Review: Thought-provoking doc ‘Life & Life’ is coming to New Hope Film Festival next Friday.

LIFE & LIFE

Synopsis:

NC Helkin’s LIFE & LIFE, which just won Best Documentary at the Brooklyn Film Festival, tracks the journey that musician Reggie Austin takes to redeem his life following a murder conviction 40 years ago. With surprising honesty and depth, the film looks at Austin’s effect on his fellow inmates at San Quentin and his efforts to reconnect with his family, as well as questioning parole and sentencing practices through his story. Ultimately, the film reveals the steep and dangerous hill ex-prisoners must climb upon release to free themselves and create a positive future. LIFE & LIFE is a story of the struggle for redemption and hope against near-impossible odds, accompanied by a soundtrack that comes straight from Austin’s heart.

Professional musician and convicted murderer. Two strikingly different resume items that Reggie Austin carries daily. In NC Helkin’s documentary Life & Life, after serving 35 years in prison for murder, Reggie Austin navigates life back on the outside. We watch his journey as he attempts to successfully balance work and the rebuilding of familial relationships. His grace is startling. His talent is undeniable. His advocacy is inspiring. The film consists of a genuinely effective combination of sit-down interviews, archival records, and Reggie’s musical stylings. Parole board transcripts give us a peek inside the complexities of releasing someone from prison. The editing of this particular section of the film deserves an award. It adds a dynamic and intentional rhythm.

But, Life & Life is not solely the story of one man. It’s a film that tackles the nuanced reach for systematic change within the prison industrial complex. It specifically addresses the “Three Strike Law” and its effects on so many still behind bars. It injects humanity into an oftentimes brushed aside section of the population. Reggie Austin is a success story. It’s not one we hear often, but I’m grateful we’re hearing it now. Life & Life is a lot of things. It’s frustrating, it’s joyful, and it’s artistic. It’s a lesson in compassion and redemption for not only Reggie but the audience as well.


NC Heikin’s Award-winning LIFE & LIFE

Screens at

2021 New Hope Film Festival (Philadelphia) JULY 30

Friday, July 30 at New Hope Arts Center (2A Stockton Ave.) Tickets are available at: https://www.goelevent.com/NewHopeFilmFestival/e/LifeLife.


Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

Monday, August 9 at MV Performing Arts Center (100 Edgartown Vineyard Haven Road) Tickets available at: https://www.mvaaff.com/tickets/


NBFF 21 review: ‘TALIGATE’ is heart stopping terror.

TAILGATE

A cocksure, road-raging family man finds himself pursued and terrorized by the vengeful van driver he chooses to tailgate.

The villain in this film initially appears completely unassuming. That’s the bait and switch that is Tailgate. A simple premise of road rage produces one of the evilest monsters of all time. The level of fright this film provides will blow your mind. My palms were sweating, my heart pounding from start to finish. The terror is relentless. Performances are all top-notch. I give extra credit to our youngest cast members, Roosmarijn van der Hoek and Liz Vergeer. Their keen ability to keep up with the adults is outstanding.

Our very good friend Steve Kopian, from Unseen Films, pointed out an important device in Tailgate that heightens its entire concept. This story occurs entirely during the day. In fact, it essentially happens in real-time. But it’s the daylight factor that makes it the most sinister. Every atrocious act occurs both in broad daylight and before innumerable witnesses. It is baffling and infinitely exciting. Congratulations to writer-director Lodewijk Crijns. Tailgate is one of the best films at this year’s North Bend Film Festival, without a doubt.


Showings – select to order tickets:

NBFF 21 capsule review: Udo Kier leaves it all on the screen in ‘SWAN SONG’

SWAN SONG

SWAN SONG follows retired hairdresser and local bar performer icon Pat Pitsenbarger (Kier) who has given up on life from the confines of his small-town Sandusky, Ohio nursing home. But when Pat gets word that a former client’s dying wish was for him to style her final hairdo, he sets out on an epic journey across Sandusky to confront the ghosts of his past – and collect the beauty supplies necessary for the job. SWAN SONG is a comical and bittersweet journey about rediscovering oneself, and looking gorgeous while doing so.

Udo Kier is a cinematic treasure. In Swan Song, his specificity and nuance make this an unforgettable viewing experience. He is elegant, funny, and simply entrancing. Jennifer Coolidge gives her most understated performance yet.  As Patrick’s former apprentice hairdresser, she gives the audience a fantastic combination of disgruntled diva and grounded humanity. Her chemistry with Kier is vital. The script smartly delves into regret, spite, loss, and redemption. It’s genuinely hilarious and endlessly touching. The soundtrack is beautifully thought out. And no, YOU started crying when “Dancing On My Own” played. Swan Song is a literal walk down memory lane. Kier deserves the Oscar for this role. I’m starting his official campaign right here, right now.


  • Director: Todd Stephens
  • Screenwriter: Todd Stephens
  • Producer: Stephen Israel, Tim Kaltenecker, Todd Stephens, Rhet Topham
  • Executive Producer: Jay Michael Fraley, Rhet Topham
  • Cast: Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans
  • Cinematographer: Jackson Warner Lewis
  • Editor: Spencer Schilly, Santiago Figueira W

Showings – select to order tickets:


 

Tribeca Festival 2021 capsule reviews: ‘Settlers’, ‘Glob Lessons’, and ‘7 Days’

Settlers

Mankind’s earliest settlers on the Martian frontier do what they must to survive the cosmic elements and each other.

Undeniably riveting, Settlers pits one family unit against another. Brooklynn Prince, who burst onto the scene in The Florida Project, captivates as a child whose survival depends on the lies she’s been fed by adults. Sofia Boutella skillfully plays her mother and ardent protector. As the reality of the situation of humanity is slowly revealed, the peril grows for everyone involved. Settlers is a film about trust, through and through. As time passes, Remmy’s role is taken over by Nell Tiger Free. She must navigate loneliness, and more importantly, the advances of the man who keeps her both alive and captive. Settlers’ unique script by director Wyatt Rockefeller allows us to question what we would do when faced with extreme circumstances. The landscape beautifully mimics the surface of Mars. Its desolate surroundings create palpable isolation and ceaseless desperation. The addition of a robotic character is the only thing that brings levity. Ismael Cruz Córdova as Jesses walks a precarious line between savior and villain. His beliefs steer the story into the darkest regions of human nature. Settlers is worth the watch for extraordinary performances and one hell of a feature debut from Rockefeller.

DIRECTOR
Wyatt Rockefeller
CAST

Sofia Boutella, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brooklynn Prince, Nell Tiger Free, Jonny Lee Miller


Glob Lessons

Two mismatched strangers confront their fears of intimacy and inadequacy as they tour low-budget children’s theatre out of a minivan across the frozen Upper Midwest.

Nicole Rodenburg and Colin Froeber give us every emotion on screen. As a theater major, I know Jesse and Alan. But as a human being, everyone will know them. The concept of pouring your soul into your passion with little in return is universal, be it children’s theatre or any other occupation. There is a fine line between love and loathing. The laughs are plenty lying within awkward non-conversation and road movie tropes. Tension and tolerance levels eventually come to a head with creativity as their savior. In Glob Lessons, the moments of genuine intimacy between Froeber and Rodenburg grab hold of the viewer. Jesse and Alan are fleshed-out characters. At times they are pathetic, other times endearing. The chemistry between Froeber and Rodenburg is the stuff of movie magic. Glob Lessons isn’t flashy and that’s the point. Life is messy. Let’s own it. I am excited to see what comes next from a voice like Rodenburg’s. If Glob Lessons is any indication, we’ll be seeing more very soon.

 

DIRECTOR
Nicole Rodenburg
SCREENWRITER

Colin Froeber, Nicole Rodenburg


7 Days

As if their pre-arranged date, organized by their traditional Indian parents, wasn’t uncomfortable enough, Ravi and Rita are forced to shelter in place together as COVID-19’s reach intensifies.

This film snuck up on me. Filmed during lockdown and using COVID as a major plot point, 7 Days turns the concept of traditional arranged marriage on its head. Geraldine Viswanathan brings the laughs as Rita. Breaking the mold of the dutiful would-be bride, she begrudgingly comes to Ravi’s rescue with little to no hope of being his match. Karan Soni, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Roshan Sethi, plays straight-laced, Ravi.  As boredom sets in and guards are let down, a genuine connection slowly develops. The chemistry between Viswanathan and Karan feels grounded and made for some incredibly memorable moments. 7 Days is funny and heartfelt. I was not expecting the darker turn in the script. It was a bold move that paid off in spades. Filmed mostly in one room created the tension and awkwardness we needed to experience alongside Rita and Ravi. It takes the idea of close quarters to the extreme. 7 Days is a true gem from this year’s festival.

DIRECTOR
Roshan Sethi
SCREENWRITER
Karan Soni, Roshan Sethi
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Roshan Sethi, Karan Soni, Geraldine Viswanathan

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘Werewolves Within’ will leave you howling.

Werewolves Within

SYNOPSIS:
After a proposed gas pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, newly arrived forest ranger FINN (Sam Richardson) and postal worker CECILY (Milana Vayntrub) must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.

If you hate comedy, Werewolves Within is not for you. Also, if you aren’t a fan of whip-smart social commentary wrapped in a genre film about werewolves, stop reading now. Director Josh Ruben brought one of the best films to Tribeca Festival this year. Written by Mishna Wolff, the screenplay plays off the paranoia and politics of small-town USA. The pairing of Milana Vayntrub and Sam Richardson is pure comic genius. Wolff’s dialogue gives this duo a chance to shine and the audience nonstop belly laughs. In fact, this ensemble cast will blow you away. Everyone has their time to shine. Not a single actor is forgettable. This is the kind of witty banter that occurs when there is genuine chemistry between cast members. It’s so successful you’ll question whether there was improvisation on set. That’s a compliment to everyone involved with the film. The mystery aspect of Werewolves Within will keep you guessing until the very end. The practical effects perfectly progress from suggestive to full-on gagworthy. This film is so nuanced it will surprise you. Werewolves Within is the perfect reason to return to the theaters.

**In Theaters on June 25th & On Demand July 2nd**

DIRECTED BY
Josh Ruben (Scare Me, “You’re The Worst”)
WRITTEN BY
Mishna Wolff (I’m Down)
STARRING
Milana Vayntrub, Sam Richardson,
Cheyenne Jackson, Michaela Watkins, Harvey Guillen, Michael Chernus, George Basil, Sarah Burns, Catherine Curtai, Rebecca Henderson, Glenn Fleshler

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘Ultrasound’ is a mind-melting film.

Ultrasound

Synopsis: Driving home late at night during a heavy rainstorm, Glen experiences car trouble. Near where his car gets stuck, he spots a house, knocks on the door and is greeted by an oddly friendly middle-aged man, Arthur, and his younger wife, Cyndi. The strange couple pours him a drink, and then more drinks, followed by an unexpected offer that Glen can’t refuse. Elsewhere, a young woman, Katie, is feeling emotionally weighed down by a secret romantic arrangement that feels like a textbook case of gaslighting. And at the same time, in a nondescript research facility, medical professional Shannon begins questioning her role in a bizarre experiment, fearing that she’s doing more harm than good.

When I tell you you’re not ready for Ultrasound, I mean that as a huge compliment because this film is a sci-fi mind melt. Boasting an outstanding cast and incredible writing, this is a film that you’ll want to tell everyone about. Three different stories, all equally mysterious, will reel you in with smartly laid-out breadcrumbs. Between exclamations of “Huh?” and “Wait, what?!” I have no doubt you will be hungry for more.

Vincent Kartheiser plays Glen with both a sense of an “everyman” quality and someone with long lingering PTSD. Chelsea Lopez brings a naivete to Cyndi that is spot on. Breeda Wool as Shannon allows the audience a small window into the insanity of this film. Alongside Bob Stephenson’s nuanced performance as Art, Ultrasound is a ping-pong match of converging stories and characters that will confuse, excite, and melt your brain.

The editing becomes increasingly important as the mystery unravels. Ultrasound is relentlessly twisted. There is so much happening in this script, you have to pay careful attention to it all. Ultrasound is best viewed with no preconceived notions. Throw out everything you think you know and take the ride. Tribeca audiences will eat this up. Ultrasound will keep you baffled long after the credits roll. It demands repeat viewing.

Check out the clip below for a preview:

**WORLD PREMIERE**
CAST: Vincent Kartheiser, Chelsea Lopez, Breeda Wool, Tunde Adebimpe, Rainey Qualley, Chris Gartin, Bob Stephenson
DIRECTOR: Rob Schroeder

Tribeca Festival 2021 reviews: ‘See For Me’ and ‘Shapeless’ feature women battling different inner demons.

SEE FOR ME

When blind former skier Sophie cat-sits in a secluded mansion, three thieves invade for the hidden safe. Sophie’s only defense is army veteran Kelly. Kelly helps Sophie defend herself against the invaders and survive.

See For Me takes the home invasion genre and adds a surprising element; the leading lady’s morality. Rightfully bitter, having lost her sight, Sophie pushes everyone away in hopes of remaining independent. Part of that behavior also includes sticky fingers during her cat-sitting gigs. When trouble arises, Sophie begrudgingly takes her mother’s advice. She downloads an app allowing another person to look through the user’s cell phone camera to assist them in tasks. This comes in handy when Sophie is confronted with home invaders. Although, her best chance of survival comes with a moral caveat.

Skyler Davenport as Sophie is outstanding. Her temperament and ability to put the audience in her shoes make this as successful as it is. Alongside Jessica Parker Kennedy‘s confident performance, the two have unshakeable chemistry, even if they never meet face to face. See For Me is a thoroughly engaging thriller. You’re immediately hooked by the premise. Director Randall Okita invites us into Sophie’s world. With wide-angle shots, we experience immediate terror. Slowly lumbering killers in the same frame, all unbeknownst to Sophie, gives the film energy akin to the Friday The 13th franchise. Plus, two women fighting in tandem in a completely fresh way enhanced the home invasion trope. See For Me has a solid feminist vibe.  A thriller with a side of morality? That’s good stuff.

(**World Premiere**) – Tribeca Online Premieres

Director: Randall Okita
Cast: Laura Vandervoort, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Skyler Davenport, Kim Coates, Pascal Langdale, Joe Pingue, George Tchortov

 


SHAPELESS

Ivy, a struggling singer in New Orleans trapped in the hidden underworld of her eating disorder, must face her addiction – or risk becoming a monster.

A huge aspect of eating disorders is the idea of control. What happens when that obsession changes who you are? Perfectly titled, Shapeless creates a slow-burn dread that consumes the viewer. If you can stomach the content, good for you. I mean this quite literally. Director Samantha Aldana adds a precise feminine touch. Ivy’s physical and emotional self-destruction is incredibly familiar. Seemingly small moments, like secretly borrowing clothes or the careless nature of her personal relationships, reveal a fuller picture.

Kelly Murtagh is outstanding in the role she wrote alongside Bryce Parsons-Twesten. Her exhaustion and frustration are palpable. This certainly comes from Murtagh’s own experiences with an eating disorder.  Admittedly, as a genre fan, the most intriguing aspect of Shapeless is the progressive body horror. I yearned for more. The prosthetic makeup lands somewhere between grotesque and whimsical. It captures the essence of Shapeless at every turn. The final scene is nothing short of heartbreaking, honest, and terrifying. Bravo.

(**World Premiere**) – Midnight

Director: Samantha Aldana
Writers: Kelly Murtagh, Bryce Parsons-Twesten
Cast: Jamie Neumann, Marco Dapper, Kelly Murtagh, Bobby Gilchrist, Erika Ashley, Gralen Bryant Banks, Zardis Nichols

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To’ proves blood is thicker than water.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Two mysterious siblings find themselves at odds over care for their frail and sickly younger brother.

Isolation, survival, depression, organized chaos. These are heavy-hitting words to describe a film with a blunt force trauma of an opening. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a film that’s been on everyone’s lips for a year now. It’s been killing it on the festival circuit, and rightly so. This slow-burn horror puts three siblings at odds due to one’s unique affliction. Jesse has become the taskmaster Mamabird, driving the survival of her family. Dwight is stuck between resentment and loyalty as his patience is running out. Youngest brother Thomas just wants to break free of his physical and emotional prison. Stunted in every way possible, what would life look like without his elder siblings? Is blood thicker than water? My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To begs that very question, quite literally.

Patrick Fugit as Dwight is heartbreaking. The cracks are evident from the very beginning. His conscience weighs on him as his desire for normalcy and peace are all-consuming. Ingrid Sophie Schram as Jesse is everything we need her to be. Focused and utterly exhausted. The survival of this family unit is driven by her sense of duty and not necessarily by love this many years in. She and Fugit are brilliant scene partners. Owen Campbell as Thomas is a nuanced mix of childlike and monster. You simultaneously sympathize and loathe him. These are striking performances.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To has a finale that will first crush you then slowly, you’ll start to breathe again. It’s the perfect catharsis. Writer-director Jonathan Cuartas gives us every single emotion in this script. It’s meticulously thought out. To think that this is a feature debut sends shivers down my spine in anticipation of what’s next. How this story manages to walk the line between horror and morality tale is simply genius. You never really know what’s going on behind closed doors. Some are better left closed.

Tribeca Festival 2021 Review and Interview: Director Nick Moran talks ‘Creation Stories’

CREATION STORIES

Creation Stories tells the unforgettable tale of infamous Creation Records label head Alan McGee; and of how one written-off young Glaswegian upstart rose to irrevocably change the face of British culture.

I was immediately charmed by director Nick Moran after congratulating him on Creation Stories. “Oh, Thank You! I was very concerned about whether it would work with American audiences, ya know because Trainspotting didn’t work as big as it did over here. And ya know, Lock, Stock, (and Two Smoking Barrels) didn’t work as big as it did over here. So I’m like, are they gonna get this sort of Brit Pop-tastic film. And I’m really excited that everyone I’ve spoken to has really, really liked the film.” I assured him that any cinephile in the US knows what those Trainspotting and Lock, Stock are. I was hard-pressed to find a wall in college without one or both of those posters plastered on them. It was a cultural phenomenon in the late 90s. These films opened the minds of countless fans and future filmmakers.

Creation Stories is of a similar ilk. The film’s pace is like a runaway freight train, easily identifying itself as an Irvine Welsh script. In an early scene, young Allen discovers the Sex Pistols. There is joyous, visceral energy to the editing. Moran was the perfect choice for director. After having spoken with him, it all makes even more sense now. This matches Nick’s personal energy. The entire viewing experience of Creation Stories brought me back to when I was in high school and got riled up on the way to live shows or just listening to bands like Oasis. Having to wait in front of the radio for a song to play, that buzzy anticipation isn’t something today’s generation experiences.

Allen McGee was a hustler and a dreamer. But also an addict. His vices were drugs and alcohol, but also risk. His innate ability to take risks on bands changed the face of music. His influence reached beyond the music industry. McGee had his hands in more than the music scene. His stories are so wild you’d almost believe that they were total BS. Ewen Bremner nails this role. He captures Allen McGee‘s dizzying aura. Allen went from a kid excited about music to establishing an inspired empire. Bremner leaves it all on the screen surrounded by a cast of brilliant players like Jason Isaacs, Suki Waterhouse, Leo Flanagan, and many more, including a brief but memorable appearance from Nick Moran as Malcolm McLaren. The way Moran harnesses Welsh and Dean Cavanagh‘s script melds so well with the era. Bringing on Danny Boyle solidified the film version. The drugs, the parties, the hair, and clothing. The entire look of the film has the impression of what I imagine a really great acid trip feels like. It’s a whirlwind. I cannot begin to imagine what was shot and not used! I would not be mad at an eventual director’s cut version.

Let’s talk about the music. The soundtrack is nothing short of a hit. Combining tracks from The Jesus and Mary Chain, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, and yes, Oasis, Moran explains how he chose what would be featured in the film. “It wasn’t much of a learning curve for me, It was more of a case of going through the record collection I’ve already got, brushing the dust off a few of them, and going, ‘Well, what about this?’ ” He perfectly sums up Creation Stories by saying, “If you don’t know that music, then it’s a great discovery!” It’s a celebratory history lesson in a way.

You can watch Creation Stories through Tribeca At Home beginning tonight. Check out the trailer for a taste of what’s to come.

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA

Purchased films remain available to stream on-demand from the above date through June 23

 

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘P.S. Burn This Letter Please’ is a joyous history lesson.

P.S. Burn This Letter Please

A box of letters, held in secret for nearly 60 years, ignites a 5-year exploration into a part of LGBT history that has never been told. The letters, written in the 1950s by a group of New York City drag queens, open a window into a forgotten world where being yourself meant breaking the law and where the penalties for “masquerading” as a woman were swift and severe. Using original interviews, never-before-seen archival footage and photographs and stylized recreations, P.S. BURN THIS LETTER PLEASE reconstructs this pre-Stonewall era as Lennie, Robbie, George, Michael, Jim, Henry, Claude, Tish, and Terry—former drag queens now in their 80s and 90s—reveal how they survived and somehow flourished at a time when drag queens were both revered and reviled, even within the gay community. The government sought to destroy them, then history tried to erase them, now they get to tell their story for the first time.

There’s something both nostalgic and tangible about handwritten letters. With technology at our fingertips, they are few and far between and nearly nonexistent to certain generations. In P. S. Burn This Letter Please, a box of letters from the 50s chronicles the lives of a small LGBTQ circle of friends. Through sit-down interviews with the authors, immaculate archival footage and photos, we delve into history. This documentary is phenomenally compelling. If it doesn’t make you grin from ear to ear, you’re out of your mind.

Happiness isn’t the only reaction this film elicits. It is a lesson in oppression, one that sounds all too familiar. We hear about biological family dynamics, the difference between those who accepted and those who broke these beautiful souls down. The majority of the doc is celebratory and juicy. Oh honey, the exquisite fashion. The delicious stories. Hearing the truth from those who lived it is priceless.

I learned an entirely new vocabulary. I learned about the “who’s who” of drag and female impersonators in those years. What was it like to be a performer? Who was actually running the gay clubs? That answer will shock you. To say I was fascinated would be an understatement. The dramatic readings of the letters are to die for. To think what wasn’t included in the film leaves me wanting more. Outside of its Tribeca Festival screening, you can watch P.S. Burn This Letter Please streaming on Discovery +. You will not regret jumping into its fabulousness.

 

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘No Running’ has tailwind for larger storytelling.

No Running


NO RUNNING | JUNETEENTH PROGRAMMING

Online World Premiere

Synopsis: When high school student Jaylen Brown finds himself under suspicion after his classmate’s mysterious disappearance, prejudice quickly begins to bubble up to the surface of his small town. Working quickly to clear his own name, he begins to unravel a massive web of secrets that all point to otherworldly forces at play.

A smart, biting screenplay by Tucker Morgan takes us into the world of a young black man in very unfriendly territory. No Running has a twist to the social relevance. It’s a sci-fi film that leaves more questions than answers and that just fine by me. The story has all the makings of a franchise. No Running is Jaylen’s story but the door is left ajar for an entirely expanded world of who and why. In a town riddled with missing posters, No Running could be the beginning of something much larger. The suggestion of an otherworldly savior has endless potential.

Skylan Brooks, coming off an extraordinary performance in Archenemy, proves his star power. His ability to convey truth, relatability, and vulnerability is a gift. Each cast member elevates his performance. As you watch, you’ll easily be wrapped up in the local hostility weighed upon Jaylen. You’ll be infuriated and compelled to solve the mystery alongside this talented young man. Morgan’s script gives us a beautiful example of black excellence with Jaylen. No Running is a gem at Tribeca Festival 2021. Genre fans will connect on a multitude of levels. Congratulations to director Delmar Washington for a unique entry in this year’s lineup.


Available Starting

Fri June 11 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA

Purchased films remain available to stream on-demand from the above date through June 23

Director: Delmar Washington
Written by:  Tucker Morgan
Cast: Skylan Brooks, Taryn Manning, Shane West, Diamond White, Rutina Wesley, Bill Engvall
Producer: Eric Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
Co-Producer: Chris Abernathy
Editor: Adam Tyree
Cinematographer: Juan Sebastian Baron

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘No Man Of God’ will get inside your head.

No Man Of God

The complicated relationship that formed between the FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier and serial killer Bundy during Bundy’s final years on death row.

Amber Sealy‘s breaking the mold of our image of Ted Bundy. No Man Of God does not romanticize Bundy’s personality, but it does somehow humanize his intellect. This is the most unexpected story of friendship and trust. It just so happens to involve one of the most prolific serial killers of our times. Of all the Bundy films, this is the one we’ve been waiting for and we didn’t even know it. Through letters that progressed to sit-down interviews, Hagmaier built a bond with Bundy no other person was ever able to attain. It’s extraordinary.

Elijah Wood is a phenomenal foil for Luke Kirby. There is a measured and genuine tone to his delivery that is completely believable. You’re just buying what he’s selling. I think this might be his best dramatic performance since Set Fire To The Stars. Luke Kirby is a genius. He is slick as hell. Kit Lesser‘s dialogue allows for poetic moments, philosophical ones, as well as pure terror. It’s his manner of nonchalance that keeps you off-kilter. It is undeniably an award-winning performance.

Wood and Kirby’s incredibly natural back and forth holds your attention every single second. The emotional electricity builds to a pitch-perfect finale. This is a masterclass in scene partnering, writing, and directing. No Man Of God is nothing short of riveting. It is a must-see.

Spotlight Narrative

World Premiere

Available Starting

Sat June 12 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA

This purchased film will remain available to stream on-demand from the above date through 6/14 at 6 PM EST

Tribeca Festival 2021 capsule Review: ‘Last Film Show’ is a glorious nostalgic hug for movie lovers.

Last Film Show

When the magic of movies conquers nine-year young Samay’s heart; he moves heaven and earth in pursuit of his 35mm dreams unaware of heartbreaking times that await him.

Stunningly beautiful cinematography, including thoughtful close-ups and overhead shots of Samay’s mother cooking his lunches, will make you remember the impact a great film has on all the senses. Last Film Show is the perfect way to celebrate being back in person at Tribeca. Performances from every single cast member are triumphant. It feels like an ode to film lovers. You’ll fall head over heels in love with Bhavin Rabari in particular. It’s rare that child is so spectacular in a role that you forget that’s it’s a narrative and not a documentary. Last Film Show gives us everything we’ve been missing since this pandemic began. To say much more about the plot is truly a disservice. It’s one I implore you to see for yourself. We’ve missed this more than we realized. Last Film Show is a cinematic masterpiece.

TRIBECA 2021
WORLD PREMIERE / Spotlight Narrative Competition

 

Available Starting

Fri June 11 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on-demand from the above date through June 23

 

 

Tribeca Film Festival 2021 is back with a vengeance. Here’s what we’re stoked to see.

Tribeca Film Festival is back and it’s the 20th anniversary, baby. This year’s lineup not only features a slew of incredible new films but will also include titles that didn’t get the chance to screen at the 2020 festival due to Covid. Audiences can experience Tribeca in a multitude of ways. You can enjoy outdoor screenings or watch from the comfort of your couch with Tribeca At Home. There are podcasts, live talks, immersive programs, and so much more. This festival is reliable for churning out crowdpleasers and this year is no exception. Here is a mere handful of films we are excited to share with our readers.

Werewolves Within

SYNOPSIS:
After a proposed gas pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, newly arrived forest ranger FINN (Sam Richardson) and postal worker CECILY (Milana Vayntrub) must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.
When everyone is talking about a film before it even premieres you know you have to check it out. The pairing of Milana Vayntrub and Sam Richardson is pure comic genius. The screenplay from Mishna Wolff gives this duo a chance to shine and the audience nonstop belly laughs. In fact, this ensemble cast will blow you away. The hidden social commentary inside a werewolf mystery heightens everything. You do not want to miss this one.
Virtual Screening
Available Starting

Thu June 17 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Poser

Lennon exists timidly on the sidelines of the thriving Columbus, Ohio indie music scene, yearning for a personal connection that might shepherd her into the inner sanctum of warehouse concerts, exclusive backstage, house parties and the cutting-edge art scene. As she fuels her desire for entrée into a podcast featuring live music and conversations with the artists she so fervently admires, Lennon finds inspiration for her own musical ambitions…and a growing sense of misdirected identity. Enter Bobbi Kitten, an enigmatic, striking and talented half of a popular, indie pop duo, who takes Lennon under her confident wing—unwittingly entangling herself in a dark obsession.
This is a film that will connect with multiple generations. It’s a story about finding your niche but that’s a really glossy explanation. The script is nuanced in a way that you will not see coming.
Available Starting

Fri June 11 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23.


Settlers

Remmy and her parents, refugees from Earth, have found peace on the Martian outskirts—until strangers appear in the hills beyond their farm. Told as a triptych, the film follows Remmy as she struggles to survive in an uneasy landscape.

An unexpected feminist tale, Settlers script makes the heart beat faster, ceaselessly begging the question, “What would you do to survive?”

Available Starting

Fri June 18 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


How It Ends

In this feel-good apocalyptic comedy, Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) embarks on a hilarious journey through LA in hopes of making it to her last party before it all ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way.

Having a massively successful run on the festival circuit, Zoe Lister-Jones stars in a cameo-filled, riotous, and thoughtful film about coming to terms with the traumas of our childhood. You will laugh (a lot) and cry. This one will undoubtedly hit all the right notes.

Available Starting

Mon June 21 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


We Need To Do Something

After Melissa and her family seek shelter from a storm, they become trapped. With no sign of rescue, hours turn to days and Melissa comes to realize that she and her girlfriend Amy might have something to do with the horrors that threaten to tear her family – and the entire world, apart.

This is one of the first titles to get picked up before its premiere. That always makes a film extra buzzy. The idea of being trapped in a bathroom with my family already gives me anxiety. Add on the horror element and you’d push anyone’s nerves beyond their breaking point.

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Ultrasound

**World Premiere** – Midnight

Driving home late at night during a heavy rainstorm, Glen experiences car trouble. Near where his car gets stuck, he spots a house, knocks on the door and is greeted by an oddly friendly middle-aged man, Arthur, and his younger wife, Cyndi. The strange couple pours him a drink, and then more drinks, followed by an unexpected offer that Glen can’t refuse. Elsewhere, a young woman, Katie, is feeling emotionally weighed down by a secret romantic arrangement that feels like a textbook case of gaslighting. And at the same time, in a nondescript research facility, medical professional Shannon begins questioning her role in a bizarre experiment, fearing that she’s doing more harm than good.

When I tell you that you aren’t ready for Ultrasound, I mean that as the highest compliment. This is a film best viewed totally unaware of the plot. Frankly, that’s not too difficult as the script provides dizzying twists over and over again. This is a film that people will be talking about. It’s one you’ll want to watch again and again.

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Claydream

A modern day Walt Disney, Will Vinton picked up a ball of clay and saw a world of potential.  Known as the “Father of Claymation,” Vinton revolutionized the animation business during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.  But after 30 years of being the unheralded king of clay, Will Vinton’s carefully sculpted American dream came crumbling down at the hands of an outside investor, Nike’s Phil Knight.

The poster alone screams nostalgia for a generation brought up on Saturday morning cartoons. With sitdown interviews and behind-the-scenes clips, fall in love with Will Vinton and his creations all over again.

Available Starting

Sun June 13 – 7:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


No Man Of God

In 1980, Ted Bundy was sentenced to death by electrocution. In the years that followed, he agreed to disclose the details of his crimes, but only to one man.  NO MAN OF GOD is based on the true story of the strange and complicated relationship that developed between FBI agent Bill Hagmaier and an incarcerated Ted Bundy in the years leading to Bundy’s execution.

We often hear about how charming Ted Bundy was. Director Amber Sealey‘s No Man Of God puts the audience in the room with him as writer Kit Lesser used actual transcripts from Bundy and Hagmaier’s conversations. Brimming with complexity and boasting amazing performances from Luke Kirby and Elijah Wood, leave your expectations at the door. 
Available Starting

Sat June 12 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. This purchased film will remain available to stream on demand from the above date through 6/14 at 6 PM EST


Creation Stories

 Creation Stories charts the true story of the rise and fall of Creation Records and its infamous founder, Alan McGee; the man responsible for supplying the “Brit Pop” soundtrack to the 90s, a decade of cultural renaissance known as Cool Britannia.  From humble beginnings to Downing Street soirées, from dodging bailiffs to releasing multi-platinum albums, Creation had it all. Breakdowns, bankruptcy, fights and friendships… and not forgetting the music. Featuring some of the greatest records you have ever heard, we follow Alan through a drug-fueled haze of music and mayhem, as his rock’n’roll dream brings the world Oasis, Primal Scream, and other generation-defining bands.

Drugs, music, risk, and passion drove Allen McGee to change the face of music in the 90s. Creation Stories comes at you like a freight train with a visceral energy that makes you wanna get up and dance. If you are a fan of Trainspotting, also penned by Irvine Welsh, this is right up your alley. Be on the lookout for our upcoming interview with director Nick Moran!

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Two mysterious siblings find themselves at odds over care for their frail and sickly younger brother.

This is another film that is best experienced without prior knowledge of the plot. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To comes out of left field in a genre-bending tale of morality. The emotional gut-punch that the film becomes will consume you.


TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 21 runs from June 9th to the 20th. For more information visit https://tribecafilm.com/festival and stayed tuned to Reel News Daily for reviews and updates.

Harlem International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘My Fiona’

MY FIONA

 New York State Premiere
Director: Kelly Walker
Country: US, Running Time: 86 min
Following the suicide of her best friend, Jane finds purpose in helping her friend’s wife with their child. In doing so, she becomes inadvertently drawn into an intimate relationship bound by grief that’s potentially catastrophic to the healing for all those involved.

Jeanette Maus‘s final feature role is impactful beyond words. She plays Jane, a woman whose best friend commits suicide and must address her own grief within the complexity of her newfound family dynamic. How close is too close when all are have left are the ones left behind? The cast’s chemistry is immaculate. Maus leaves it all on screen. Every moment is an emotional gut-punch. Suicide is a loaded subject. The script tackles its all-consuming confusion with a carefully crafted hand. In an attempt to discover Fiona’s “Why” and to find her place without Fiona, Jane must come to grips with the messy aftermath of loss. MY FIONA is an intimate look at grief from the perspective of a best friend. It’s a fresh take on something that is so relatable. It’s okay to not be okay. Writer-director Kelly Walker has given Harlem International Film Festival audiences a true gem. MY FIONA is a different kind of love story. Do not miss this film.

Audiences in New York can access the film now!

16th Edition
May 6-16, 2021 Extended Dates!

BAM Kino Polska 2021 review: ‘SUPERNOVA’ makes your heart race and your head spin.

SUPERNOVA

Three men, one place, and one event that will change the life of each one of them. A universal tale, kept in a realistic style, tells the story of a few hours in the life of a rural community. The film raises questions about the essence of chance and destiny. A bloody story, oscillating on the edge of drama, thriller, and disaster cinema.

Up close, hand-held camera work intensifies the manic energy that radiates from this cast. This tragic and explosive story stems from a hit-and-run. With the world in upheaval over police action, this film focuses on the reactions of a small town department. When the mysterious driver flees on foot, chaos reigns when the incident becomes personal. The performances are astonishing. The screenplay is genius. You’re getting multiple narrative stories by watching the reactions of family, coworkers, and onlookers all at once. A naive rookie, a Chief close to retirement, hooligans in the crowd, a female officer’s first day, those connected to the victims, and a villain so loathsome your head will spin. These characters simultaneously clash in Supernova as events play out in real-time. There is not a moment to breathe. The quietest moment is the opening shot. Once the actors enter the frame the energy ramps up and become increasingly intense. Writer-director Bartosz Kruhlik plays with empathy and power dynamics in such an intelligent way. The complexity of the story just keeps growing. Your heart will race, you’ll seethe with anger, Supernova is that good.

SUPERNOVA
Dir. Bartosz Kruhlik
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

BAM Kino Polska 2021 review: ‘NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN’ wows with mystery and misery.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 

On a gray, foggy morning outside a large Polish city, Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), a masseur from the East, enters the lives of the wealthy residents of a gated community. Using hypnotic, almost magical techniques to get a residence permit, he starts working. The well-to-do residents in their cookie-cutter homes seemingly have it all, but they all suffer from an inner sadness, some unexplained longing. The attractive and mysterious newcomer’s hands heal, and Zhenia’s eyes seem to penetrate their souls. To them, his Russian accent sounds like a song from the past, a memory of their seemingly safer childhoods. The latest from writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska (ELLES, IN THE NAME OF) and her longtime collaborator Michal Englert is an unclassifiable meditation on class, immigration, and global warming with touches of magical realism and moments of sober beauty and subtle humor.

Simply beautiful cinematography and one hell of a leading performance consume the audience in BAM’s Kino Polska’s New York premiere of NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN. Alec Utgoff as Zhenia gives an intoxicating performance. There’s something about his gaze that puts you at ease. You’re fully aware there’s a complexity tied to his childhood in Chernobyl. The dialogue from his clients never lets you forget. The nuance of this role is enthralling. The darker mystery slowly makes its way to light as he does his massage and, unbeknownst to them, hypnosis on his clients. They reside in a wealthy, gated estate outside the city. From the outside, each house essentially a replica of the next. Inside, the residents gossip and confess their trauma and innermost thoughts. Sinister undertones always linger. Zhenia’s unique ability to connect with people is merely the beginning of his capabilities. That talent isn’t something that can be hidden indefinitely. The score is haunting and meaningful, heightening this carefully crafted film. Trust me when I say, this movie is special. You’ll be as hypnotized as Zhenia’s clients. NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN is bursting with endless intrigue. It’s a journey that you will never see coming.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 
Dirs. Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert
2020, 113min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

Polish Cinema comes to your living room courtesy of BAM’s film program ‘Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema’

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

I NEVER CRY
Dir. Piotr Domalewski
2020, 98min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Zofia Stafiej, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Kinga Preis

Seventeen-year-old Ola sets off to Ireland to bring her father’s body back to Poland after he dies in a building site accident. But never mind her dad, Ola wants to know if he had saved the money for a car he had promised her. Dealing with a foreign bureaucracy in her own streetwise way, Ola finally gets to know the father who had been largely absent in her life. A bittersweet coming-of-age drama that explores the perplexity of family bonds, illustrating the gloomy landscape of today’s Europe.


MR. JONES
Dir. Agnieszka Holland
2019, 119min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard

Agnieszka Holland’s thriller, set on the eve of world WWII, sees Hitler’s rise to power and Stalin’s Soviet propaganda machine pushing their “utopia” to the Western world. Meanwhile an ambitious young journalist, Gareth Jones (Norton) travels to Moscow to uncover the truth behind the propaganda, but then gets a tip that could expose an international conspiracy, one that could cost him and his informant their lives. Jones goes on a life-or-death journey to uncover the truth behind the façade that would later inspire George Orwell’s seminal book Animal Farm.


NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 
Dirs. Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert
2020, 113min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza

On a gray, foggy morning outside a large Polish city, Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), a masseur from the East, enters the lives of the wealthy residents of a gated community. Using hypnotic, almost magical techniques to get a residence permit, he starts working. The well-to-do residents in their cookie-cutter homes seemingly have it all, but they all suffer from an inner sadness, some unexplained longing. The attractive and mysterious newcomer’s hands heal, and Zhenia’s eyes seem to penetrate their souls. To them, his Russian accent sounds like a song from the past, a memory of their seemingly safer childhoods. The latest from writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska (ELLES, IN THE NAME OF) and her longtime collaborator Michal Englert is an unclassifiable meditation on class, immigration, and global warming with touches of magical realism and moments of sober beauty and subtle humor.


SUPERNOVA
Dir. Bartosz Kruhlik
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

Three men, one place and one event that will change the life of each one of them. A universal tale, kept in a realistic style, tells the story of a few hours in the life of a rural community. The film raises questions about the essence of chance and destiny. A bloody story, oscillating on the edge of drama, thriller and disaster cinema.


KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN
Dir. Mariusz Wilczynski
2020, 88min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

Fleeing from despair after losing those dearest to him, the hero hides in a safe land of memories, where time stands still and all those dear to him are alive. Over the years, a city grows in his imagination. One day, literary heroes and cartoon childhood idols, who in the consciousness of the successive generations are forever young and wearing short pants, come to live there, uninvited. When our hero discovers they have all grown old and that eternal youth does not exist, he decides to return to real life. And the amazing characters living in his imagination lead him back to the real world.


EASTERN
Dir. Piotr Adamski
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

In a dystopian world regulated by an inexorable, patriarchal code, the Nowak and Kowalski families have been embroiled in a vendetta for years. When the Nowaks’ son dies at the hand of Klara Kowalska, his sister, Ewa, is faced with a choice between carrying out revenge in the name of honour on the one hand and her own life and freedom on the other.


THE TASTE OF PHO
Dir. Mariko Bobrik
2019, 84min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

A Warsaw-based Vietnamese cook struggles to fit into the European culture, which his ten-year-old daughter has already embraced as her own. A story about love, misunderstanding and food.

Fantaspoa 2021 reviews: Two neon-soaked films about unresolved trauma in ‘Bloodshot Heart’ & ‘Playdurizm’

Fantaspoa 2021

BLOODSHOT HEART

At 44, Hans still lives with his mother. When Matilda, a tenant half his age, moves in, Hans relives old memories and is infatuated. To win her love, Hans comes up with a dangerous plan.

Writer-Director Parish Malfitano has given Fantaspoa audiences a hallucinatory, Giallo-inspired mindfuck with Bloodshot Heart. As if our leading man Hans (Richard James Allen) weren’t quirky enough, we learn that his mysterious ex and his domineering mother have the ultimate power over his perceived reality. When Matilda enters the picture, Hans hatches a plan to win her over that has dire and violent consequences for everyone involved. We’re never completely sure what we’re seeing is real or not. The bait and switch of characters are abundant. Color, score, and costumes become all-consuming. Richard James Allen‘s portrayal of Hans is something you must experience. His lovesick puppy act masks all the mysterious and deeply troubling emotions inside his head. The nuance he brings to Hans is astounding. Bloodshot Heart will leave you in a dizzied state. It is wild.


PLAYDURIZM

When a teenager finds himself caught in a glitchy-glitzy reality with his onscreen male idol, he does all he can to be possessed by this man and ignore the violent clues of how he got there.

I’m not going to lie. Playdurizm is extremely difficult to watch. You have no clue what the hell is going on until the finale. But damn it’s cool to look at. Eccentric costumes, neon-soaked production design, bright green vomit, all make your head spin. This is the perfect entry for the festival circuit. Brave Fantaspoa audiences will either eat it up or turn away and gag. With all the WTF that occurs in this film, it pays off in the end. Trigger warning: The amount of sexual violence in this film is jarring. Director Gem Deger (who also stars as D) definitely takes a colorful approach to PTSD. Playdurizm is a striking, LGBTQA+ foray into the genre realm.


Brazil’s long-running Fantaspoa Fantastic Film Festival is currently celebrating its seventeenth edition online and completely free of charge. The 2021 edition of the beloved South American genre festival is supported by a special grant from the Brazilian government, which is offered to relevant cultural events amidst the pandemic. Running through April 18th, the seventeenth edition of Fantaspoa features more than 100 shorts and 50 feature films from more than 35 countries. All festival screenings will have a cap of 3,000 views, and all will be geo-blocked to Brazilian viewers.

These films are part of Fantaspoa 2021, which runs for free on the streaming platform Darkflix, from April 9th through the 18th. All film screenings are geo-blocked to Brazil, with additional details available at www.fantaspoa.com.

SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘The Lost Sons’ & ‘United States Vs. Reality Winner’ are two mind blowing docs from this year’s virtual fest.

THE LOST SONS

1960s Chicago, a baby is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is abandoned. Could he be the same baby? In a tale of breathtaking twists and turns, two mysteries begin to unravel and dark family secrets are revealed.

When my son was born in 2016, I remember the extreme level of security on the floor we were staying on. We all had bracelets on with his name, while he also had an electronic ankle bracelet which would beep if he were taken past a certain threshold. The idea of some stranger coming in and taking my child terrified me. I hoped to God that I never heard that alarm go off while we stayed in the hospital. Reenactments, newspaper clips, photographs, archival footage, home video, and sit-down interviews with witnesses all make up the massively intriguing and mystery-laden doc. Who is Paul Fronczak? This is a loaded question. The Lost Sons attempts to answer this question and so many others. The editing is mesmerizing. You don’t have a moment to catch your breath as this story unfolds. The twists and turns will shock you. They are relentless. I found myself shouting at the television more often than usual in one true crime sitting. It unravels like a James Patterson novel. If you are a homegrown detective, The Lost Sons at SXSW21 will be a true highlight for you.


UNITED STATES Vs. REALITY WINNER

A state of secrets and a ruthless hunt for whistleblowers – this is the story of 25-year-old NSA contractor Reality Winner.

Reality Leigh Winner saw something that she thought the entire country should know. She decided the public had a right to evidence the government was keeping secret. For this act, she was severely punished. The line between right and wrong can be blurry, but in this instance, it feels clear as day that Reality Winner was right. The film follows Reality’s mother, Billie J. Winner-Davis, as she tracks the public and the court’s response to Reality’s case. We learn about the kind of person Reality is through diary entries and jailhouse phone calls. She’s funny, talented, with a sharp wit. With the full understanding that most documentaries have an agenda, I cannot imagine someone walking away from the film without a ferocious sense of injustice. Including never-before-heard audio from Reality’s FBI  initial interview, sitdowns with her attorneys, family members, and fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden, you will finally learn what was in the document in question. Understanding the content is key to grasping the fact that Michael Flynn was pardoned and Reality Winner was given the harshest sentence in history for any whistleblower. I cannot stress this enough. I am thankful that United States Vs. Reality Winner is being shown to audiences when Joe Biden is now President. I join in the urgent call for justice. #FreeRealityWinner