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!


 

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!


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!


 

Short film review: ‘Shadow Bird (Sonsi)’ enchants from beginning to end.

SHADOW BIRD (SONSI)

Every morning, eight-year-old Nadi wanders somewhere between the conscious and the unconscious, to meet her dream-etched Shadow Bird. A second character unfailingly follows – the mysterious Timekeeper, who has a clock fitted inside his heart. Every day upon his arrival, the sleepy village would wake up. But one morning neither the Shadow Bird nor the Timekeeper arrive…and Nadi ventures alone into the deep, mysterious woods in search of them.


If you’re looking for something akin to the world of Guillermo Del Toro films, look no further than the Indian short film Shadow Bird (Sonsi). Boasting twenty-four minutes of extraordinary lighting, lush colors, and dazzling cinematic dynamics. These elements are carefully curated by writer/director/cinematographer Savita Singh. I was immediately consumed by Shadow Bird’s glorious sound editing from Ajit Singh Rathore and Anmol Bhave. The score from Tajdar Junaid tops off this elegant folklore tale. The cast is phenomenal. We’re plunged into this dreamlike world with the calming narration from Rasika Duggal. Young actress Aarohi Radhakrishnan portrays Nadi with the perfect amount of precociousness and innocence. Jameel Khan, as Time-Keeper, brings yet another magical element to Shadow Bird. There’s something so whimsical about his facial expressions and voice. What a stunning treatment for a feature. I could watch this over and over, it’s simply that enchanting. This is one of those films that reminds us of why we go to the cinema. It is art.


Shadow Bird, the latest film by groundbreaking director Savita Singh has qualified for the 2022 Academy Awards and is in consideration for nomination in the ‘Best Short Film’ category.

This builds on the National Award the film received in India for Best Cinematography (Non-Feature Film), the highest recognition for cinema in India. ‘Shadow Bird’ qualified for the Oscars by virtue of winning the Bengaluru International Short Film Festival, the only Oscar-qualifying film festival in India. It also won ‘Best Short Film’ at the Lady Filmmakers Festival in Beverly Hills, CA.


WINNER: BEST FILM

Bengaluru International Short Film Festival 2021

WINNER: BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

67th National Film Awards

WINNER: BEST SHORT FILM

Lady Filmmakers Festival 2021

 

NOMINEE: BEST SHORT FILM

NYIFF New York Indian Film Festival 2021

 

OFFICIAL SELECTION

Montecatini International Short Film Festival 2021

 

IFFSA Toronto 2021

Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival 2021

Dharamshala International Film Festival


DOC NYC (2021) short film reviews: ‘Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker ‘ & ‘Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma’

Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker  

This is what most short films aspire to be– a brief 30 minutes that conveys a story so completely it feels like a much longer narrative. An exposition on the homoerotic imagery within the art of J.C. Leyendecker, Coded excels at blending what is essentially an art history lesson with its present-day significance and with a deeply romantic love story to boot. As someone who is always here for a story about true love, this one left an impression that is unlikely to fade.


Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma

Overflowing with cool-kid energy, this short film dazzles and delights. A tribute to the Black ABCs and growing up in New Jersey, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma excels in quickly establishing a sense of place. This is a film about black people that is made for black people, i.e. Art that deeply respects its subject. The colors and angles of the shots are gripping, trippy, and mesmerizing. Viewing was akin to walking through an art exhibit: what do all the disparate clips mean? You get the sense of it but it’s mostly vibes.


For more info on DOC NYC 2021 click here!


Soho International Film Festival short review: ‘KLUTZ.’ is a creative and thought-provoking meditation on grief.

Zowie lost her sister and is falling down on the job of life. Can’t love. Won’t go out. Refuses to work properly. But she stumbles upon an accidental superpower: when she falls, when she feels pain — gravity bends so that she can see her sister again. However, the space-time-continuum giveth, the space-time-continuum taketh away, and the next time she hurts, her sister is gone. Frustrated and depleted, Zowie is torn between moving on or withering on the vine. So, in a whiskey-fueled dream-state, she makes a choice: to fall one last time. On purpose.


Grief is a personal journey. When your person gets ripped from your orbit, all bets are off. “Coping” can mean destructive behavior in the form of alcohol, binge eating, even self-harm. Or, grief can manifest itself into the most creative outlets. In Zowie’s case, pain and darkness are where she’s become comfortable. It’s also where her sister appears to her, bringing her momentary joy. In Klutz, Zowie must learn to evolve within her preconceived notions of sadness.

Grief has no timeline. No one can tell you how to process it. It’s not their place. Klutz manages to pull you into Zowie’s emotional orbit. The dialogue is dynamic and thoughtful, at times mired in anguish, while others were playfully silly. I was lucky enough to watch Klutz three times, catching more and more cleverly repeated images each viewing. I adored this short on a personal level. As someone who has lost one of my people, I lived inside this narrative. Klutz is relatable and poetic. It’s a beautifully insightful little film.


Showings – select to order tickets:
  • Runtime:
    14 minutes
  • Language:
    English
  • Country:
    United States
  • Premiere:
    NEW YORK Premiere
  • Note:
    Death
  • Director:
    Michelle Bossy
  • Screenwriter:
    Elizabeth Narciso
  • Producer:
    Malka Wallick, Mara Kassin, Howard Wallick & Freda Rosenfeld, David Selden & Julie Wallick, Elizabeth Narciso, Scott & Susan Shay
  • Cast:
    Malka Wallick, Mara Kassin, Sanjit De Silva, Geneva Carr, Angel Desai, Wai Ching Ho, Florencia Lozano, Geoffrey Owens



Blood In the Snow (2021) Shorts reviews from Super Channel weekend.

Here are some of the short films showing on Super Channel this weekend at  BITS 2021…


Giant Bear (*shown alongside Don’t Say Its Name)
Gorgeous animation of the desolate and snowy tundra. One man comes face to face with a legend. The Inuit vocal track will consume you. This one left me with a lot of emotions.


The Death Doula
A man’s past interferes with his ability to usher a client into the afterlife. This nuanced story presents questions of morality and anguish. Beautiful and costumes sets help ease the viewer into a lulled sense of safety. It is incredibly unique.


Watershed
The world’s water supply is poison. A soul survivor stumbles across a young Mandarin girl who may have figured out how to create clean water. Danger lurks off of every overhanging eve. With powerful visuals, Watershed is an awesome treatment for a feature or series. I need to know what happens next.


Part of A Series of Web Bites:

Creepy Bits- Chapter 1- “Baby Face”
Is a young Mom seeing things on the baby monitor? This is still a fear for me. Are those dust particles or spirits gliding across my screen?! This one goes much further. It’s unsettling.


Narcoleap: S2
Thanks to a “previously on Narcoleap” recap, we get the concept of the show, immediately. And it’s cool. Director Kate Green, who also created the series, gives us drama, complexity, and a ton of great characters. As you keep watching, the show gives you a genuine Quantum Leap feel, but you also catch a Dollhouse vibe through its humor and sci-fi aspects. This is a full-on production. How has this not been picked up by Syfy or CW already? This is my formal push. It deserves a wider audience.


GHOST- A Primitive Evolution
Radio signals connect two post-apocalyptic survivors. This is both a short film and a music video. I have to say, this song rocks. Loved the bridge. I would watch this in longer form. There are solid concepts here and a very cool final shot.


Midnight Lunch Break
Becka is a mouthy shock jock radio host who gets an in-studio visit from a masked listener on Halloween. This one is laugh-out-loud hilarious. At 5 minutes, it’s such a tease, I wanted to see more!


The Revenge of the Snowflakes
A woman’s success is spoiled by online trolls. She takes her boyfriend along in a tongue-in-cheek revenge moment turned violet. This short was great but it was clear there is so much more to the story that we don’t get to see. I wanted a feature to back up the 5 minutes… Which is a great thing.


We All Dream (*being shown with Motherly at 9 pm this evening)
A young girl’s apparent sleepwalking poses a constant danger to her family. All is not what it seems. This is wildly fun and creepy. It produced a slow grin I couldn’t wipe off. Give me more of this story ASAP.


Disquietude (screening with Tin Can Sunday night at 11:30 pm.)
Grab your headphones or crank up the audio for this one featuring a musician. It’s vital to the plot. Trapped inside an anechoic chamber with only her music and thoughts, each infinitesimal sound becomes exacerbated to the nth degree. This would drive anyone mad. It’s perfectly panic-inducing.


You can check out the second half of BLOOD IN THE SNOW (2021) in person

November 18-23 at The Royale Theatre

Tickets are on sale now!


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.


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

OH, BABY!

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


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



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

2021 Dances with Film review: Love, religion, and identity collide in ‘OVER MY DEAD BODY’.

OVER MY DEAD BODY

 
Synopsis:

Isfahan, a Persian-Jewish woman in Los Angeles, is considered, at thirty-one, to be well past marrying age. So her conservative parents are relieved when she announces her engagement to her younger boyfriend, Kambiz. Until they learn he is Muslim. Her father immediately vetoes the marriage, her mother calls the siblings over, and Kambiz gets kicked out of the house. The situation escalates into an all-out confrontation between Isfahan and her family. As she defends her love, the family defends their traditions, demanding that she honor their religion and old-world values. This intergenerational struggle forces Isfahan to make a decision that will define the rest of her life.


At an impasse of religion and love, the title of this thought-provoking short film suggests that it’s a horror film. While not touted as such, what unfolds in 25 minutes between family members is absolutely horrific. To fully appreciate the nuance in Over My Dead Body takes an open mind. Often, we place ourselves in the shoes of the characters on screen. Here, depending on your religious beliefs (or lack thereof), the complexities are unsurpassed. Having religion forced upon me as a child backfired at the age of about 14. In a world filled with volatility caused by media corporations, conflicting gods, and traditions, Over My Dead Body hits harder in modern times. Our families are supposed to love us unconditionally. What happens when that isn’t true? The cinematography is smart and takes advantage of the lush sets and costumes. Performances from this true ensemble cast are magnetic. You know this family. It resembles your own in more ways than you might realize at first watch. With an ending that will leave you breathless, the impact of this short should echo loudly.


Meital Cohen Navarro’s OVER MY DEAD BODY, a devastating short film
about a family at war over love versus religious tradition
screens in competition at 2021 Dances with Films

Screening Information:
WHERE:                       TCL Chinese 6 Theatres (6801 Hollywood Blvd.)
WHEN:                         Saturday, August 28 at 1:30 PM


 

SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘Nuevo Rico’ & ‘The Thing That Ate The Birds’

Nuevo Rico

A brother and sister stumble upon a celestial secret that propels them into Reggaetón stardom, but at what price?

This mixed media animation is a literal bright spot in the shorts program. It’s a little Adult Swim, a dash of video game, part music video, all drenched in neon-colored deliciousness. Twins Barbie and Vico find out about the trappings of fame and dismissing their culture the hard way. In 16 minutes it manages to touch on socio-economics, politics, and identity, just to name a few relevant issues. Writer-director Kristian Mercado uses voice-over, songs, and dialogue to communicate this unique short.  Angélica Agélviz‘s character designs are striking. I could easily watch an expanded series about these characters. There’s enough content to warrant more in-depth episodes. Plus, you won’t be able to get enough of the distinctive look of Nuevo Rico. It’s just plain cool.”


The Thing That Ate The Birds

Set on the North Yorkshire Moors, the film follows Abel, the Head Gamekeeper as he discovers the thing that is eating his grouse. His blunt and violent response brings the menace back home shattering his already crumbling relationship with his wife.

The short has its SXSW premiere from Gunpowder & Sky’s horror brand, ALTER – The Thing That Ate The Birds by writer and director duo Sophie Mair (Ella, And the Baby Screamed) and Dan Gitsham (Ella, And the Baby Screamed). If this is meant to be a treatment for a feature, I want to see that feature. The score is classic Hitchcock strings. The cinematography is gorgeous and that last shot is pure Ari Aster, unapologetic horror. It’s one hell of an introduction to those who are unfamiliar with Mair and Gitsham. Someone, please give them a huge budget and the freedom to scare the crap out of us in a longer form.

ABOUT ALTER

ALTER is a horror brand for novel and grounded stories exploring the human condition through warped perspectives.

Giving voice to emerging, diverse, and established filmmakers, ALTER’s owned and operated channel is distributed across YouTube and Facebook, with more than 15M monthly uniques,  where three short films or series are released each week. In addition to curating and distributing award-winning content, ALTER develops unique stories with some of the most innovative minds in the genre through its ALTER Studio projects – which are not bound to a particular platform or format.

In October, ALTER, along with Executive Producer Sam Raimi (Evil DeadSpider-Man), premiered Part 2 of the horror series “50 States of Fright”, starring Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Travis Fimmel (“Vikings”, Warcraft: The Beginning) and Christina Ricci (“Monster,” “Z: The Beginning of Everything”). In 2019, the BAFTA-nominated horror short, The Blue Door starring (Gemma Whelan – Game of ThronesThe End of the F***ing World) premiered on ALTER, and earlier this year it was also announced that “Moreau”, a sci-fi TV series that puts a modern spin on the classic novel, “The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H.G. Wells has gone into development and will be written by Zack Stentz (X-Men: First Class, Thor, Rim Of The World). In addition, the psychological thriller “Horror Accidental”, based on the Japanese TV drama series, ‘Horror Accidental 1&2’, will be brought to life by writer and director Evan Daugherty (‘Divergent,’ ‘Tomb Raider’).

Additional releases include the brand’s first unscripted podcast series, “ALTER Weekly”, which gives its audience a deep dive into the past, present, and future of the horror genre; short film La Noria, directed by Carlos Beana, that won best-animated film at The Webby Awards; CAM, winner of Best Screenplay at 2018’s Fantasia Festival and was acquired by Netflix; the official 2018 Sundance Film Festival selection, Summer of 84, the thriller directed by RKSS (Turbo Kid); and the  SXSW selection, Villains, starring Bill Skarsgard (It) and Maika Monroe (It Follows).

ABOUT GUNPOWDER & SKY

Gunpowder & Sky is an independent studio that creates and distributes feature films, series, short-form content, podcasts, and channels, bridging digital and traditional entertainment.

Since its inception in 2016, Gunpowder & Sky has released more than 30 feature films and series, more than 750 short films in theatres, on TVOD, and leading platforms such as HBO, Netflix, MTV, Hulu, Sky, Showtime, Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, Quibi, Audible and Discovery.

Notable films and series include 69: The Saga Of Danny Hernandez, Her Smell, Everybody’s Everything, Prospect, Sea Fever, The Little Hours, Cam, Hearts Beat Loud, Lords of Chaos, Tragedy Girls, Betting on Zero, Summer of 84, Villains, Survive, 50 States of Fright and Drawn & Recorded.

With a collective audience of more than 65M monthly unique viewers, Gunpowder & Sky also owns and operates content brands that include DUST, the number one free sci-fi channel; ALTER, a leading horror brand, and CUT, an unscripted & comedy brand that is home to the successful formats “Truth or Drink” and “Fear Pong”. DUST, ALTER, and CUT are distributed on all major streaming platforms including Apple, Amazon, Comcast, Facebook, Peacock, Roku, Samsung, Sinclair, Sling, Vizio, Xumo, and YouTube.

Gunpowder & Sky also recently launched its premium audio studio, and in less than one year has established a leading position in music and sci-fi, claiming #1 fiction podcast on Apple and the #1 podcast on Audible.

With offices in Los Angeles and New York, Gunpowder & Sky was founded by Van Toffler and Floris Bauer, in partnership with The Chernin Group and AT&T.

SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘Stuffed’, ‘Don’t Peek’, ‘The Moogai’ are all chilling and unique shorts.

STUFFED

A musical film about a taxidermist who dreams of stuffing a human and a man she meets online so afraid of ageing he volunteers to be her specimen. An unexpected romantic spark between them complicates their plans.

Honestly, you had me at the categories “Musical, Horror”. This is the perfect short for genre fans who are clamoring to get back into theatres of all kinds. The score is wonderfully quirky. It will strike a chord with Sondheim fans. It’s is very Sweeney Todd inspired in sound and darkness. Written by Joss Holden-Rea and Theo Rhys, directed by Rhys, and music and lyrics by Holden-Rea, these two make one hell of a creative team. (I’m begging for a feature-length version of this story) Actors Anthony Young and Alison Fitzjohn have gorgeous voices. Their ability to connect with one another and the audience is a thing of beauty. The cinematography is carefully curated. The practical FX are outstanding. STUFFED is a unique experience you do not want to miss out on. This is the magic that audiences of SXSW salivate over.


DON’T PEAK

A young woman discovers a frightening video game character intent on crossing into the real world.

It’s rare that I jump and feel the need to cover my eyes these days while watching horror. I’ve consumed so much I can usually predict what’s eventually going to happen. In this hair-raising short, a game of Animal Crossing becomes a nightmare when an invited entity crosses from gameplay to real life. I found my heart in my throat. To be that successful in terrifying me in under 7 minutes, I say, “Bravo, writer-director Julian Terry. You got me.”


THE MOOGAI

An Aboriginal psychological horror, THE MOOGAI is the story of a family terrorized by a child-stealing spirit.

Whether a literal interpretation of an actual demon or not, so many theories swirled in my mind as I sweat through my t-shirt watching this short film. This feels like an intense form of gaslighting. Or maybe it’s a product of sleep deprivation. Perhaps it’s Postpartum? The terror is seen and unseen and in this short, the performances take you to the darkest parts of your mind. As a parent, it’s beyond unsettling.

 

SXSW21: What we’re excited to dive into at this year’s virtual fest.

SXSW21 is virtual, allowing it to reach a wider audience. Screenings begin Tuesday and we’re already salivating at the lineup. Here are just a few films we’re excited to watch.


NARRATIVE:

RECOVERY

Directors: Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek, Screenwriters: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Producers: Scott Christopherson, Stephen Meek, Abi Nielson Hunsaker
Two directionless sisters brave a cross-country road trip to rescue their grandmother from a COVID outbreak at her nursing home. Cast List: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Anne Sward Hansen, Julia Jolley, Baylee Thornock, Jessica Drolet, Stephen Meek, Tyler Andrew Jones, Noah Kershisnik, Justin Call (World Premiere)

It’s officially been a year since we locked ourselves in our homes. If anyone can make pandemic humor relatable, it’s Whitney Call and Mallory Everton with their improv and sketch comedy background. Also, the fact that they’ve known each other forever, I’m guessing that will only help make this the most believable chemistry between co-stars. 

WITCH HUNT

Director/Screenwriter: Elle Callahan, Producers: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
In a modern America where witches are real and witchcraft is illegal, a sheltered teenager must face her own demons and prejudices as she helps two young witches avoid law enforcement and cross the southern border to asylum in Mexico. Cast List: Gideon Adlon, Elizabeth Mitchell, Abigail Cowen, Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti, Christian Camargo (World Premiere)

I know women who practice witchcraft. To think their wellbeing could ever be put in jeopardy is a terrifying thought. Originally slated to screen at SXSW2020, it’s time to share this film with the masses. The synopsis alone gets the gears turning on possible political parallels from the past few years.

PAUL DOOD’s DEADLY LUNCH BREAK

Director: Nick Gillespie, Screenwriters: Brook Driver, Matt White, Nick Gillespie, Producer: Finn Bruce
When Paul’s chances of winning a national talent contest are ruined and his dreams of fame are slashed, he plans a deathly revenge rampage!! 1 lunch break, 5 spectacular murders! Each wrongdoer dispatched in a fitting manner by the sparkly suited Paul! Cast List: Tom Meeten, Katherine Parkinson, Kris Marshall, Alice Lowe, Mandeep Dhillon, Johnny Vegas, Steve Oram, Craig Parkinson, Kevin Bishop, Pippa Haywood (World Premiere)

Here is another cast list that grabbed my attention right away. Plus sequins and murder aren’t usually synonymous. British humor gets me every single time.

JAKOB’S WIFE

Director: Travis Stevens, Screenwriters: Travis Stevens, Kathy Charles, Mark Steensland, Producers: Barbara Crampton, Bob Portal, Travis Stevens, Inderpal Singh
The disappearance of a young woman threatens to change the beige and banal lives of Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton) and her pastor husband Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden) forever. Cast List: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Mark Kelly, Sarah Lind, Robert Rusler, Nyisha Bell, Phil Brooks (World Premiere)

Travis Stevens gave me one of the most gagworthy practical FX-filled films in 2019 with GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR. Starring genre queen (and Timelord in my own mind) Barbara Crampton and the legendary Larry Fessenden, the buzz around this newest work is electric. Crampton’s uncanny ability to own the screen with a glance will undoubtedly captivate audiences, yet again. Also, knowing that Stevens is a huge horror fan himself (his producer credits give him away as does his totally down-to-earth Twitter feed) gives me the warm and fuzzies knowing that he’ll take care of audiences in all the ways we need.


DOCUMENTARY:

LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD

Director: Jeremy Workman, Producers: Jeremy Workman, Robert J. Lyons
Lily Topples The World follows 20-year-old Lily Hevesh — the world’s most acclaimed domino toppler and the only woman in her field — in a coming-of-age story of artistry, passion, and unlikely triumph. Executive produced by Kelly Marie Tran. (World Premiere)

My kids (and I) have become obsessed with toppling videos on YouTube. Once you go down that rabbit hole, you’re not coming out. The sheer patience it must take to build these feats is something I cannot even fathom. Knowing that this entire doc centers on a young woman at the top of her game encourages me to watch with my kids. I have a feeling SXSW audiences may do the same.

THE LOST SONS

Director: Ursula Macfarlane, Producer: Gagan Rehill
1960s Chicago, a baby is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is abandoned. Could he be the same baby? In a tale of breathtaking twists and turns, two mysteries begin to unravel and dark family secrets are revealed. (World Premiere)

This is a story I was slightly familiar with from its 20/20 broadcast. Since we’re all true crime junkies now, The Lost Sons should garner a sold-out audience.


SHORT FILMS:

THE THING THAT ATE THE BIRDS

Directors/Screenwriters: Sophie Mair, Dan Gitsham
On the North Yorkshire Moors, Abel, Head Gamekeeper, discovers the thing that is eating his grouse. (North American Premiere)

Gunpowder & Sky’s horror brand, ALTER will be premiering the horror short film by writer and director duo Sophie Mair (Ella, And the Baby Screamed) and Dan Gitsham (Ella, And the Baby Screamed), The Thing That  Ate The Birds. They had me at the title. Since horror is my jam, and the name alone instills a sense of fear and anxiety, I have to know what “The Thing” is!

NUEVO RICO

Director: Kristian Mercado, Screenwriters: Kristian Mercado, Juan Arroyo
A brother and sister stumble upon a celestial secret that changes their lives forever and propels them into Reggaetón stardom, but they soon discover that their newfound fame comes at a deep price. (World Premiere)

Animation with edgy social commentary will catch my attention every time. Filmmaker Kristian Mercado Figueroa is known for this skill. With the voice talents of Orange Is The New Black alum Jackie Cruz, this one caught my eye from its press still alone.

STUFFED

Director: Theo Rhys, Screenwriters: Theo Rhys, Joss Holden-Rea
Stuffed is a short musical about a taxidermist who dreams of stuffing a human and the man she meets online, so afraid of aging he volunteers to be her specimen. An unexpected romantic spark between them complicates their plans. (North American Premiere)

You had me at the categories Horror and Musical. Since Sweeney Todd, Repo: The Genetic Opera, and Anna and the Apocalypse, I’ve been dying for more genre musical goodness. STUFFED may just fill that void even in short form.

MARVIN’S NEVER HAD COFFEE BEFORE

Director: Andrew Carter, Screenwriters: Andrew Carter, Kahlil Maskati
Marvin Wexler tries coffee for the first time and desperately tries to talk about it with anyone who will listen.

I grew up a tea drinker. I loathed just the idea of coffee until I was in my 30’s. Now I have 10 bags in different flavors and roasts and an obnoxious coffee maker in my apartment. I remember the joy of discovering this drink that fuels my days and some of my nights as a writer and a Mom.


You can find the full lineup of events and grab yourself tickets at

SXSW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Jill Sixx Gevargizian’s ‘THE STYLIST’ has a look to die for.

THE STYLIST

Everyone dreams of being someone else, but for Claire, that dream goes from an obsession to a living nightmare. Her job as a hairstylist allows her to move in and out of other people’s worlds and is about to seamlessly pursue her disturbing predilection. Her lonely life, gruesome hobby, and shocking secrets are suddenly thrown into turmoil when her regular client, Olivia, asks her to style her hair for her wedding. Could she have made a true friend?

Back in 2016, I saw a disturbing and memorable short called The Stylist. Some of those images are still burnt into my brain. It’s not often I say that about a short. Now, writer/director/ producer Jill Sixx Gevargizian has developed that very short into a feature. That’s the funny thing about hairstylists. We totally end up telling them all about ourselves. It’s this unspoken, universal rule. We trust them with our hair and our secrets. Returning in the titular role is Najarra Townsend. She has this timeless look, with her gorgeous red hair and her vintage wardrobe. Signature colors people. Bravo to the costume department here. She has incredibly low self-esteem and social anxiety. Also, she’s a serial killer. This woman hates herself and craves connection. Gevargizian’s expertise as a real-life hairstylist shines through the opening scenes. She clearly guided Townsend’s hands to perfect the realism.

Brea Grant, who can do no wrong in my book, shines as Olivia, magazine exec, bride-to-be, and the unique object of Claire’s affection. She’s a firecracker. Her energy is the perfect foil for Najarra’s (mostly) quiet demeanor. Townsend has an amazing presence. Even when the focus is supposed to be on Olivia, her silhouette looms like a ghost in the background. She lives in the complexity of Gevargizian ‘s screenplay. She is both unsettling and mesmerizing.

We have to talk about the audio. The sound editing will make you cringe. The original score will throw your brain off-kilter and feels like an ode to 70’s horror classics. The editing is smart with side by side frames showing us Claire and Olivia as they navigate what seems mundane. The more we see them together, the more we realize how different these two women are. This script is built on the need for acceptance. There was a bit of a Single White Female (1992) meets May (2002) thing happening and I was all in. The Stylist is visually striking. You are enveloped in the lighting and overall color choices. The cinematic elements combined with stellar performances and an intense script creates a wildly successful atmospheric film dripping in nuance. Your heart is in your throat, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s a very uncomfortable and bone-chilling watch. That. Final. Shot. And Cut.

See THE STYLIST first, on March 1st 2021, exclusively on ARROW.

Distributor: Arrow Video
Release date: 1st March, 2020
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Sundance 2021 review: ‘Doublespeak’ portrays the very real downside of reporting sexual harassment.

Doublespeak

A young woman grapples with the aftermath of reporting sexual harassment
in the workplace.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Watching this short physically hurt my soul. Having been in this exact scenario I understand the stress this story produces. The need to apologize, the need to reassure loved ones of our mental state, the gaslighting from co-workers, it’s all there in this 9-minute film. Angela Wong Carbone nails the anxiety of a never-ending cycle of patriarchal oppression. You can feel it all emanating off of her. The meaningful closeups and partially off-kilter shots put you inside Emma’s mindset of having to reiterate the circumstances of her complaint. This is often why women don’t come forward with reports. The trauma of reliving incidents is not fun. Writer/director Hazel McKibbin has given a voice to too many. It’s an incredibly effective short. It speaks volumes.
___________________________________________________________
Section: Shorts Program 4
Director: Hazel McKibbin
Screenwriter: Hazel McKibbin
Cast: Angela Wong Carbone, Tony Costa, Tricia Merrick,
Ken Driesslein, Frank Lewallen, Reece Ennis
Producers: Stephanie Fine
Cinematography: Allison Anderson
Editors: Jordan Anstatt, Hazel McKibbin
Country: United States Run Time: 10 minutes
________________________________________________________
**2021 Sundance Film Festival: Shorts Program**
**Vimeo: Best of the Month Staff Pick**
**Short of the Week: Official Premiere**

Review: ‘DAVID’ is hilariously layered.

DAVID

David needs help. So does David.

If you tell me Will Ferrell is in it, I’ll watch it. If you say it also stars William Jackson Harper, umm, yeah I’m there. I’ve seen Ferrell in a few roles that require him to play the straight man. Stranger Than Fiction, Everything Must Go, and Winter Passing being the closest. Here he is tasked with portraying a therapist to a suicidal patient played by Harper. The two exchange incredibly powerful (if not brief) back and forth before they are interrupted by someone else in Ferrell’s life. Bursting into the session and causing nothing but chaos, three people trapped in a room against, perhaps, their better judgment, are simply trying to navigate boundaries and the consequences of crossing them. Harper is exactly what we need him to be here. He’s always solid with an ability to connect with a viewer. Ferrell is exceptional. He is charming and helpful and honest. The surprise performance comes from Fred Hechinger. His manic energy bursts off the screen and really wreaks physical and emotional havoc. It’s fantastic. The awkward dynamic writer/director Zach Woods places us in the middle of is comedy gold. But underneath is an honest message of love. This short will surprise you with its charm.

Cannes Film Festival – Short Film Competition 2020
Toronto International Film Festival – Official Competition 2020

USA / 2020 / 11 / Fiction

CAST
Therapist – Will Ferrell
David – William Jackson Harper
David – Fred Hechinger
Andy Doan – Corey Jantzen
Referee – Sebastian Vale

CREW
Director – Zach Woods
Screenplay – Brandon Gardner & Zach Woods
Production – Freestyle Picture Company, Ways & Means
Producers – Kevin Chinoy & Francesca Silvestri, Zach Woods, Andrew Porter
Cinematography – Andre Lascaris
Editing – Nick Paley

Sundance 2021 review: ‘Raspberry’ is perfect short film for when words fail.

Raspberry

Synopsis:

“Undertakers wait on a family’s final farewells as one son struggles to say goodbye to his dead father.”

There are 5 stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Everyone has their own style. No one can tell you how to process the death of a loved one. Raspberry is a fantastic example of the nuanced responses. From inspirational speeches, well wishes, to tears… and even perhaps an inside joke. It doesn’t feel like a natural process to the living. Raspberry confronts this in the most honest way. I had to watch this short twice and it was even more brilliant the second time around. It’s the specifically subtle reaction to the climactic moment that got me. Oh, and that final line. The look and cinematography are great, but writer/director Julian Doan‘s script combined with stellar performances make Raspberry as impactful as it is. I hope anyone who has ever lost someone close to them gets to live in this film for its 7-minute runtime.

RASPBERRY  Directed and Written by Julian Doan

Short Films Program — Acquisition

Starring Raymond Lee, Alexis Rhee, Joseph Lee, Gihee Hong, Molly Leland, and Matt Kelly

Produced by Turner Munch and Brianna Murphy

To access Raspberry in the Shorts Program you can click here!