Review: Writer-director Valerie Buhagiar brings the enchanting tale of ‘CARMEN’ to life with help from Natascha McElhone.

CARMEN

In a small Mediterranean village, Carmen has looked after her brother, the local priest, for her entire life. When the Church abandons Carmen, she is mistaken for the new priest. Carmen begins to see the world, and herself, in a new light.


A tongue-in-cheek story of sacrifice and reward inspired by actual events, CARMEN finds Natascha McElhone recapturing the youth she lost to familial duty and heartache. After a life spent taking care of her brother, the local priest in Malta, his death pushes Carmen, quite literally, out the door.

Carmen’s years of demure nature allow her to become a ghost, eavesdropping on the townsfolk that ignored her. With the unlikely help of a pigeon, Carmen takes control of the very church that kicked her to the curb, fooling the locals for personal entertainment. But, her mischievous advice from the confessional booth changes everything.

Natascha McElhone is elegant and effortlessly charming. CARMEN is essentially a later coming-of-age tale. McElhone’s wide-eyed exploration of life is enchanting, funny, and honest. Shot on the beautiful island of Malta, which if you’ve never been, I suggest you visit. The script’s structure utilizes flashbacks of Carmen’s elusive backstory. Writer-director Valerie Buhagiar brings unbridled joy and hidden complexity to audiences. CARMEN is a delight.


CARMEN will be released in the US Theatrically in major cities and on VOD in the US and Canada on Friday, September 23.

Director: Valerie Buhagiar

Starring: Natascha McElhone, Michaela Farrugia, Steven Love.

 

Theaters include:

NEW YORK – Cinema Village

LOS ANGELES – Laemmle Monica

With exclusive engagements in Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco (Bay Area), Columbus and more.

 

VOD Platforms include:

US: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, XFinity Cable, and more.


 

Review: Latvian film ‘SQUEAL’ is one twisted tale.

SQUEAL

Told through the lens of a man searching for his father, a small village with a medieval mindset, and a pig, the Latvian film SQUEAL is a wild blend of storytelling elements. One part fairytale and one part romanticized Stockholm Syndrome, trust me, you have never seen anything quite like this. Alongside co-writer Aleksandr Rodionov, writer-director Aik Karapetian brings to life a story of belonging under the strangest circumstances.

In search of his father in rural Eastern Europe, Samual is far from home and does not speak the language. After getting lost on his journey, he gets into a car accident. Sidelined by the local farmer’s daughter, he finds himself chained in a pigsty, forced to work as a farmhand. As jealousy and misogyny cause a rift among family members and the locals, Sam must use everything at his disposal to escape or adapt.

The cast is magnificent. Knowing full well of the bizarre nature of this twisted tale, they amazed me. The script is an ever-evolving, emotional rollercoaster. Your feelings about each character change from scene to scene as the screenplay progresses. The narration from Uldis Verners Brūns is delicious. His voice is like a warm hug. The soundtrack is a sumptuous mix of classical pieces from Handel to Vivaldi. Squeal is undoubtedly a unique story that will have you questioning your morality. With an ending that leads to more questions than answers, you’ll leave thinking about this film long after the credits roll.




Official Selection: FANTASTIC FEST 2021 and many more.

SQUEAL will be released in the US theatrically in New York and Los Angeles and on VOD in the US and CANADA on August 19.

Theaters Include (August 19):
Lumiere Music Hall – Los Angeles
Alamo Manhattan- New York

VOD Platforms Include (August 19):
US: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Xfinity Cable, and more.
Canada: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play

Director: Aik Karapetian

Scriptwriter: Aik Karapetian,Aleksandr Rodionov

Cast: Kevin Janssens,Laura Siliņa,Aigars Vilims,Normunds Griestiņš,Juris Bartkevičs,Guntis Pilsums


Filmmaker Aik Karapetian’s dark fairy tale SQUEAL  centers on Samuel (Kevin Janssens), who is far from home, searching for his father. Lost in remotest Eastern Europe, on the edges of a mythical forest, a minor road accident leads to a chance meeting with a pig farmer’s daughter Kirke (Laura Siliņa). Sam soon learns that his priorities must change if he wants to survive. Her initial hospitality is a smoke screen to capture him and make him a forced laborer on the farm. Alone, unable to speak the language, and chained up 24/7 with the pigs, he learns to adapt. Fortunately, a seemingly magical piglet gains Sam’s confidence and shows him the way to freedom and true love. 

Filmmaker Aik Karapetian is a graduate of the Latvian Academy of Culture and has a master’s degree in film direction from the Académie Internationale des Arts – ESEC (Paris). His first feature film, PEOPLE OUT THERE gained international acclaim after its premiere at the Karlovy Vary film festival in competition in 2012. After the successful horror feature THE MAN IN THE ORANGE JACKET (Fantastic Fest 2014, BFI London Film Festival), Aik released the thriller FIRSTBORN (Sitges, Fantastic Fest, Paris International Film Festival 2017). 

Aik has also staged two successful opera productions at the Latvian National Opera house, THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, which was awarded as the Best stage production of the season in 2011 and FAUST, which premiered in September 2016. His version of Bizet’s CARMEN premiered at the Opera National de Montpellier (France) in 2018 followed by Gounod’s FAUST at the Trondheim Symfoniorkester & Opera (Norway) in 2019.


ABOUT GOOD DEED ENTERTAINMENT
Good Deed Entertainment (GDE) is an Ohio-based independent studio dedicated to producing, financing, and distributing quality entertainment for under-served audiences. Its distribution slate includes recent releases Summertime, Ma Belle, My Beauty, and Lucky Grandma, in addition to the Academy Award-nominated, Loving Vincent, and Spirit Award-nominated, To Dust.

Website: http://www.gooddeedentertainment.com/


Connect with Cranked Up Films: WEBSITE: http://www.crankedupfilms.com/ FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/crankedupfilms/ TWITTER: https://twitter.com/crankedupfilms/ INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/crankedupfi…


 

Review: ‘A SEXPLANATION’ is the single most sex positive lesson of my entire life.

Just your typical queer, Asian American, comedic sex education documentary about the universal search for love, connection, and family acceptance.


Gloriously raw and unapologetic, A Sexplanation was the most informative lesson on sex I’ve ever seen. Like director Alex Liu, my parents never had “The Talk” with me. My Catholic school elementary sex-ed class was in 5th grade. Separating the boys and girls, we got the basics on menstrual health and body parts. That was it. I think I got that same lesson in my high school health class. Why are those classes always taught by gym teachers, anyway? Seriously, why don’t schools bring in experts? In A Sexplanation, Alex Liu does all the groundwork for those left to their own devices at slumber parties, sleep-away camps, and dial-up internet. 

Liu sits down with folks across the sexuality information spectrum; doctors, scientists, therapists, activists, a politician, and a priest! Some of the most intriguing moments happen when Alex speaks with his parents. They are honest, unfiltered, and make the viewer feel the need to talk to their parental figures to clear some shit up. The film also introduces us to programs like INclued, an LGBTQ-centered evidence-based sexual health education program for youth ages 14-19. I wish that existed when I was a teen!

Along with the interviews, visual gags featuring phallic objects and vibrant cartoon animation from Woodenmarker serves as quirky transitions. The biggest challenge in watching the film will be the same for everyone, and Liu understands this. Getting past our ingrained biases, owning each cringe at an image or word, and diving deep into the reasons those reactions occur in the first place. Tackling family dynamics, “The Talk” is so important and how we learn to talk about sex. Statistics do not lie. States teaching abstinence-only have higher teen pregnancy and STI rates. Families need to normalize open lines of communication. We need to step out of our comfort zones and embrace our own sex positivity to better the world. 

 Liu makes himself the guinea pig in a project that could actually save lives. The amount of information in the doc is mind-blowing. The lack of shame makes A Sexplanation a glorious watch and an honest-to-goodness celebration of sexual literacy.


Available on Digital Download from 6th June

Director’s Statement

Alex Liu, writer and director: “A Sexplanation follows my quest to confront my sex education — by finally getting a real one.

Growing up, sex felt shameful. My parents never brought it up. School focused on disease, pregnancy, and abstinence. By my 30s, I was surprised by how much shame I still carried. After talking with friends, I realized I wasn’t alone.

  The film documents my attempt to strip away this shame, no matter how awkward it might get — even masturbating in an MRI machine (for science!).

Through honest conversations with scientists, educators, and even my parents, I try to uncover some naked truths and hard facts that will get us to a healthier, sexier future.”

asexplanation.com

A Sexplanation will be available on Digital Download from 6th June on iTunes on GooglePlay.


Review: Drag superstar Bebe Zahara Benet gets real in Emily Branham’s documentary ‘Being Bebe’

BEING BEBE

BEING BEBE intimately charts 15 years of drag performer Marshall Ngwa (aka BeBe Zahara Benet): An immigrant to America from homophobic Cameroon, first champion on now-iconic LGBTQ+ reality show phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race. Grounded by Marshall’s present-day narration, the film features vérité, interviews and performances illustrating his journey to Queer Black Excellence.


A cultural icon in the world of female illusion, BeBe Zahara Benet rose to international fame as the first winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But Marshal Kudi Ngwa‘s career was years in the making before the reality series. Director Emily Branham uses archival footage mixed with sit-down interviews during COVID. How does a star slowed down by a global pandemic remain relevant without a live audience’s love and energy? Being BeBe is a heartfelt and honest look at the artist pushing boundaries without pause.

The film addresses the criminality of queerness in Cameroon. Branham respectfully blurs the faces of the participants not only for their physical safety but to give them the freedom to express themselves fully on camera. These young men explain the constant fear of being discovered by family or friends. The isolation takes a toll. The slip of a gesture could mean putting their existence at risk. BeBe has become a role model for those in Cameroon. She uses her platform to support the queer community and give a face to black excellence.

Marshall has a personable and glorious nature. You long to be in his presence as he radiates kindness, humor, grace, and an intensely inspiring work ethic. The film is an unfiltered look at the industry’s ups and downs. That unpredictability causes Marshall to push his ego aside, emotional breakthroughs, and unapologetic admissions. Being BeBe is infectious. If you weren’t a fan before, get ready for newfound respect and adoration for BeBe Zahara Benet because, honey, she continues giving us Face, Face, Face, no matter what.


BEING BEBE // Festival Teaser from Emily Branham on Vimeo.

BEING BEBE, roars into Pride Month on June 7th on major Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD) platforms via digital distributor Giant Pictures
(Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu – Pre-Order at https://geni.us/BeingBeBe).
The film will also make its Broadcast Premiere on Fuse on June 21st.


Review: ‘Paulie Go!’ is a genre-bending, fish-out-of-water story.

After being rejected letter from the AI robotics program he’s worked his entire life towards, Paulie won’t take no for an answer. He steals his uncle’s van and drives to Minnesota in an attempt to track down one Professor Chuck Shikenjansk and change his mind. 

As Cheryl, Tracie Thoms is a joy, possessing aspects of Paulie and Avery’s personalities. Her character brings Paulie Go! to another level of storytelling. Madison Wolfe plays Avery with an effortless cool. She’s slick and savvy. Without even knowing it, she’s a role model. Ethan Dizon as Paulie is so much fun to watch. He’s a master of awkward social-emotional interaction and a victim of extreme overconfidence. Dizon’s energy is infectious. He and Wolfe have perfect chemistry. 

Director Andrew Nackman brings audiences a fish out of water road (or boat) movie that is relatable and family-friendly. In truth, it’s a genre-defying delight. That small-town Minnesota energy lends itself to genuine and funny dialogue. Paulie Go! is a film about two teens who have more in common than they realize. Jake Greene‘s script ( story also by Nackman and David J. Lee) subverts all expectations as it overflows with nuance. Paulie Go! deals with adolescence, loss, and self-discovery. Watch it with the entire family. 


Available to Rent or Own on Digital Platforms May 24, 2022


Directed by ANDREW NACKMAN

Written by JAKE GREENE

Produced by LAUREN TAIT HOGARTH, LAURA IVEY & JAKE GREENE

Starring ETHAN DIZON, MADISON WOLFE, DAVID THEUNE, BERNARD WHITE & TRACIE THOMS


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/


 

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.