Sundance (2022) review: ‘Meet Me In The Bathroom’ is a story of fame, friendship, and influence.

MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM

An immersive journey through the New York music scene of the early 2000s. A new generation kick-started a musical rebirth for New York City that reverberated around the world.


I was a Freshman in college in NYC when The Strokes, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Interpol, and The Moldy Peaches were making a name for themselves. They came about in the city pre-9/11 and the ensuing global turbulence in the following years. New York’s energy back then was a revitalized monster that has not let up since. Music and art would serve as our escape and savior and influence us forever. Based on Lizzy Goodman‘s book, directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern Sundance 2022 doc, Meet Me In The Bathroom, perfectly encompasses that rebirth. 

Meet Me In The Bathroom talks about the push and pull between art and fame. The relatable anxiety of Julian Casablancas makes the film all the more charming. The Strokes, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Interpol, and The Moldy Peaches‘ nonchalance and earnest wonder at their lives will enchant you. The fame facade was just that; these artists were far more interested in music than money. It speaks to the plight of the artist in general. The darker reasons we make art. It’s a deflection and/or coping mechanism. 

9/11 is still visceral for those that were here on that day. Any footage still brings cold sweats and chills from head to toe. There’s a video of these musicians walking in the ash-covered streets. The aftermath of sadness in the days and nights that followed, how we coped was through art and creation. I was a musical theatre major at the time, which means I really wanted to be a rockstar. At the time, Karen O explains, performance was our only outlet. We were not quite kids, not quite adults. Any Gen X New Yorker still has that fire 20 years later.

The editing is a whirlwind of wonderful. Their personal footage and raw confessions make Meet Me In The Bathroom a pretty riveting watch. Their bold honesty keeps you glued to your seat. (Almost) ending with one long uncut take of Karen O in “Maps” is goddam magic. It’s a real stand-out from Sundance 2022 because it just plain rocks. 


To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!


Sundance (2022) review: ‘GOD’S COUNTRY’ is far beyond a feminist reclamation of power. It’s a “Hell Yes” of a film.

GOD’S COUNTRY

Based on the short story “Winter Light” by James Lee Burke, Sundance 2022 feature GOD’S COUNTRY is here to rock you to your core. Sandra Guidry is a local professor mourning the loss of her mother. She now resides alone, surrounded by memories of her past and the miles of wilderness that make up her canyon property. When she arrives home to find a red truck parked in her yard, it is accosting, at the very least. When it reappears the following day, Sandra confronts the passengers. After polite requests to desist, matters escalate, and a battle of wills begins. 

Ingenuity, culture, and passion all have you cheering out loud for Sandra. The script smartly comments on race in America. Sandra’s quiet “don’t fuck with me” attitude makes God’s Country as successful as it is. It also tackles commonality in a carefully curated way, allowing us to take breaths amongst the deep-seated hatred and ignorance. But, don’t for a second get comfortable. God’s Country is ultimately about power. 

Thandiwe Newton is spectacular. She’s fearless, vulnerable, and captivating. Sandra’s backstory adds another level of insight for the audience. Newton masterfully uses every device in her toolbox. There is a relentless simmering of anxiety that keeps you unsettled. The repetition of the rising water visual takes on an entirely new meaning as the plot progresses. 

Shaye Ogbonna and director Julian Highins’ screenplay shifts the power dynamic. It’s a reclamation of sorts, a rise above trauma, work through of grief, and obliteration of toxic masculinity. The final shot will stop your heart. God’s Country demands your attention with its complexities. It’s a tremendous highlight of Sundance 2022.


To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!


Sundance (2022) review: ‘Brian and Charles’ is a hilarious and heartwarming buddy comedy.

BRIAN AND CHARLES

After a particularly harsh winter Brian goes into a deep depression; completely isolated and with no one to talk to, Brian does what any sane person would do when faced with such a melancholic situation. He builds a robot.


Brian is an eccentric inventor of creative, if not completely useless, things. After accidentally inventing a robot, he experiences the gambit emotions, the likes of which both he and the audience are not prepared for.

You have to wonder how much of the dialogue is improvised based upon David Earl‘s genius timing and rhythm. You will fall in love with this character. Earl creates a man that’s loveable, kind, and hilarious. You laugh out loud at moments that perhaps should not be funny. Ultimately, it’s Brian’s earnest care and wonder for Charles that hits you in the heart.

Chris Hayward as Charles is absolutely darling. As he is a newly created being, he possesses the whole of knowledge and yet has the social-emotional intelligence of a toddler. His unpredictable nature makes the chemistry with Earl pure magic.

 The awkward juxtaposition of Charles’ massively disproportionate body with Brian makes for quite the visual gag at any given moment. Bravo to Earl and Hayward for this one-of-a-kind screenplay. The mockumentary structure adds an extra element of levity. If you’re not grinning from ear to ear, I suggest you get your head checked. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be one of the biggest hits out of Sundance 2022. Brian and Charles is bursting with charm.


To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!


Sundance (2022) review: Rachel Lear’s ‘To The End’ is a doc where planet, politics, and progressive climate action collide.

TO THE END

Stopping the climate crisis is a question of political courage, and the clock is ticking. Over three years of turbulence and crisis, four young women fight for a Green New Deal, and ignite a historic shift in U.S. climate politics.


To The End shines a light on the young activist movement that must succeed for us to survive, quite literally. This film took what was essentially a talking point to the vast majority of the country and finally gave it faces and ideas that mean something. The documentary spans a timeframe from the 2018 election cycle, the beginning of COVID, Black Lives Matter marches, to the 2020 election, the Code Red report, and most recently, the Build Back Better legislation. It clearly illustrates the inadequacies in our government and their direct connection to climate. It’s an inescapable reality for the audience. 

Heavily featured are the Sunrise Movement and their behind-the-scenes grassroots machine. They are the future of the climate movement. We know who Greta Thunberg is. We can conjure her image instantly. To The End introduces us to new faces. Varshini Prakash, Alexandra Rojas, and Rhiana Gunn-Wright should be added to our visual catalog. Another strong female household name that is also a large part of the climate narrative and the film is Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I must admit, I was incredibly impressed by AOC and her resolute stance. Living in Manhattan, I’ve watched her rise to prominence through the lens of the media. To The End was the first time I got to see her unfiltered. You will not walk away from this film without newfound respect. 

The balance between performative politics and passionate change is a thin line. The open disdain for President Biden feels unproductive. It’s comparative to 2016 with Hillary Vs. Bernie Bros. Quite frankly, it’s borderline dangerous. Perhaps, this perspective has everything to do with my age and political exposure. I’ve worked on campaigns. I know how the legislative process works and how it doesn’t. Do I wish President Biden would use the power of the Executive Order more? Absolutely. I share the frustration and understand the urgency. I am terrified as I witness the destruction of the Earth at such a rapid pace. I do not want my young children to grow up and think that I say idly by as my parents’ generation has done for long enough. That is where the importance of To The End becomes crystal clear. There is a way forward through action and persistence, and the film is a successful blueprint on the real steps towards tangible progress. This passionate, up-and-coming generation of activists believes they can move the dial. I sure hope they do, for everyone’s sake. 


For more information on Sundance 2022 click here!


Sundance (2022) Midnight review: ‘SPEAK NO EVIL’ annihilates the notion of a gracious host.

SPEAK NO EVIL

A Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on a holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend slowly starts unraveling as the Danes try to stay polite in the face of unpleasantness.


After meeting on an Italian holiday, two young families spend a weekend together in the Dutch countryside. Cultural misunderstanding and language barriers aren’t the only things creating tension, as guests become increasingly uncomfortable with their host family. 

The ominous score puts your frame of mind into peril immediately. Performances across the board will have you hanging on every word. The sly dialogue combined with increasingly cringe-worthy behavior keeps your skin crawling and your pulse elevated every second of the film. You are humming with anticipation of something terrible. Speak No Evil is the epitome of psychological horror. 

These people are not unfamiliar; the manipulation, the overly opinionated, the inappropriate, and overtly abusive. Boundaries are crossed and outright obliterated. As if that weren’t enough, the ultimate reveal of this odd couple will absolutely terrify you. Speak No Evil’s final third had me digging my nails into my palms so hard they almost drew blood. If that is not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.



To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!


Unseen Films Sundance (2022) review: ‘FIRE OF LOVE’

FIRE OF LOVE


This is the story of volcanologists  Katia and Maurice Krafft who met and fell in love with each other and the earth’s firey mountains.

Made up mostly of the words and images of the Kraffts the film is many things. It is one of the most visually stunning films of the last few years. It is a history of volcanology over the life of the Krafft’s. It is one of the grandest love stories of our times. And the film is a philosophical examination of life and man’s place in the world. I was moved to tears.

What I love about the film is that the film doesn’t try to tell us everything, and in so doing does. Nominally it is about these two people, but the telling makes it into a myth. Not in the untrue sort of way, but the myth that gets at the hidden truth of human existence. It’s exactly the sort of thing that Werner Herzog strives for in his films where he will bend things toward the fantastic to give us a great truth. I don’t think anything was bent, I just think the shaping was a bit more mythic than the reality. And this is fine because it puts the love story on the level of the massive and overpowering volcanos

I can’t say this enough, the film moved me to tears.

A must-see, this is one of Sundances and 2022’s truly great films


To read all of Steve’s coverage of Sundance 2022, be sure to head over to Unseen Films!

To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!


Sundance (2022) review: ‘WATCHER’ is a slow-burn story of gaslighting and daily dread.

WATCHER

Julia joins her husband when he relocates to his family’s native Romania for a new job. Having recently abandoned her acting career, she finds herself frequently alone and unoccupied.


Maika Monroe has solidified herself as a genre darling. If you somehow missed her It Follows or Villains, she’s a captivating performer. In Watcher writer-director, Chloe Okuno introduces us to a young couple’s international move to Bucharest takes a terrifying turn. A string of local murders haunts Julia as she spends her days alone and becomes aware of a neighbor staring at her from his apartment each night. Watcher takes you on a journey of cultural clash, instinct, and terror.

The film echoes the ingrained fear that women endure daily. We constantly live in a heightened state of awareness and anxiety that is exhausting. But it’s not only that aspect; it’s the gaslighting that might be more impactful than anything else and, its ensuing isolation can feel all-consuming. Monroe is in almost every frame. Her mindset will be all too familiar for the female audience. The sense that someone is a bit too close, looking at you a moment too long, and in many cases, we are helpless. What Monroe brings bravery to Julia that allows the viewer to be cautiously optimistic about her safety. Okuno and Zach Ford‘s script gives her a sense of action while maintaining fragility. It’s the moments of courage that we get to root for while simultaneously biting our nails. It’s a beautiful balance. Benjamin Kirk Nielsen‘s cinematography combined with Okuno’s blocking also put the viewer in Julia’s state of peril. Accompanied by a string-heavy score is everything we need it to be. The emotional manipulation in this film is sheer brilliance. While it’s not necessarily a new storyline, it is the bold approach that sets it apart. Watcher will have you maniacally screaming at the screen in terror and frustration. Sundance audiences are in for a ride.


To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!


Unseen Films reviews: Sundance (2022) feature ‘Leonor Will Never Die’

LEONOR WILL NEVER DIE

Leonor is an older woman who can’t pay her bills. Her plan to sell an old script to a movie producer goes awry when she is clonked on the head by a TV and put into a coma. As her family deals with her medical issues she is living her script for real. It a one of a kind movie that mashes together genres into a film that is unlike any other, If you want a film that isn’t Hollywood but is entertaining look no further. This is one crazy film that mixes drama-comedy and 1980s action films into a story that grabs you and pulls you along.

I don’t know how to discuss this film. Then again I don’t know if I should. The film is just starting out on its journey to get to your screen and I don’t want to take the specialness of it away by telling you everything. I say this because I’m pretty certain this is going to hit a number of festivals in the coming months.

I will say that some of this doesn’t work. I was a bit lost at times, on the other hand, the film is so good that the bumps don’t matter.

Recommended, especially if you like off Hollywood one-of-a-kind gems.


To read all of Steve’s coverage of Sundance 2022, head over to Unseen Films!


Sundance 2022 short film review: ‘Long Line of Ladies’ is an intimate look into celebrating tradition and womanhood.

Long Line of Ladies

A girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once-dormant coming of age ceremony of the Karuk tribe of Northern California.


A journey of tradition and self-discovery, Long Line of Ladies is a Sundance 2022 short film that allows us to peek behind the curtain of a once lost ceremony in the Karuk tribe.

The openness of the Karuk culture and the lack of toxic masculinity are so refreshing to witness. The entire community comes together to support each young lady as an individual. They are gentle and ceaselessly encouraging. The deep connection to traditions and nature is mirrored in the ceremony. After fasting, a young lady is blindfolded on a journey through the woods for 4 days, then emerges to perform a dance. The meaning and emotion behind it made my heart swell. It symbolizes her journey into womanhood so perfectly. This intimate portrait of cultural tradition will live with me for a long time. As a mother of a little girl that will soon be five, Long Line of Ladies inspires me to seek out a way to honor what has mostly been deemed an embarrassing or awkward transition. It makes me want to do better for the next generation. 

Long Line of Ladies – Teaser from Rayka Zehtabchi on Vimeo.


Directed by:
Rayka Zehtabchi & Shaandiin Tome

Produced by:
Garrett Schiff, Pimm Tripp-Allen, Rayka Zehtabchi, Sam Davis and Dana Kurth

Run Time: 
22 minutes


ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS: 

Rayka Zehtabchi 
is an Academy Award-winning director and producer working in both documentary and fiction. In 2019, Rayka became the first Iranian woman to win an Oscar for her film “Period. End of Sentence.,” which can be seen on Netflix worldwide. In all her projects, she brings a naturalistic approach to her storytelling, striving for honesty and intimacy on screen.

Shaandiin Tome is a recognized writer, director, and cinematographer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her award-winning break-out short film Mud (Hashtł’ishnii) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018. She aims to bring resonating imagery in a blend of convergence with story, illustrating her perspective as a Diné woman.



Online Screening
Thursday, January 20 @ 8:00 AM PST to Sunday, January 30 @ 10:59PM PST


To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!


 

Unseen Films reviews: Sundance (2022) Midnight feature ‘FRESH’

Fresh

(Spoilers Ahead)


I have to do this review in two pieces. The first is going to be a no-spoiler review and the second will have more details for those who don’t care about spoilers 

Part 1- No Spoilers

FRESH is the story of Noa, a young lady who is unlucky at love. She bemoans the fact to her friend that she can’t meet anyone nice online. She then meets Steve, a charming doctor in the supermarket. sparks fly and they are soon heading off to a quiet weekend getaway, where Steve reveals his appetites.

Without giving anything away this is a not bad little thriller that suffers from our having been here before and a pace that stretches things to almost two hours.

Part 2- Spoiler filled discussion

FRESH is a really well-made film with great performances, I just wish that the script and the pacing were up to everything else.

No, wait I wish going in the promotional material didn’t use the term “appetites” since it pretty much tells you someone is getting eaten. I suspect that the copywriter thought they were being clever, but the fact is it’s not, and coupled with the film’s love of food you know how this might go.

The real problem here is that after a leisurely first 35 minutes during which things are set up and we aren’t quite sure where this is going to go, the film turns and suddenly we’re in the “heroine is chained in a room genre” that has been done so many times that we can largely figure it out where it’s going. I mean the filmmakers gave Noa a plucky friend who wasn’t certin the trip was a good idea, so you know help is on the way. I felt no suspense while watching the film, other than curiosity about what condition the other trapped girl was going to be in.

It doesn’t help that the film runs almost two hours for no really good reason other than to have some sequences play out to 80’s songs in a “clever” way.  Despite what the film thinks it is not reinventing the wheel, and while entertaining it never really does anything to stand out from an overcrowded subgenre.

While I freely admit the fact that I see way too many films, especially horror/thrillers, every year influenced my feelings for the film, I can’t imagine anyone other than a non-horror film fan being over the moon about this film. (Additionally I also freely admit that the fact I had seen 30 Sundance films before I got to this did influence my feelings)

Then again the cast is so good that I could be wrong.

Ultimately worth a look for the curious.


Fresh will stream exclusively on Hulu starting on March 4.


To read all of Steve’s coverage of Sundance 2022, be sure to head over to Unseen Films!

To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!


Review: ‘Salt In My Soul’ is inspiration through posthumous eloquence.

SALT IN MY SOUL

Based on the bestselling posthumously published memoir of the same name, SALT IN MY SOUL is a documentary and classic coming of age story about a young woman figuring out how to live while dying. Mallory Smith was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of three. In her twenty-five-year battle with the deadly disease, she carved out a life that most of us don’t come close to. Using Mallory’s posthumously published 2500-page secret diaries, hundreds of hours of newly discovered footage, and audio recordings, the film offers Mallory as the narrator of her own extraordinary chronicle.

 


Mallory Smith‘s physically and emotionally fraught journey is equal parts heartbreaking and extraordinary. How does a person come to terms with death a such a young age? That’s the ultimate question as we delve into the mind of Mallory in her own intimate, raw, and eloquent reflections. Mallory’s parents, Diane and Mark, her brother Micah, friends, and doctors tell stories in sit-down interviews. A mix of photographs, home movies, cellphone videos, online and handwritten journals tell Mallory’s story and of those around her. Diane and Mark tasked themselves with different end goals. Mom took to fundraising and awareness while Dad researched relentlessly for new treatments. Mallory lived her life with a vigor you don’t often see or feel from a person twice her age. Her drive and determination to be present is an inspiration. No one treated her like a fragile object. It was the opposite.

Be warned that the film does involve scenes of surgery. They can be a bit intense if you are squeamish. Salt In My Soul predominantly shows Mallory and her family teaching us to celebrate and fight for life. The timing of this doc is more impactful given the current state of the world. The importance of masks for the immunocompromised has never been more relevant. An unfathomable number of us have been closer to death in the past two years than we ever thought possible Mallory’s message of living each moment to its fullest could not resonate more than in this moment in time. Salt In My Soul is a unique film. Undeniably intimate and relentlessly moving, it’s a film that stays with you.


SALT IN MY SOUL

A Feature Documentary Film by Will Battersby
Run time: 96 Minutes (USA- Feature Documentary)

SALT IN MY SOUL will be released theatrically in New York (Cinema Village) and Los Angeles (Laemmle Royal) on January 21 followed by the VOD Release in the US, Canada, and UK & Ireland and key territories worldwide on January 25.

 

VOD Platforms: 

US- Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Microsoft/Xbox, Vudu
Canada- Apple TV/iTunes, Microsoft/Xbox
UK- Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Microsoft/Xbox
Ireland- Apple TV/iTunes, Google Play

Cable Platforms: 

US- InDemand TVOD (Comcast, Spectrum, Cox), DirectTV/AT&T, and more 



ABOUT THE BOOK

SALT IN MY SOUL: An Unfinished Life, by Mallory Smith, is a powerful, intimate, and inspiring portrait of a brave young woman living with chronic illness. Mallory understood that patient voices need to be amplified in order to improve healthcare, that the intersection of human behavior and nature is critical to environmental sustainability, and that love and friendship give life meaning. As Mallory’s body deteriorated, she sharpened her mind, crystallized her thinking, and honed her writing skills. In her 2500 pages of private journal entries, she created poetry out of prosaic experiences.  Beautifully written, provocative, and peppered with insights, SALT IN MY SOUL reminds us to follow Mallory’s mantra and “Live Happy.”  

For more information about the book SALT IN MY SOUL: An Unfinished Life please go to: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/607965/salt-in-my-soul-by-mallory-smith/


 

Sundance (2022) short film review: ‘Warsha’ is pure cinematic joy.

WARSHA

Warsha follows Mohammad, a Syrian migrant working as a crane operator in Beirut. One morning he volunteers to take on one of the tallest and notoriously most dangerous cranes in Lebanon. Away from everyone’s eyes, he is able to live out his secret passion and find freedom.


Circumstance drowning out his authenticity, Mohammad takes a risk at his construction job in the short film Warsha. Handheld and tight cinematography force the viewer into the vibrating chaos. But it’s the wide shots that astound in their scale and shared panic and awe. You will not see where this short is going.

Khansa plays Mohammad with a captivating vulnerability. Warsha introduces the entire world to Khansa, a multi-disciplinary artist redefining masculinity in the Middle East. I had chills watching his transformation. What brilliant casting. Writer-director Dania Bdeir has given Sundance audiences a short film that defies gender stereotypes. Its celebratory nature will leave you breathless.


To find out more information on Sundance 2022, including screening times, click here!


Double Bill Review: Gonzalo Calzada’s ‘Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night’ & ‘Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die’ are where the theatrical and experimental meet.

Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night

&

Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die

“Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night” follows a nearly 100-year-old man who, on his final night on earth, fights for redemption from his life’s misdeeds. In “Nocturna: Side B – Where Elephants Go to Die,” Calzada embarks on an aesthetically opposite experimental twist of the same story.


Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night

 

Visual representations of grief, love, and regret make for a unique movie experience in the first of these two films. An extraordinarily haunting score adds to the emotional pull of the film. It’s a genre-defying film. There are brilliant clues along the way, but you have to stay sharp-eyed to notice them from the beginning. The added device of Alzheimer’s creates a perfect dance of deception and mystery. The cast is outstanding. Not a performance is out of place. Nocturna: Side A will break your heart as it inspires you to make peace with your shortcomings. Somewhere between memory and longing lies an enchanting storyline.


Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die

 

This film has an entirely different approach and aesthetic. Audio and narration give it an almost accosting opening that prepares you for a drastically stylistic approach to more in-depth stories of the souls in the building. Nocturna: Side B is perhaps questionable as a stand-alone film. But it is undoubtedly a rich, nightmarish addition to the Nocturna: Side A.


Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night and Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die will be released January 18 on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Vimeo, DirecTv, local cable & satellite providers, and on DVD.


 

Sundance 2022: Some of what we’ll be watching at this year’s festival, and it’s a lot.

Having switched from in-person to completely virtual, audiences of Sundance 2022 will have the opportunity to see a plethora of entertainment that will terrify, tantalize, and remind you of why we love storytelling so much. From horror to drama, television series to shorts, documentaries to VR experiences, we’ll be watching as much as our eyes can consume from January 20-30th. Things are finding distribution left and right, with is always great news. That means even if you miss something during the festival, it will most likely be coming to a theater or streaming platform very soon.

There is something for everyone. Genre favorite filmmakers, writers, actors, and wearers of all the hats,  Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, are bringing their latest film Something In The Dirt. Cooper Raif‘s newest Cha Cha Real Smooth is one we’re stoked for. His debut feature Shithouse was one of the most accurate films about college life I’ve ever seen. The shorts lineup this year is bound to blow you away. Do not overlook them, I beg you. There are feature documentaries on Kanye West and Princess Diana, the rise of TikTok, and Slave to Sirens (the first and only all-woman thrash metal band in the Middle East).

Without further ado, here is a list of some of the amazing content we’re excited about this year.


 U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Cha Cha Real Smooth / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Cooper Raiff, Producers: Dakota Johnson, Ro Donnelly, Erik Feig, Jessica Switch, Cooper Raiff) — A directionless college graduate embarks on a relationship with a young mom and her teenage daughter while learning the boundaries of his new bar mitzvah party-starting gig. Cast: Dakota Johnson, Cooper Raiff, Vanessa Burghardt, Evan Assante, Brad Garrett, Leslie Mann. World Premiere.

Besides Raiff being an obvious phenom, I suspect this one will hit harder for those with children on the spectrum. I’m particularly excited for Vanessa Burghardt’s performance, as she is on the spectrum herself. Representation matters, across the board.

Dual / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Riley Stearns, Producers: Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian, Lee Kim, Riley Stearns, Nick Spicer, Maxime Cottray) — After receiving a terminal diagnosis, Sarah commissions a clone of herself to ease the loss for her friends and family. When she makes a miraculous recovery, her attempt to have her clone decommissioned fails, and leads to a court-mandated duel to the death. Cast: Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale. World Premiere.

This plot sounds like something out of West World and Doctor Who. Did I just mention those because of Paul and Gillan? Happy coincidence.


U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

I Didn’t See You There / U.S.A. (Director: Reid Davenport, Producer: Keith Wilson) — Spurred by the spectacle of a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment, a disabled filmmaker launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom, (in)visibility, and the pursuit of individual agency. World Premiere.

I fell into advocacy for those with disabilities when my son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I have a feeling that this film will give me a deeper understanding of not only my son’s perspective on society but the ever-present need for awareness and empathy.


WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Brian And CharlesU.K. (Director: Jim Archer, Screenwriters: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Producer: Rupert Majendie)  — A story of friendship, love, and letting go. And a 7ft tall robot that eats cabbages. A comedy shot in documentary format. Cast: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, Jamie Michie, Lowri Izzard, Mari Izzard. World Premiere.

Prediction: Brian And Charles will be one of the most endearing films of the entire festival. This unlikely buddy comedy is sure to capture everyone’s heart.

 

Leonor Will Never DiePhilippines (Director and Screenwriter: Martika Ramirez Escobar, Producers: Monster Jimenez, Mario Cornejo)  — Fiction and reality blur when Leonor, a retired filmmaker, falls into a coma after a television lands on her head, compelling her to become the action hero of her unfinished screenplay. Cast: Sheila Francisco, Bong Cabrera, Rocky Salumbides, Anthony Falcon. World Premiere.

As a writer, I’m selfishly looking forward to this. There’s always a bit of myself in my fiction, and who wouldn’t want to become an action hero?


WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Calendar GirlsSweden (Directors, Screenwriters, and Producers: Maria Loohufvud, Love Martinsen) — A coming-of-golden-age look at Florida’s most dedicated dance team for women over 60, shaking up the outdated image of “the little old lady,” and calling for everyone to dance their hearts out, while they still can. World Premiere.

Dancing since the age of three, this 41-year-old is looking for a few new role models.

 

Nothing Compares / Ireland, U.K. (Director: Kathryn Ferguson, Producers: Eleanor Emptage, Michael Mallie) — The story of Sinéad O’Connor’s phenomenal rise to worldwide fame and subsequent exile from the pop mainstream. Focusing on Sinéad’s prophetic words and deeds from 1987 to 1993, the film reflects on the legacy of this fearless trailblazer through a contemporary feminist lens. World Premiere.


NEXT

Something In The Dirt / U.S.A. (Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Screenwriter: Justin Benson, Producers: David Lawson, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson)  — When neighbors John and Levi witness supernatural events in their Los Angeles apartment building, they realize documenting the paranormal could inject some fame and fortune into their wasted lives. An ever-deeper, darker rabbit hole, their friendship frays as they uncover the dangers of the phenomena, the city, and each other. Cast: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead. World Premiere. Fiction.

Genre fans will recognize these household names for their spellbinding skills. I’ve yet to watch away from their films without chills or an audible “WTF.”

The Cathedral / Italy, U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Ricky D’Ambrose, Producer: Graham Swon) — An only child’s account of an American family’s rise and fall over two decades. Cast: Brian d’Arcy James, Monica Barbaro, Mark Zeisler, Geraldine Singer, William Bednar-Carter. North American Premiere. Fiction.


MIDNIGHT

Hatching / Finland (Director: Hanna Bergholm, Screenwriter: Ilja Rautsi, Producers: Mika Ritalahti, Nico Ritalahtit) — While desperately trying to please her demanding mother, a young gymnast discovers a strange egg. She tucks it away and keeps it warm, but when it hatches, what emerges shocks everyone. Cast: Jani Volanen, Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Saija Lentonen, Reino Nordin, Oiva Ollila. World Premiere. Fiction.

 

PIGGY / Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Carlota Pereda, Producers: Merry Colomer, David Atlan-Jackson) — Sara deals with constant teasing from girls in her small town. But it comes to an end when a stranger kidnaps her tormentors. Sara knows more than she’s saying and must decide between speaking up and saving the girls or saying nothing to protect the strange man who spared her. Cast: Laura Galán. World Premiere. Fiction.

Speak No Evil / Denmark (Director and Screenwriter: Christian Tafdrup, Screenwriter: Mads Tafdrup, Producer: Jacob Jarek) — A Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on a holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend slowly starts unraveling as the Danes try to stay polite in the face of unpleasantness. Cast: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huêt, Karina Smulders, Liva Forsberg, Marius Damslev. World Premiere. Fiction.


KIDS

Maika / Vietnam (Director and Screenwriter: Ham Tran, Producers: Jenni Trang Le, Duy Ho, Anderson Le, Bao Nguyen) — After a meteor falls to earth, 8-year-old Hung meets an alien girl from the planet Maika, searching for her lost friend. As Hung helps her otherworldly friend search, the alien inadvertently helps Hung make new friends and heal a broken heart. But danger lurks everywhere… Cast: Phu Truong, Diep Anh Tru, Tin Tin, Ngoc Tuong, Kim Nha. World Premiere. Fiction.


INDIE EPISODIC PROGRAM

The Dark Heart / Sweden (Director: Gustav Möller, Screenwriter: Oskar Söderlund, Producers: Anna Carlsten, Caroline Landerberg) — Sweden: in a mythological landscape, search parties roam through forests of spruce, secret conversations are whispered in open fields, and verbal duels fought on narrow country roads. A story of family feuds, inheritances, and forbidden love. Cast: Aliette Opheim, Clara Christiansson Drake, Gustav Lindh, Peter Andersson. World Premiere. Fiction. 

Sweden’s true crime game is above and beyond. The US had already remade series like The Killing and The Bridge. Sundance 2022 audiences can dive headfirst into The Dark Heart. The series is a five-part psychological drama-thriller about how an old family feud clashes with a young, forbidden love story, leading to a tragedy with a deadly outcome, ultimately solved by a private investigator who gets obsessed with the case. The story is based on journalist Joakim Palmkvist’s book “The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator”, which delves into the story about how a mysterious missing person’s case is investigated and solved by a local Missing People-volunteer involved in the searches.


INTERNATIONAL LIVE ACTION SHORT FILMS

Warsha / France/Lebanon (Director and Screenwriter: Dania Bdeir, Producer: Coralie Dias) — A Syrian migrant working as a crane operator in Beirut volunteers to cover a shift on one of the most dangerous cranes, where he is able to find his freedom. Cast: Khansa. World Premiere.

Once in a blue moon, a short film takes your breath away and Warsha might be that film in 2022.


U.S LIVE ACTION SHORT FILMS

Huella / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Gabriela Ortega, Producers: Helena Sardinha, Rafael Thomaseto) — When the death of her grandmother unleashes a generational curse, a disenchanted flamenco dancer resigned to a desk job is forced to experience the five stages of grief through a visit from her female ancestors. Cast: Shakira Barrera, Denise Blasor, Carla Valentine. 


U.S. NONFICTION SHORT FILMS

Long Line of Ladies / United States (Directors: Rayka Zehtabchi, Shaandiin Tome, Producers: Garrett Schiff, Pimm Tripp-Allen, Rayka Zehtabchi, Sam Davis, Dana Kurth) — A girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once-dormant coming of age ceremony of the Karuk and Yurok tribes of Northern California. World Premiere. DAY ONE


For Sundance 2022 full line-up, tickets, and more click here!


 

Review: ‘The Shepherdess and The Seven Songs’ screening at MoMA this week.

THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS

Following an impressive global film festival run that began with the 70th annual Berlinale and included in MoMA’s 2020 New Directors/New Films festival, THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS (Laila aur satt geet) returns to New York on January 12th, 2022 for a week-long run at The Museum of Modern Art, courtesy of Deaf Crocodile Films and theatrical partner Gratitude Films.

Laila Aur Satt Geet is part allegory, part ethnographic study, and part feminist fairy tale, using the narrative device of local folk songs – seven, to be exact – to describe the protagonist – Laila’s inner and outer worlds.


Laila uses her beauty as her weapon. While navigating misogyny, tradition, indifference, and desire, Laila embarks on a physical and spiritual journey. THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS (Laila aur satt geet) is a genre-defying film. With dazzling cinematography, the camera tends to linger (sometimes stationary) and allows the viewer to experience a cinema verite effect during some scenes. Juxtaposed with sweeping shots of the lush locations and closeups of our leading lady’s face. The pensive moments are weightier when stillness consumes Laila. We watch a young woman reclaim her power through poetic song. Some selections are metaphorical and others literal. Writer-director Pushpendra Singh (The Honor Keeper, 2014; Ashwatthama, 2017; Pearl of the Desert, 2019) guides Navjot Randhawa along the emotional spectrum. She is a fully fleshed-out, flawed woman. It’s a brave performance that hit me in the gut. THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS (Laila aur satt geet) never fails to keep you engaged, culminating in a gorgeous cinematic gem.

Following the run at MoMA, THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS

will be released on VOD in North America in spring 2022

from Deaf Crocodile, Gratitude Films, and Grasshopper Films.


THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS

Original title: Laila aur satt geet

Genre: Drama

Country: India

Runtime: 96 min

Year: 2021

Languages: Gujari and Hindi; English subtitles

Rated: NA


Review: ‘SHATTERED’ mixes ‘Fatal Attraction’ and ‘Misery’ into a thriller for the tech era.

SHATTERED

In the tradition of Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct comes this dazzling action-thriller starring Academy Award® nominee John Malkovich (RED) and Frank Grillo (Avengers: Endgame). After lonely tech millionaire Chris (Cameron Monaghan, “Shameless”) encounters charming, sexy Sky (Lilly Krug), passion grows between them – and when he’s injured, she quickly steps in as his nurse. But Sky’s odd behavior makes Chris suspect that she has more sinister intentions, especially when Sky’s roommate is found dead from mysterious causes.


Tale as old as time: Boy is lonely, boy meets girl, girl is bad for him. At first, that’s hot. Later, it’s not. Michael Douglass and Glenn Close taught us these dance moves in 1987’s Fatal Attraction. Prieto’s Shattered takes this formula, adds a helping of 1990’s Misery (James Cann plays an injured writer, and Kathy Bates is the nurse who happens to be an obsessed fan. Great movie – don’t watch if you’re squeamish about ankle torture) and gives it all a glossy high-tech setting.

Chris Decker (Shameless’ Cameron Monaghan) is our lonely boy this time around. Chris created and sold a high-tech security app while he was at MIT. Now’s he’s flush with cash, but he’s also peaked too early. That’s how he finds himself divorced, bored, and lonely in his massive Montana home. His only solace seems to be an impressive wine collection. During a late-night bottle run, he meets the mysterious and sexy Sky (Lilly Krug). She looks like trouble, but she needs a ride home, and she likes his taste in wine. What’s a guy to do?

Things get hot and heavy fast and then go wrong even faster. As in, deliriously bonkers fast. This movie is not interested in slow-burning anything – it turns the gas all the way up. Sky, of course, is not who she claims to be, and Chris finds himself in grave danger. Some films would tease this uncertainty out over many scenes, but Shattered stamps down on the gas pedal. This film burns through the plot faster than it can produce it. There’s probably another version of this film where Chris uses his own security app to slowly turn the tables on Sky – a nuanced vision of cat and mouse for the App generation. I would have also loved exploring more of the film’s snowy Montana setting.

But that film probably would have been a whole lot less visceral fun! Lilly Krug struggles a bit with the good-girl half of the film, but gamely brings Sky’s more psychopathic tendencies to life. Decker is dealt a tough hand here, his character reserved and introverted when he’s not being actively tortured. There are hints of past trauma and obsessive paranoia that I wish the film had spent more time drawing out. John Malkovich, playing a greedy landlord dressed exclusively in pastel ski jackets, chews scenery like he just finished a hunger strike.

Coming in at a tight 92 minutes, the pacing and pleasures of Shattered are more than enough to make up for any glitches in its application. You’ll double-check your password security after watching this one.


CHECK OUT THE RED BAND TRAILER: 

Lionsgate will release the thriller film SHATTERED in Select Theaters and On Demand on January 14th! Available on Blu-ray and DVD on February 22nd!

SHATTERED stars an ensemble cast of Academy Award® nominee John Malkovich (RED), Cameron Monaghan (Shameless), Frank Grillo (Avengers: Endgame)Sasha Luss (Anna), and Lilly Krug (Every Breath You Take). The film is directed by Luis Prieto (Kidnap) and was written by David Loughery (Fatale).


 

IFC Midnight trailer debut: ‘A BANQUET’ dishes out family and fear this February.

A BANQUET

Directed by Ruth Paxton
Starring Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes,
and Lindsay Duncan

Synopsis
Widowed mother Holly (Sienna Guillory) is radically tested when her teenage daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander) experiences a profound enlightenment and insists that her body is no longer her own, but in service to a higher power. Bound to her newfound faith, Betsey refuses to eat but loses no weight. In an agonizing dilemma, torn between love and fear, Holly is forced to confront the boundaries of her own beliefs.


Opens in Select Theaters, on Digital Platforms
and VOD on February 18th


About the Director
Ruth Paxton is a Scottish filmmaker who graduated in 2007 with an MA in Film and TV from Screen Academy Scotland having gained her honours degree at Edinburgh College of Art. Her award-winning shorts have been exhibited and nominated in competition at numerous international events and prominent film festivals. Winner of Best Woman Director at the 12th London Short Film Festival for her film PULSE, and nominated one of Canongate Books 40 Scottish Storytellers of The Future; artists anticipated to dominate the next 40 years of creative life in Scotland. In 2019 Screen Daily featured her as one of ‘Six emerging Scotland based Directors you need to know.’ A BANQUET is Ruth’s debut feature, a psychological horror produced by Tea Shop Productions and Riverstone Pictures. The film is represented by HanWay Films, and was recently acquired by IFC Films for North America. It was selected for the Great 8 showcase at Cannes Marche presented by BFI, BBC Films and the British Council, and will have its World Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival 2021, in the Discovery section.


Directed by: Ruth Paxton
Written by: Justin Bull
Produced by: Leonora Darby, Nik Bower, James Harris, Mark Lane, Laure Vaysse
Director of Photography: David Liddell
Edited by: Matyas Fekete
Starring: Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes, Kaine Zajaz, Lindsay Duncan
Runtime: 97 mins


IFC MIDNIGHT
Official Site | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
#ifcmidnight


Review: From stage to screen, the verdict is in for ‘Who is Amos Otis?’

WHO IS AMOS OTIS?

SYNOPSIS

After assassinating the President, Amos Otis pleads self-defense and must convince the jury that America was not only under attack by its unhinged ruler – but that his actions saved the country and the world. The assassin’s provocative testimony and ingenious defense turns the proceedings upside down and puts our country on trial. 


A wow of a film, Who Is Amos Otis? is like a swift punch in the throat. Written, produced, and directed by Greg Newberry, the story has us follow the President’s assassin and his subsequent trial. If you think this is a mere courtroom drama, think again. You’re in for one of the year’s most surprising and controversial films. It’s a hell of a way to end the year. 

Rico Reid as Amos’ court-appointed attorney Jason, is confident and brave. He brings a levelheadedness that superbly matches the ever-evolving energy in the room. Josh Katawick, as Amos, has a presence reminiscent of the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He’s three steps ahead of everyone. It is an incredibly nuanced performance.

The script possesses inklings of The Life of David Gail and The Terminator. The writing is whip-smart. It keeps you guessing, all while prodding you with a steady stream of information. The script is thick with wordplay, snark, and wit. It dares to ask the questions many of us have been thinking over the past five years. You immediately recognize the theatricality of Newberry’s dialogue. The project moves from stage to screen, with Reid and Katawick starring in their original roles. It explains the perfect chemistry between them. I would have loved to feel that live energy in which the audience was the jury during its 2019 run. I am formally requesting a New York run. Everyone I know would vie for a chance to be a jury member.

Without spoiling anything, Who is Amos Otis? takes a sharp left turn roughly 45 minutes in, obliterating the genre you think you’re consuming. Compounding the political thriller are the hottest and most controversial topics front and center. It is a film that people will either love or hate, but the brightest viewers will respect it for its audacity and artistry. Who is Amos Otis? is a fearless and enthralling film. It’s not only a conversation starter. Who is Amos Otis? is a conversation igniter.


Official Trailer for Who is Amos Otis? on Vimeo.


WHO IS AMOS OTIS? a searing, mind-bending, SCI-FI political thriller based on the Pulitzer Prize nominated play from Cincinnati playwright and award-winning filmmaker GREG NEWBERRY (Beemer Baby, Homefree) will be released by Gravitas Ventures on Digital | VOD on December 28th.


Starring an ensemble cast of strong characters JOSH KATAWICK  (“Glengarry Glen Ross” “A Few Good Men”), RICO REID (ToleranceAll Wars),  MICHAEL G. BATH (Miles Ahead, Healing River, Notzilla)A.J. FORD (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Of Mice and Men, All The Way), CHRISTINE BRUNNER (The New Detectives, The Life Project), DEREK SNOW (The Shawshank Redemption, The Old Man & the Gun, Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile), CHRISTINE JONES (Carol, Healing River, Promises to Keep)MIKE DENNIS (Carol, Miles Ahead, Surviving Compton), DONALD VOLPENHEIN (Gotti, “The Kill Point”), PEGGY ALLEN (Hourglass – A Smallville Story, Sphragida,  2 Mars), DENISE DAL VERA (Dark Waters, “Tell Me a Story”), CAROL BRAMMER (Hands Down).


Review: Explore a Riveting Doc with ‘Dead Man’s Switch: A Crypto Mystery’ on Discovery+ tomorrow!

DEAD MAN’S SWITCH: A CRYPTO MYSTERY

$215 million dollars disappeared in 2018 when Gerry Cotten, CEO of one of North America’s largest crypto exchanges, died suddenly – or did he? Journalists, regulators and crypto enthusiasts are determined to discover what happened to Gerry and the fortunes of 115,000 creditors. Dead Man’s Switch: A Crypto Mystery tracks a tantalizing unsolved story of deception, greed, corruption, and the potential of unregulated currency to be used for both good and evil.


A mysterious death abroad, $215 million missing, and a deep dive into the murky world of cryptocurrency– what else could you wish for? 

 Dead Man’s Switch is a captivating watch where viewers can’t be sure if they’re diving into the story of a heist, fraud, or perhaps even a murder mystery. Exploring the meteoric rise and dramatic fall of Quadriga CX, one of North America’s largest crypto exchanges, the documentary examines fascinating possibilities about what happened to its charismatic leader Gerry Cotten and– potentially more important for the many investors– where did all that money go? 

 A sharp group of journalists, crypto enthusiasts, and once-friends of Gerry provide detailed commentary on the allure of cryptocurrency and the tight-knit community that cultivated Cotten’s success. While the tales from the early years of Quadriga CX sound similar to many other tech startups– fun, fratty, communal– when the crypto markets start to slip, cracks in the facade begin to show. But it is not until Gerry Cotten dies suddenly in 2018 that the true mystery begins. 

 This doc is a fun watch for those intrigued by true crime or big tech, and also serves as an excellent primer for anyone itching to join in on fiery crypto-conspiracy Reddit boards.


Streaming on discovery+ on December 23rd


Written and Directed by Sheona McDonald (When Dreams Take Flight)

*Official Selection – Hot Docs 2021*
*Official Selection – Calgary International Film Festival*
*Official Selection –  DOXA*
*Official Selection – Melbourne Documentary Film Festival*
*Official Selection – Gimli Film Festival*


Review: ‘You Mean Everything To Me’ is the personification of relationship red flags.

YOU MEAN EVERYTHING TO ME

Synopsis:

Still reeling from getting kicked out of her sister’s apartment, Cassandra (Morgan Saylor of HomelandWhite Girl and Blow the Man Down) falls hard and fast for Nathan, a local DJ (Ben Rosenfield of 6 Years, Boardwalk Empire, Mrs. America, Twin Peaks).  After a whirlwind romance, he convinces her to quit her job and enlists her to dance at his club. As his coercive control increases and his demands grow darker, Nathan soon isolates her from her friends and family. Confused and desperate, she must figure out how to save another from the same fate and decide what her own freedom is worth.


You Mean Everything to Me is a whirlwind of scary energy. Lost soul Cassandra gets quickly reeled into a relationship with a master manipulator named Nathan. Writer-director Bryan Wizemann brings to the screen a story that most women would categorize as their worst nightmare. Some of us might even say it’s less of a drama and more of a horror.  It’s a film that will take your breathe away.

Ben Rosenfield plays the opposite of his last role in Mark, Mary, and Some Other People. As Nathan, he pours on the charm. Rosenfield is also keenly aggressive in a way that is so slick, the more experienced viewers take notice. What might seem like confidence is a divisive and dark power dynamic from the first breath. All of this further proves Rosenfield is a top-notch talent.

Morgan Saylor, as Cassandra, gives us a beautiful balance of naive and bold. I adored her in Blow The Man Down. I, You Mean Everything to Me, Saylor’s Cassandra is under Nathan’s spell. He sniffed out her insecurities in a heartbeat and pounced. You can see the wheels turning as she battles her instincts with immediate emotional gratification. It’s a heartbreaking performance and one you will not soon forget.

The writing is sharp and nuanced. The initially sly gaslighting is infuriating because it’s so familiar. You could throw a rock and hit any other woman who has experienced similar behavior. When the rush of oxytocin kicks in, all logic goes out the door. The plot moves like a freight train, and because of this, you feel just as trapped as Cassandra. You’ll want to rescue her. You’re on a rollercoaster ride of emotional terror. You Mean Everything to Me is challenging to sit through, but Rosenfield and Saylor compel you to keep going. The final third of the film is nothing short of heart pounding. I was shaking. You Mean Everything to Me is a must-watch.


The film is opening in NYC on December 17th at Cinema Village (with an in-person and virtual theatrical rollout in other cities)


Written and Directed by Bryan Wizemann
Produced by Matt Grady
Cinematography by Mark Schwartzbard
Edited by Michael Taylor

Cast: Morgan Saylor, Ben Rosenfield, Lindsay Burge, Tom Riis Farrell, Jacinto Taras Riddick, and Nicholas Webber