nellie decides to freeze her eggs — setting her on an empowering journey to a brave new world where she ultimately discovers “the one” she’s looking for might be herself.


RELEASE DATE:                               February 2, 2024 (In Theaters)

RUNNING TIME:                               100 minutes

RATING:                                             R for sexual content, nudity, language throughout
and some drug use

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY:     Leah McKendrick

PRODUCED BY:                                Gillian Bohrer, Jonathan Levine, Brett Haley, Amanda Mortimer

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY:   Julia Swain

PRODUCTION DESIGNER:             Charlie Textor

EDITED BY:                                       Sandra Torres Granovsky

COSTUME DESIGNER:                    Kerry Hennessy

MUSIC SUPERVISOR:                      Ricki Askin

MUSIC BY:                                        Brittany Allen

CASTING BY:                                    Lisa Zagoria

CAST:                                                  Leah McKendrick, Ego Nwodim, Andrew Santino,
Adam 
Rodriguez, Laura Cerón, and Clancy Brown



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Slamdance 2024: Peter Oh’s ‘LOVE AND WORK’ – a parallel what-if of haunting hilarity

slamdance 2024

LOVE AND WORK

Love And Work Slamdance 2024

Writer-director-editor-producer-cinematographer and obvious showoff Pete Ohs brings his latest genre buster, LOVE AND WORK, to Slamdance 2024. Reteaming with Will Madden and Stephanie Hunt from festival darling Jethica, this new film leans further into the absurd. Once again, gifting us with striking black-and-white cinematography, a voiceover hands us the immensely intriguing, near-future plot where AI has taken all the jobs and those seeking employment are outlaws.

Diane and Fox seek advice from a trusted local elder as he regales them with tales from his grandfather and the elusive concept of a weekend. Those who dare go against the grain find hobbies forced upon them as punishment. The backward nature of the plot sneaks up on you. It may not be so backward after all.

Stephanie Hunt plays Diane with an earned “cool girl” attitude that is infectious. Will Madden as Fox is a beautiful mix of awkward and charming. Their chemistry is electric.

Charles Watson‘s original songs are folksy bangers. There is a dry whimsy that I can only equate to British humor. A tongue-in-cheek look at societal norms and how humanity fumbles through the search for purpose and personal connection, LOVE AND WORK is a hilarious what-if and one terrifying step from reality.

  • Director: Pete Ohs
  • Screenwriter: Stephanie Hunt, Will Madden, Pete Ohs
  • Producer: Pete Ohs
  • Cast: Stephanie Hunt, Will Madden, Frank Mosley, Alexi Pappas, John S. Davies
  • Year: 2024
  • Runtime: 74 minutes
  • Language: English
  • Country: USA
  • Premiere: World Premiere
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Subtitle Language: English
Click for all our past Slamdance coverage
 
For all things Slamdance 2024 head here

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‘THE PRIVATE EYE’ (2024)- A neo- noir Matt Rife

THE PRIVATE EYE

THE PRIVATE EYE

A convoluted plot finds a down-on-his-luck detective becoming infatuated with his desperate new client. Jack Cook‘s THE PRIVATE EYE takes us on a twisty, often head-scratching ride through neo-noir weirdness.

(L-R) Denzel Whittaker and Matt Rife in Illusion Islands' THE PRIVATE EYE photo courtesy - Illusion IslandsMort and Michelle’s dynamic feels incredibly forced. The dialogue is a bizarre mix of awkward bad jokes and deeply personal romantic words. It is a baffling mix. The story is a mess, and there are innumerable superfluous scenes. The pace is glacial. At an hour and fifty-six minutes, this could have been eighty minutes at the most. 

Michelle’s character has no consistency, and by the end of the film, the casting choice feels entirely out of place That is not Clare Grant’s fault by any means. Matt Rife (Don’t Suck) does his best, actually giving audiences a taste of his surprising flair for the dramatic. If the right people see this film, it could open the door for more serious roles.
Matt Rife and Clare Grant in Illusion Islands' THE PRIVATE EYE photo courtesy - Illusion IslandsThe most successful aspect of the film is Eric Roberts‘ soothing narration, but there are too many inconsistencies for the final twist to go down smoothly. This is one of those times where a flashback montage of all the clues would greatly benefit the film.


THE PRIVATE EYE will be In Theaters Nationwide on Friday, February 9, 2024

Starring MATT RIFE, CLARE GRANT, ELLIOT, DENZEL WHITAKER, ERIK GRIFFIN, LEXY PANTERRA, JAY REEVES, ELIJAH BOOTHE, EUGENIA KUZMINA, ALEX KAGIANARIS, PETRI HAWKINS BYRD, ERIC ROBERTS, JOSIAH JACK KALIAN, JT PALMER, and CORY KIRK 

 

Directed by JACK COOK

Written by JACK COOK, PATRICK ROE, HOPE AYIYI, and ROSALINDA BOOKS

Produced by HOPE AYIYI, STREAM GARDNER, and ALEX KAGIANARIS

Co-Produced by RAAJ RAHHI and ELIJAH BOOTHE

Associate Produced by JAMES FRIEDHOFF

Executive Produced by JOE HEBELER, JOHN HEBELER, MARK DOC BERRY, STAN PARIS, JEFF SCHOENLING, TIM DOUGHERTY, CHIP TURNER, and BILL MCCLOY

Edited by WAYAN PALMIERI

 

Mystery/Romance/Comedy | 114 Minutes

 Rated R for language, sexual content, and brief violence.

 

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Film Website: https://www.illusionislands.com/

Sundance 2024: Rock & roll down memory lane with ‘DIG! XX’

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DIG! XX

DIG! XX Sundance 2024

Ondi Timoner‘s Sundance hit returns to the festival for its 20th anniversary with more footage than before. If, like me, you missed its original festival run, you’ll eat up DIG! XX and its quintessential 90s music deep dive into the tumultuous relationship between The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

DIG! XX Sundance 2024 Anton NewcombeTimoner gets a completely unfiltered look inside the magic and mayhem in 7 years of behind-the-scenes footage. It’s a competition between the vibrant, often cocky, argumentative, drug-fueled, genuinely talented musician behavior of BJM versus the chill, business-minded, trustworthy, equally gifted Dandys. Each band pushes the other to greatness with contrasting tactics. Ondi’s handheld freestyle way of shooting is immersive and tangible. With the rapid-fire editing and narration from Joel Gion and Courtney Taylor, you’re entirely entertained. Huge personalities clash, eccentricities push people’s buttons, and childhood trauma rears its ugly head.

Timoner (Last Flight Home) tells the story of frenemies on two vastly different paths to fame. Go ahead and make DIG!XX for personality for the next month. I know Sundance 2024 audiences will.


Sundance Color logo 2024

Ondi Timoner

Ondi Timoner

Ondi Timoner is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker whose work focuses on “impossible visionaries” for which she was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance twice, for DIG! and We Live in Public.

Her most personal film, Last Flight Home (2022), about the extraordinary life & intentional death of her father, Eli Timoner, is Emmy-nominated, Oscar-shortlisted, and received the Humanitas for Best Documentary.


Credits

  • DIRECTOR(S)

    ONDI TIMONER

  • PRODUCED BY

    DAVID TIMONER

    ONDI TIMONER

  • EDITOR OF DIG! XX

    DAVID TIMONER

  • EDITOR OF DIG!

    ONDI TIMONER

  • CINEMATOGRAPHER

    ONDI TIMONER

    DAVID TIMONER

    VASCO LUCAS NUNES

  • NARRATED BY

    JOEL GION

    COURTNEY TAYLOR

For all of our Sundance coverage click here!


 

Review: ‘THE SEEDING’ is disturbing.

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THE SEEDING

The Seeding Poster

 A man comes upon a lost boy in the desert. In his efforts to assist, he becomes trapped alongside a woman held captive by a group of feral boys. The film opens with a disturbing image thrusting you into a slow-burn den of madness. Barnaby Clay‘s Tribeca 2023 film THE SEEDING is finally in theaters and on VOD today.

the-seeding-kate-lyn-sheilKate Lyn Sheil (She Dies Tomorrow) is spectacular as our mystery woman. Questions swirl about her complicity throughout the film, but Sheil is perfection, playing coy, never giving us answers until the end. She has a magnetic presence on screen and somehow manages not to age.

the-seeding-scott-hazeMy love for Scott Haze knows no bounds. From his breakout performance in Child of God to his work in Old Henry and What Josiah Saw, he is one of those actors who live in the skin of his characters. As Stone, his swings into toxic masculinity mirror the feral behavior of the boys above. He is undeniably compelling.

the_seeding_the_boysThe ominous score by Tristan Bechet sometimes grates in a way that makes you subconsciously cringe. The continuous low din instills pure fear. Stay through the entire end credits for more eerie ear candy. THE SEEDING has echoes of The Hills Have Eyes horror and Midsommer folklore. All said it is an upsetting watch, and that’s what genre fans show up for.

In theaters and on VOD nationwide January 26th!

 

Written and Directed by Barnaby Clay
Produced by Brian Etting
Starring Scott Haze and Kate Lyn Sheil

In THE SEEDING, a hiker lost in the desert takes refuge with a woman living alone, and soon discovers that she might not be there willingly. Directed by music video legend Barnaby Clay (SHOT! THE PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL MANTRA OF ROCK), the picture stars Scott Haze (VENOM, JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION) and Kate Lyn Sheil of the horror hits YOU’RE NEXT and V/H/S.

94 minutes
#TheSeeding 

Sundance 2024: ‘SAY HI AFTER YOU DIE’ is perfect

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SAY HI AFTER YOU DIE

Say Hi After You Die Sundance 2024

Sundance 2024 short film SAY HI AFTER YOU DIE is a laugh-out-loud look at grief, mental health, and forever friendship. Following the unexpected passing of her best friend, Gloria finds herself talking to a porta-potty. It’s easy to see why the film won the Short Film Jury Award for U.S. Fiction. It is that wonderful. 

Writers Ruby Caster (who hilariously portrays Ruby in the film, and Kate Jean Hollowell, who also stars and directs the film, nail the Gen Z/ Millennial cusp banter and fashion. They are a fierce team of creatives.
Say_Hi_After_You_Die-Kate Jean HollowellGeorge Basil plays Dave, the construction foreman, with a life-affirming kindness. One of his lines perfectly sums up the film’s heart, hitting you square in the chest, “We’re just friends walking each other home.” Hollowell is outstanding as Gloria. Her comic timing is the stuff of the gods, but she also delivers authentic depth. She is a star.

SAY HI AFTER YOU DIE has a smirk-inducing musical sequence. The choreography from Kat Burns is inarguably spectacular. For a 17-minute film, Sundance audiences will laugh, dance, and tear up. This is one of the year’s best.

Sundance Screening Times
Screening as part of Short Film Program 4

World Premiere – January 21st, 12:15PM MST (Prospector Square Theatre)
Public Screening #2 – January 22nd, 5:30PM MST (Megaplex Theatres at The Gateway SLC)
Public Screening #3 – January 25th, 12:00PM MST (Redstone Cinemas)
Public Screening #4 – January 27th, 4:00PM MST (Megaplex Theatres at The Gateway SLC)
Public Screening #5 – January 28th, 1:30PM MST (Holiday Village Cinemas)

Kate Jean HollowellKate Jean Hollowell is a multi-hyphenate director, comedian and musician, who honed her humor, storytelling and visual style by making her own music videos, showcased at SXSW in 2022 and 2023, as well as her short film Are They Smiling?, which premiered at the 2020 Portland Film Festival and won several awards. Taking on narrative, Kate has managed to find a unique voice that balances humor and heart through all her work. Finding ways to insert unexpected musical numbers in everything she does is a trademark all her own.


Director: Kate Jean Hollowell
Screenwriters: Kate Jean Hollowell, Ruby Caster
Cast: Kate Jean Hollowell, Ruby Caster, George Basil
Producer: Miranda Kahn
Executive Producers: Mindy Goldberg, Jacki Calliero, Melissa Culligan
Production Designer: Jenna Tooley
Choreography: Kathryn Burns
Cinematography: Jordan Black
Costume Design: Jordy Scheinberg
Edited by: Talia Pasqua
VFX Artist: Alex Thomas

Year: 2023
Category: Short
Country: US
Language: English
TRT: 17 min

Sundance 2024’s full lineup can be found here!

 

Don’t forget to check out all our Sundance coverage throughout the years

Sundance Color logo 2023

Slamdance 2024 review: Intimate and personal ‘ONE BULLET’ pierces the heart

slamdance 2024

ONE BULLET

ONE BULLET Poster

This story of female friendship forged amidst America’s longest war is told by a filmmaker who spent 18 years in-and-out of Afghanistan. In this war movie, the battlefield lies behind the curtains of an Afghan home as Bibi Hajji struggles to survive the loss of her youngest child, and the impact of a brother’s death on her remaining sons. A haunting image of that boy surviving a bullet wound prompted director Carol Dysinger to investigate, what happened to him, who fired the shot? “One Bullet” evolves from procedural to an excavation of the human experience, of loss and redemption. It asks: how might we make peace across vast social, cultural and religious divisions? Two women drinking one cup of tea at a time.

one bullet - Bibi Bibi Hajji

One Bullet- Bibi Hajji

Who shot Fahim? Filmmaker Carol Dysinger shares how one Afghan family’s loss in 2006 forged a surprising friendship. ONE BULLET utilizes footage from 2005 to 2020 to tell a tale of tragedy, war, and interconnectedness.

Following the incident, Colonel Elliot has the impossible task of finding out who shot Fahim. Although, at times, it appears that his job is more to prove that it wasn’t an American bullet that went astray. The deliberate mistakes by the original interpreter are haunting, promising Fahim he would walk again when we’ve just heard the doctors tell him he will most likely remain paralyzed. The US government promised he would receive fully paid care in Turkey. That is not exactly what went down. In 2011, Dysinger tracked down the family only to discover Fajim had died two years after the incident.

Carol and Fawad

Carol and Fawad

Dysinger does her best to respect Afghan culture, treading lightly, all while trying to make amends on behalf of the US. The evolution of Carol’s relationship with Bibi’s sons is fascinating, moving through anger, curiosity, and respect as the years pass. The passing conversation that goes untranslated ranges from innocuous to well-intended, intrusive to insulting. Bibi’s grace and hospitality are endless. You see, hear, and feel the protective nature of Carol. It is a tumultuous task, one that Bibi covers with food.

The particular ripple effect on one brother concerns Carol. Fawad’s mental and emotional decline intertwined with an eventual religious zealotry. The details from the night Fahim was shot slowly come to light over the years, despite the report essentially not existing in an official capacity today.

ONE BULLET is Fahim’s story. It is Bibi’s, Carol’s, and America’s story. Slamdance 2024 audiences should always keep this film in the not-too-far reaches of their minds.

(Unavailable for streaming in Afghanistan)

  • Director:
    Carol Dysinger
  • Screenwriter:
    Carol Dysinger, Steen Johannessen
  • Producer:
    Ashim Bhalla, Su Kim, Carol Dysinger
  • Year:
    2023
  • Runtime:
    93 minutes
  • Language:
    Dari/English
  • Country:
    Afghanistan
  • Genre:
    Documentary
  • Subtitle Language:
    English
This year’s festival runs Fri, Jan 19, 2024, 12:00 PM – Sun, Jan 28, 2024

 

For all of our previous Slamdance coverage, click here!

slamdance 2024

Sundance 2024 review: ‘And So It Begins’

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AND SO IT BEGINS

AND SO IT BEGINS

AND SO IT BEGINS at Sundance 2024

Amid Filipino elections, a grassroots movement emerges to protect truth and democracy from growing threats. People unite in joyful acts of resistance, kindling hope while autocracy expands.

Returning to Sundance four years after the premiere of A THOUSAND CUTS, director Ramona S. Diaz gives audiences a companion piece about the fragility of democracy. In the Philippines in 2016, the country elected a President and Vice President from opposite political spectrums. VP Leni Robredo is a compassionate, former NGO human rights attorney. She is articulate, funny, and fearless. If you took President Biden and combined him with Hillary Clinton, you might begin to understand Leni Robredo.

The passion of the people is evident in their cries for equality. Her supporters wear pink and come from every socioeconomic background and age group. She has a special bond with the LGBTQ community. Her extraordinary grassroots campaign still fights an uphill battle against the children and candidates of the former dictatorship.

Holy misogyny, Batman! The overt corruption of President Duterte looks familiar. The US had a tyrant appear in 2016. In 2021, Leni must contend with the attacks from the outgoing president and campaign against the son of former President Fernando Marcos, one of the country’s most notorious dictators. Under his reign, martial law pervaded the Philippines, and Marcos fled with billions of dollars. BongBong Marcos Jr wants to bring back the policies that destroyed democracy. To remind you, he is also Imelda Marcos’ son. A quote that hangs on the wall of Marcos’ former vacation home, now a museum, reads, “We must make this nation great again.” Hmmm. Where have we heard that before?

AND SO IT BEGINS is simultaneously a story about journalist Maria A. Ressa, the co-founder of the news outlet Rappler. Duterte falsely convicted her of breaking laws that never existed before her arrests. Ressa dared to challenge dictators and has since paid the price for years. Their relentless pursuit of quieting Rappler will make your blood boil. A wondrous moment happens in the film as Ressa receives a phone during a Zoom panel, informing her she’s just received the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptable speech, she tells the world about the extensive online misinformation machine built by Marcos, Jr, once again reminding viewers how fragile any democracy is.

We cannot ignore the parallels in tactics. We would be foolish to think the playbook hasn’t gotten thicker as technology replaces knocking on doors. What can we learn from AND SO IT BEGINS? History revisionism threatens everything we hold dear, so pay attention, and don’t look away.

And So It Begins (2024) poster

And So It Begins (2024) poster

Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)

 

Meet the Artist

Ramona S. Diaz

Ramona S. Diaz

Ramona S. Diaz’s award-winning films — Imelda (2004), The Learning (2011), DSB: Everyman’s Journey (2012), Motherland (2017), and A Thousand Cuts (2020) — have screened at top-tier film festivals and been seen globally. Diaz is both a Guggenheim Fellow and a USA Fellow. In 2021, she was named the inaugural McGurn Family Trust Resident in Film by the American Academy in Rome.

Credits

  • DIRECTOR(S)

    RAMONA S. DIAZ

  • SCREENWRITER

    RAMONA S. DIAZ

  • PRODUCER

    RAMONA S. DIAZ

  • YEAR

    2024

  • CATEGORY

    FEATURE

  • COUNTRY

    UNITED STATES/PHILIPPINES

  • LANGUAGE

    ENGLISH, FILIPINO AND OTHER DIALECTS

  • RUN TIME

    113 MIN

For more information about Sundance 2024, click here!

 

You can read all of our Sundance coverage throughout the years here.

Sundance Color logo 2023

Review: ‘First We Bombed New Mexico’ (2023) a chilling reminder of the hidden costs of the Trinity test

FIRST WE BOMBED NEW MEXICO

First We Bombed New Mexico

Anyone getting ready to vote Oppenheimer for best picture should first have to watch Lois Lipman’s First We Bombed New Mexico. America has much to reckon with when it comes to the legacy of the nuclear bomb – much of it on our own shores. This documentary potently explores further dark shadows this scientific achievement has left behind.

First We Bombed New Mexico still 1 The documentary follows Tina Cordova as she advocates for herself and her fellow “downwinders.” Downwinders are innocent bystanders who may have suffered negative health effects from the Trinity test  – the 1945 detonation of a newly developed nuclear weapon in New Mexico.

Cordova speaks for the many citizens who were unwillingly and unknowingly exposed to the radiation from the nuclear test. She is a compelling lead figure, warm and driven.

First We Bombed New Mexico still 2The anecdotes from the immediate aftermath of the nuclear test are truly horrifying. One particularly striking recounting involves children playing with what they thought was “warm snow, but may have actually been nuclear fallout. Still more disturbing is the potential generational effects of the test. There are recounts of stillbirths, of children born without eyes, and of widespread cases of cancer across the affected communities. Cordova herself is a thyroid cancer survivor, the 4th generation in her family to have cancer since the test in 1945.

The struggles of Cordova and her fellow downwinders seem relentless. Their end goals – formal recognition and an apology from the US government – seem so meager in comparison to the widespread challenges they face. It is easy for the audience to lose hope. Those expecting a neat resolution will be disappointed. But for those willing to explore the messy history behind Trinity, this documentary proves a worthwhile watch.


An inspiring Hispanic cancer survivor bangs on the corridors of power to fight for compensation and an apology for Native and Hispanic communities in New Mexico whose land and water was radiated by the Trinity Bomb.

WINNER OF THE DOCUMENTARY FEATURE JURY AWARD

 AT THE 2023 AUSTIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

WINNER OF THE AUDIENCE CHOICE BEST COMPETITION DOCUMENTARY AT THE 2023

 SANTA FE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Official Film Website: FirstWeBombedNewMexico.com

 

Instagram: @FirstWeBombedNMFilm

Facebook: @FirstWeBombedNewMexicoFilm

X (Twitter): @FirstWeBombedNM


Click here for more of Sam’s reviews!

Slamdance 2024 review: Yes, the hilarious pilot episode of ‘RESTORAGE’ fixes everything.

slamdance 2024

RESTORAGE
Episodes-TV Web Pilot- Drama, Comedy, Sci-Fi

Restorage at Slamdance 2024


SYNOPSIS: RESTORAGE is about a fractured group of siblings each
receiving a portion of their inheritance. Robert receives the business
legacy, Lisa is given the family estate and a priceless family heirloom, and
Chase, receives an old storage unit filled with junk. Chase and Robert
quarrel and he inadvertently breaks the vase causing a greater rift in the
family. Chase goes to the storage unit and discovers that it can repair
anything that has been broken that has been placed inside. Chase takes his
siblings to the storage unit in an attempt to fix the broken vase but
everything goes mysteriously sideways


Slamdance 2024 episodic pilot RESTORAGE is a knockout. It’s laugh-out-loud funny with a brilliant cast. Even the ancillary cast members deliver memorable and equally comedic performances. Jacob Daniels plays Robert with the self-righteous overachiever vibe to a tea. Olivia Clari Nice gives Lisa a motherly energy that grounds the trio. 

Connor Boyd in Restorage

Connor Boyd in Restorage

Outcast brother Chad lives in squalor. Everything in his trailer home is broken and filthy. He is the black sheep of the family. Connor Boyd is so compelling, with the confidence of Zach Galifianakis and the energy of Jack Black. He is a goddamn star.

Once we know the sci-fi plot, the mind races with theories. Screenwriters E’an Verdugo and Caleb Davis drop enough clues in the dialogue to infer deep injury between the siblings. You will be begging for more the moment the screen goes black! RESTORAGE is a damn treat that deserves a green light asap. I’m looking at you, Hulu, Netflix, and Prime! 


  • Director:
    E’an Verdugo
  • Screenwriter:
    Caleb Davis, E’an Verdugo
  • Producer:
    Caleb Davis, Alana Rood
  • Cast:
    Connor Boyd, Olivia Clari Nice, Jacob Daniels, Joan Deschamps, Stephen Miller, Francis Juarez
  • Year:
    2023
  • Runtime:
    29 minutes
  • Language:
    English
  • Country:
    USA
  • Genre:
    Drama, Comedy, Sci Fi
  • Subtitle Language:
    English

 

For more information on Slamdance 2024, click here!
 
To read more of our Slamdance coverage on Reel News Daily and over at Unseen Films!

 

Slamdance 2024 shorts: ‘LEGEND OF EL CUCUY’ & ‘DOSH’

slamdance 2024

Legend of El Cucuy legend of el cucuy short film

SYNOPSIS: Legend of El Cucuy is a cautionary tale. Laura and her
husband Carlos are permissive parents, and their choice to raise their
daughter Isabel without discipline has resulted in a very rude,
disobedient child. Carlos is having doubts about their behavioral
strategy, but Laura is determined to make different choices from their
parents. Against his better judgment, Carlos tells Laura about El
Cucuy’s origins, and that same night, El Cucuy pays the family a visit.

Filmmaker Cynthia Garcia Williams brings her short horror film Legend of El Cucuy to Slamdance 2024. This boogie-man-style folklore film boasts fantastic Special FX makeup. As a former teacher, Isabel’s mother and her permissive parenting style made me seethe, and our little leading lady is a terror. I recall El Cucuy referenced in films before, but I’ve never heard the history behind it. Essentially, it is an allegory for shitty parenting. While I wasn’t completely sold on the performances, I think the film is a solid pitch for a feature.

14 minutes) English/Spanish


DOSH

dosh - slamdance 2024

When her son’s life is put at risk at a family pre-wedding ritual, a hard-of-hearing mother must decide how to seek help for her husband in order to keep her family safe.

Filmmaker Radha Mehta, who shares screenplay credit with Noorah Al-Eidi, brings us the story of Karishma, a hard-of-hearing mother trapped in a traditional Indian marriage with a man who refuses to admit he has a mental illness. Cinematographer Isue Shin captures the balance between the lush colors of an Indian wedding ritual and the darkness of Karishma’s emotional state. Renu Razdan captivates as our leading lady. The camera loves her. Razdan owns every frame, moving from sadness, protection, grief, and joy like a star. This little drama about attaining peace is a cathartic sigh of relief.

Director: Radha Mehta
Story: Radha Mehta
Screenplay: Noorah Al-Eidi & Radha Mehta
Producer: Gabriel Gutierrez
Cinematographer: Isue Shin
Production Designer: Sandra Rodriguez
Editor: Joe Murphy



Slamdance 2024 will take place in person from January 19-25 and virtually from January 22-28.
 
For more Slamdance coverage, click here!