GRIMMFEST turns lucky 13 for this year’s hybrid addition. Here are some of the films we’re screaming about.

GRIMMFEST 2021

It’s no secret that the most buzz-worthy films come through only a handful of genre festivals. GRIMMFEST is on that shortlist. The festival turns a lucky 13 this year and it’s ready to rock audiences’ socks with a plethora of titles for every single viewer. After being completely virtual last year, a hybrid platform is back in action with a mix of in-person screenings from October 7th to 10th and online from October 14th to 17th. I can say that this year’s lineup is filled with everything from gore to absurdity, thrills to purest moments of wow. These are the films that will be on everyone’s lips. You can find out about tickets and schedules at https://grimmfest.com/

Do yourself a favor and mark your calendars now. There’s a lot to see.


THE BETA TEST

A Hollywood agent, engaged to be married in a few weeks, receives a mysterious letter inviting him for an anonymous sexual encounter and thus becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data.

This genre-shattering film takes aim at Hollywood, toxic masculinity, horror, satire, all with co-writer-director Jim Cummings playing a sharp lead. His last film, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow, has a legit cult following now. Cummings has a distinct voice and I cannot wait to see if The Beta Test becomes another calling card on his resume.


THE RIGHTEOUS

A burdened man feels the wrath of a vengeful God after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger…

There is something so striking about modern black & white cinematography. in The Righteous, writer-director Mark O’Brien also stars as the mysterious stranger in question. This horror film is filled with symbolism and will give any god-fearing viewer the vapers.


WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS

When the Screaming Starts is a comedy-horror mockumentary about an inept, aspiring serial killer at the beginning of his “career” and a fledgling filmmaker willing to do anything to achieve his ambition.

A little bit of Vicious Fun meets Satanic Panic, I cannot wait to laugh and gag. Horror and comedy pair so well together and since everyone is a true-crime connoisseur who thinks they could commit the perfect murder, I am delighted to consume this one.


THE SPORE

The lives of ten strangers intersect through a terrifying chain of events as a mutating fungus begins to spread through a small town wiping out everyone that comes into contact with it.

Will this film be a little too close to home considering we’re still experiencing a global pandemic? I guess we’ll find out when we’re forced to look through the lens of writer-director D.M Cunningham.


HOTEL POSEIDON

Dave inherited the dingy and dilapidated Hotel Poseidon from his late father. He lives there and works as manager, and rarely seems to leave the place. The days and nights all bleed together. His existence is a hopeless one. When a young woman knocks at the hotel’s doors one night looking for a room, and his best friend shows up wanting to throw a party in the backroom, Dave’s world starts to spiral out of control, and his sense of reality starts to be shaken by recurring nightmares.

I have seen the title sequence for this film and it is hands down one of the coolest in all of cinematic history. I said what I said. If the rest of the film lives up to the initial visual, Hotel Poseidon will wow Grimmfest audiences.


ALONE WITH YOU

As a young woman painstakingly prepares a romantic homecoming for her girlfriend, their apartment begins to feel more like a tomb when voices, shadows, and hallucinations reveal a truth she has been unwilling to face.

Listen, you tell me Barbara Crampton is in a film and I’m watching it. Add on Emily Bennett who was fantastic in King Of Knives last year and I’m sold. Not only does she star, but she co-wrote and co-directed the film. Give me an all-female horror film every day of the year.



FULL VIRTUAL FESTIVAL LINE UP:

● FOR ROGER (Aaron Bartuska, USA)

● FATHER OF FLIES (Ben Charles-Edwards UK / USA)

● SLAPFACE (Jeremiah Kipp, USA)

● THE NIGHTS BELONG TO THE MONSTERS (Sebastian Perillo, Argentina)

● HAPPY TIMES (Michael Mayer, Israel / USA)

● NIGHT AT THE EAGLE INN (Erik Bloomquist, USA)

● VAL (Aaron Fradkin, USA, 77 min)

● THE SPORE (D.M. Cunningham, USA)

● THE PIZZAGATE MASSACRE (John Valley, USA)

● MOTHERLY (Craig David Wallace, Canada)

● SHOT IN THE DARK (Keene McRae, USA)

● NIGHT DRIVE (Brad Baruh, USA)

● MIDNIGHT (Oh-seung Kwon, South Korea)

● FACELESS (Marcel Sarmiento, USA)

● WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (Jane Schoenbrun, USA)

● THE FREE FALL (Adam Stillwell, USA)

● ON THE THIRD DAY (Daniel de la Vega, Argentina)

● THE GUEST ROOM (Stefano Lodovichi, Italy)

● HOTEL POSEIDON (Stefan Lernous, Belgium)

● FORGIVENESS (Alex Kahuam, Mexico)

● TWO WITCHES (Pierre Tsigaridis, USA)

● KING KNIGHT (Richard Bates Jnr, USA)

● TARUMAMA / LLANTO MALDITO (Andres Beltran, Colombia)

● THE RIGHTEOUS (Mark O’Brien, Canada)


 

Passes and tickets can be purchased from www.grimmfest.com.

Dances With Films LA short film review: ‘CLASS’ deserves a standing ovation.

CLASS

SYNOPSIS: New student Max attends his first ever acting class. He soon discovers that the lines between class and cult begin to blur as he and his fellow students are subjected to the bizarre but brilliant methods of their eccentric teacher, Adam (David Krumholtz).


Is it possible writing and directing team Enzo Cellucci and Ash McNair videotaped my college years and then made a short film from the footage? From the looks of CLASS, the answer has to be a firm Yes. If you’ve never experienced an acting class, this short film might seem completely absurd. If you paid a ton of money to earn a degree at a conservatory, as I did, CLASS is also completely absurd. This is the highest compliment I can pay this guffaw-inducing short. It is a literal blueprint for acting class. Cellucci and McNair nail the aha moments that arise from notorious acting games. They capture the frustration and joy of workshopping a monologue.


While the success of this film hinges on the commitment of the spectacular ensemble, I must specifically salute Enzo Cellucci and David Krumholtz. The majority of the film revolves around Max remaining an observer. It is not until he is forced to participate that we are fully consumed by the heat of embarrassment only actors know in their souls. Cellucci’s emotional and physical beatdown creates greatness. As Adam, David Krumholtz is a goddamn character study in CLASS. It is everything, from the slicked-back hair, the robe over silk pajamas, and the pièce de résistance, the accent. The impeccably precise bastardization of a British accent is a thing of glory. If your ear is sharp enough, you’ll notice how it changes from scene to scene. It is, as they say, the chef’s kiss. CLASS is easily one of the most honest and cringeworthy shorts I’ve ever watched. I lived inside every second, and I loved it just as much. I’m still laughing. I am dying to see this developed into something bigger. It certainly deserves the audience. To everyone involved, Bravo!


CLASS had its WEST COAST PREMIERE AT
THE DANCES WITH FILMS FESTIVAL
IN LOS ANGELES WAS AT TCL CHINESE THEATRES ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2021 AT 4:30 PM PT

CAST: David Krumholtz, Alina Carson, Enzo Cellucci, Amanda Centeno, Brendan Dalton, Kristin Friedlander, Carson Higgins, Joseph Huffman, and Ash McNair


DIRECTED & WRITTEN BY: Enzo Cellucci, Ash McNair


PRODUCED BY: Hank Azaria, Enzo Cellucci, Clea DeCrane, Karen Eisenbud, Srinivas Gopalan, Joseph Huffman, David Krumholtz, Jonny Marlow, Rob McGillivray, Ash McNair, Phillip Nguyen, Gayathri Segar, Ben Stranahan, Michel Tyabji

Telluride 2021 review: ‘JULIA’ is a mouthwatering doc about the cultural icon, Julia Child.

JULIA

At the 48th annual Telluride Film Festival, audiences were treated to a delicious documentary Friday with JULIA. Julia Child is one of the most well-known people on the planet when it comes to food. Who didn’t grow up with a copy of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking? It was on every kitchen shelf. In the new documentary, directed and produced by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, interviews with modern-day household names in the culinary world are interspersed with archival footage, personal photos, and clips from Julia’s cooking programs. Her distinctive voice is heard over glorious footage of cooking. If watching this doc does not make you salivate, I don’t know what will. We learn about Julia’s upbringing. After college, she breaks with conservative familial expectations to explore different paths. This would come to include WWII military service. She even confessed a desire to be a spy. During her travels, she meets the future love of her life, Paul. The film shares letters from Julia and Paul, as well as journal entries throughout the years. Paul captured her heart but it was food that sparked Julia’s lust for life. After moving to Paris, her very first meal would change the course of history.

Photo by Fairchild Archive/Penske Media/Shutterstock (6906383b)
Julia Child on the set of her cooking show, ‘The French Chef
Julia Child, Boston

JULIA exposes the toxic masculinity inside the culinary industry. She was a giant among men, often quite literally. Her physical stature would not be overshadowed by her boisterous personality. Julia Child was a feminist, even a board member of Planned Parenthood. She didn’t let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something. Julia made sure she stayed relevant. She was flirtatious, fearless, and ever-evolving as a human being. Some of the most beautiful aspects of the film come in friends and family doting on Julia and Pauls’s marriage. Their relationship is reminiscent of Ina and Jeffrey Garten‘s. Paul was her right-hand man, her biggest cheerleader, and he worshipped her. It’s a simple fact that Child paved the way for female chefs today.  She essentially gave them instructions as intricately written as her first cookbook. JULIA isn’t simply a documentary about a culinary icon. It’s a lesson in passion. It’s a love story. It’s a legacy on film.



Telluride Film Festival runs from September 2nd -6th, 2021


Dances With Films LA 2021 review: Brooke Trantor’s short film ‘Oh, Baby!’ really nails impending motherhood.

OH, BABY!

Oh Baby! a comedic narrative short done by Brooke Trantor and Kate Morgan Chadwick, and T.J. Linnard (Good Trouble) that follows Jane: a thirty-something pregnant woman having a baby on her own. Empowered, single, and horny AF she is determined to get what she wants tonight: sex, chalupas, and no strings attached. Enter Ben, a promising find from the world of online dating – will he be able to deliver the goods…and then some?


This hilariously honest short film about love, sex, and impending motherhood is ripe for development. Having been pregnant twice, I understand how uncomfortable it can be. The cravings, both food and otherwise, can dictate every aspect of your day. What little control you have over your own time is about to run out permanently. Director Brooke Trantor co-writes the script with lead actress Kate Morgan Chadwick. Trantor understands how important the camera becomes as the intimate moments begin. Jack Lawrence Mayer‘s editing is just as important here. Trantor and Chadwick easily capture the humor and anxiety that come along with dating, in general. Heightening that concept with impending childbirth gives Oh, Baby! a modern twist. Kate Morgan Chadwick and T.J. Linnard have impeccable chemistry. I was completely enamored by them as the credits rolled. Charming and relatable, they are the perfect pair. I would love to see this story expanded into a feature. Dances With Films LA 2021 audiences will undoubtedly adore it, as well.



Dances With Films LA 2021 audiences can see Oh, Baby! September 4, 2021, at 1:30 PM

Review: The an action-packed, visual feast ‘YAKUZA PRINCESS’ is in theatres tomorrow!

YAKUZA PRINCESS

Based on the acclaimed graphic novel “Samurai Shiro” by Danilo Beyruth and set in the expansive Japanese community of Sao Paulo, Brazil — the largest Japanese diaspora in the world — YAKUZA PRINCESS follows orphan Akemi (played by pop star MASUMI), who, upon turning 21, discovers that she is the heiress to half of Japan’s expansive Yakuza crime syndicate. After forging an uneasy alliance with an amnesiac stranger (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, History Channel’s The Vikings) who believes an ancient sword binds their two fates, Akemi unleashes war against the other half of the syndicate who wants her dead.


Part girl power, part crime drama, all revenge thriller, Vicente Amorim‘s Yakuza Princess has something for everyone. Action-packed with spectacular fight choreography, the pacing is super satisfying. Yakuza Princess is just cool. This ensemble cast is phenomenal. I want to see more of every actor, but I’ll focus on our two primary leads. MASUMI as Akemi is a spitfire. Her nonchalant power is striking. Then there is Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who never seems to age) playing the mysterious Shiro. He is such a brilliant foil for MASUMI. His ability to own the screen with but a glance is always magic. Together, their chemistry is ripe for a franchise.

Visually speaking, it’s a neon-soaked feast for the eyes. The use of light in this film is hypnotizing. It’s insanely thoughtful. Films like this are the reason we go to the movies. A LOT is going on in Yakuza Princess. This story is an epic journey. A complex family dynamic, murder, amnesia, kidnapping, a mysterious ancient sword all come into play in major ways. I would also have been delighted to watch this as a limited series. The drama! The plot twists! I was there for it all! It makes me want to run out and buy the graphic novel that is its source material. I demand its sequel, immediately. Pretty, please?


YAKUZA PRINCESS opens in U.S. theatres and virtual cinemas on Friday, September 3rd.

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 reviews: ‘Baby, Don’t Cry’ & ‘Wonderful Paradise’


BABY, DON’T CRY

Baby, a withdrawn and sensitive 17-year-old Chinese immigrant from a troubled home, is living in the outskirts of Seattle. One day, she meets a 20-year-old delinquent named Fox. Together they embark on a twisted journey to escape their hopeless fate.


A story of cyclical abuse with a touch of magical realism, Baby, Don’t Cry was a completely unexpected journey. Fair warning for survivors of abuse, this film may be a trigger watching for you. The deeper you go into the story the more complex our leads are revealed to be. Two young people in hopes of escaping their sad circumstances, latch onto one another. It’s evidently unhealthy to the audience but entirely understandable. Lack of father figures is a running theme, as are racism and mental illness. The emotional burdens that Baby and Fox carry are unrelenting. Zita Bai, our leading lady, and creator of Baby, has given us a thoroughly nuanced character. Some moments will make you infuriated with her, while others provoke sympathy It’s an extraordinary culmination of emotions. Baby, Don’t Cry will make you cringe, shake your head, and fill you with a bit of wonder.


DIRECTOR

Jesse Dvorak

WRITER

Zita Bai

CAST

Zita Bai, Boni Mata, Vas Provatakis, Helen Sun


WONDERFUL PARADISE

The Sasayas are moving out, but not without a party! A demented spin on the unwanted-guest scenario from punk iconoclast Masashi Yamamoto.


Thanks to Twitter, an estranged and dysfunctional family throws an accidental party on their move-out day. A barrage of quirky characters show up to explore and wreak their own brand of havoc. Wonderful Paradise is an absurdist sideshow. I would genuinely recommend watching this high. The number of times I exclaimed, “Huh?”, “What?”, or, “Sure, why not?! ” I lost count quite frankly. I must applaud the cast for their absolute commitment to their craft. The cast grows exponentially as the film rolls on and every single performer gives it 110%. The slow and district progression of the set is wild. The practical FX combined with the wackiest of screenplays make Wonderful Paradise perfect for Fantasia audiences. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Do I understand the final result? Absolutely not. Would I watch it again? Don’t threaten me with a good time.


DIRECTOR

Masashi Yamamoto

WRITER

Suzuyuki Kaneko, Masashi Yamamoto

CAST

Akira Emoto, Seiko Ito, Kaho Minami, Miyu Ogawa, Soran Tamoto


 

 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘MARTYRS LANE’ is one of this year’s best.

MARTYRS LANE

Leah, 10, lives in a large vicarage, full of lost souls and the needy. In the day the house is bustling with people; at night it is dark, empty, a space for Leah’s nightmares to creep into. A small, nightly visitor brings Leah comfort, but soon she will realize that her little visitor offers knowledge that might be very, very dangerous.


I feared this Martyrs Lane would be overlooked among the plethora of gore-filled content. That would have been the biggest shame to befall this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival. Writer-director Ruth Platt‘s carefully crafted tension and mystery should be celebrated. It has a quieter Babadook energy to it that is unmistakable. The film manages to be both a slow burn and a vice grip of tension. The editing puts your head in a spin in that you’re never sure what is real until the very final scene. Performances are outstanding. The fact that the entire premise mostly hinges on the work of two small girls will blow you away. It is no wonder young lead Sienna Sayer won the Special Jury Rising Star award. Martyrs Lane will hit harder for parents. Any story centered around children begets that internal ache from the very getgo and Martyrs Lane is no exception. It’s beautifully shot and elegantly lit. The exquisite progression in makeup heightens the overall dread. It speaks to the consuming power of grief and secrets. I cannot wait for Shudder audiences to experience this film in a few weeks. This one is special. Undoubtedly, one of my favorites from this year’s lineup.


Martyrs Lane Streams Exclusively on Shudder on Thursday, September 9th

North America, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand


Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘COMING HOME IN THE DARK’ will disturb you to no end.

COMING HOME IN THE DARK

Director/co-writer James Ashcroft introduced Fantasia 2021 audiences to a gutwrenching neo-noir. As a family attempts to enjoy a road trip, they are suddenly accosted by two men with an evil agenda. The complexities of COMING HOME IN THE DARK go far beyond a random encounter. This film was created to make you shudder. Redemption, revenge, cruelty, and shock all play huge parts in this journey. This is a film that will have you on the edge of your seat. Ashcroft’s feature debut deals directly with NZ ineptitude in their state-run facilities. This particular aspect of the script could be applied to any country. The abuse of children becomes an ironic twist that comes to haunt the viewer in more ways than one. The intensity that builds in this screenplay is unrelenting. The brutality is unforgiving. With a large amount of dialogue and action occurring under duress, and inside a car, the claustrophobia is palpable. The ability to build fully fleshed-out characters under the circumstances is truly astounding. Performances from this small cast will captivate you. The cinematography is incredibly thoughtful. It isn’t too often that I stop taking notes while watching a film. I didn’t write a single thing down during my viewing experience. I could not take my eyes off the screen. I cannot fully express how my entire body was shaking as I watched this film. I do feel compelled to warn viewers of the level of violence. Coming Home In The Dark is a traumatizing experience.



CAST:

  • Daniel Gillies
  • Erik Thomson
  • Miriama McDowell
  • Matthias Luafutu

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘When I Consume You’ is a haunting allegory.

WHEN I CONSUME YOU

A woman and her brother seek revenge against a mysterious stalker.


When I Consume You is a unique horror film that pulls you into the lives of Daphne and Wilson Shaw. Their past will not let them go. For better or for worse, we’re on their twisted journey for justice. The darkness of this story is palpable from the very beginning. Quite frankly, it never lets up. MacLeod Andrews, who most recently blew me away in A Ghost Waits, does it again. His energy swings from manic to terrifying. Libby Ewing, as Daphne, is both lead and narrator. Her voiceovers are soothing through the chaos. The chemistry with Dumouchel feels tangible. Evan Dumouchel playing Wilson is the real soul of this film. His emotional journey spills off the screen in a way that hypnotizes the viewer. I was captivated by every single one of his scenes, which are the majority of When I Consume You. This cast was perfect.

Perry Blackshear is the man with all the hats taking on directing, writing, cinematography, and producing. One of the best goosebumps-inducing moments occurs in the form of actress Libby Ewing’s hand appearing from nowhere. There is something so startling about this simple action. Its impact speaks volumes. There is a nice connection between the physical and metaphorical. The fight training scenes are a great representation of emotional preparedness. And without spoiling anything, the devil you know is sometimes a safer bet than the devil you don’t.  When I Consume You is an addiction allegory. Whether that is drugs or depression, the weight of trauma never quite leaves you. While the pacing of the film had some static moments, overall this is a fresh take on a haunting premise.


 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘HELLBENDER’ rocked me to my core.

HELLBENDER

A lonely teen discovers her family’s ties to witchcraft.


Honestly, if I could choose to grow up in another family, it would be the Adams family. I’m not talking about Morticia and Gomez. While I adore that lot, I’m talking about the indie horror filmmaking family. These industrious and smart people consisting of Mom, Toby Poser, dad, John Adams, and daughters, Zelda and Lulu. Fantasia 2019 audiences got their first taste of spooky genius with The Deeper You Dig. It was scary, intense, unique, and then some. This year, Fantasia 2021 audiences got to experience a new tale of terror with Hellbender.

Their cinematography is stunning. They really understand how to fill a frame. Their writing feels collaborative. John Adams’ score is deliberate and insanely effective. The songs are so fantastic I would buy their album! Within the first three minutes of Hellbender, I gasped and rocked out. If that’s not a winning film, I don’t know what is.

Zelda Adams as Izzy is so intriguing in her innocence and curiosity. Her journey from child to adult occurs before our eyes, whether we like it or not. Toby Poser, as Mom, is a force of nature. Often telling an entirely emotional story without words. Their chemistry is never forced. This is not always the case when a family works together. In the case of the Adams family, it’s their biggest strength. Their work is dark and that takes trust and guts. And allow me to assure you both are teeming in Hellbender, quite literally. There is one special effect in particular that blew me away. When you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s a mother-daughter relationship film that just so happens to center around a witchy heritage. Predictably, deceit under the guise of protection is bound to backfire. Hellbender is about a secret and sacred family history. But, it’s also about the power of the feminine and a slick takedown of any sort of patriarchal structure. The social commentary between the treatment of witches and any female, ever, is glaringly obvious, but no less genius. Hellbender is undoubtedly one of the most kick-ass films from this year’s festival. It’s no wonder it won Best Score and Best Actress (Zelda) in the CHEVAL NOIR AWARD FOR FEATURE FILMS. I cannot wait for Shudder audiences to join in their fandom.

*PS- The Adams’ have agreed to let me be part of their family via Instagram. I couldn’t possibly be more excited. I’ll run the camera and hold the boom next time. Also, not afraid to get covered in blood.*


 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES’ is a mind-blowing cinematic feat.

BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES

Born out of an acting workshop and shot on an iPhone, BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES is a high-concept time-loop movie that transcends expectations with its inventive concept. Kato (Kazunori Tosa) is at a bit of a dead-end in life. He lives above the cafe he owns and feels that his life isn’t moving forward when, one day, his computer screen starts to talk to him. The twist? It’s Kato from two minutes in the future; the sullen cafe owner has somehow stumbled on a very limited time loop. As he draws in his friends and coworkers, they all try to make sense of the weird phenomenon while also inventing creative ways to profit from their two-minute insight into the future.


If you had the inexplicable power to travel into the future two minutes, what would you do? There are innumerable answers to this query. Director Junta Yamaguchi takes that very concept and runs with it, quite literally at times. With an enchanting soundtrack and carefully crafted editing, the action starts immediately. When Kato realizes he can communicate with himself from two minutes in the future, chaos, and hilarity ensue. Unable to keep it to himself makes for a sticky situation. Once others know, things get even more complicated. With great power comes great responsibility.

Performances across the board are stellar. The commitment to the absurd is magic. The chemistry within this cast is outstanding. They are charming and energetic. It’s like watching a group of bright-eyed kids play. The camera work is a real marvel considering the impressively long takes. This film is all about timing, no pun intended. The cuts, if any, are tricky to spot. You’d think that reliving scenes would get old, but they manage to feel fresh each play based on location. Makoto Ueda’s script is that phenomenal. The camera also allows the viewer to feel like they’re part of the action. BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES will be a huge hit with Fantasia audiences of all ages. It’s a nonstop, joyous experience.


 


Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘KRATT’ brings life to lore and plenty of gore.

KRATT

Ah, children. The source of much joy, hope and innocence for many, but truth be told the little monsters are out to kill us all. Let’s be honest, they’re all selfish wretches who do nothing but drive you crazy and suck up your will to live. And now, in a small Estonian village, two narcissistic little brats (Nora and Harri Merivoo, the director’s kids!), dropped off at their Grandmother’s (Mari Lili) farm for a few weeks while their parents attend a self-help retreat, may bring about the end of human existence as we know it. Complaining about the actual work they’re expected to do, these little snot-nosed pests bring the local legend of the Kratt – a Terminator-like demonic spirit that must always be fed work, or else – to life just so they can take it easy, but in doing so they may have set in motion the destruction of Grandma, her village and perhaps the world with it. And all because they couldn’t get internet access.


A delicious mix of absurdity and folklore, Kratt is everything Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 audiences want in a single film. There’s a plethora of practical FX and gore, but the best moments come from actress Mari Lill as Grandma. Her commitment to the slapstick and over-the-top character changes makes Kratt one of the best films from this year’s fest.

You cannot miss the mockery of government, technology, religion, extremist politics, and everything in between. The score is wonderful and the cinematography is sharp. The script has one of the most brilliant and whip-smart final moments, cranking up the social commentary to 11. Kratt will have Fantasia Fest 2021 audiences doubled over. Whether that’s from gross-out moments or the laughs us up to the individual.



Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It’ is the only title that fits this chaotic hilarity.

SWEETIE, YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT


Three friends are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is an unexpected buddy comedy that will entertain the hell out of Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 audiences. Our leading men accidentally witness a murder and now they must elude not only a vicious gang but a mysterious and vengeful stranger. The harder they try to survive, the weirder and more dangerous their situation becomes. So much for an enjoyable getaway weekend.

The film has some super fun camera work, taking advantage of go-pro technology, warping depth perception, and speed dynamics. Genuine laugh-out-loud dialogue pairs excellently with the ultra-violence. The choreography that went into some of these takes should be applauded. Performances are riotous. The line between villain and hero is blurred, making for an increasingly fun watch. I could easily see the rights for the script being snatched up for Western audiences. Could Fantasia Fest 2021 audiences be seeing the first film in a potential franchise? Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It… until you see it for yourself.



Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘GLASSHOUSE’ is a twisted and beautifully macabre fairy tale.

GLASSHOUSE

Confined to their glasshouse, a family survives The Shred, a toxin that erases memory. Until the sisters are seduced by a Stranger who shatters their peace and stirs a past best left buried.


Entrancing and morbid, an airborne Victorian-era plague slowly diminishes the memory and faculties of all who dare to breathe it in. A woman, her three daughters, and an afflicted son survive inside the pristine remains of a botanical conservatory, giving us the title, Glasshouse. They protect themselves from outsiders, and the air itself, by adhering to rituals of daily life and recording their oral history to never forget. This film touches on natural selection, loyalty, family, and so much more. It is much more sinister than at first glance.

The set is enthralling. Painted windows, lace curtains, antique furniture, and gardens as far as the eye can see within the boundaries they protect. But this carefully curated surrounding is also a prison for this family. The moment this existence is challenged, their sacred way of life begins to crumble. Performances, across the board, are phenomenal. The script grows more intriguing by the minute. With learned skepticism and real fear of losing the ones they cherish, Glasshouse reveals itself like a meticulously structured novel. The twists are dark and plenty. The finale will shock you. Glasshouse is undoubtedly one of my favorite films at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.



Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘THE SADNESS’ is ultra-violent, bloody mayhem.

Perhaps more aptly named The Madness, The Sadness is a tongue-in-cheek take on the insanity that the pandemic has reigned upon the globe. Rather than a variant that makes you sicker more quickly, this is a rage variant. The infected want to inflict as much pain as possible. The sexual violence is particularly egregious and repetitive… and that’s the point. If you are easily offended, this is not a film for your eyeballs. The simple premise of two lovers attempting to reunite among the chaos plays like a dream. Unlike similar films, say 28 Weeks, The Sadness is not a zombie movie. The infected are fully cognoscente of their behavior. It’s a psychotic switch that gets flipped, and what ensues is mind-blowing.

Performances are filled with greatness. What might only be a highlighted extra role in any other genre film turn into a slew of memorable ones. It’s that well written and performed. Seeped in genuine incel energy, social commentary, and over-the-top gore and violence create a shocking watch. The amount of movie blood that must have been involved in this production is unfathomable. I’ve watched a lot of horror, (like, a lot a lot) and The Sadness is not fucking around. One hour in, there is a moment so offensive, even I gagged. Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 audiences were treated to one of the most insanely disturbing films in the festival’s 25-year run. If you can watch and hold in your lunch, bravo. Director Rob Jabbaz, much respect to you, sir.



NYFF59 Announces Spotlight section and if you’re not freaking out, you should be.

FILM AT LINCOLN CENTER ANNOUNCES SPOTLIGHT FOR THE
59th NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL

Film at Lincoln Center just announced Spotlight for the 59th New York Film Festival. The Spotlight section is NYFF’s showcase of the season’s most anticipated and significant films. We’re pretty excited to see what’s on the schedule, including a double dose of Timothée Chalamet in DUNE and THE FRENCH DISPATCH. Sean Baker’s newest film RED ROCKET starring Simon Rex will sure to have sparks flying. Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s directorial debut THE LOST DAUGHTER and Mike Mills’ C’MON C’MON. 20th Century Women was my favorite title from NYFF54, so I’m eager to see what story he has for audiences this year.  You can find the entire Spotlight lineup listed below.


“Our Spotlight section is a new part of our reshaped New York Film Festival, a place that this year encompasses a range of cinema, new and old,” said Eugene Hernandez, Director of the New York Film Festival. “Of the new work, we’re showcasing a selection of anticipated films (and talent) from recent festivals (Wes & company! Olivia! Timmy! Jane & Charlotte! Joaquin! and more), while also looking back at our roots, celebrating the history of NYFF and New York City’s film culture by shining a special light on Amos Vogel. We hope that our Spotlight section, in year two, will again engage, enlighten, and entertain!”

Among the highlights are Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated adaptation of Dune; Academy Award–nominated director Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle, a visually extraordinary tale about a shy teenager who becomes an online sensation as a pop star; Mike Mills’s C’mon C’mon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a warmhearted radio journalist; Wes Anderson’s latest, The French Dispatch, showcasing his unmistakable cinematic style with a cast of familiar collaborators; directorial debuts from Charlotte Gainsbourg, profiling her legendary mother Jane Birkin in Jane By Charlotte, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, adapting Elena Ferrante’s novel The Lost Daughter, with a brilliant performance by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman; veteran Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio’s Marx Can Wait, a heart-wrenching examination of the legacy of his twin brother’s suicide, on the occasion of a family reunion in his hometown of Piacenza; and Red Rocket, Sean Baker’s newest depiction of contemporary America as a playground for hustlers and con men, set against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election.

NYFF59 also pays tribute to the centenary of late film programmer and festival co-founder Amos Vogel—who offered the city “films you cannot see elsewhere,” and whose uncompromising dedication to the medium’s radical possibilities inspired NYC film culture as it exists today—with a special Spotlight sidebar. Vogel’s wide-ranging curatorial career spanned his many years running Cinema 16, America’s most influential film society; his foundational work at Lincoln Center; his time at Grove Press; and his classic study Film as a Subversive Art, which will soon be reissued by The Film Desk. FLC’s tribute focuses on the NYFF period, bookended by screenings devoted to his work before and after his involvement with the festival, including films from Glauber Rocha, John Huston, and trailblazers of the Czech New Wave; a program from NYFF5 sidebar The Social Cinema in America, featuring Lebert Bethune’s Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom, Santiago Álvarez’s dispatch from post-revolutionary Cuba, Now, and David Neuman and Ed Pincus’s snapshot of Civil Rights-era Mississippi, Black Natchez; and works from the era’s burgeoning avant-garde scene, such as Tony Conrad’s The Flicker and a world premiere restoration of Robert Frerck’s Nebula II.


FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS

Belle
Mamoru Hosoda, 2021, Japan, 121m
Japanese with English subtitles
In his densely beautiful, eye-popping animated spectacle, Academy Award–nominated director Mamoru Hosoda (Mirai) tells the exhilarating story of a shy teenager who becomes an online sensation as a princess of pop. Still grieving over a childhood tragedy, Suzu has a difficult time singing in public or talking to her crush at school, yet when she takes on the persona of her glittering, pink-haired avatar, Belle, in the parallel virtual universe known as the “U,” her insecurities magically disappear. As her star begins to rise, Belle/Suzu finds herself drawn to another “U” fan favorite—a scary but soulful monster whose “real” identity, like Belle’s, becomes a source of fascination for legions. Both a knowing riff on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and a moving commentary on the duality of contemporary living, Belle is a thrilling journey into the matrix and a deeply human coming-of-age story, packed with unforgettable images and dazzlingly styled characters. A GKIDS release.

C’mon C’mon
Mike Mills, 2021, USA, 108m
After gracing audiences with Beginners and 20th Century Women (NYFF54), writer-director Mike Mills returns with another warm, insightful, and gratifyingly askew portrait of American family life. A soulful Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a kindhearted radio journalist deep into a project in which he interviews children across the U.S. about our world’s uncertain future. His sister, Viv (a marvelously intuitive Gaby Hoffmann), asks him to watch her 9-year-old son, Jesse (Woody Norman, in one of the most affecting breakout child performances in years), while she tends to the child’s father, who’s suffering from mental health issues. After agreeing, Johnny finds himself connecting with his nephew in ways he hadn’t expected, ultimately taking Jesse with him on a journey from Los Angeles to New York to New Orleans. Anchored by three remarkable actors, C’mon C’mon is a gentle yet impeccably crafted drama about coming to terms with personal trauma and historical legacies. An A24 release.

Dune
Denis Villeneuve, 2021, USA, 155m
A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive. Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem lead the all-star ensemble in visionary filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal novel. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.

​​The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson, 2021, USA, 107m
English and French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Wes Anderson’s unmistakable cinematic style proves delightfully suited to periodical format in this missive from the eponymous expatriate journal, published on behalf of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun from the picturesque French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. Brought to press by a corps of idiosyncratic correspondents, the issue includes reports on a criminal artist and his prison guard muse, student revolutionaries, and a memorable dinner with a police commissioner and his personal chef. As brimming with finely tuned texture as a juicy issue of a certain New York–based magazine to which the film pays homage, The French Dispatch features precision work from a full masthead of collaborators (including Bill Murray, Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton,  Benicio del Toro, Frances McDormand, and Jeffrey Wright), each propagating inventive dedication to detail. Anderson’s deadpan whimsy is complemented by the film’s palpable sense of nostalgia. A Searchlight Pictures release.

Jane by Charlotte
Charlotte Gainsbourg, 2021, France, 86m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In creating a documentary portrait of a parent, as actor Charlotte Gainsbourg does in her directorial debut, one could overly flatter the subject or iron out the tough creases. Gainsbourg avoids these traps in her wise and wondrous film about her legendary mother, the singer and actress Jane Birkin. Consisting of several intimate conversations between parent and child, as well as footage of Birkin performing onstage, the result is a spare, loving window into the emotional lives of two women as they talk about subject matter that ranges from the delightful to the difficult: aging, dying, insomnia, celebrity, and their differing memories of their shared past, which includes Charlotte’s father and Jane’s husband, Serge Gainsbourg. Jane by Charlotte is an unexpected, imaginatively visualized work that affords intimate access to someone whom many of us only think we know.

The Lost Daughter
Maggie Gyllenhaal, 2021, USA/Greece, 121m
In her striking feature directorial debut, Maggie Gyllenhaal adapts the 2006 novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante, a potent work of psychological interiority that follows Leda, a divorced professor on a solitary summer vacation who becomes intrigued and then oddly involved in the lives of another family she meets there. Oscar-winner Olivia Colman brilliantly embodies this quietly tempestuous character, finely shading in the enigmatic relationships she creates with strangers. A moving, sometimes unsettling inquiry into motherhood and personal freedom, Gyllenhaal’s adaptation maintains Ferrante’s signature ambiguity and matter-of-fact style, and features an outstanding supporting cast, including Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris, Dakota Johnson, Paul Mescal, Alba Rohrwacher, and Peter Sarsgaard. A Netflix release.

Marx Can Wait
Marco Bellocchio, 2021, Italy, 95m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In his most achingly personal film to date, legendary Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio—an NYFF mainstay from the very beginning, from Fists in the Pocket (NYFF3) to The Traitor (NYFF57)—uses the occasion of a family reunion in his hometown of Piacenza to excavate and discuss a traumatic event: the death his twin brother Camillo, who committed suicide in the late ’60s at age 29. Through detailed conversations with his siblings, archival footage providing context about 20th-century Italian leftist politics, and occasional clips from his films, many of which were in some way imbued with this defining family tragedy, Bellocchio conducts a personal and historical exorcism. Reckoning with the push-pull the director has long felt between the twin poles of family and politics, Marx Can Wait is an attempt at reconciliation and understanding from a filmmaker in his eighties whose work has never shied away from the challenging or the provocative.

Red Rocket
Sean Baker, 2021, USA, 128m
Adding to his gallery of jet-fueled portraits of economic hardship within marginalized pockets of the U.S., director Sean Baker (The Florida Project, NYFF55) trains his restless camera on an unforgettable protagonist. Mikey, a wildly narcissistic former porn star fallen on hard times, has returned from L.A. to his depressed, postindustrial hometown of Texas City, reconnecting with his skeptical, drug-dependent estranged wife and mother-in-law, and using his wily charms to ingratiate himself into a community of people he couldn’t care less about. As played by a brilliantly cast Simon Rex (a star MTV VJ in the ’90s), Mikey is a charismatic force of nature—and destruction—who exploits the innocence and goodwill of everyone around him. Pointedly set against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election, Red Rocket is an aptly steamed-up depiction of contemporary America as a playground for hustlers and con men. An A24 release.

The Souvenir
Joanna Hogg, 2019, UK/USA, 119m
The follow-up to her 2013 feature Exhibition finds Joanna Hogg mining her own autobiography to craft a portrait of the artist as a young woman in early 1980s London. Caught between her dreams of becoming a filmmaker and her commitment to a toxic romance, 24-year-old Julie (an excellent Honor Swinton Byrne) comes home each night from film school to the Knightsbridge apartment owned by her mother (Tilda Swinton) only to discover some new, unpleasant surprise proffered by her boyfriend, Anthony (Tom Burke), a dandyish junkie whose sophisticated aura masks an abyss of selfishness and desperation. An eminently refined and moving bildungsroman about the ties that inexplicably bind, The Souvenir—as its title suggests—is also an absorbing evocation of a time, place, and national mood. An A24 release.  The Souvenir Part II is an NYFF59 Main Slate selection.


AMOS VOGEL CENTENARY RESTROSPECTIVE

Program 1, 113m
Cinema 16
At a time when moviegoing in New York was dominated by Hollywood offerings, Amos Vogel, a young Austrian émigré, and his wife Marcia saw the need for a new kind of venue. In the fall of 1947, they founded Cinema 16, inspired by European film societies as well as the daily screenings at the Museum of Modern Art, the shows Maya Deren organized of her own work at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village, and Frank Stauffacher’s Art in Cinema series in San Francisco. The organization, named after the gauge of the independent filmmaker, would become the most important film society of its era. Unlike a typical movie theater, Cinema 16 was based on a subscription model, with members paying a fee for a season of programs—an approach that allowed for financial stability, and a means by which to thwart the local censorship board. By the 1950s, 7,000 adventurous cinephiles had joined.

It was through Vogel that many of the period’s most vital auteurs were introduced to New York audiences. As historian Scott MacDonald has noted, Cinema 16 “was one of the first, if not the first, American exhibitor to present the work of Robert Breer, John Cassavetes, Shirley Clarke, Bruce Conner, Joseph Cornell, Brian DePalma, Georges Franju, Robert Gardner, John Hubley, Alexander Kluge, Jan Lenica, Richard Lester, Norman McLaren, Jonas Mekas, Nagisa Oshima, Yasujiro Ozu, Sidney Peterson, Roman Polanski, Alain Resnais, Tony Richardson, Jacques Rivette, Lionel Rogosin, Carlos Saura, Arne Sucksdorff, François Truffaut, Stan Vanderbeek, Melvin Van Peebles, Agnes Varda, and Peter Weiss.”

The significance of Cinema 16, however, lies not simply in what was shown, but how. Vogel would routinely bring together strikingly different works—pairing, for instance, an abstract animation with a science film, allowing both to be understood, contrapuntally, in a new light. For this screening, we’ve recreated the May 1950 program, with Vogel’s original notes.

The Lead Shoes
Sidney Peterson, 1949, USA, 16mm, 18m
A surrealist exploration of two ballads, “Edward” and “The Three Ravens,” scrambled in jam session style and interwoven with a boogie-woogie score. Produced by Workshop 20 at California Institute of Fine Arts.

Unconscious Motivation
Lester F. Beck, USA, 1949, 16mm, 40m
Produced by Dr. Lester F. Beck of the University of Oregon, this astonishing 40-minute motion picture is an unrehearsed, authentic clinical record, showing the inducement of an artificial neurosis by hypnotic suggestion in a young man and a young woman. Upon reawakening, the subjects, by means of dream analysis, ink blot and word association tests, gradually realize first the existence of a traumatic experience and then its content by slowly reconstructing the bogus events which caused it. Their reactions, discussion and self-analysis were spontaneous, unrehearsed and unpredictable: the result is a most unusual motion picture. Print courtesy of Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive.

The Battle of San Pietro
John Huston, USA, 1945, 35mm, 38m
A master of the cinema, John Huston (Treasure of the Sierra Madre) portrays the horror of battle and the cruelty of its aftermath in unforgettable images that make this one of the great anti-war films of all time. Print preserved by the Academy Film Archive.

The Work of Oskar Fischinger
Study No. 11, Germany, 1932, 16mm, 4m
Allegretto, USA, 1936-43, 35mm, 2.5m
Motion Painting No. 1, USA, 1947, 35mm, 11m
The father of the “absolute film” and internationally famous film experimentalist is here represented by three films: Absolute Film Study No. 11 is an abstraction set to Mozart’s “Divertissement;” Allegretto, a non-objective color film accompanied by jazz; Motion Painting No. 1—hand-painted in oil on glass—won the Grand Prix 1949 at the International Experimental Film Festival in Belgium. [NB: “Absolute Film” was not part of Fischinger’s title for this film, and its accompaniment is Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” not “Divertissement.”] All Fischinger prints courtesy of Center for Visual Music, Allegretto preserved by CVM.

The New York Film Festival, 1963-1968
Cinema 16 came to a close in 1963. That same year Vogel co-founded the New York Film Festival with Richard Roud, and, as the head of Lincoln Center’s film department, laid the groundwork for the FLC of today. For our tribute, we’ll be highlighting a number of works that were presented during Vogel’s tenure at the festival, each of which reflects, in different ways, his long-standing preoccupations as a programmer.

Program 2
Barravento
Glauber Rocha, 1962, Brazil, 16mm, 78m
Portuguese with English subtitles
The first edition of NYFF included in its main slate Barravento, a seminal work of Cinema Novo and the debut feature of Glauber Rocha, whose work Vogel would champion for decades thereafter. The film—shot on location in sensuous black and white, and deeply attuned to the rhythms of collective labor and religious ritual—centers upon a Bahian fishing village. The community finds itself caught in the net of capitalist exploitation and likewise bound by mystical belief, a situation that one man, returning to his hometown after years spent in the city, seeks to change. Though Rocha’s visual style would continue evolving with later works like Antonio das Mortes, his insurrectionary imperatives, aesthetic as well as political, were already evident in Barravento. “The Tricontinental cinema,” he would famously declare, “must infiltrate the conventional cinema and blow it up.” Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Program 3
Pearls of the Deep / Perličky na dně
Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm, Věra Chytilová, and Jaromil Jireš, Czechoslovakia, 1965, 107m
Czech with English subtitles
Among Vogel’s many contributions to film culture in America, especially notable is the platform he gave to work coming out of Eastern Europe during the 1960s and ’70s, a particularly rich moment for filmmaking in the region. Emblematic of this era is the omnibus Pearls of the Deep, which played at the New York Film Festival in 1966. Each of its five sections, from the wonderfully morbid opening chapter, set against the backdrop of a motorcycle race, to its closer, a tender study of young love, is directed by a different filmmaker and based on a short story by Bohumil Hrabal; the work as a whole, with its forays into the absurd, is now regarded as a kind of manifesto for the Czech New Wave. “This astonishing, tightly knit group of young filmmakers represented the values of the first post-Stalinist generation,” Vogel would go on to remark. “It was striking to note how similar their views were to those of the West’s rebellious youth, which, from a different starting point, had also become engaged in a search, without illusions, for possible ideals and provisional truths. It seemed that the world was perversely backing into an enforced brotherhood, which would universalize such problems as individual freedom in a bureaucratic society, estrangement between generations, the failure of dogmatic ideologies, and eternal confrontations of imperfect innocence as against the corruption of so-called maturity.”

Program 4, 105m
The New American Cinema, 1966
The Fourth New York Film Festival featured a sampling of the New American Cinema, bringing the underground uptown. Two of the works screened that year, Tony Conrad’s The Flicker and Peter Emmanuel Goldman’s Echoes of Silence, reflect the range of avant-garde activity flourishing at the time: the former, a landmark of structural filmmaking, reduces the cinema to its most fundamental elements, while the latter suggested alternative paths for the narrative feature.

The Flicker
Tony Conrad, 1966, USA, 16mm, 30m
“This film contains no images at all,” wrote Vogel of The Flicker. “Its subject is light and its absence. It consists of combinations of alternating white and black frames, flashing by in constantly changing patterns and causing a continuous stroboscopic flicker effect of great complexity. Whether its frequency is momentarily static or changeable (it ranges from 24 flashes down to 4 flashes per second throughout its 30 minute duration), the effect is literally hypnotic. This concerted ‘overload’ of the retina and nervous system provokes an endless variety of changing shapes, patterns and, most surprisingly, colors, whose nature differs with each viewer (even varying from performance to performance). The electronic soundtrack was generated by relays and components carrying different types of information; the various frequencies are orchestrated by the director. This ‘pure’ film deals with perception itself; its hallucinatory effect—despite absence of image, content, or meaning—reveals an unsuspected congruity with deep emotional needs.” Please note: This film may affect viewers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy and other photosensitivities.

Echoes of Silence
Peter Emmanuel Goldman, 1965, USA, 16mm, 75m
Echoes of Silence, by contrast, chronicles the lives of twentysomethings adrift in New York City, locating tremendous feeling in the smallest moments: a furtive glance across a museum gallery, women putting on makeup, a stroll beneath the gleaming lights of Times Square marquees. Unencumbered by diegetic sound, its shadowy images of youthful flaneurs are paired with evocatively hand-painted title cards and a dynamic soundtrack drawn from the artist’s LPs that, when combined, produce an unforgettable ballad of sexual dependency. Though little remembered today, Goldman was hailed by Vogel (along with Godard, Mekas, and Sontag) as a major new talent.

Program 5, 92m
The Social Cinema in America, 1967
The Fifth New York Film Festival featured a sidebar on “The Social Cinema in America,” which surveyed the new directions of documentary filmmaking, with an emphasis on cinema verité and the possibilities opened up by more portable recording equipment (the program introduced New York audiences to now-classic works like Peter Adair’s Holy Ghost People, Allan King’s Warrendale, and Frederick Wiseman’s Titticut Follies). One screening, reprised here, brought together Lebert Bethune’s Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom, Santiago Álvarez’s Now, and David Neuman and Ed Pincus’s Black Natchez.

Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom
Lebert Bethune, 1964, France, 22m
Bethune, a Jamaican filmmaker who had become a notable figure within Paris’s Black expatriate milieu, created a remarkable portrait of a political icon, and his film features some of the very last interviews with Malcolm X, recorded during his travels in Europe and Africa mere months prior to his assassination.

Now
Santiago Álvarez, 1965, Cuba, 35mm, 6m
A brief but incendiary dispatch from postrevolutionary Cuba, Now blasts forth as a machine-gun montage of violent imagery from the American civil rights era while Lena Horne provides a soaring soundtrack with her titular protest anthem, sung to the tune of “Hava Nagila.”

Black Natchez
David Neuman and Ed Pincus, 1967, USA, 64m
In Black Natchez, we encounter the struggle for freedom again, though articulated in a different form. “The advent of portable sync-sound equipment in the early ’60s meant, for the first time in the sound era, that filmmakers could go to the subject as opposed to bringing the subject to the camera,” Pincus would later explain. “The ability to take a camera out into the world created the desire to ‘get it right,’ to film the world independent of the act of filmmaking. In the U.S., all sorts of rules were being created in documentary film—no script, no narration, no interviews, no lighting, no mic boom, no collusion between subject and filmmaker.

In 1965, the second year of intense voter registration drives in Mississippi, we decided to make a film in the southwest corner of the state. Little civil rights work had been done there because of the danger in the region. Our approach was to seek out several story lines and then continue with the most interesting. A car bombing of a civil rights leader while we were there changed everything. The event emphasized the rifts in the Black community around the demands for equality. Rifts between teenagers and women on one hand and the Black business community on the other. Rifts between Black males forming armed protection groups and the call for nonviolence by the major civil rights groups. And rifts between grassroots organizations and more traditional leadership organizations such as the FDP (Freedom Democratic Party) and the NAACP.”

New digitization courtesy of Ed Pincus Film Collection, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana. Digitization was supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Program 6, 69m
Personal Cinema, 1968
1968 marked Vogel’s final year of overseeing the NYFF, and, as with the festival’s previous iterations, many remarkable (and even today underappreciated) works were selected. One program in particular from that edition stands out. Dubbed “Personal Cinema,” it included several key examples of how the medium was being democratized, with the camera made accessible to those who had previously enjoyed limited or no access to the tools of production. In The Jungle, members of North Philadelphia’s 12th & Oxford Street gang dramatize the internal workings of their group, and, in so doing, put forward a vivid, unvarnished image of urban life in America, while Jaime Barrios’s Film Club showcases the activities of a storefront workshop that allowed Puerto Rican teenagers living on the Lower East Side to make their own movies. In The Spirit of the Navajo, Mary J. and Maxine Tsosie likewise drew from their own community, here focusing on their grandfather, a well-known medicine man, as a way to document the traditions of their tribe in their own style, on their own terms.

The Jungle
12th and Oxford Street Film Makers, 1967, USA, 35mm, 22m
35mm preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Film Club
Jaime Barrios, 1968, USA, 16mm, 26m

The Spirit of the Navajo
Maxine Tsosie and Mary J. Tsosie, 1966, USA, 16mm, 21m
Print courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art.

Program 7, 90m
Film as a Subversive Art
Long a source of inspiration for film programmers, Film as a Subversive Art is a guidebook to cinema’s outer limits, replete with tantalizing descriptions of some of the most radical movies ever made. First published in 1974, this lavishly illustrated volume can be seen as a culmination of Vogel’s work over the previous decades, chronicling as it does the taboo-busting potential of cinema, at the level of form as well as content. For this program, we foreground one of the book’s most iconic titles, WR: Mysteries of the Organism (a still featuring its star, Milena Dravić, with clenched fist raised, graces Vogel’s cover), alongside an altogether different piece: Nebula II, one of its most obscure entries. The precise abstraction of the latter stands in contradistinction to the messy fantasies, sexual and political, of the former, yet they emerge from a similar moment—and, in true Vogelian style, complement one another, suggesting unexpected affinities. His notes on the films are below.

WR: Mysteries of the Organism
Dušan Makavejev, 1971, Yugoslavia/West Germany, 35mm, 85m
English, German, Russian, and Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles
Banned in Yugoslavia, hailed at international film festivals, this is unquestionably one of the most important subversive masterpieces of the 1970s: a hilarious, highly erotic political comedy which quite seriously proposes sex as the ideological imperative for revolution and advances a plea for Erotic Socialism. Only the revolutionary Cubist Makavejev—clearly one of the most significant new directors now working in world cinema—could have pulled together this hallucinatory melange of Wilhelm Reich; excerpts from a monstrous Soviet film, The Vow (1946), starring Stalin; a transvestite of the Warhol factory; A.S. Neill of Summerhill; several beautiful young Yugoslavs fucking merrily throughout; the editor of America’s sex magazine Screw having his most important private part lovingly plaster-cast in erection; not to speak of a Soviet figure-skating champion, Honored Artist of the People (named Vladimir Ilyich!), who cuts off his girlfriend’s head with one of his skates after a particularly bountiful ejaculation, to save his Communist virginity from Revisionist Yugoslav Contamination. It is an outrageous, exuberant, marvelous work of a new breed of international revolutionary, strangely spawned by cross-fertilization between the original radical ideologies of the East, Consciousness III in America, and the sexual-politics radicalism of the early Wilhelm Reich, who equated sexual with political liberation and denied the possibility of one without the other…

Preceded by:
Nebula II
Robert Frerck, 1971, USA, 16mm, 5m
World premiere of restoration
After Jordan Belson, one might have thought no further mandala films could be fruitfully made; Nebula II quickly dispels this notion. As the ever-changing circular patterns become more complex and change in increasingly rapid fashion, the incessant bombardment of our senses with flicker effects, visual transmogrifications, pulsating color, and enforced forward movement via zoom, finally set up a sensory overload both hypnotic and overpowering in its beauty and mystical revelation. Print restored by Anthology Film Archives with support from Cinema Conservancy.


The NYFF59 Spotlight retrospective will be followed by tributes at repertory cinemas across New York City—Anthology Film Archives, Film Forum, Light Industry, Metrograph, MoMA, and the Museum of the Moving Image—in an unprecedented collaboration.

The Spotlight section is programmed by Eugene Hernandez and Dennis Lim. NYFF’s Amos Vogel centenary celebration is organized by Thomas Beard, Dennis Lim, and Tyler Wilson.

NYFF59 will feature in-person screenings, as well as select outdoor and virtual events. In response to distributor and filmmaker partners and in light of festivals returning and theaters reopening across the country, NYFF will not offer virtual screenings for this year’s edition.

Proof of vaccination will be required for all staff, audiences, and filmmakers at NYFF59 venues. Additionally, NYFF59 will adhere to a comprehensive series of health and safety policies in coordination with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and state and city medical experts, while adapting as necessary to the current health crisis. Visit filmlinc.org for more information.

Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema and takes place September 24 – October 10, 2021. An annual bellwether of the state of cinema that has shaped film culture since 1963, the festival continues an enduring tradition of introducing audiences to bold and remarkable works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent.

Festival Passes are now on sale through this Sunday, August 22 only. NYFF59 tickets will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, September 7 at noon ET, with early-access opportunities for FLC members and pass holders prior to this date. Learn more here. Support of the New York Film Festival benefits Film at Lincoln Center in its nonprofit mission to promote the art and craft of cinema


Bentonville Film Festival 21 review: ‘The Novice’ pushes past obsession.

THE NOVICE

An obsessive novice rower climbs the ranks of her college’s rowing team.


For me, Isabelle Fuhrman is someone synonymous with a certain horror franchise. Seeing her in a solely dramatic role in The Novice was a new and glorious territory. Determined to be the best novice rower there’s ever been, Alex does everything to excess. Goal-oriented isn’t a strong enough word for this character. The film challenges self-worth, ideals, and pressure to succeed. The complexities hiding inside The Novice will astound you.

Quick take editing alongside exaggerated and repetitive audio gives the film urgency, all while a string-heavy score plays underneath. The culmination of all these elements lands The Novice somewhere between tense and inspiring. Then there is Furhman’s performance. Her obsessive behavior pushes The Novice past genre definitions. Furhman brings a ferocious passion to the role. Writer-director Lauren Hadaway‘s script is ultimately not about rowing. It is about mental health. It keenly delves into privilege, relationship dynamics, competition, and self-harm. The energy of this film is extraordinary. Bentonville Film Festival audiences will be hypnotized by its greatness. It is a must-see.


About Bentonville

BFFoundation is a non-profit organization focused on promoting underrepresented voices of diverse storytellers. We champion female, non-binary, LGBTQIA+, black, indigenous, people of color, and people with disabilities’ voices in entertainment and media. We do this through research, education, and supporting the production and distribution of inclusive content.

The foundation believes that by taking real action with content creators, talent, influencers, advertisers, and content distributors, we can accurately reflect the gender balance and diversity of our country. Our goal is to create a seismic change in how media inspires young minds to do great things.

Our primary research partner is the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Together, we seek to support research that proves these systemic changes are not only the right thing to do—they are also commercially beneficial. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has also clearly shown that the media children consume has an overwhelming influence in shaping their view of the world and their place in it.

The foundation also partners with schools and community institutions, working with children to educate on the challenging effects of stereotyping, unconscious bias, and gender imbalance. We also utilize media-based tools and content to build positive association and equality-based learning models.

BFFoundation is focused on working with its partners to foster inclusivity in media and entertainment to produce a positive influence in the community at large.


SUPPORT

BFFoundation is an organization that provides year-round support for filmmakers who live the mission of highlighting underrepresented voices in media. If you are interested in getting involved with our foundation, please reach out to us at info@bentonvillefilmfestival.com.


Review: ‘Life & Life’ is a thoroughly thought-provoking doc.

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: