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).


 

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


Review: ‘THE JINKX AND DELA HOLIDAY SPECIAL’ is my newest holiday tradition.

THE JINKX AND DELA HOLIDAY SPECIAL

Created by and starring drag superstars BenDeLaCreme & Jinkx Monsoon, “The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special” is the story of two queens who set out to create a classic Christmas TV variety show, but just can’t agree on how.


If you like involuntary fits of maniacal laughter, look no further than The Jinkx and DeLa’s Holiday Special this December. Listen, Christmas and camp go together like eggnog and arguing with your crazy uncle over dinner. Ah, the holidays.

These two magnificent drag stars are the perfect pairing in personality and visual aesthetic. BenDelaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon are two of my favorite performers. If you know the drag world, they are household names. DeLa is perky sunshine personified while Jinkx is more dark, tawdry, and sardonic. Their comic timing is a thing of the gods. The overall mid-century vibe that these two carry with their brand works in tandem with the classic holiday specials from Bing Crosby and friends. As someone who grew up in Connecticut, the regional-specific jokes are spot on. Everything just works in spectacular fashion.

The Jinkx and DeLa’s Holiday Special is a celebration of inclusivity, told through the destruction of the ridiculousness that is Christianity, and damnit, it is chef’s kiss. The musical numbers are friggin bops. These ladies have the pipes to back them up. The lyrics are snarky, innuendo-filled treats. And, my god, the decadent costumes are delicious. Does The Jinkx and DeLa’s Holiday Special make me want to host a booze-soaked watch party shindig? You bet your sweet ass it does. I found my new holiday tradition.


JINX AND DELA HOLIDAY SPECIAL is available :

In theaters from December 13 (North America): Showing in Alamo Drafthouse theaters across the country. Click here for participating cities.

On Digital Globally: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu

On DVD and Blu-ray: Available from the official site


 

Review: ‘Death Of A Telemarketer’ is a cleverly written double entendre.

DEATH OF A TELEMARKETER

Ace telemarketer Kasey (Lamorne Morris) is in a close sales contest with newbie employee, Barry (Woody McClain), and must score a big sale by midnight or he’ll lose the largest commission to date. Out of desperation, Kasey waits until everyone leaves the office and finds the Do Not Call list. He thinks he’s found the perfect mark, but instead finds himself held hostage and at the mercy of Asa (Jackie Earle Haley), the man he tried to swindle. Now Kasey must pass Asa’s twisted test on ethics if he wants to live to sell another day.


The title alone makes your ears perk up. Death Of A Telemarketer is revenge porn for all those dinnertime phone calls. Half the time, a caller doesn’t even get your name right. Or, maybe they’ll ask if your husband is home. Really? You have to respect the people who work these jobs. I cannot imagine anyone choosing this as their life’s passion, but as this film’s leading man Kasey comes to explain, when you’re good at something, it makes you feel accomplished. But, knowing that their goal often involves a scam makes things a bit more complicated. On the other hand, life is never as simple as we want it to be. Death Of A Telemarketer tackles all that and more. It’s a surprisingly nuanced story and funny as hell. 

Haley Joel Osment makes everything better. I have loved watching his career spring back to life through meaty indie roles. He is meant to do this for a long time. Jackie Earle Haley, as Asa, knocks it out of the park. Haley’s career is eclectic, and his talents never fail to shine. As Asa, you kind of love to hate him. Lamorne Miller, as Kasey, is a bonafide star. You’re buying what he’s selling, pun 100% intended. His comic timing is something you can’t teach. He begs your attention in every frame. Death of a Telemarketer is a whirlwind of jokes and an unexpected emotional rollercoaster. Writer/Director Khaled Ridgeway draws from personal experience, and it shows. He nails the absurdity that accompanies this profession but never lets the genuine humanity of his characters slip past the audience. It’s a breezy watch that will make you laugh and maybe make you want to call your Dad.


DEATH OF A TELEMARKETER

In theaters and VOD December 3, 2021


Directed by Khaled Ridgeway

Starring Lamorne Morris, Jackie Earle Haley, Haley Joel Osment

Release Date: 12/3/21


Review: Survive holiday hell and hilarity in Camille Griffin’s ‘SILENT NIGHT’

SILENT NIGHT

 

SYNOPSIS: In true British fashion, (while the rest of the world faces impending doom), a group of old friends reunites to celebrate Christmas in the comfort of an idyllic country home. Burdened with the inconvenience of mankind’s imminent destruction, they adopt a stiff upper lip, crack open another bottle of prosecco and continue with their festivities. But no amount of stoicism can replace the courage needed for their last night on earth.


Writer/Director Camille Griffin gives audiences the gift of holiday hell and hilarity. Think The Big Chill meets Love Actually and sprinkles in Melancholia, as Silent Night finds us rocking around the Christmas tree for, perhaps, the last time. A group of friends makes a pact to spend their Christmas together, with one huge and horrifying caveat. The eclectic holiday soundtrack amps up the energy tenfold. But it’s all a bit of bait and switch. Therein lies the genius that is Silent Night. You think the film is one thing when suddenly BAM. This genre-destroying film will shock you.

Silent Night has an ensemble cast that’s to die for. Keira Knightley strikes the perfect balance of overly stressed host and mother, bringing that quirky charm we know so well. Lucy Punch has the innate ability to be funny without a single word and her talents are elevated by Griffin’s cheeky dialogue. Matthew Goode gives us the gambit of emotions. He’s a solid anchor amongst the spiraling chaos. A standout performance comes from Griffin’s real-life son, Roman Griffin Davis, as Art. After his incredible turn in JoJo Rabbit, it should come as no surprise that he knocks it out of the park here. His fearless honesty spills off the screen, and you will be unable to take your eyes off of him. He steals every scene. 

Even as these chic adults reminisce about what could have been, their children attempt to come to terms with impending doom. Every scene featuring a child is perfection. That is what kids are like, and thank you, Camille Griffin, for including these gems. If you didn’t know she was a parent beforehand, you would as you watched the film play out. The complexity of parenting lies within the overall arc of the film. In truth, this is one of the darkest films I’ve ever seen. If I said I wasn’t shaking from anxiety and crying in the end, I’d be lying. The writing is soaked in acerbic wit. It’s a punch to the face, over and over, all while it begs existential questions of privilege and morality. I could easily see a prequel, sequel, or series in which we follow other locations simultaneously. This is a formal request for such a creation.


AMC+ and RLJE Films will release the darkly comedic drama/horror SILENT NIGHT in Theaters and streaming exclusively on AMC+ on December 3, 2021.


Marking writer Camille Griffin’s feature directorial debut, SILENT NIGHT features an all-star ensemble cast including Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise), Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey), Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit), Annabelle Wallis (“Peaky Blinders”), Lily Rose-Depp (Voyagers)Ṣọpé Dìrísù (“Gangs of London”), Kirby Howell-Baptiste (“The Good Place”), Lucy Punch (Into the Woods), Rufus Jones (”Flack”) and Trudie Styler (Filth, Moon).


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘FLEE THE LIGHT’ understands the power of the past.

FLEE THE LIGHT

A mystical horror-thriller where reincarnation, demons and sorceresses intertwine to tell the story of a spiritual search gone wrong. A psychology student (Annie Tuma) delves into her sister’s (Ariana Marquis) psychosis, exposing herself to an ancient predator who hunts souls. Also stars Jane Siberry.


Blood in the Snow 2021 screened Flee The Light last night, a classicly structured folk horror where two sisters with a witchy lineage choose between good and evil. Delphi and Andra become consumed by visions that turn more sinister by the hour. Can they save one another from pure darkness? Flee The Light has an evolution that you won’t see coming. The Wicca research is clear, beautifully shot, and carefully intertwined. I would watch a prequel in a hot minute. Props to the set dressers and location scouts for doing their homework. There is an ethereal quality in certain scenes that grab your attention. 

Screenwriter Jennifer Mancini uses childhood flashbacks to establish the sisterly bond. These are precisely what the audience needed to feel emotionally invested in their relationship. Annie Tuma and Ariana Marquis give fully committed performances. You believe their chemistry. The final scene genuinely brings everything together. I would be remiss if I did not mention actress Jane Siberry for her beautiful turn. With glorious cadence changes, she knocks it out of the park. Flee The Light has a final shot that is a whole lot of Yes. Alexandra Senza gives us a solid B-movie. But the potential for Senza and Mancini to develop an entire franchise is magical.



For more info on Blood In The Snow 2021 click here!


Review: Ethan Hawke stars in ‘Zeroes and Ones,’ a creatively shot political thriller.

presents

ZEROES AND ONES

Called to Rome to stop an imminent terrorist bombing, a soldier desperately seeks news of his imprisoned brother — a rebel with knowledge that could thwart the attack. Navigating the capital’s darkened streets, he races to a series of ominous encounters to keep the Vatican from being blown to bits.


Zeros and Ones is a surrealistic mash-up from Abel Ferrara – a political and pandemic thriller that is simultaneously thoughtful and baffling. This is a film that invites the viewer in while still keeping them at a distance. The film is bookended by two videos featuring start Ethan Hawke, who speaks candidly to the audience about his excitement and experience relating to the film. Hawke freely admits that he didn’t understand Ferrara’s script when he received it, but that he really liked it. Having just finished “Zeros and Ones”, Hawke’s point resonated.

The film’s achievements are especially impressive given it was filmed in Rome during a rigid COVID lockdown. By nature of these restrictions, the majority of the action is restricted. The camera is limited to claustrophobic rooms and empty nighttime streets, but cinematographer Sean Price Williams makes the most of it. The outdoor scenes, in particular, are quite striking: sanitation workers clad in PPE decontaminating a subway car, mist mingling with the glow of the street lights.

Our protagonist (Ethan Hawke’s “J.J.”) is an enigmatic military man, his face hidden beneath a black mask even when he’s in plain sight. He’s on a journey through Rome, but his objectives (and destination) are murky. He’s trying to locate his twin brother (also Hawke), an imprisoned revolutionary who may hold the key to thwarting a terrorist plot on the Vatican. While this may sound like the plot of a multi-million dollar action film, Ferrara’s vision is wisely more conservative. He is more interested in backroom deals and shadowy government priorities than big explosions.

Hawke offers a game performance in the dual role – although he seems to have far more fun playing the revolutionary brother than the military one (after all, who doesn’t want to spit lines like, “Why is nobody setting themselves on fire?!”)

J.J.’s encounters with other characters throughout the film are always one layer removed – he’s always speaking to them through a phone screen, from behind a layer of glass, or filming them using his own camera. It’s a strong artistic choice, but also puts much more emphasis on the dialogue to drive the action of the film, and contributed to an overall lack of visceral connection to the material.

Ultimately, Zeros and Ones is a wonderful example of artistic vision flourishing under restrictive circumstances. One has to wonder how we will look back historically and evaluate these films against history once the pandemic finally recedes (fingers crossed.) I’m glad Hawke and Ferrara were still willing to act up despite having to mask up.


Zeros and Ones – In Select Theaters, On Demand and Digital on November 19, 2021. Ethan Hawke, Valerio Mastandrea, Cristina Chiriac.


Review: ‘Black Friday’ a hilarious and gross entry into the holiday season.

On Thanksgiving night, a group of disgruntled toy store employees begrudgingly arrive for work to open the store at midnight for the busiest shopping day of the year. Meanwhile, an alien parasite crashes to Earth in a meteor. This group of misfits led by store manager Jonathan (Bruce Campbell) and longtime employee Ken (Devon Sawa) soon find themselves battling against hordes of holiday shoppers who have been turned into monstrous creatures hellbent on a murderous rampage on Black Friday.


Is there a more perfect analogy for Black Friday shoppers than crazed zombie-like beings looking to consume? If you’ve never worked retail for the holidays, you have no idea what it’s like to deal with monsters. It honestly prepares you for any weird or crazy behavior from people the other 11 months of the year. Black Friday writer Andy Greskoviak must know a little something about the experience. His script is hilarious, tongue-in-cheek, and wholeheartedly captures the love-hate relationship between co-workers. Director Casey Tebo has given audiences a gory yuletide gift.

Bruce Motherf*cking Campbell, ladies, and gentlemen. Like Sawa, you tell me Campbell is to appear in a film, give it to me, you don’t have to ask. This guy is the poster boy for horror-comedy. He is a legend. As store manager Jonathan, he nails every beat. Stephen Peck gives life to Floor Manager Brian. He is the embodiment of second-tier management and the power that comes with that role. His shitty attitude makes the dynamic between the workers laugh out loud funny.  Ivana Baquero is a nice foil for all the masculine energy. She’s sweet and caring and unafraid to keep up with the boys club. Her presence is a necessary grounding. Michael Jai White is the hero we all want him to be. If you’re not rooting for this man, shame on you. I wanted much more of him.

Ryan Lee, as Chris, is just as impeccable as Sawa and the rest. A germaphobe whose anxiety looms large, Lee gets the opportunity to shine here. I did not realize this is the same kid from Super 8 and Goosebumps! More of him, please, and thank you. Devon Sawa is a bonafide horror icon. Seeing him alongside Bruce Campbell feels right. Sawa never fails to bring the comedy. He’s so damn natural. I am so stoked to see him working nonstop in genre films over the past few years. Black Friday is yet another role for him to kick some ass. In truth, Black Friday is an ensemble piece. The chemistry is incredible.

If I’m being picky, there are minute pacing issues as some innocuous shots felt long. On the upside, the use of the swipe transition is a throwback I wasn’t expecting. The practical FX are cool as hell. The special fx makeup progresses with the plot, and the intricate creature design becomes creepier and more visceral. Slow clap for SFX master Robert Kurtzman and his entire team. Black Friday is a little Color Out of Space meets Dawn of the Dead. Am I obsessed with the ending? You know it. Do yourself a favor, sit back, relax, and enjoy this film until the real-life stress of the holiday season eats you alive. 


Available In Theaters November 19th
& On Demand November 23rd


Directed by Casey Tebo
Written by Andy Greskoviak
Music by Patrick Stump (Fall Out Boy)
Starring Devon Sawa, Ivana Baquero, Ryan Lee, Stephen Peck, Michael Jai White, and Bruce Campbell


 

DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘YOUNG PLATO’ dares kids (and audiences) to use their words.

YOUNG PLATO

An inspiring documentary from the filmmakers of School Life (Released by Magnolia Pictures), YOUNG PLATO charts the dream of Elvis-loving school headmaster Kevin McArevey – a maverick who is determined to change the fortunes of an inner-city community plagued by urban decay, sectarian aggression, poverty and drugs. YOUNG PLATO hums with the confidence of youth, a tribute to the power of the possible. 


Teaching is hard. It’s also perhaps one of the most underappreciated careers. You cannot fully comprehend the emotional and physical burdens if you’ve never been in a classroom. In Belfast, a headmaster named Mr. McArevey teaches Philosophy to his primary school students. He makes it approachable. He creatively breaks down ideas to facilitate communication and critical thinking. Holy Cross Boys’ Primary School could be a blueprint for schools all over the globe.

Dealing with their anger is a running theme. Considering the neighborhood’s history, this is vital for these boys’ survival. I’m 41 years old, and until watching Young Plato, I don’t think I truly understood the chaos of religious politics in Ireland. Directors Neasa Ní Chianáin and Declan McGrath juxtapose volatile footage from 2001 with present-day footage of those same streets, now lined with school-age children. It’s a chilling effect.

 Holy Cross’s methods of discipline, under the guidance of McArevey, are fantastic, as the students actively and knowingly utilize philosophical strategies. The social-emotional impact that this could have in every school would be mind-blowing. In an area where violence is so prevalent, using the power of words is priceless. These young boys, even during reprimand, are unafraid to express their feelings. The intimacy and care that Young Plato takes in showcasing the children are beautiful. As a former teacher, this is a school that has all the tools. As a mother of a Kindergartener on the spectrum, focused, individual attention can change a child’s life. Holy Cross is a shining example. 

As the kids learn about their area’s recent violent past, the profound thoughts of peace from these youngsters give me hope. McArevey makes kids accountable for their words and actions. The staff does not let them off the hook while simultaneously extending consistent praise. Watching these lads progress through the school year, seeing the unique brand of teaching should inspire us all to do and be better with one another. Young Plato is a guide to a better world. 


For tickets to see Young Plato click here!


Director: Neasa Ní Chianáin, Declan McGrath
Executive Producer: Lesley McKimm, Justin Binding, Andrew Reid, Catherine LeGoff, Grainne McAleer
Producer: David Rane, Co-Producer: Hanne Phlypo, Jackie Doyle, Céline Nusse, Declan McGrath
Writer: Neasa Ní Chianáin, Etienne Essery, Declan McGrath
Cinematographer: Neasa Ní Chianáin
Editor: Philippe Ravoet
Music: David Poltrock
Language: English
Country: Ireland, UK, France, Belgium

Year: 2021


DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘The Business of Birth Control’

The Business of Birth Control

Sixty years after the pill revolutionized women’s emancipation, THE BUSINESS OF BIRTH CONTROL examines the complex relationship between hormonal birth control and women’s health and liberation. The documentary traces the feminist movement to investigate and expose the pill’s risks alongside the racist legacy of hormonal contraception and its ongoing weaponization against communities of color.  Weaving together the stories of bereaved parents, body literacy activists and femtech innovators, the film reveals a new generation seeking holistic and ecological alternatives to the pill while redefining the meaning of reproductive justice.


Is “the Pill” killing us? Perhaps not, according to the innumerable doctors who prescribe it to 11 million women. 35% of which are for reasons other than preventing pregnancy. Anytime I heard about my girlfriends going on birth control in high school or college, it was the same complaints; weight gain, mood swings, depression, and suicidal ideation. I never went on the pill because I was terrified by the side effects. In The Business of Birth Control, get ready to have your mind blown because everything you think you know about contraceptives and The Pill is about to change. The entire FDA approval study was based on only 132 women in Puerto Rico. What?! Under the auspices of body autonomy, the side effects were hidden or swept under the rug by the medical industry. Not a damn thing has changed. Profit and politics and old white men making decisions for women. Follow the money. Why fix a $17 billion industry? 

The Business of Birth Control utilizes doctors, educators, activists, and people passionate about giving you as much information as possible. We also hear about the fatal links to products like Yaz and NuvaRing. Director Abby Epstein introduces us to a group of parents who lost their daughters to the side effects of these hormonal contraceptives. They have become activists and not by choice. They wonder why there aren’t clear visual warnings on the front of contraception packages, much like cigarettes. I always pause when I watch drug commercials, and they rattle off the giant list of potential side effects.

I struggled to get pregnant for eight months. Every month I cried when the pregnancy test was negative. Then someone turned me onto an app very similar to the method discussed in the doc. I tracked my temperature each morning and some other information because you cannot get pregnant every day of your cycle, but that’s not what has been drilled into our heads since Sex Ed class in 5th grade. Within three months, I was pregnant, and I knew because of my spike in temperature. I knew before taking a test because I had learned the natural cycle of my body. 

Abby Epstein and Executive Producer Ricki Lake (The Business of Being Born) have given us so much to consider with this doc. There are more ways to maintain reproductive autonomy than I ever imagined. The fight continues to bring these options to every corner of the country, and much like the battle to keep abortion safe and legal, we cannot slow down in educating the masses. This film is not strictly for cis-gendered women who menstruate. The Business of Birth Control is knowledge every person should consume. Let’s keep talking to each other because that is empowerment. 


November 10th – November 18th

For tickets to watch The Business of Birth Control click here!


Directed by: Abby Epstein (The Business of Being BornWeed The People)

Executive produced by: Ricki Lake (Hairspray)

Producers: Abby Epstein, James Costa (Lunch HourWelcome to Chechnya), Holly Grigg-Spall, Anna Kolber (Chasing the Present)


DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘OBJECTS’ taps into our tangible sentimentality.

OBJECTS

Why do we sometimes save objects for years that seem precious to us, yet have no intrinsic value? For some, these mementos are the root of clutter and materialism, but for others, they are a treasured record of their lives. A way to hold on to time and life itself. A tangible nostalgia.

OBJECTS explores a very different kind of ‘collector.’ Through the lives of three unique individuals who have held onto a seemingly meaningless object – a fifty-year-old clump of grass, a sweater that once belonged to a French actress, and a forty-year-old sugar egg – the documentary explores how we find meaning. These objects are not things to be flaunted, rather they are items that profoundly touch their owners in ways that few others can understand.


Vincent Liota taps into our inherently sentimental human hearts. As someone who has a box of objects dating back to at least age 5, as someone who married a man with his own small chest of treasured things, and a mother that fills her home with memories (including a broken flamingo ornament that I would hide in the Christmas tree to avoid its demise), OBJECTS speaks directly to me.

While looking through the memories hidden inside his bookshelf, Robert Krulwich, former host of RadioLab and current NPR correspondent, says something that struck me, “That’s time travel.” Objects are stories. Objects are history. As for the doc, OBJECTS features items spanning from a clump of grass to a sugar egg. Hearing the meaning of these things directly from the people who keep them moves you. You are instantly invested in their safety and fascinated by their existence. The walkthroughs of spaces filled with memories create an emotional gravity that is undeniable. We all know the old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” OBJECTS proves just that.

I adored the time focusing on the methods of Marie Kondo. Like everyone else, when her series hit Netflix, I started to rummage through my drawers, cabinets, and boxes of things. I pulled all my clothes out of the closet and threw them onto my bed to decide what sparked joy. It was much more difficult than I could have ever imagined. In the end, I think I tossed things based more on logic and not at all on sentimentality. When it comes to my children, well, that is another story. I have a box filled with their sweetest baby outfits. 

OBJECTS captivates you with its ceaseless charm. Items that seem to have zero connection to the viewer go from innocuous to deeply meaningful. As we bounce from one unique narrative to the next, you cannot help but think about what is most important in your life. Perhaps it is not the object itself but the memory it envokes that we cherish so much. Regardless, OBJECTS reminds us that we are all connected, how a passing moment affects an entire lifetime. To quote Doctor Who, “We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?”


https://www.objectsfilm.com/trailer

For more information and tickets to watch OBJECTS click here!


Director: Vincent Liota
Executive Producer: Sally Roy, Vincent Liota
Producer: Vincent Liota
Writer: Vincent Liota
Cinematographer: Sam Cullman, Vincent Liota, Jason Longo, Bryan Margaca
Editor: Vincent Liota
Music: APM Library, Mark Orton
Language: English, French, Italian
Country: USA

Year: 2021


DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘JAGGED’ is everything you oughta know about Alanis Morissette and Jagged Little Pill.

JAGGED

JAGGED, directed by Alison Klayman, takes viewers to 1995 when a 21-year-old Alanis Morissette burst onto the music scene with the first single off her ground-breaking album, “Jagged Little Pill.” With a rawness and emotional honesty that resonated with millions, and despite a commercial landscape that preferred its rock stars to be male, she took radio and MTV by storm and the album went on to sell 33 million copies. Featuring an in-depth interview with Alanis, as well as never-before-seen archival material, JAGGED explores her beginnings as a young Canadian pop star, the rocky path she faced navigating the male-dominated music industry, and the glass ceiling she shattered on her journey to becoming the international icon and empowered artist she is today.


I went to rehearsal one night only to have my Mom hit play on the kitchen cd player to find my Jagged Little Pill album spinning. She’s cooking dinner and suddenly hears the lyrics, “Would she go down on you in a theatre?” That was an interesting conversation when I got home, mainly because I’m not even sure I knew what that meant at that point in my high school life. I was a pretty sheltered kid. Maybe that’s the reason Alanis’ music spoke to me. It was raw and emotional. JAGGED is Alison Klayman‘s new doc about one of my first feminist heroes, Alanis Morissette. As soon as the film begins, so do my goosebumps and unadulterated, joyful belting. That album gave me the confidence to be unabashedly me. I’ll be eternally grateful. 

JAGGED is a mix of sit-downs with industry greats, behind-the-scenes footage, and concert performances. The concert footage is so crisp you’d think it was filmed yesterday. As Alanis’s handwritten lyrics crawl across the screen in real-time, it remains clear that her writing is brilliant and forever relevant. The sit-down interviews with Morissette are insightful. Like her lyrics, she’s brutally honest, fearless, and funny. Alanis has a great laugh. It’s genuine and from the diaphragm. Watching her tell her own story feels incredibly relatable. In some ways, it adds more weight to Jagged Little Pill‘s lyrics. Twenty-five years later, screaming these songs with the knowledge of the emotion and experiences behind them, I love them even more. How could you not?

The juxtaposition of the bullshit from critics is glorious and pointed. Morissette flashes a middle finger to every single one of them. At the height of her fame, empowerment was not welcome. Certain critics don’t enjoy female artists talking about their love lives. It becomes misogynistic fodder. Ask Taylor Swift, who gets featured in the film. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think? Jagged Little Pill was, and continues to be, an anthem for so many women. Her audience spans generations. Because of her, women continue to cultivate and hold female artists in high esteem because their music represents the masses. Alanis a goddamn icon. Anyone who claims differently is wrong. I’ll die on this hill. 


For tickets to JAGGED click here!


Executive Producer: Bill Simmons, Jody Gerson, Marc Cimino; Co-Executive Producer: Geoff Chow, Sean Fennessy, Noah Malale
Producer: Jaye Callahan, Alison Klayman, Kyle Martin
Cinematographer: Julia Liu
Editor: Brian Goetz
Music: Ilan Isakov, Tom Deis
Language: English
Country: USA

Year: 2021


#JaggedHBO, the second film in the #MusicBoxHBO series premieres November 18 at 8 PM on HBO Max.


DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘The Bengali’ breaks cultural and physical barriers.

THE BENGALI

Fatima Shaik, an African-American author (Economy Hall) from New Orleans, and whose family has lived in Louisiana for four generations, embarks upon an unlikely quest from The Big Easy to a part of India where no African-American (or American) has ever gone. Her search for the past is fraught with uncertainty as she looks for her late grandfather Shaik Mohamed Musa’s descendants, the land he claimed to own, and the truth behind the stories she grew up with. Her incredible journey is told in New York City-based award-winning filmmaker Kavery Kaul’s (Cuban Canvas, Long Way From Home) new feature documentary THE BENGALI.


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, people lost homes, heirlooms, family, and stories. In The Bengali, African American writer Fatima Shaik leaves her birthplace of New Orleans to follow the path of her grandfather, Shaik Muhamed Musa. His history becomes the mystery Fatima seeks to unravel. Director Kavery Kaul was born in Kolkata. These two women travel to India on a mission of recovery and emotional enlightenment.

I lived in India from the end of 2008 into the beginning of 2009. In many cases, I was the first Westerner many of the locals in Hyderabad had ever seen. Most certainly, the first white woman. I was fascinated by the lush history of my surroundings. I watched as the landscape changed around me, sometimes quite literally. I witnessed the erection of modern malls and office buildings, as tent cities surrounding the community we initially lived in were simultaneously bulldozed over. The difference in culture was overwhelming. But unlike Fatima Shaik, I had no familial connection to the country. In The Bengali, Fatima and Kavery are there to seek answers and validate the stories passed down from Fatima’s grandfather. The greater the roadblocks, the more she questions. The locals are suspicious, and rumors begin to fly about her presence. Is her entire family history a lie?

Watching The Bengali is like a time warp for me. Fatima is just as lost and overwhelmed in the country’s bureaucratic ridiculousness. It’s a palpable frustration I know all too well. Merely attempting to travel from point A to point B is a challenge. Never mind the daunting sense of direction within street signs and, in many cases, house numbers. The handheld camera work immerses you into the chaos. In most cities, the people speak at least a few English words. In a small village, that was always less likely. Thankfully, Fatima had Kavery to assist in translation. Attempting this journey without her aid would be near impossible. But, like my own experiences, the most intriguing conversations occur between her and the village women. Discussions of gender roles, education, arranged marriage vs. love marriage give us insight into rural Indian culture. Religion becomes a point of contention, but that should not be of any surprise. But it is the often forgotten story of immigrants that rings the loudest. There is an entire history of Indian and African American culture in America that I had never heard of. The documentary became a new page in our history. 

Finding roots changes a person, no matter the outcome of information. The Bengali is a candid and revelatory dive into past and present, and thus the future. It breaks social and physical barriers, showing the viewer we’re all part of a much larger community than we could imagine.


Director: Kavery Kaul
Executive Producer: Deborah Shaffer
Producer: Kavery Kaul, Lucas Groth
Writer: Kavery Kaul
Cinematographer: John Russell Foster
Editor: Lucas Groth
Music: Nainita Desai
Language: English, Bengali
Country: USA
Year: 2021

Winner of the Special Jury Award at Roxbury Film Festival and the International Humanitarian Award at Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival, The Bengali will make its New York Premiere at DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival. The film will screen in person on Saturday, Nov. 13th at 4:45 pm at IFC Center with additional virtual screenings from Nov. 14-28. For tickets, visit https://www.docnyc.net/film/the-bengali/.


 

DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘MR BACHMANN AND HIS CLASS’ is a lesson in compassion and kindness.

MR BACHMANN AND HIS CLASS

Where does one feel at home? In Stadtallendorf, a German city with a complex history of both excluding and integrating foreigners, genial teacher Dieter Bachmann offers his pupils the key to at least feeling as if they are at home.


When children get caught in the crosshairs of sociopolitical complexities, it’s rarely a good thing. In one specialized German school, an extraordinary teacher treats his students like his own children. Through language, history, German, and music, Dieter Bachmann breaks down the walls of his classroom and the industrial landscape in which they reside. Their families mostly hail from Turkey, having left to find work at the local factories. They must learn to adapt to new languages and ideas, thus breaking a cycle for their generation.

Director Maria Speth immerses the audience in the cinema verite style, and the choice is perfection. As a former teacher, placing the camera inside the action gives the viewer a real sense of the minute-to-minute chaos of a classroom. Kids are laughing, rolling their eyes, struggling, learning, expressing opinions all at once. Their anxiety is palpable as we watch parent-teacher conferences. The heart of Bachmann is the purest. You are invested in these children as they navigate challenges in and outside of school. You get to experience the aha moments that are some of the most rewarding times as a teacher. The kids are bright and thoughtful. Their opinions often differ, but the conversations sparked from those differences are brilliant. Mr. Bachmann and His Class reminds us that the human spirit needs encouragement. We cannot do it alone. While it does take a village to raise a child, Stadtallendorf is lucky to have Dieter Bachmann. 


For Tickets to Mr. Bachmann and His Class click here!


Director: Maria Speth

Producer: Maria Speth
Cinematographer: Reinhold Vorschneider
Editor: Maria Speth
Music: Oliver Göbel
Language: German
Country: Germany

Year: 2021


DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, runs in-person November 10-18 at IFC Center, SVA Theatre, and Cinépolis Chelsea and continues online until November 28.


Review: ‘IDA RED’ – a family crime drama where performances rule all.

Crime boss Ida “Red” Walker (Oscar® winner Melissa Leo*) turns to her son, Wyatt (Josh Hartnett), to pull off one last heist to get out of prison. But with the FBI closing in, Wyatt must choose between family and freedom in this high-octane thriller.


IDA RED opens up with honest to goodness tense action. Come to find out, half of it is a whole lot of bait and switch. The script has plenty of surprising revelations. It is undeniably engaging, from the shocking violence to the keen character building.

Frank Grillo, as Dallas Walker, is as epic and as he is evil, with an IDGAF aura. It’s one hell of a performance. Melissa Leo is Ida. Her uncanny ability to own the screen with nothing but a look gets me every time. This crime family matriarch rules from prison with an iron fist and favoritism. And, damnit, the fact that it’s a woman makes my heart skip a beat. More of this, please.

Sofia Hublitz, who is fantastic on Ozark, plays Darla Walker. She’s the youngest troublemaker of this family unit. Hublitz walks the perfect line between innocence and passionate anger. Josh Hartnett, as Wyatt Walker, is the unwaveringly loyal son. Hartnett’s multiple-year hiatus from the big screen was noticed, especially by those of us who grew up alongside him in movies like The Faculty, Pearl Harbor, and Sin City. Whenever I do see him nowadays, I am reminded immediately of his immense talent. He’s got a coolness to him that you can’t teach. As Wyatt, his familial devotion is palpable, to a fault. IDA RED allows him to play the full spectrum of emotions. 

The soundtrack boasts some of the coolest (and strangest) choices. I was obsessed. IDA RED could have been a limited series. As it stands, it’s a solidly done family crime drama, possessing fully fleshed-out, massively flawed characters with incredible actors breathing life into them. I recommend a watch.


Watch the trailer:

Saban Films will release the action/crime/thriller IDA RED in Theaters, On Digital, and On Demand on November 5, 2021.


IDA RED is written and directed by John Swab (Body Brokers, Let Me Make You a Martyr) and stars Josh Hartnett (Wrath of Man, “Penny Dreadful”), Sofia Hublitz (“Ozark”), William Forsythe (The Devil’s Rejects, Raising Arizona), Deborah Ann Woll (“True Blood”), Frank Grillo (Boss Level, The Purge franchise), and Academy Award winning actress Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Prisoners, Frozen River).


 

Review: Hannah Marks explores the growing pains of modern love in ‘Mark,Mary, and Some Other People’

Synopsis:

Mark and Mary, acquaintances from college, run into each other at a drug store as Mary is buying a pregnancy test. The test is negative and the two wind up dating and rapidly falling for each other. Mark has a more traditional view of relationships and Mary’s view is more modern and progressive. They try “ethical non-monogamy” at Mary’s request, and create their own version of an open relationship, while also trying to balance their fledgling careers and friendships. Through a series of ups and downs, Mary starts to realize she’s more traditional than she thought whereas Mark starts to open up and see the world differently through Mary and a polyamorous lens.


“Traditional” relationships structures were created by, well, who knows. Love is weird and complicated, no matter how hard we try. We’re only human. We have urges that are as basic as they come. Anyone who claims to not be attracted to a person outside of their monogamous relationship is a liar. Love is messy and ever-evolving, and writer-director Hannah Marks gets that. Marks popped onto my radar with Banana Split. Her writing is laugh-out-loud-funny and relatable as hell. In her sophomore film, Mark, Mary, and Some Other People, we get the entire emotional spectrum in an hour and a half.

Hayley Law, as Mary, is equal parts bold and down-to-earth. Ben Rosenfield, as Mark, is the definition of charming. I’m not sure he could be more adorable if he tried. Their chemistry with each other, and the rest of this cast, is electric. You have to wonder if any of the dialogue is improvised. It is abundantly clear making this film was a good time.

Mark, Mary, and Some Other People has both nonchalance and honed in emotional palpability. It tackles big issues like communication, the evolution of relationships, and growing up, all with humor and honesty. It’s not pretty or tied up with a bow. Marks understands why that’s important. It’s a peek inside the complexities of human nature. Mark, Mary, and Some Other People is yet another successful notch in her filmmaking belt.


In Theaters and On Demand:

Friday, November 5


Written & Directed By:
Hannah Marks
Produced by:
Stephen Braun, Jon Lullo, Brendan Walter, Jonathan Duffy, Kelly Williams, Pete Williams, and Hannah Marks
Executive Produced By:
Stephen Braun
Starring:

Ben Rosenfield, Hayley Law, Nik Dodani, Odessa A’zion, Matt Shively, Sofia Bryant, Maggie Wheeler, Joe Lo Truglio, Haley Ramm with Gillian Jacobs and Lea Thompson


Review: ’13 Minutes’ is a pulse-quickening ensemble piece that will echo in every corner of America.

13 Minutes

Synopsis: The day starts out as usual for residents in the small Heartland town of Minninnewah. It’s springtime and big storms are just part of life. Nothing to get worked up about…until they are. Inhabitants will have just 13 Minutes to get to shelter before the largest tornado on record ravages the town, leaving the inhabitants searching for their loved ones and fighting for their lives. In the wake of total devastation, four families must overcome their differences and find strength in themselves and each other in order to survive.


This ensemble film is about a small town in the path of a brewing storm. Racism, homophobia, religion, and small-town politics swirl around the inhabitants as they prepare for anything. Stories collide, and relationships are put to the ultimate test. 

So, here is the breakdown of characters for 13 minutes: Trace Adkins and Anne Heche play a couple named Rick and Tammy, whose far is in dire financial straights. Tammy is also a local OB at the woman’s clinic. Their religion keeps their son Luke (Will Peltz) between a rock and a hard place. Adkins and Heche never fail to blow me out of the water with each beat.

Thora Birch, oh how I have missed you. Birch plays mechanic and single Mom, Jess. Sofia Vassilieva plays her 19-year-old daughter Maddie. Maddie’s future is in flux, and the decision she makes is one her mother understands all too well. These two women have a genuine report with each other. I adored their scenes.

Amy Smart is an ambitious Mom, Kim. She’s the regional emergency manager for the county. Husband Brad, played by Peter Facinelli, is the local tv weatherman. Their elementary school-aged daughter Peyton happens to be deaf. Shaylee Mansfield, as Peyton, is a highlight of this film. Her innocence shines off the screen.

Paz Vega plays Ana. She and her fiance, Carlos (Yancey Arias), are attempting to buy their own home as Ana works at the local motel as the maid. Carlos works on Rick’s farm as a newly hired mechanic. Vega is a hero in 13 minutes, in more ways than one. This character is carefully curated. Vega lives in her. 

Every single member of this cast is outstanding. They understood the assignment. This script is a snapshot of the country, plain and simple. It is just under an hour into the runtime when the tornado hits. These scenes have a visceral impact. They are pure terror. Writer-director Lindsay Gossling taps into the essence of human nature and the spirit of a small-town America. 13 minutes navigates different beliefs, prejudice, and fear, with flawed and fully fleshed-out characters. It’s not simply a disaster film, it is a reflection of the best and worst of humanity in crisis.


In THEATERS October 29th, on DIGITAL and ON-DEMAND, November 19th


Director: Lindsay Gossling

Writer: Lindsay Gossling

Cast: Trace Adkins, Thora Birch, Peter Facinelli, Anne Heche, Amy Smart, Sofia Vassilieva, Paz Vega, Will Peltz, Shaylee Mansfield

Producers: Travis Farncombe, Lindsay Gossling, Karen Harnisch

Cinematographer: Steve Mason ACS, ASC

Language:  English

Running Time: 108 minutes

Rating: PG-13

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) capsule review: ‘The Feast’ is deliciously gory folklore.

SYNOPSIS

IFC Midnight’s THE FEAST follows a young woman serving privileged guests at a dinner party in a remote house in rural Wales. The assembled guests do not realize they are about to eat their last supper.


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences were in for some magic with The Feast. Meticulous sound editing and sharp cinematography create a tense and frightening environment right off the bat. Strikingly framed shots envelop the audience as this house filled with extremely flawed residents prepares for an important dinner. Cadi’s assistance is requested. Her awe and anxiety resonate immediately. But as the day progresses, Cadi has a mysterious connection to the land this family is mining. Superstition, tradition, greed, and revenge clash in The Feast, making for a jarring watch. Performances across the board are outstanding from overtly creepy, pathetic, nouveau riche, prideful, eccentric, gluttonous, and entitled. The Feast is a delicious mix of excellent storytelling and sharp visual composition. It should not be missed.


Nationwide audiences can experience the film when IFCMidnight brings it to theaters on November 19th


DIRECTED BY
Lee Haven Jones
WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY
Roger Williams

CAST Annes Elwy, Lisa Palfrey, and Caroline Berry


#thefeast #ifcmidnight

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) shorts program review: ‘HEAD TRIP’- 9 drastically different shorts #BHFF21

HEAD TRIP shorts program

Head Trip” is a series of 9 ingenious shorts featured at this week’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. They range from deeply dark to laugh-out-loud funny.


Lips, dir. Nicole Tegelaar (Netherlands, Belgium)

Talk about body horror. This short is laser-focused on a particular body part. A young woman awakens in a mysterious clinic. She’s been injured and requires surgery. This one kept me guessing as to who was the bigger danger: the staff or the other patients.


The Departure, dir. Nico van den Brink (Netherlands)

A melancholy, beautiful piece from the Netherlands. The principal characters create immediate rapport despite the short run time, and the cinematography was top-notch. A tragic and thoughtful journey into loss and longing that had me wishing for more.


A Tale Best Forgotten, dir. Tomas Stark (Sweden)

Adapted from a Helen Adam ballade, this is one killer tune.


Sudden Light, dir. Sophie Littman (UK)

My favorite short of the group is a dreamlike countryside odyssey into doubt and fear. Mia (Esme Creed-Miles) and Squeeze (Millie) are walking their dog home, and take a fateful shortcut through a field. I loved the way this short fully harnesses its countryside setting – mud, branches, and smoke all combine into an overwhelming rush. The caliber of talent involved makes you wish for a feature-length narrative.


Tropaion, dir. Kjersti Helen Rasmussen (Norway)

A testament to the power of the wilderness, this short contains barely any dialogue. Stark images are the sole driver of the narrative. The child performers, in particular, are excellent.


The Faraway Man, dir. Megan Gilbert, Jill Hogan (USA)

A powerful narrative on the way evil can manifest itself. A young woman is haunted by the figure of a man, dressed in black, watching from distance. A great example of how blurred the line can be between horror and tragedy. Another short that could easily be stretched to a feature.


Man or Tree, dir. Varun Raman, Tom Hancock (UK)

A breath of fresh air. Imagine you partied too hard and woke up transformed into a tree. I guess you could say this is the rare short that focuses on the trees instead of the whole forest.


Playing With Spiders, dir. Rylan Rafferty (USA)

A disturbing glance behind the curtain of a small cult that worships, you guessed it, spiders. The night before a fateful ritual, Lydia (Kelly Curran) begins to ask some big questions of her peers and leaders. Is she a skeptic, or the only true believer? Even though this had a comedic tone at times, it got the biggest jump scare of the night.


A Puff Before Dying, dir. Mike Pinkney, Michael Reich (USA)

An absolute gut-buster of a short. Like “Team America: World Police” on acid. When 3 teen girls (who are also marionettes) hit the road for a night out, the devil’s lettuce quickly rears its tempestuous head. Will they have the willpower to resist, or will the night end in tragedy?


Today is the final day of BHFF 2021. You can still get tickets to the CLOSING NIGHT film

THE SADNESS

by clicking this LINK.

Fair warning, it is not for the faint of heart.