Here are 8 films at Indie Memphis Film Festival 2021 that we’re looking forward to before it’s hybrid addition arrives October 20th-25th!

INDIE MEMPHIS FILM FESTIVAL 2021

So much to see we have to plan out our schedule now! Here are 8 wildly different films we’re looking forward to seeing and why…

JUJU STORIES (Dirs. Abba Makama, C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi, Michael Omonua) – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
A three-part anthology film exploring juju (magical) stories rooted in Nigerian folklore and urban legend, written and directed by the Nigerian new wave cinema collective known as Surreal16.
2021, 84 min, Drama/Fantasy/Horror

Give me horror based on folklore, any day. Written and directed by C.J. Obasi, Abba Makama, and Michael Omonua. The film features three stories: “Love Potion” by Omonua, “YAM” by Makama, and “Suffer The Witch” by Obasi. Anthologies as a horror subgenre definitely continue to be successful. Watching the teaser alone gave me chills.


THE PILL (Dir. Franco Clarke) 
An African-American family indulges in the use of a secret pill that helps them cope with their day-to-day stressors of racism outside of their home.
2021, 81 min, Comedy, Theater/Virtual

A story that is, perhaps, hundreds of years in the making, The Pill might not be so hard to swallow. What if this pill existed in the real world? Would families of color indulge in such an option? This seemingly small idea amounts to something much bigger than most of us can imagine.


WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (Dir. Jane Schoenbrun) 
Reality and fantasy begin to blur when a teen immerses herself in a role-playing horror game online.
2021, 86 min, Drama/Horror, Theater/Virtual

This has been making the rounds at festivals for the past year. I have not stopped hearing about it. As someone who grew up when the internet and chatrooms first became a thing, We’re All Going To The World’s Fair has an eerie hold on my psyche. Anna Cobb commands the screen in her first-ever feature. This will continue to Wow audiences when it hits theaters and streams on HBOMax next year. Indie Memphis audiences can be “in the know” way beforehand.


QUEEN OF GLORY (Dir. Nana Mensah) 
Ghanaian-American Sarah is all set to abandon her Ivy League doctoral program to follow her married lover across the country. Her plans are derailed, however, when her mother’s sudden death leaves her the owner of a neighborhood bookshop in the Bronx.
2021, 75 min, Comedy/Drama, Theater

We do strange things for love. Take it from someone who moved from NYC to India for 6 months with my boyfriend (now my husband). The sacrifices we make, the people we leave behind, are all tricky choices when it comes to matters of the heart.


I WAS A SIMPLE MAN (Dir. Christopher Makoto Yogi) 
As Masao (Steve Iwamoto) gets sicker, he is visited by ghosts of his past, including his wife, Grace (Constance Wu), who helps shepherd him into the beyond. Merging dream, family history, romantic period piece, all bridged by gently psychedelic observations of nature.
2021, 101 min, Drama, Virtual

Facing our mortality puts things into perspective. You cannot help but assess your life and whether or not it had any impact. I Was A Simple Man plays with time and memory in a beautifully eclectic manner. While writer-director Christopher Makoto Yogi’s second feature thoughtfully tackles death, it is simultaneously an homage to Hawaii.


BUNKER (Dir. Jenny Perlin) – WORLD PREMIERE
The debut feature film of renowned filmmaker Jenny Perlin investigates the lonely lives of American men who have decided to live in decommissioned military bunkers and nuclear missile silos, and follows the process of building and selling these structures to the wealthy and not-so-wealthy alike.
2021, 92 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

As a child playing in my grandparents’ home, I stumbled upon a small room that was normally locked. I came to learn that it was a fallout shelter. This perplexed and fascinated me. As a genre film fan, I have often thought about the number of narrative fictions that involved these bunkers. As an adult who has a relative that is a “Prepper” this doc intrigues me to no end.


LISTENING TO KENNY G (Dir. Penny Lane) 
Penny Lane’s documentary takes a witty and provocative look at the easy-listening saxophonist’s story while asking: what makes music good or bad?
2021, 97 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

If you’re not a Kenny G fan, the mere mention of his name can be satire. His record sales tell you another story with over 52 million albums sold. Being the butt of the joke is a double-edged sword for G, over his 40-year career he’s changed musical culture, whether we “get it” or not. Penny Lane gives us an intimate insight into Kenny G. He’s going to slay you with his charm. Good luck.


KILLER (Dir. A.D. Smith, 90 min) 
After a pandemic strikes the nation, ten friends decide to quarantine under the same roof. Unfortunately, one of them is a killer.
2021, Horror, Theater/Virtual

The longer you’re in close quarters with someone, the more likely you want to kill them. That’s simply human nature, right? I laugh, in hindsight, thinking that lockdown was only going to be two weeks. Lucky for me, I didn’t have an actual killer in my house. But, I did have two toddlers, and that’s sort of the same thing. A.D. Smith takes a group of college friends and places them in a game of life or death. High stakes for pandemic films right now. Fingers crossed for some creative kills, because what else can a genre fan hope for?


More information on tickets and virtual screenings for
Indie Memphis Fim Festival 2021
HERE

 

 


 The 24th Annual Indie Memphis Film Festival, Ft. Sean Baker’s RED ROCKET as Opening Night Film, World Premieres of FERNY & LUCA and BUNKER, and More

Image from Andrew Infante’s IMFF2021 World Premiere, FERNY & LUCA

 Indie Memphis Film Festival, presented by Duncan Williams, Inc., for its 2021 incarnation runs from October 20th – 25th. This year’s festival promises to be a very exciting and wildly varied one, featuring films ranging from new discoveries to beloved classics, from festival hits to experimental wonders, and everything in-between.

“I am incredibly excited by what we are offering this year with the festival,“ says Indie Memphis Executive Director Knox Shelton, “The programming is stellar and, in terms of how we’ve planned the festival, we hope that we have found ways for people to celebrate independent filmmaking based on their comfort level. We understand that there is no perfect way to do this, but we’ve taken steps to ensure the health and safety of our filmmakers, attendees, volunteers, and staff.”

In the quest to reach a large audience while taking staunch COVID-19 precautions, this year’s festival will be a hybrid of online and in-person screenings and events. For in-person Memphis screenings and events, proof of COVID-19 vaccine is required for all staff, volunteers, contractors, and attendees, and masks are required at all times indoors. Venues for screenings are now focused on larger theaters to better accommodate social-distanced seating; these include Crosstown Theater, The Block Party will be delayed until a year in which we can better protect the health of our attendees, partners, and staff. Circuit Playhouse, Playhouse on the Square, and the Malco Summer Drive-In. Festival parties will be limited to outdoor celebrations on Opening and Closing Night.

The 2021 festival features work from up-and-coming filmmakers, as well as festival hits such as Jonas Carpignano’s A CHIARA, Jane Schoenbrun’s WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR, Penny Lane’s LISTENING TO KENNY G, Céline Sciamma’s PETITE MAMAN, and many more.

The festival also features exciting premieres, such as the World Premiere of Andrew Infante’s FERNY & LUCA. The film is a look into the on-and-off relationship between Ferny, a sweet and naive pretty boy, and Luca, a rough and tumble disco queen, who is more concerned with chasing her dreams than chasing boys. There’s also the World Premiere of Jenny Perlin’s BUNKER, a documentary that investigates the lonely lives of American men who have decided to live in decommissioned military bunkers and nuclear missile silos, and follows the process of building and selling these structures to the wealthy and not-so-wealthy alike.

The Opening Night film is Sean Baker’s Cannes favorite RED ROCKET, starring Simon Rex as a pornstar who returns to his Texas hometown that barely tolerates him, the Centerpiece Presentation is Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s DRIVE MY CAR, and the Closing Night is Pablo Larrain’s SPENCER. Some additional standout titles include Robert Greene’s PROCESSION, a documentary about a group of survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests battle for justice, and Rhayne Vermette’s STE. ANNE, a drama that traces an allegorical reclamation of land through personal, symbolic, and historical sites.

“We’re honored to be introducing these titles to Memphis audiences,” said Indie Memphis Artistic Director Miriam Bale. “I’m confident many of these are classics that will be talked about for a long time to come. We aim to have a collection of films that is winnowed down to the best of year, and I think this line-up reflects that.”

The festival continues to feature live music performed in the theaters before every screening. The Black Creators Forum also returns for a fourth year, this time in a hybrid format, both online and with an outdoor in-person component. This festival programming continues to reflect diversity in all areas, with a special focus on films from the African Diaspora and Africa. Indie Memphis is privileged to present the North American premiere of JUJU STORIES, an anthology film from the Nigerian new wave cinema collective known as Surreal16, after its World Premiere at Locarno.

Additional upcoming announcements will include the Black Creators Forum program, virtual IndieTalks Panels, Live Music Lineup, and more.


2021 Indie Memphis Film Festival Slate
Alphabetical by Category

OPENING NIGHT

RED ROCKET (Dir. Sean Baker)

In a magnetic, live-wire performance, Simon Rex plays a pornstar who returns to his Texas hometown that barely tolerates him.

2021, 128 min, Drama, Theater


CENTERPIECE

DRIVE MY CAR (Dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)

Adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story in which an aging actor can no longer drive, so he hires a quiet 20-year-old girl as his chauffeur.
2021, 179 min, Drama, Theater


CLOSING NIGHT

SPENCER (Dir. Pablo Larraín)

An imagining of one weekend in the life of Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart), as she spends the Christmas holiday with the royal family at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, and decides to leave her marriage to Prince Charles.
2021, 101 min, Drama, Theater


NARRATIVE COMPETITION

FERNY & LUCA (Dir. Andrew Infante) – WORLD PREMIERE

A look into the on-and-off relationship between Ferny, a sweet and naive pretty boy, and Luca, a rough and tumble disco queen, who is more concerned with chasing her dreams than chasing boys… mostly.
2021, 70 min, Drama, Theater/Virtual

JUJU STORIES (Dirs. Abba Makama, C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi, Michael Omonua) – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
A three-part anthology film exploring juju (magical) stories rooted in Nigerian folklore and urban legend, written and directed by the Nigerian new wave cinema collective known as Surreal16.
2021, 84 min, Drama/Fantasy/Horror

THE PILL (Dir. Franco Clarke) 
An African-American family indulges in the use of a secret pill that helps them cope with their day-to-day stressors of racism outside of their home.
2021, 81 min, Comedy, Theater/Virtual

WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (Dir. Jane Schoenbrun) 
Reality and fantasy begin to blur when a teen immerses herself in a role-playing horror game online.
2021, 86 min, Drama/Horror, Theater/Virtual

QUEEN OF GLORY (Dir. Nana Mensah) 
Ghanaian-American Sarah is all set to abandon her Ivy League doctoral program to follow her married lover across the country. Her plans are derailed, however, when her mother’s sudden death leaves her the owner of a neighborhood bookshop in the Bronx.
2021, 75 min, Comedy/Drama, Theater


DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

LARRY FLYNT FOR PRESIDENT (Dir. Nadia Szold) 

Assembled from never before seen footage shot in 1983, this film documents controversial Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt’s unlikely bid for the White House after a gunman’s bullet left him partially paralyzed.
2021, 90 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

ONE OF OURS (Dir. Yasmine Mathurin) 
After a Haitian-born youth is racially profiled at an Indigenous basketball tournament, he wrestles with his shaken sense of belonging in his Indigenous adoptive family while attempting to heal from his past.
2021, 88 min, Documentary, Virtual/Theater

WE STILL HERE (Dir. Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi) 
An introduction to the incredible youth activists of Comerío, Puerto Rico, who navigate the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a disaster that brought an unprecedented level of devastation to an island already in economic and political crisis.
2021, 100 min, Documentary, Virtual

YOU DON’T KNOW ME (Dir. Jon Kent) 
A documentary film about Tennessee death row inmate Abu-Ali ‘Abdur Rahman and the celebrated attorney and justice system that failed him following one of Nashville’s most notorious crimes.
2020, 100 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual


NARRATIVE SPOTLIGHT

A CHIARA (Dir. Jonas Carpignano)

A 15-year-old girl doggedly searches for the truth behind her adored father’s sudden abandonment in Calabria.
2021, 121 min, Drama, Theater/Virtual

C’MON C’MON (Dir. Mike Mills) 
Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) and his young nephew (Woody Norman) forge a tenuous but transformational relationship when they are unexpectedly thrown together in this delicate and deeply moving story about the connections between adults and children, the past and the future.
2021, 108 min, Drama, Theater

MEMORIA (Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethaku) 
From the extraordinary mind of Palme D’or winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and starring Academy Award-winner Tilda Swinton, comes a meditative mystery about a Scottish woman who begins experiencing a mysterious sensory syndrome while traversing the jungles of Colombia.
2021, 136 min, Drama, Theater

PETITE MAMAN (Dir. Céline Sciamma) 
8-year-old Nelly has just lost her beloved grandmother and is helping her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home. While exploring the surrounding woods where her mother used to play, she meets another little girl who seems eerily familiar. Nelly’s new friend takes her to a house that is a mirror of her own.
2021, 72 min, Drama, Theater/Virtual

I WAS A SIMPLE MAN (Dir. Christopher Makoto Yogi) 
As Masao (Steve Iwamoto) gets sicker, he is visited by ghosts of his past, including his wife, Grace (Constance Wu), who helps shepherd him into the beyond. Merging dream, family history, romantic period piece, all bridged by gently psychedelic observations of nature.
2021, 101 min, Drama, Virtual

SECRET SCREENING
One of the most daring and moving films of the year! You won’t want to miss this.
2021, 142 min, Theater


DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHT

ALIEN ON STAGE (Dirs. Danielle Kummer and Lucy Harvey) 

Bus Drivers from Dorset, England stage a homemade homage of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, with special effects needing “more luck than judgement.”
2021, 86 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

FLEE  (Dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen) 
Recounted mostly through animation to director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Amin Nawabi tells of his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.
2021, 90 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

MAURICE HINES: BRING THEM BACK (Dir. John Carluccio) 
An intimate portrait of an outspoken showman who with humor and grace navigates the highs and lows of a seven-decade career, and a complex relationship with his superstar brother, Gregory Hines.
2021, 95 min, Documentary, Virtual

THE MUSHROOM SPEAKS (Dir. Marion Neumann) 
A film about the fungal reign explores the theme of renewal, and questions what connects us when the world seems to be falling apart.
2021, 89 min, Documentary, English, VirtuaL

SISTERS WITH TRANSISTORS (Dir. Lisa Rovner)
Beautifully narrated by Laurie Anderson, this documentary is about electronic music’s women pioneers, including Clara Rockmore, Daphne Oram, Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveros, Delia Derbyshire, Maryanne Amacher, Eliane Radigue, Suzanne Ciani, and Laurie Spiegel.
2021, 86 min, Documentary, Virtual


DEPARTURES
Films That Depart from Expectations

BUNKER (Dir. Jenny Perlin) – WORLD PREMIERE

The debut feature film of renowned filmmaker Jenny Perlin investigates the lonely lives of American men who have decided to live in decommissioned military bunkers and nuclear missile silos, and follows the process of building and selling these structures to the wealthy and not-so-wealthy alike.
2021, 92 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

MANY FIRES THIS TIME WE THE 100 MILLION (Dir. Jason R.A. Foster)
A poetic docudrama about the 1 in 3 Americans living in economic insecurity. It follows the journey of poet and activist A Scribe Called Quess? as he connects with fellow activist poets and the communities they represent from Oakland to Chicago to Kentucky to his hometown of New Orleans.
2021, 70 min, Documentary, Virtual

NORTH BY CURRENT (Dir. Angelo Madsen Minax)
A family death spurs a first-person study on the nature of grief, time, and origins.
2021, 86 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

PROCESSION (Dir. Robert Greene)
A group of survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests battle for justice.
2021, 119 min, Documentary, Theater

STE. ANNE (Dir. Rhayne Vermette)
Shot over the course of two years, Ste. Anne traces an allegorical reclamation of land through personal, symbolic and historical sites all across Treaty 1 Territory, heartland of the Métis Nation.
2021, 80 min, Drama, Virtual


SOUNDS
Films That Celebrate Music

ELDER’S CORNER (Dir. Siji Awoyinka)

ELDER’S CORNER is a historical music documentary showcasing the lives and work of Nigeria’s pioneering musicians.
2021, 97 min, Documentary, Theater/VirtuaL

LISTENING TO KENNY G (Dir. Penny Lane) 
Penny Lane’s documentary takes a witty and provocative look at the easy-listening saxophonist’s story while asking: what makes music good or bad?
2021, 97 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHE (Dirs. Celeste Bell and Paul Sng)
The life and work of X-Ray Spex singer-songwriter and punk icon Poly Styrene is explored by her daughter in this dynamic yet delicate personal film. There are also explorations of Styrene’s identity as a half-Somali woman in the largely white punk scene.
2021, 96 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

REZ METAL (Dir. Ashkan Soltani Stone)
A documentary about the metal band I Don’t Konform and the vibrant heavy metal scene throughout the Navajo reservation.
2021, 75 min, Documentary, Virtual


HOMETOWNER FEATURES
Films From Memphis Filmmakers

A BALLET SEASON (Dirs. David Goodman, Steven J. Ross)

A year in the life of Ballet Memphis, a southern dance organization dedicated to putting diversity on the stage while challenging preconceptions about regional ballet. This predominantly observational documentary follows the many individuals and artists who collaborate together as a community over the course of a dizzying pre-pandemic season (2018-2019).
2021, 56 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

THE LUCKY ELEVEN (Dir. George Tillman)
A group of eleven young men from the south side of Memphis began their journey in Jr High and made their way to the NFL.
2021, 66 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

KILLER (Dir. A.D. Smith, 90 min)
After a pandemic strikes the nation, ten friends decide to quarantine under the same roof. Unfortunately, one of them is a killer.
2021, Horror, Theater/Virtual

LIFE AIN’T LIKE THE MOVIES (Dir. Robert Butler)
An awkward 16 year old black teen comes of age and learns about love, bullying, tragedy and how to connect to his father who he’s extremely different from.
2021, Drama, Theater/Virtual

REEL ROCK: BLACK ICE (Dirs. Peter Mortimer & Zachary Barr)
A crew of aspiring ice climbers from the Memphis Rox gym travels to the frozen wilds of Montana, where mentors Manoah Ainuu, Conrad Anker and Fred Campbell share their love of winter adventure in the mountains.
2021, 45 min, Virtual/Theater


REVIVALS/ RESTORATIONS

CHAMELEON STREET (Dir. Wendell B. Harris Jr.)

In this seminal work in African-American independent film, William Douglas Street is bored with his life. Working for his father is getting to him, his wife wants more money, and he’s had enough. His solution is to re-invent himself. He becomes a chameleon, taking on whatever role suits the situation.
1989, 94 min, Comedy/Drama, Theater 

DEEP BLUES (Dir. Robert Mugge)
Music critic Robert Palmer narrates the insightful story of Delta blues and North Mississippi hill country blues.
1992, 91 min, Documentary, Theater

RADIO ON (Dir. Chris Petit)
Set in 1970’s Britain, a man drives from London to Bristol to investigate his brother’s death. The purpose of his trip is offset by his encounters with a series of odd people.
1979, 104 min, Drama, Theater


SPECIAL SCREENING
Don Meyers Memorial Retrospective

A collection of some of the notable films by actor, filmmaker, artist, and Memphis legend, Don Meyers.
2021, 180 min, Theater

Grimmfest (2021) review: ‘Night Drive’ shifts into an entirely new gear.

NIGHT DRIVE

A ride share driver’s life is turned upside down after an unexpected series of misfortunes.


Russel drives for Jaunt, an Uber-like app, shuttling people of all types all over L.A. After a young female passenger named Charlotte requests an added stop, Russel becomes caught up in a plot no one would see coming. This seemingly mundane premise spirals into shocking chaos that never ends. It’s an awesome commentary on how power changes the human soul. The chemistry between Sophie Dalah and AJ Bowen is electric. Their witty repartee and Charlotte’s penchant for danger keep the stakes and excitement high. With films like The Toll, Spree, and The Stranger, rideshare horror is an ever-expanding subgenre. Meghan Leon and Bradford Baruh share directing and producing credits. Baruh also plays the role of DP. Leon adds editor to her resume in addition to screenwriter. This script takes us on one wild ride. What feels like a set-up we’re getting used to becomes a (SPOILER ALERT) neo-noir sci-fi! It’s such an incredible payoff for an already tight 80 minutes. When are we going to normalize shorter runtimes with outstanding storytelling? Night Drive sets a strong precedent. Do I smell franchise potential? I could get revved up for that.



[Available October 16, 2021, 1:30 – 11:30 PM] Watch now online…


Shudder Original Review: ‘V/H/S/94’ is another fantastic gore-soaked addition to the franchise with a killer nostalgic twist.

V/H/S/94

Synopsis

A Shudder Original Film, V/H/S/94 is the fourth installment in the hit horror anthology franchise and marks the return of the infamous found footage anthology with segments from franchise alumni Simon Barrett (Séance) and Timo Tjahjanto (May the Devil Take You Too) in addition to acclaimed directors Jennifer Reeder (Knives & Skin), Ryan Prows (Lowlife) and Chloe Okuno (Slut). In V/H/S/94, after the discovery of a mysterious VHS tape, a brutish police swat team launch a high-intensity raid on a remote warehouse, only to discover a sinister cult compound whose collection of pre-recorded material uncovers a nightmarish conspiracy.


Boasting unbelievable practical FX, the scares in V/H/S/94 are brilliant. I’m talking legitimate, meticulously timed jump scares from every single director. The quality of the film forces you to sit up and pay closer attention, sometimes squinting over the tracking adjustments as they crowd the screen. The V/H/S franchise has been able to capture something glorious beyond the found footage genre. It’s the mystery behind the overall arch that keeps you creeped out and engaged on top of the fantastic individual stories. It’s a double whammy of horror goodness. You’ll shiver and gag and think, “Damn, this is good shit.”

The grand scheme of V/H/S 94, or “Holy Hell,” has the audience following a SWAT team into an industrial building filled with monitors and plenty of body parts. They don’t know who or what they’re searching for, exactly. As they sweep the rooms a new tape begins to play. Each one is completely different and spectacularly twisted. Tape 1, titled “Storm Drain” features a local legend of Ratman. An ambitious reporter and her cameraman get in over their heads. Tape 2, “The Empty Wake,” sees a young woman left to record the wake of a recently deceased man. Alone with a dead body during a storm? No thanks. This segment was my personal favorite. It’s old-school scary meets nuts visuals. I couldn’t help but yell NOPE at the screen, again and again.

Tape 3 “The Subject,” tells the tale of a mad doctor attempting to improve humans with technology. If you ever wanted a live first-person shooter game experience, now you’ve got one. Tape 4 “Terror” takes aim at domestic terrorism with a group of militiamen planning to cleanse America with s monstrous weapon. I also have to mention, director Steven Kostanski’s infomercial “The Veggie Masher.” It’s totally maniacal and random as hell. But at the same time, perfectly harkens back to those 3 am hour-long commercials for ridiculous kitchen gadgets. The finale actually gives you answers. As the 4th installment of the franchise, V/H/S94 makes it clear that these films are alive and well and ready to fuck you up.


V/H/S/94 WILL BE RELEASED

EXCLUSIVELY ON SHUDDER ON OCTOBER 6TH

Available on Shudder US, Shudder CA, Shudder UK, and Shudder ANZ


Directed by Chloe Okuno, Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto,

Ryan Prows & Jennifer Reeder


Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: U.S. / Indonesia

Language: English / Indonesian

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

GRIMMFEST 2021

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

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


THE BETA TEST

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

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


THE RIGHTEOUS

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

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


WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS

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

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


THE SPORE

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

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


HOTEL POSEIDON

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

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


ALONE WITH YOU

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

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



FULL VIRTUAL FESTIVAL LINE UP:

● FOR ROGER (Aaron Bartuska, USA)

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

● SLAPFACE (Jeremiah Kipp, USA)

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

● HAPPY TIMES (Michael Mayer, Israel / USA)

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

● VAL (Aaron Fradkin, USA, 77 min)

● THE SPORE (D.M. Cunningham, USA)

● THE PIZZAGATE MASSACRE (John Valley, USA)

● MOTHERLY (Craig David Wallace, Canada)

● SHOT IN THE DARK (Keene McRae, USA)

● NIGHT DRIVE (Brad Baruh, USA)

● MIDNIGHT (Oh-seung Kwon, South Korea)

● FACELESS (Marcel Sarmiento, USA)

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

● THE FREE FALL (Adam Stillwell, USA)

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

● THE GUEST ROOM (Stefano Lodovichi, Italy)

● HOTEL POSEIDON (Stefan Lernous, Belgium)

● FORGIVENESS (Alex Kahuam, Mexico)

● TWO WITCHES (Pierre Tsigaridis, USA)

● KING KNIGHT (Richard Bates Jnr, USA)

● TARUMAMA / LLANTO MALDITO (Andres Beltran, Colombia)

● THE RIGHTEOUS (Mark O’Brien, Canada)


 

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

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

JULIA

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

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

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



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


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

OH, BABY!

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


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



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

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


BABY, DON’T CRY

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


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


DIRECTOR

Jesse Dvorak

WRITER

Zita Bai

CAST

Zita Bai, Boni Mata, Vas Provatakis, Helen Sun


WONDERFUL PARADISE

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


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


DIRECTOR

Masashi Yamamoto

WRITER

Suzuyuki Kaneko, Masashi Yamamoto

CAST

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


 

 

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

MARTYRS LANE

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


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


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

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


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

HELLBENDER

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


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

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

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

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

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


 

Review: ‘Rust Belt Driller’ opens Midnight series at Dances With Films.

DWF21

headling the Midnight series is

Rust Belt Driller

Renn Maxwell seems to have everything going for him. He has a manager that cares, he’s good enough at his craft (visual art) to have private gallery screenings. He seems to live in a nice looking house and he has a committed, streetwise, and beautiful partner in Carol. But Renn has been followed all his life by something dark. And now with the chaos of the modern world, and his own inner horrors, that evil has finally gotten close enough to reach out and touch. What follows in the next few days will pain the city of Buffalo, NY a whole new canvas, mostly flowing red.


Rust Belt Driller is the epitome of a midnight movie. It’s a celebration of gross practical FX, borderline annoying and meta infomercials, and a bent reality between art and life. The editing is jarring as hell. Be prepared to jump from the varying levels in audio decibels. There’s some really solid camera work, as well. The saturation levels in the color correction throw your brain off-kilter. But this stylistic decision makes an impact. There are definitely moments that could use editing for time. A few stares that last too long would benefit from hitting the cutting room floor.

Of all the performances, I have to mention one standout from the crowd. Mary Coleman as The Homeless Woman was really great. As I watched her short monologue, I audibly said, “Wow, she’s really good.” So, shout out to Miss Coleman. Screenwriter and star Aaron Krygier as Renn is pretty spectacular. His commitment is what sells this entire idea. Am I suggesting you watch this while on some sort of drug? I’m not not suggesting that. Rust Belt Driller is a psychosexual horror from some seriously disturbed minds. While I may not exactly understand the ending, I have to applaud the ingenuity and unadulterated balls it took to make this film.


Rust Belt Driller is a feature Horror film that is headlining the Midnight series on August 27, 2021, at 11:55 PM at Dances with Films at the Mann Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Dances With Films LA runs from August 26th to September 12th. You can find out more info at https://danceswithfilms.com/home-2021/

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


 

Review: ‘CONFETTI’ Raises Awareness with Heart & Charm 

CONFETTI

How far would a mother go to reverse her child’s fate? Based on writer/director Ann Hu’s story, that’s the question facing Lan (ZHU ZHU), who travels with her 9-year-old daughter Meimei (HARMONIE HE) from their small town in China to New York City.

Inflicted with a learning disability, Meimei is considered a strange and dumb girl, an outcast in her school and community. What no one recognizes, however, is that she possesses a gift waiting to be unlocked. The world seen through her eyes is unique and filled with magic. When her mother learns that Meimei suffers from dyslexia, as do 1 in 10 people worldwide, she will stop at nothing to help her, including leaving her life in China behind and venturing alone with Meimei to New York City, braving a place she knows nothing about and speaking not a word of English.


Confetti is a heartfelt film that aims to tackle complicated issues of immigration, dyslexia, and the barriers that parents will overcome to provide a better life for their children. 

While the story centers on a dedicated mother (Zhu Zhu) leaving her small town in China on a quest to find the best education for her daughter (Harmonie He) with learning disabilities, it morphs into an analysis about social norms, expectations, and conformity. What is the likely fate for a child who is different? What if the standard model of education shouldn’t be “one size fits all”? In Confetti, tenacity and radically good luck make all the difference. But what about children that are even less fortunate? 

Confetti is a refreshing insight into the Asian American immigrant experience that is not frequently centered. Director Ann Hu should be commended for elevating complex intersectional stories like this one, even if some plot points feel a bit disjointed or unfinished. Charming performances by Zhu Zhu and Harmonie He animate a touching story of perseverance and sacrifice. 

The film will be released in theaters on August 20, 2021, and stars Zhu Zhu (Cloud Atlas, Marco Polo), Amy Irving (Crossing Delancey, Yentl)Helen Slater (Supergirl), and Harmonie He.


Writer, producer, and director Ann Hu’s 35mm debut Shadow Magic was one of the top box office hits in China and won both the Chinese Academy Award and Presidential Award in China for Best Film among other international prizes. The film premiered at the 2000 Sundance film Festival and was released by Sony Classics in 2001. Following the success of Shadow Magic, Ann Hu directed and produced Beauty Remains.  After a successful festival run, the film was released theatrically by Emerging Pictures in 2005 and was also a top performer in China.

Zhu Zhu is an acclaimed and award-winning Chinese actress who is up-and-coming in the US. Zhu Zhu made her U.S. theatrical debut in the Wachowski’s film CLOUD ATLAS, appearing opposite Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, and can also be seen in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS opposite Russell Crowe. She then went on the play the female lead in Netflix’s original series MARCO POLO and starred in the Indian film TUBELIGHT directed by Kabir Khan alongside India’s most popular actor Salman Khan, which made her the first Chinese actress to star in a Bollywood film. She also recently appeared in box office hit, PACIFIC RIM UPRISING.


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

THE NOVICE

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


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

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


About Bentonville

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

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

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

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

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


SUPPORT

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


Review: ‘Love Type D’ is charming and unexpected.

 

Bad news. Being unlucky in love is genetic.

 How can someone love you yesterday and not today? Shortly after her boyfriend sends his 12-year-old brother to break the news that she’s dumped, Frankie Browne discovers that she has a loser in love gene. Every man she goes out with will inevitably break up with her. Facing a lifetime of romantic failure, Frankie turns to the only genetics expert she knows: her former nemesis, Wilbur, a schoolboy science prodigy. Wilbur develops a maverick theory to reverse her romantic fortunes that sets into motion an unexpected and comic journey into Frankie’s past of questionable romantic choices.

Love Type D is a quirky and completely unexpected romcom. With a mixture of flashbacks and impressive ingenuity, Frankie figures she has nothing left to lose in love. Taking the advice of 12-year-old Wilbur throws her life into chaos. But it’s all in the name of finally understanding herself and the patterns of heartbreak. Wrangling in co-workers with similar relationship woes, Frankie becomes bolder than she ever thought possible. Love Type D is anything but the typical romcom. The script, by director Sasha Collington, is endlessly fun. Maeve Dermody skillfully plays upon Frankie’s eccentricities to make her genuinely loveable. This gives the film a solid Bridget Jone’s Diary vibe. But Love Type D easily stands on its own two left feet. Dermody is pure delight.  Even though Oliver Farnworth is on the poster with Dermody, it’s the performance from Rory Stroud as Wilbur that makes this film magic. His delivery of Collington’s dialogue is like watching a 45-year-old man inside a 12-year-old’s body. He is simply darling. If he’s not cast in every single upcoming British film, I’ll be flabbergasted. He’s a star.

OPENING ON-DEMAND EVERYWHERE

ON JULY 9, 2021

LOVE TYPE D stars Maeve Dermody, Rory Stroud, Oliver Farnworth, and Tovah Feldshuh.

It was written and directed by first-time filmmaker Sasha Collington.

The film has a running time of 94 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.  Vertical Entertainment will release LOVE TYPE D On Demand everywhere on July 9, 2021.

Tribeca Festival 2021 capsule reviews: ‘Settlers’, ‘Glob Lessons’, and ‘7 Days’

Settlers

Mankind’s earliest settlers on the Martian frontier do what they must to survive the cosmic elements and each other.

Undeniably riveting, Settlers pits one family unit against another. Brooklynn Prince, who burst onto the scene in The Florida Project, captivates as a child whose survival depends on the lies she’s been fed by adults. Sofia Boutella skillfully plays her mother and ardent protector. As the reality of the situation of humanity is slowly revealed, the peril grows for everyone involved. Settlers is a film about trust, through and through. As time passes, Remmy’s role is taken over by Nell Tiger Free. She must navigate loneliness, and more importantly, the advances of the man who keeps her both alive and captive. Settlers’ unique script by director Wyatt Rockefeller allows us to question what we would do when faced with extreme circumstances. The landscape beautifully mimics the surface of Mars. Its desolate surroundings create palpable isolation and ceaseless desperation. The addition of a robotic character is the only thing that brings levity. Ismael Cruz Córdova as Jesses walks a precarious line between savior and villain. His beliefs steer the story into the darkest regions of human nature. Settlers is worth the watch for extraordinary performances and one hell of a feature debut from Rockefeller.

DIRECTOR
Wyatt Rockefeller
CAST

Sofia Boutella, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brooklynn Prince, Nell Tiger Free, Jonny Lee Miller


Glob Lessons

Two mismatched strangers confront their fears of intimacy and inadequacy as they tour low-budget children’s theatre out of a minivan across the frozen Upper Midwest.

Nicole Rodenburg and Colin Froeber give us every emotion on screen. As a theater major, I know Jesse and Alan. But as a human being, everyone will know them. The concept of pouring your soul into your passion with little in return is universal, be it children’s theatre or any other occupation. There is a fine line between love and loathing. The laughs are plenty lying within awkward non-conversation and road movie tropes. Tension and tolerance levels eventually come to a head with creativity as their savior. In Glob Lessons, the moments of genuine intimacy between Froeber and Rodenburg grab hold of the viewer. Jesse and Alan are fleshed-out characters. At times they are pathetic, other times endearing. The chemistry between Froeber and Rodenburg is the stuff of movie magic. Glob Lessons isn’t flashy and that’s the point. Life is messy. Let’s own it. I am excited to see what comes next from a voice like Rodenburg’s. If Glob Lessons is any indication, we’ll be seeing more very soon.

 

DIRECTOR
Nicole Rodenburg
SCREENWRITER

Colin Froeber, Nicole Rodenburg


7 Days

As if their pre-arranged date, organized by their traditional Indian parents, wasn’t uncomfortable enough, Ravi and Rita are forced to shelter in place together as COVID-19’s reach intensifies.

This film snuck up on me. Filmed during lockdown and using COVID as a major plot point, 7 Days turns the concept of traditional arranged marriage on its head. Geraldine Viswanathan brings the laughs as Rita. Breaking the mold of the dutiful would-be bride, she begrudgingly comes to Ravi’s rescue with little to no hope of being his match. Karan Soni, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Roshan Sethi, plays straight-laced, Ravi.  As boredom sets in and guards are let down, a genuine connection slowly develops. The chemistry between Viswanathan and Karan feels grounded and made for some incredibly memorable moments. 7 Days is funny and heartfelt. I was not expecting the darker turn in the script. It was a bold move that paid off in spades. Filmed mostly in one room created the tension and awkwardness we needed to experience alongside Rita and Ravi. It takes the idea of close quarters to the extreme. 7 Days is a true gem from this year’s festival.

DIRECTOR
Roshan Sethi
SCREENWRITER
Karan Soni, Roshan Sethi
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Roshan Sethi, Karan Soni, Geraldine Viswanathan

HBO Documentary films review: ‘The Legend Of The Underground’ Invites You to a Party and a Movement

The Legend of the Underground

This film is a searing and timely look at the struggle against rampant discrimination that exists in Nigeria today, as seen through the lens of several charismatic, non-conformist youth who fight to live life out loud. Through social media, celebrity and bold creativity, they spark a cultural debate that challenges the ideals of gender, conformity and civil rights in Nigeria.

The Legend of the Underground overflows with an unshakable optimism in the face of oppression that is mesmerizing to watch. Told by a tremendous ensemble cast, the film depicts the reality of a new generation of LGBTQ+ youth in Lagos, Nigeria, as they bravely push past a conservative cultural landscape in a quest for freedom and happiness. 

The film shows both the fight against rampant discrimination in Nigeria today and the LGBTQ+ community’s response– a defiant, dynamic, and endlessly creative counter-culture. While honest about the realities that these youth face, the film is not a slog through trauma and hardship. Instead, it is a fascinating deep dive into an in-crowd that is invite-only by necessity. Filmmakers Nneka Onuorah and Giselle Bailey excel in contrasting exciting and brilliant underground club scenes with intimate portraits of human connection so much so that at times it feels like being immediately thrust into a deep friendship with the coolest kids you know. 

The dynamic is magnified by how the film spotlights naturally magnetic real-life characters like “World Famous James Brown”, or WFJamesBrown on his Instagram account (that I now follow). James’ snappy and legally sound retort to aggressive police brutality during a birthday party that local police condemned as a gay orientation(?!) went viral and helped to bring an international social media spotlight to the struggle of Nigeria’s LGBTQ+ community. 

No one can articulate what this film is about and who it represents better than the courageous individuals that make up its cast. Honestly, it was tempting to make this review solely pull quotes from the documentary itself because they are spectacular. There is local underground podcaster Tomi smartly setting the scene: “Lagos is not for vanilla cakes. Mm mm, no way. If you’re born with vanilla, keep those flavors in your house.” To James’ sincere hopeful mantra, “One thing about life is that you have to be extremely happy because happiness is the key to all things.” 

Although many may be familiar with what is happening in Nigeria from international headlines, the film aims to personify bland statistics by introducing faces, names, and stories to the discourse. Primarily, however, it portrays a group of brave young people relying on each other to create the community they need to survive.

Airing on HBO and HBO Max June 29th, 2021

Directed by Giselle Bailey and Nneka Onuorah
Cinematography by Stephen Bailey
Edited by Rabab Haj Yahya
Executive Producers John LegendMike Jackson, and Ty Stiklorius

Tribeca Festival 2021 reviews: ‘See For Me’ and ‘Shapeless’ feature women battling different inner demons.

SEE FOR ME

When blind former skier Sophie cat-sits in a secluded mansion, three thieves invade for the hidden safe. Sophie’s only defense is army veteran Kelly. Kelly helps Sophie defend herself against the invaders and survive.

See For Me takes the home invasion genre and adds a surprising element; the leading lady’s morality. Rightfully bitter, having lost her sight, Sophie pushes everyone away in hopes of remaining independent. Part of that behavior also includes sticky fingers during her cat-sitting gigs. When trouble arises, Sophie begrudgingly takes her mother’s advice. She downloads an app allowing another person to look through the user’s cell phone camera to assist them in tasks. This comes in handy when Sophie is confronted with home invaders. Although, her best chance of survival comes with a moral caveat.

Skyler Davenport as Sophie is outstanding. Her temperament and ability to put the audience in her shoes make this as successful as it is. Alongside Jessica Parker Kennedy‘s confident performance, the two have unshakeable chemistry, even if they never meet face to face. See For Me is a thoroughly engaging thriller. You’re immediately hooked by the premise. Director Randall Okita invites us into Sophie’s world. With wide-angle shots, we experience immediate terror. Slowly lumbering killers in the same frame, all unbeknownst to Sophie, gives the film energy akin to the Friday The 13th franchise. Plus, two women fighting in tandem in a completely fresh way enhanced the home invasion trope. See For Me has a solid feminist vibe.  A thriller with a side of morality? That’s good stuff.

(**World Premiere**) – Tribeca Online Premieres

Director: Randall Okita
Cast: Laura Vandervoort, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Skyler Davenport, Kim Coates, Pascal Langdale, Joe Pingue, George Tchortov

 


SHAPELESS

Ivy, a struggling singer in New Orleans trapped in the hidden underworld of her eating disorder, must face her addiction – or risk becoming a monster.

A huge aspect of eating disorders is the idea of control. What happens when that obsession changes who you are? Perfectly titled, Shapeless creates a slow-burn dread that consumes the viewer. If you can stomach the content, good for you. I mean this quite literally. Director Samantha Aldana adds a precise feminine touch. Ivy’s physical and emotional self-destruction is incredibly familiar. Seemingly small moments, like secretly borrowing clothes or the careless nature of her personal relationships, reveal a fuller picture.

Kelly Murtagh is outstanding in the role she wrote alongside Bryce Parsons-Twesten. Her exhaustion and frustration are palpable. This certainly comes from Murtagh’s own experiences with an eating disorder.  Admittedly, as a genre fan, the most intriguing aspect of Shapeless is the progressive body horror. I yearned for more. The prosthetic makeup lands somewhere between grotesque and whimsical. It captures the essence of Shapeless at every turn. The final scene is nothing short of heartbreaking, honest, and terrifying. Bravo.

(**World Premiere**) – Midnight

Director: Samantha Aldana
Writers: Kelly Murtagh, Bryce Parsons-Twesten
Cast: Jamie Neumann, Marco Dapper, Kelly Murtagh, Bobby Gilchrist, Erika Ashley, Gralen Bryant Banks, Zardis Nichols

Netflix review: ‘Sisters on Track’ Proves that You’ve Got to Work for Your Dreams, They Don’t Just Come.

Sisters on Track chronicles the coming-of-age story of the Sheppard sisters: Tai, Rainn, and Brooke who were propelled into the national spotlight in 2016 with their first-time wins at the Junior Olympics. The resulting media storm landed the trio on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids as “SportsKids of the Year” and they were able to move from shelters into their own home. The film offers a rare intimate glimpse into a tight-knit Brooklyn family’s journey to recover from trauma and tragedy. With the support of their mother, Tonia Handy, and the guidance of coach Jean Bell, the Sheppard sisters aim to beat the odds, dream big, and aspire to higher education as they are finding their voices as athletes and students – all while processing the growing pains of adolescence. At the heart of the story is the bond between sisters and an entire community of women, passing the baton of self-empowerment and hope through track and field, from one generation to another.

“You’re not the only one raising these girls,” Coach Jean Bell says to Tonia Handy, mother of the Sheppard sisters Tai, Rainn, and Brooke in a heartfelt moment that perfectly articulates the thesis of this story. Although the sisters have faced the kind of adversity that makes their success all the more inspiring, the magic of the film is in watching a village pull together to prepare these young ladies for bright futures of their choosing. 

The sisters’ meteoric rise in the track world is only amplified by the challenges they have faced. When they exploded onto the track scene in 2016 with first-time wins at the Junior Olympics, the family was living in a homeless shelter. The resulting media storm landed them on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids as “SportsKids of the Year” which caught the attention of director Tyler Perry. Inspired by their story, Perry generously secured the family a furnished apartment in their Brooklyn neighborhood and committed to paying the rent for two years. 

The documentary picks up in the aftermath of these exceptional events as the girls navigate the demands of high-level competitive sport and more universal trials like coming-of-age. In the hands of a different group of filmmakers, the documentary may have focused gratuitously on the tragedy and hardship of the girl’s early lives or the precariousness of what they have now. Sisters On Track, however, is a joy to watch. Although the reality of the girls’ home lives is apparent, it is not exploited for pathos. Instead, the bulk of the film is watching a group of talented young women train and compete at the highest levels amid a continuous stream of motivational pep talks from Coach Jean Bell who is an inspiration in her own right (I could write an entire piece on the Jeuness Track Club where they train).  

The documentary is extremely heartfelt and honest, bolstered by the Sheppard sisters themselves who are blessed with vibrant personalities in addition to their clear athletic talents. Middle sister Rainn says it best, “You’ve got to work for your dreams, they don’t just come.”

Watch the Official Trailer:

SISTERS ON TRACK launches on Netflix on Thursday, June 24th
Directed by: Corinne van der Borch & Tone Grøttjord-Glenne
Producer: Anita Rehoff Larsen & Tone Grøttjord-Glenne
Executive Producer: Sam Pollard
Story Consultant: Shola Lynch
Run Time: 94 minutes
Featuring the Original Song:
“The Dream”
Performed by: Mark Batson featuring Tarriona “Tank” Ball
Written by: Mark Batson and Tarriona “Tank” Ball

Review: ‘Chasing Childhood’ is essential viewing for parents and policymakers, alike.

CHASING CHILDHOOD

Overprotected and over directed, American children are wilting under the weight of well-meaning parents. In the pursuit of keeping them safe and creating an impressive resumé of extracurricular activities to wow admissions boards, over-parenting smothers children across socioeconomic classes. This thoughtful film follows education professionals and reformed helicopter parents who seek and offer solutions for developing more confident, independent young people while restoring some joy and freedom to childhood.

I grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. Getting less than an “A” on an assignment my entire childhood was, shall we say, frowned upon. When I struggled with pre-Algebra in 7th grade, my parents got me a math tutor. I loathed it. To be clear, this was triggered because I had a “B+” grade point average. That pretty much sums up the pressure I felt to excel. I was in dance classes 5 days a week until I aged out of the studio, performing En Pointe at age 9 with girls 4+ years my senior. I was an overachiever born and, most definitely, bred. Once high school began, my anxiety hit new heights. Silently struggling with dyslexia, believing that my peers would hear the millisecond long pause when I had to read a date out loud was panic-inducing. Starring in every school play, managing boys Cross-Country & Track, maintaining a social life, and prepping for college were all-consuming. This was in the late 90s. That disquieting grew exponentially over the years. I used to be fearless, attending a performing arts conservatory in Manhattan, moving across the country to audition for Disneyland on a whim. But social pressure from my parents for not following the “traditional” educational path weighed on me like an elephant on my chest. I never felt like any of my success was enough. I’m 41 now, and that sense of inadequacy remains. Despite the incredible stories I have from living abroad, making movies, writing, teaching, creating a small business, the list is obnoxious, I have been trained to think I can be better.

Chasing Childhood is a film that could not have arrived at a better time. After the year we’ve had in lockdown, it’s time to confront some harsh realities. Chasing Childhood is tailor-made for parents, educators, and policymakers of every age. I have a 4 and 5-year-old living in an apartment we own on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. By all measures, life is great. What you don’t see is the aura of tension that surrounds the admissions process when applying to preschool. Now, we’re entering Kindergarten with my son. The questions of, “Where are you all applying?” have been swirling around me since he was 2. The idea that the school we picked for our 2-year-old would somehow determine what tax brackets my children would fall under in 20 years is exhausting. Filmmakers Margaret Munzer Loeb and Eden Wurmfeld clearly explain how we’re stifling kids. They are exhausted. This trend of micromanaging their futures kills their present joy. The doc talks to parents, teachers, experts, and kids about how we can change this negative trend. With stats about recess and play Vs. standardized testing will undoubtedly move your needle in terms of curriculum and quality of life. Wilton, Connecticut is featured quite heavily, alongside Patchogue, NY, and of course, Manhattan. Wilton is actually one of the towns we’ve considered in making our city exodus. The irony of how I stumbled upon Wilton should not be surprising. I googled, “Top School Districts in Connecticut.” Simsbury was always in the Top 5. I should have guessed that any town along what Connecticut calls “The Gold Coast” would be the other top districts. After watching, Wilton is looking better and better. What makes Chasing Childhood so successful is the film’s honesty. The interviews with every participant are authentic. The implementation of more play is key to a well-balanced life. The film is not preachy. It does not judge. It does explain how we’ve become wired this way. How seemingly small societal shifts went from ripples to tidal waves in policy and parenting. It’s nothing short of fascinating.

I have a greater understanding of my own parents now. We all want better for our kids. I try to keep this in mind when signing up my littles for activities. They are few and far between on purpose. Besides the logistical and monetary commitments involved, it’s because I vividly remember the years before high school. Playing outside until it got dark, riding my bike across town, exploring the woods, jumping off things that most definitely should have broken my bones. I retain the joy and excitement and calm from those moments. If nothing else, Chasing Childhood is a perfect reminder to stop, take a breath, and realize that success in life doesn’t come from the longest resume. It’s time and memories. Let’s step back and honor childhood. Let the kids be kids. Happiness comes first.

Virtual Live Premiere on June 24, 2021, and

Nationwide Watch Now @ Home Cinema Release on June 25, 2021

Directed by: Margaret Munzer Loeb, Eden Wurmfeld

Produced by: Lisa Eisenpresser, Eden Wurmfeld

FeaturingGenevieve Eason, Savannah Eason, Julie Lythcott-Haims, Peter Gray, Lenore Skenazy, Dr. Michael Hynes

 

World Premiere in the American Perspectives section at the 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival 

Official Selection of the 2020 Annapolis Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Portland International Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Cleveland International Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Julien Dubuque International Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Sonoma International Film Festival

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘No Man Of God’ will get inside your head.

No Man Of God

The complicated relationship that formed between the FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier and serial killer Bundy during Bundy’s final years on death row.

Amber Sealy‘s breaking the mold of our image of Ted Bundy. No Man Of God does not romanticize Bundy’s personality, but it does somehow humanize his intellect. This is the most unexpected story of friendship and trust. It just so happens to involve one of the most prolific serial killers of our times. Of all the Bundy films, this is the one we’ve been waiting for and we didn’t even know it. Through letters that progressed to sit-down interviews, Hagmaier built a bond with Bundy no other person was ever able to attain. It’s extraordinary.

Elijah Wood is a phenomenal foil for Luke Kirby. There is a measured and genuine tone to his delivery that is completely believable. You’re just buying what he’s selling. I think this might be his best dramatic performance since Set Fire To The Stars. Luke Kirby is a genius. He is slick as hell. Kit Lesser‘s dialogue allows for poetic moments, philosophical ones, as well as pure terror. It’s his manner of nonchalance that keeps you off-kilter. It is undeniably an award-winning performance.

Wood and Kirby’s incredibly natural back and forth holds your attention every single second. The emotional electricity builds to a pitch-perfect finale. This is a masterclass in scene partnering, writing, and directing. No Man Of God is nothing short of riveting. It is a must-see.

Spotlight Narrative

World Premiere

Available Starting

Sat June 12 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA

This purchased film will remain available to stream on-demand from the above date through 6/14 at 6 PM EST