Netflix Review: ‘OUR FATHER’ is a disturbing and infuriating true story of one fertility doctor’s mission.

Synopsis: Jacoba Ballard was an only child, conceived via donor sperm, who always dreamed of having a brother or sister. An at-home DNA test led her to the discovery of not one but seven half-siblings – a number that defied best practices in fertility medicine. As the group set out to learn more about their curious family tree, they soon discovered the sickening truth: Their parents’ fertility doctor had been inseminating his patients with his own sperm – without their knowledge or consent. As Ballard and her newfound siblings realized they’ve barely begun to untangle his dark web of deceit, their pursuit of justice lies at the heart of this profoundly unsettling story about an unimaginable breach of trust.


Real audio, sit-down interviews, and recreations tell the shocking story of one fertility doctor’s sinister plans. Dr. Donald Cline assisted innumerable women in becoming mothers. What those mothers didn’t know would change lives forever. DNA test “23 and Me” blew this story wide open.

Having worked for Dr. Cline for 13 years, Jan Shore candidly speaks about the entire process. The initial moral ambiguity in the voice of Cline’s partner, Dr. Colver, is cringeworthy as he expresses gratitude and awe for Dr. Cline’s innovative science. And yet, as a woman who recalls the monthly tears and disappointment when I couldn’t get pregnant for months on end, listening to these women retell their experiences feels visceral. The most joyous gifts come with an unimaginable caveat.

The emotional trauma in each sibling is palpable, and as the number of newly discovered individuals involved climbs, a chill reruns down your spine. Led by Jacoba Ballard, this unique group of now adults goes through every high and low imaginable. Their strength is beyond admirable. The violation doesn’t end with the initial deception. When the identified siblings push back, a barrage of madness in the form of various threats rains down upon them.

OUR FATHER gets increasingly more disturbing by the minute. The religious aspect is simultaneously eerie and infuriating. Once expanded upon, it’s almost unsurprising. We’ve seen this time and time again. We’re experiencing it as we speak nationally. When the Supreme Court leak used the phrase, “domestic supply of infants,” make no mistake, this is a larger problem than we could possibly understand. OUR FATHER brings forth a string of white men telling women they have no body autonomy, over and over. Not only Dr. Cline but the Indiana Attorney General and even the lawyer for the siblings. While this documentary seems unique, the intent behind the actions, and the far-reaching legal ramifications, could haunt this country for literal generations. Get ready to be nauseated and enraged.


Releasing Globally on Netflix on May 11, 2022


The upcoming documentary feature, OUR FATHER tells the story of one of the most shocking and horrific cases of fertility fraud, catching nationwide attention with coverage in the New York Times and The Atlantic.

Directed by: Lucie Jourdan
Produced by: Jason Blum, Lucie Jourdan, Michael Petrella and Amanda Spain
Executive Produced by: Chris McCumber, Jeremy Gold and Mary Lisio


Review: ‘BALONEY’- Joshua Guerci’s documentary about San Francisco’s only Gay All-Male burlesque troupe is magnetic, intimate, and hilarious.

Baloney follows San Francisco’s wildly popular Gay All-Male Burlesque show over 18 months as the group rehearses for New Year’s Eve 2020. Told through the eyes of the group’s co-founders, as well as the larger ensemble, the film contemplates the struggles that come with being a performing artist in San Francisco, the most expensive city in North America. Through a mix of interviews, rehearsal footage, and filmed performances, Baloney captures the group’s unique combination of humor, confession, and sex positivity in ways that directly reflect the private fantasies of people who come to the show. It’s also a story of the people who choose to perform in Baloney who, like their audience, find themselves in a world that constantly silences kinky, queer, and gender non-conforming people. Finally, it spotlights that real failure in life is often not doing that thing you know you need to do or being the person you know you need to be. Even if that thing is daring to be an artist!


Equal parts sincerity, sexuality, and soul – Baloney takes a deep look behind the scenes of San Francisco’s only Gay All-Male burlesque troupe. Joshua Guerci’s documentary follows this scrappy team as they plan, practice, and perform. Led by co-creators and real-life partners Michael Phillis and Rory Davis, the troop crafts performances that delight their audiences while offering insights across the wide spectrum that is the gay and queer male experience.

I marveled at the editing of this documentary (75 minutes!) Guerci’s team seamlessly transitions from practice to performance in a way that energizes the audience while still giving a deep appreciation for the vision and artists involved.

This documentary leaves you asking a lot of questions. Some are likely to be practical and hilarious (like, how do you wash beans out of your hair, or, did you maybe miss all the queer innuendos in Star Trek?) But others are more serious. I left Baloney with one question at the forefront of my mind: what does it mean to really suffer for your art?

Nearly every member of Baloney has a substantial day job. Everyone talks about their passion for the arts and the power of this burlesque troupe and wishes that they could make Baloney their sole focus, if only they could afford it. Now, plenty of people want to quit their day jobs and take off for Broadway or the hills of Hollywood. The context here is important. Baloney’s performance venues are shown to be sold-out, sure, but always humble in size and scale. They even have a great song poking fun at themselves on this. The energy and community of the shows seem to draw the performers back, just as much as it does for the audience members. 

The performers making up the troupe are magnetic. Guerci’s candid style further breaks down walls and makes the interviews feel intimate and informal. He speaks with them as they prepare breakfast or while they lounge together in bed. I particularly loved Andrew Slade, who leverages his past education in animation and video game design to hilarious burlesque effect.

Michael and Rory, who on paper have captured that elusive dream-job as day-job balance, are still shown to wobble. They are, at once, a producer, casting expert, director, and performer. They even provide rehearsal space out of their San Francisco apartment. There is a tragic irony that San Francisco proudly celebrates its queer and artistic legacy while simultaneously making it nearly impossible for those communities to endure and thrive within its borders.

Watch Baloney, and you’ll see some flat-out great burlesque numbers. But there’s much more here that will keep you thinking long after the final curtain call.


Baloney (2021) – Official Trailer from Joshua Guerci on Vimeo.

Baloney debuts June 7 across North America and will be available on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Spectrum, and inDemand.


Los Angeles, CA – 13th Gen and Gravitas Ventures are proud to present Baloney, Joshua Guerci’s no-holds-barred documentary chronicling 18 months in the life of Baloney, a mostly male, mostly naked, very erotic San Francisco burlesque troupe. The clothing-optional documentary made its world premiere at Frameline and went on to inspire audiences at Outfest Los Angeles, Seattle Queer Film Festival, Cinema Diverse Palm Springs, Winnipeg Reel Pride Film Festival, TLVFest: Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival, Boston Wicked Queer LGBTQ+ Film Festival, and Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. At RuPaul’s DragCon Los Angeles, the film is nominated for Best Documentary.


 

HOT DOCS 2022 review: ‘Images Of A Nordic Drama’ pits art lovers against the art world.

IMAGES OF A NORDIC DRAMA

Who would have ever guessed that the discovery of paintings by an unknown Norwegian artist would cause such upheaval in the art world? When art collector Haakon Mehren was led to a barn filled with oversized canvases, his jaw immediately hit the floor. Who was this artist? After some sleuthing, Mehren introduces the world to Aksel Waldemar Johannessen, an unapologetic alcoholic who did the unthinkable. Johannessen painted the poor, often using his image mixed with dark and twisted imagery of inner turmoil.

Self-portrait painted by Aksel Waldemar Johannessen

Art is subjective, but there is undoubtedly a most elite shroud in curating. Norway’s most coveted paintings never before depicted the lower class. Their claim to fame was Edvard Munch. If you know even a sliver about art, you can immediately conjure the image of “The Scream.” The curatorial staff at the National Museum and gatekeepers of the Munch Museum immediately pushed back on adding the works to Norway’s collective narrative. Mehren made it his life’s mission to share Johannessen’s artistic contributions, scheduling exhibitions throughout Europe. The public’s reaction was overwhelmingly delightful. That only fueled the fire from Norway’s elite.

Director Nils Gaup uses a gorgeous score while repeatedly showcasing Johannessen’s paintings. This distinctive choice brings due awe to each piece. There’s no denying that some of the work is frightening, while others are simply breathtaking. The variety of subjects is astounding. You will find yourself lost in them. IMAGES OF A NORDIC DRAMA is the perfect addition to this year’s HOT DOCS 2022 lineup. If you weren’t an art lover before, get ready for your world is about to change.

The painting “Man on a diving board” by Aksel Waldemar Johannessen. This painting was exhibited at The Met.


HOT DOCS 2022 Link to buy tickets:

https://hotdocs.ca/whats-on/hot-docs-festival/films/2022/images-of-a-nordic-drama

@hotdocs #HotDocs22


HOT DOCS 2022 FESTIVAL SCREENINGS:
PUBLIC SCREENINGS:

Saturday, April 30 at 11:30 am
Location: Varsity 8 (55 Bloor Street West)

Thursday, May 5 at 8:45 pm
Location: Varsity 8 (55 Bloor Street West)

Running Time: 71 minutes

Language: English, German, Norwegian

Country: Norway, Germany (Feature Documentary)


Cleveland International Film Festival 2022 short film review: ‘CANDIDATO 34’ chronicles the world’s most extraordinary run for public office.

CANDIDATO 34

Bryan Russell is the first person in the world with Down syndrome to ever run for public office. CANDIDATO 34 is a documentary short chronicling Bryan’s extraordinary story in the days before the 2020 congressional election in Peru, as he attempts to convince a reluctant public that he is capable of being a congressman, and an important voice for change. Candidato 34 will make its World Premiere in the FilmSlam-Spanish Language Cinema Shorts Program starting March 31st at the 2022 Cleveland International Film Festival.


As the first person in the world with Down Syndrome to run for public office, Bryan Russell represents so many marginalized groups everywhere. Bryan’s team, including his parents, pour their hearts into his campaign, supporting his dreams and ideas. Let me clarify something immediately; his parents are present as cheerleaders and coordinators. Bryan is an accomplished young man. He is charming, eloquent, raw, and relentlessly determined. These characteristics become abundantly clear in his ability to campaign like any other candidate. As someone who has worked on political campaigns in the US, Bryan does it with more honesty and savvy than many career politicians. He has an understanding and perspective of often ignored individuals. Win or lose, Bryan Russell is a passionate catalyst for change in Peru and throughout the world.

As a Mother of a neurodivergent son, Bryan is a hero. My most prevalent anxiety as a parent is the future. Bryan possesses the confidence and self-awareness I wish for my child. In 38 minutes, Candidato 34 filled me with hope and possibility. This little film speaks volumes about representation, kindness, and perseverance. Bryan Russell is an inspiration to my family. I hope this film spreads far and wide. There are a lot of people that would benefit from the experience. 

 

CANDIDATO 34 – TRAILER from Ryan Marley on Vimeo.


About the Filmmakers:

Ryan Marley (Director) is a filmmaker and television director best known for his work in documentary, factual and kids TV. He has been nominated for 3 Canadian Screen Awards and has directed over 25 series and documentaries. He most recently directed all 4 seasons of the groundbreaking documentary series “Employable Me” which tells the stories of job seekers who prove that having a physical disability or neurological condition shouldn’t make them unemployable. The series won the Diversify TV Excellence Award at MIPCOM 2017 & 2020, a 2018, 2019 & 2020 Rockie Award, an NYTVF Award and was nominated for four Canadian Screen Awards. His documentary “Sitting Tall: The Patrick Anderson Story” examines the background and career of Patrick Anderson, arguably the greatest wheelchair basketball player of all time, as he prepares for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. It was featured at the 2021 Awareness Film Festival and The 2021 New York Shorts International Film Festival where it won Best Documentary. Ryan splits his time between Toronto and Los Angeles.

Katie Lafferty (Executive Producer/Producer) has been chasing character-driven stories since graduating from Carleton University with a Journalism degree in 2002. Since then, she has produced some of Canada’s biggest shows including sports documentary series “Tessa & Scott,” and the groundbreaking series “Employable Me,” which tells the stories of job seekers who prove that having a physical disability or neurological condition shouldn’t make them unemployable. The series won the Diversify TV Excellence Award at MIPCOM 2017 & 2020, a 2018, 2019 & 2020 Rockie Award, an NYTVF Award and was nominated for four Canadian Screen Awards. Her latest feature-length documentary Candidato 34 is being produced in association with Lionsgate’s unscripted division, Pilgrim Media Group.

About Hitch Films:

Hitch Films is a creative team with extensive experience telling compelling stories about people around the world. We are a passionate team of award-winning documentary filmmakers bringing to light the amazing stories and struggles of incredible people with disabilities, and from marginalized communities, who are fighting prejudice and perception to gain independence and respect.


Credits

Ryan Marley – Director

Katie Lafferty – Executive Producer/Producer

Craig Piligian – Producer

Gretchen Stockdale – Executive Producer

Paul Boynett – Executive Producer/Writer

George Wright – Executive Producer/Editor

Michelle Asgarali – Associate Producer


37 minutes, Canada, 2021

DCP Image: 1.85:1, 4K, Color, Sound: 5.1 mix


Review: HBO Documentary Film: ‘TONY HAWK: UNTIL THE WHEELS FALL OFF’

TONY HAWK: UNTIL THE WHEELS FALL OFF

Centering around intimate new interviews with Tony Hawk himself, the film is an all-encompassing look at the skateboarder’s life, legendary career, and relationship with the sport with which he’s been synonymous for decades. Hawk, a pioneer of modern vertical skating who is still pushing his limits at the age of 53, remains one of the most influential skateboarders of all time.


Tony Hawk kicks off his big HBO documentary by falling down. A lot. Like, 5 solid minutes of eating it all over the ramp. It’s a bold, remarkably human way to start a documentary about a 53-year-old icon who many in the non-skating community would still consider the most famous skateboarder of all time (this reviewer raises his hand). Heck, my wife knows more about Tony Hawk than I do.

The complete list of things I knew about Tony Hawk before watching this documentary:

  • He was (probably) the most prominent skater in the world
  • He was the first skater to land a 900 (a crazy trick where you shoot off a ramp and spin 2.5 times in the air before landing)  I also learned this from his video game series, Tony Hawk Pro Skater
  • He has a hilarious Twitter feed

And yet, I left Sam Jones’ Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off feeling pretty invested in skateboarding. Jones’ documentary benefits not only from extensive access to Hawk and his skating peers but also from a wealth of archival footage and clips that help these interview recollections resonate. Sure, you learn about Hawk’s upbringing in San Diego, and his dynamic with his strict father – but what really resonates is the sense of purpose uniting these passionate young skateboarders. You really get the spirit of the community. Tricks and success in this sport are the product of individual inspiration, yes, but also due to watching and learning from both your rivals and teammates. Hawks’ contemporaries are real unique characters, too. I particularly loved hearing from Rodney Mullen, who applies the principles of Nietzsche to the act of launching yourself off a skate ramp without a hint of irony.

I also appreciated the documentary’s balanced romanticism surrounding skateboarding. There are the obligatory skating montages, but there’s also a blunt assessment of the risks (and honestly, the near foolishness) of Hawk refusing to set aside his board at 53 years old. We’re talking about guys for whom broken bones and near-constant concussions seem to always be part of the deal – it takes a lot to make these folks nervous. Hawks’ peers speak frankly and graphically about the risks he’s taking on. Given Hawks’ prominent association with this documentary, I was surprised he didn’t push to edit some of those comments out of the final product. I appreciated that Jones included them.

Ultimately, this feels to be an honest portrait of a complicated legend who became a pro athlete before he had his learner’s permit. It strives to connect viewers to the deep connection skaters have with their art, it clues you in on Tony Hawk’s countless contributions to the sport, and acknowledges that most guys in their 50s shouldn’t be on fast-moving, narrow objects.

You see Tony Hawk falling down a lot. But he also executes tricks that seem to scratch the surface of immortality. Unless you’ve skated a mile in his shoes, can you really pass judgment? One thing’s for sure – after seeing this documentary, I’ll be firing up my wife’s copy of Pro Skater.


Debuts Tuesday, April 5 on HBO and will be available

to stream on HBO Max

Director: Sam Jones

Executive Producers: Mel Eslyn, Jay Duplass, and Mark Duplass


ABOUT SAM JONES
Sam Jones is a director of documentary films and narrative television. He most recently directed an episode of “Ted Lasso” and a film in post-production: “Running With Our Eyes Closed, A Film about Jason Isbell,” which is being co-produced by the Duplass Brothers and Jones.

Jones is the creator and host of the documentary series “Off Camera with Sam Jones,” which had a 219 episode run on DirecTV’s Audience Network from 2013-2020. Jones is also an acclaimed commercial director and recently wrote and directed a series of commercials for OnePlus featuring Robert Downey Jr. He directed the Showtime series “Roadies,” created by Cameron Crowe, and also directed and produced the feature-length Showtime documentary “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued,” a film that reexamines Bob Dylan’s “The Basement Tapes.” In 2002, Jones started his documentary career with “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” which chronicles beloved indie-rock band Wilco’s tumultuous recording of their acclaimed fourth album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Rolling Stone named “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” one of the best rock films of all time.

Jones began his career as a photographer and quickly gained acclaim for his seminal portraits of cultural icons. His work has appeared on the covers of Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, Time, and many others, and he has had several books published. Jones lives in Los Angeles with his daughters and still loves to skateboard.


 

Festival review: Kelsey Peterson’s personal documentary ‘MOVE ME’ inspires.

MOVE ME

At 27, Kelsey Peterson dove into Lake Superior, off the shores of Wisconsin, and emerged paralyzed. Now, the former dancer struggles to redefine who she is while adapting to life with a disability. At the intersection of acceptance and hope, Kelsey unexpectedly finds herself facing an opportunity to dance again, showing her a new path toward acceptance, all the while grappling with a decision to participate in a cutting-edge clinical trial that could bring her much-desired change — forcing her to evaluate the possibilities of her recovery, body, and spirit.

In Move Me, a first-time filmmaker with a disability simultaneously takes the reins behind the scenes, while revealing her inner revolution through raw storytelling onscreen.


Dancer and choreographer Kelsey Peterson was paralyzed from the chest down after diving into shallow waters. In conjunction with a friend injured in the same manner, Kelsey decides to dance for the first time since her accident by creating a unique piece of choreography. Her documentary feature MOVE ME is a portrait of a woman attempting to reclaim her identity.

The combination of home movies, rehearsals, and scenes from her daily life create a raw picture of Kelsey’s existence. Kelsey explains that after the accident, she realized that the world does not accommodate her current state. This singular statement makes MOVE ME so much more profound for able-body viewers. When you see the rehearsal restroom, the irony is exhausting. 

MOVE ME doesn’t simply tell the tale of a single dance. Kelsey navigates her father’s declining health while simultaneously researching the possibility of joining an experimental trial. She speaks with other participants, discovering that it’s not all positive outcomes. Uncertainty looms large as Kelsey weighs her options. She holds nothing back, tackling everything from bowel function to sexual sensation.

“A Cripple’s Dance” bases pieces of its choreography on Kelsey and Gabe’s moments of impact and what followed in the water. The intimacy of the camera work is visceral. Gabe’s lyrics are profoundly beautiful and hit you in the heart like a dagger. The result will give you chills. 

This film was personal for me. I began dancing at the age of three. Since then, I have competed, choreographed, and expressed myself through movement. When I lost some of my abilities from an emergency appendectomy and then years later, a neck injury, I was devastated. I remember the grief of losing those lifelong skills, talents that came without thought as they were muscle memory. Let me be clear I am able-bodied. You would not know I was in pain by the way I move through the day. I cannot begin to fathom the strength Kelsey Peterson possesses daily. Her positive outlook and relentless optimism drive her film. To me, she’s fearless. She’s sort of my hero. MOVE ME makes me appreciate my body’s movement tenfold.


Co-Directors: Kelsey Peterson, Daniel Klein

Producers: Kelsey Peterson, Daniel Klein, Madeline Brown

Executive Producers: Lois Vossen, Sally Jo Fifer, Joanna Rudnick

Cinematographer: Brennan Vance

Editor: Nico Bovat


Festival Screening Info:
Full Frame Documentary FF (World Premiere)
Streaming April 7 -10, 2022
 
Reel Abilities FF New York
Streaming April 7 -13, 2022
In-Person Screening Tues. April 12, 8:00pm
Film Info:

Review: ‘Inventions that Changed History’ is a Palette Cleansing Delight’ streaming on discovery+

Inventions that Changed HistoryInventions That Changed History reveals the wild and often unbelievable stories behind many of pop culture’s most impactful inventions. Historians, Scientists, Pop Culture Experts and Hollywood Celebrities take us on this wild ride full of information and incredible tales.


Ready to dominate at the next Trivia Night? “Inventions that Changed History” is a light, silly romp that is likely to help your team win a free round. With a mix of historical exposition on familiar inventions– Mr. Potato Head and waterbeds make silly and fascinating segments– it is the perfect palette cleansing alternative to more serious documentaries (or the news). 

Filled with surprising celebrity cameos from fan favorites like Guillermo from “What we do in the Shadows,” Meredith from “The Office,” and Amanda Seals from “Insecure” candidly riffing on a nostalgic parade of core memories for Gen X/ Millennials, the show is a good time all around. In particular, I was locked in learning the origins of the Easy-Bake Oven while simultaneously trying to remember if and how severely I  burned myself– not enough to stop it from being one of my favorite toys. Oh, the 90s! 

A fun concept with plenty of options to explore, this could quickly become a niche favorite. What a treat!


Episodes 1 & 2 Streaming on discovery+ on March 31st

Two episodes premiering weekly through April 14


Executive Producers: Tom Forman, Chuck Dalaklis, Jenny Daly, and Jon Beyer

For Discovery, Wyatt Channell and Howard Swartz serve as executive producers

Scores of Hollywood celebrities like Richard Kind (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Lance Reddick (“The Wire”), Nicole Sullivan (MADtv), Haskiri Velazquez (“Saved By The Bell”), Amanda Seales (“Insecure”), Flula Borg (Suicide Squad), Yeardly Smith (“The Simpsons”), Jeff Ross (Comedian), Eric Griffin (Actor/Comedian), Harvey Guillen (“What We Do in the Shadows”) and Rachael Harris (The Hangover), join in on the fun as they take a hysterical and insightful hands-on approach to the inventions that molded their youth and stayed with them into adulthood.


Episode 2 Inventions:

Mr. Potato Head 

Pop Rocks

Corn Cob Holders

Easy Bake Oven 

Box Wine

Rubber Chicken

Listerine

Vending Machines

 

Episode 1 Inventions:

Waterbeds

Barf Bags

Big Mouth Billy Bass

Flushing Toilet

Super Soaker 

Sea-Monkeys

Pool Noodle

Slip ‘N Slide 


 

SXSW 2022 review from Unseen Films: ‘The Thief Collector’

The Thief Collector

In 1985, Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre,” one of the most valuable paintings of the 20th century, vanished into the Arizona desert after being cut from its frame at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. 32 years later, the $160 million painting was found hanging in the home of Jerry and Rita Alter in rural New Mexico. The Thief Collector takes a deep look at how, and why, this mild-mannered couple pulled off one of the greatest art heists of a generation, exploring the complicated dynamics of family, the contours of criminality, and just how far people will go to weave their own grandiose narratives.


The Thief Collector is a film that is not what you expect. The film is nominally about the theft of de Kooning’s painting Woman Ochre from the University of Arizona in 1985. The painting was cut from the frame and carried off by a couple not long after the museum opened on the day after Thanksgiving. Where it went or who took it remained a mystery for decades…until it was rediscovered in the effects of Rita and Jerry Alter.  While that is a part of the story, the film actually is a look at the Alters and their obsessions. This is not a look at the crime but at the way people feed their obsessions and how seemingly normal people almost always seem to have another side to them.

I should point out that this is not saying that the Alters were bad in that they were secretly murdering people, rather they simply had a side where they went against the fine upstanding citizens they seemed to be to the rest of the world. As a result, the film has become a more complicated and richer film than it would have been if it had just been about the crime.

I really liked this film a great deal. It’s a film that stayed with me through an evening in which I watched three other films after it. Yes, I saw another documentary and two edge-of-your-seat thrillers, but when it was all done I found I was still thinking about The Thief Collector even as the other films were fading from my mind. Hell, I wanted to know more and I reached out to the PR person to get the press notes because I knew that they would give me even more details.

You have to love any film that takes its basic premise to hook you and then drags you into another direction and makes you think about things in a new way. It had my mind going so much that I wish I could have gone back and rewatched several other SXSW films that dealt with obsessions because it put those films into a new light.

This is a neat little film and is highly recommended.


Director:

Allison Otto

Executive Producer:

Bryn Mooser, Kathryn Everett, Tony Hsieh, Andy Hsieh, Justin Lacob, John Boccardo and Derek Esplin, Shizuka Asakawa, and Kathleen L’Esperance

Producer:

Caryn Capotosto, Jill Latiano Howerton, Joshua Kunau

Screenwriter:

Mark Monroe, Nick Andert

Cinematographer:

Rod Hassler and Matt Ryan (recreations)

Editor:

Nick Andert

Music:

Daniel Wolf

Principal Cast:

Glenn Howerton, Sarah Minnich, Scott Takeda, Matt Pittenger

Additional Credits:

Co-Producers: Mary Kay Cook, Heath Cullens, Graphics: Scott Grossman


For more of Steve’s incredible coverage of SXSW22, go to Unseen Films


SXSW 2022 review from Unseen Films: Immigration documentary ‘SPLIT AT THE ROOT’

SPLIT AT THE ROOT

When a Guatemalan mother seeking asylum was separated from her kids under Zero Tolerance Policy, a Facebook post by a mom in Queens coalesced into a movement as thousands of like-minded women across the US refused to stand by quietly. Immigrant Families Together was born; a rapid response group committed to doing what the government couldn’t – or wouldn’t do: reunite parents with their children separated by the Zero Tolerance Policy.

Families separated at the border made headlines in 2018, prompting protests and policy changes. Over 2,000 children’s reunification status are still unknown and thousands of people impacted by separations are still suffering the effects of pursuing asylum.


A look at the US policy under Donald Trump to separate illegal immigrant parents from their children. It focuses on the plight of several women who had their children taken away as well as the mothers turned activists who fought to reunite the family. The film focuses on how mothers from across America came together to create Immigrant Families Together (IFT) which was aimed at working to get the separated families together any way they could. In the case of Yeni Gonzalez, the women drove her across the country in stages in order to get her and her kids back together.

This is good but not quite my cup of tea, in that way the film kind of disappointed me. While the film tells an important story, I never really connected to the story, and the problem, for me, was that I never warmed to the women in IFT.  I also completely understand that it was impossible to really follow many of the turns in person, owing to the inability to film in various official facilities, but I kept wanting to see more.

Frankly, the problems come from seeing a steady diet of similar films and as a result, I unintentionally have compared it to other films while not taking it entirely on its own terms. On the other hand, if you are not an insane film watcher like me you may want to give the film a try.


Director:

Linda Goldstein Knowlton

Executive Producer:

Rosario Dawson, Zak Kilberg, Amanda Marshall, Regina Solorzano

Producer:

Marti Noxon, Maria Grasso, Linda Goldstein Knowlton, Miranda Bailey

Cinematographer:

Nelson Hume, Nancy Serna-Guerrero

Editor:

Eric Torres, Alessandro Soares

Music:

Lili Haydn

Additional Credits:

Line Producer: Yasmine Gomez, Sound Recordist: Ben Posnack, Veronica Lopez, Lead Assistant Editor: Stephanie Huerta Martinez


To read more of Steve’s thoughts on this year’s SXSW22 lineup, head to Unseen Films


SXSW 2022 review from Unseen Films: ‘SPAZ’

SPAZ

SPAZ is a portrait of Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams,  one of the forces in computer animation. His work on films like the ABYSS, TERMINATOR 2, and JURASSIC PARK changed movies and the world forever. The doc is good but rather by the numbers tale for a guy who never was by the numbers. A man who loved life and loved doing things his way chaffed in the studio system, and his antics, such as often crashing George Lucas’ office made the suits want to fire him, but his abilities kept him out of trouble. The problem with the film is that much of this is standard issue bio but focused on Williams. Only when we get to Williams chaffing at the suits getting credit and awards for the work of his and other animators that the film comes to life. Legendary filmmaker Dennis Muren comes off looking like an ass since its clear that people like Williams were the real geniuses at work (Muren apparently told Williams not to do the T-rex animation that proved computers could do all the effects on JURASSIC PARK.)

While never bad it is is probably going to be best for animation junkies.


You can see more of Steve’s SXSW22 coverage at Unseen Films


SXSW 2022 review from Unseen Films: ‘DIO DREAMERS NEVER DIE’ transcends the notion of what a music documentary is supposed to be.

 DIO DREAMERS NEVER DIE

 DIO DREAMERS NEVER DIE was not one of the films I picked for the SXSW dance card. It was so low on my must-watch list as not to be on it. Frankly, I had no idea the film was playing at all. Then somehow I noticed it when I was putting things on and off my must-see list and added it simply because it fits a slot.

As with most of the films I loved out of SXSW which I just added because it fit, it turned out to be one of the best films at the festival. Actually, it may be a top three or four film of the fest for me, and possibly one of the best films of 2022.

The film is a portrait of Ronnie James Dio who was born Ronald James Padavona in 1942. He began playing the trumpet before starting in the sort of bands you’d expect in the 1950s.  Then influenced by Deep Purple he changed the sort of music he was playing before shaking the pillars of heaven in groups like Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio.

This film transcends the notion of what a music documentary is supposed to be. This is a portrait of the man from birth to death with everything in between. All his music is represented, yea even the early stuff, here with a result we truly realize what the man was doing musically. It also is a lovely portrait of the man who is seen to be a guy who stuck to his guns, helped anyone on the way up where he could, even if it was a kind word, and he was a man who loved his fans. The story is told of Dio going on tour and meeting fans and blowing them away by remembering, after years, who they were and what they talked about in prior encounters. He loved his fans and they loved him.

Yes, the film is primarily full of heavy metal music, but don’t let that worry you, it’s never there just to be there. Dio’s music is not used just to play it but for effect and to illustrate what he was doing musically. They pull his lyrics apart and you realize just how stupid the religious nuts who tried to claim his work was Satanic were. Yea it was driving music but he was telling people they mattered.

This film stunned me from the first frames. I expected to like it but I never expected to fall madly in love with the film and the man. It’s so good that I want to know more.  Honestly, I am not more in love with his music, he was never one of my favorites, but I am in utter awe of the man.

This is truly one of the best music docs I’ve seen.

I can’t recommend this film enough. One of the highlights of SXSW


Directors:

Don Argott, Demian Fenton

Executive Producer:

Kathy Rivkin Daum, Wendy Dio

Producer:

Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce

Cinematographer:

Don Argott

Editor:

Demian Fenton

Music:

Nick Bassett

Principal Cast:

Ronnie James Dio, Wendy Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, Vinny Appice, Lita Ford, Rob Halford, Sebastian Bach, Eddie Trunk


To read more of Steve’s SXSW 22 coverage, head over to Unseen Films


SXSW 2022 short film review: ‘NOT EVEN FOR A MOMENT DO THINGS STAND STILL’ is a film that will imprint on your soul.

NOT EVEN FOR A MOMENT DO THINGS STAND STILL

Art as catharsis happens when we have no words. It is one of the innumerable reasons we create. In September 2021, artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenuerg made something that would stun the country. She planted a white flag on the National Mall for each person who had died of Covid-19 in America. The reaction was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

You can see the momentary panic on the faces of friends, family, and frontline workers wondering where to place their small white flag in an eventual sea of over 700,000. We hear the intimate audio, prayers, sobs, and send-offs that no person dreams of giving in this way. Beyond that, the sound design is simple, the wind blowing gently against each tribute. The result is like the sound of the ocean. The title serves as a triple entendre, echoing the relentless tragedy of the ever-evolving virus, the flapping of the flags, and the words of the Japanese Death Poem by Seiju.

Not even for a moment
do things stand still; witness
color in the trees.

Even though we’re watching on a screen, the vastness of the piece is never lost. The visual impact is visceral. Somehow, this representation is almost a better reference to those who still deny the virus existed in the first place. While those minds may never change, those living in reality can feel the massive impact of this monument. NOT EVEN FOR A MOMENT DO THINGS STAND STILL is 15 minutes of collective grief. It is one of the most powerful short films I’ve ever had the privilege to experience. And it is precisely that, an experience.


Director/Writer:                      Jamie Meltzer
Producers:                              Annie Marr, Jamie Meltzer, Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg
Editors:                                   Jamie Meltzer, Annie Marr
Cinematographers:                Mario Furloni, Melissa Langer
Sound Design:                       Dave Cerf
TRT:                                        15 min
Country:                                 USA


 

Review: Charlotte Gainsbourg’s directorial debut ‘Jane By Charlotte’ is a beautiful ode to her mother.

Charlotte Gainsbourg looks at her mother Jane Birkin in a way she never did, overcoming a sense of reserve. Using a camera lens, they expose themselves to each other, begin to step back, leaving space for a mother-daughter relationship.


A love letter from a daughter to mother, actress Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s directorial debut, Jane By Charlotte, is one of the most intimate looks at the international icon, Jane Birkin. Through photographs, home movies, and quiet, casual sit-down interviews, we learn things about Jane right along with Charlotte. It is as if we are experiencing the same revelations. Seeing Jane and Charlotte perform, you’d never guess they were so soft-spoken in real life. There’s breezy energy about the film that is difficult to describe. As a mother, it touched me in a very personal way. At 41, I’m only just becoming comfortable with questions like Charlotte asks of Jane. As an American, I acknowledge the cultural differences with which we discuss intimacy. In the conversations between Jane and Charlotte, I am in awe of their relationship. Will I be more comfortable having such an open line of communication with my daughter? My daughter, also named Charlotte, is just about to turn five, but it is something I aspire to attain.

Jane and Charlotte find common ground in parenting styles and celebrity. They speak openly about Jane’s lifelong dependency on sleeping pills, inspiration for songs, and her various marriages. The loss of her daughter Kate was perhaps the most impactful event in her life. The grief she carries is palpable. Jane and Charlotte discuss maternal guilt. It’s one of the most poignant through lines in the film. Charlotte’s eye and adoration for her mother are written all over this doc. It’s a lovely ode to a beloved icon from a daughter who continues to idolize her. As a mother, Jane By Charlotte has a revelatory feeling of intimacy. Gainsbourgs documentary makes me jealous in the best way possible.


Opens Friday, March 18th at the Quad Cinema in New York and
March 25th at the Landmark Westwood in Los Angeles
Expands to additional cities in April + Available on Digital May 6th (Mother’s Day weekend)


About Jane Birkin
A native of London, Jane Birkin began her career as an actress appearing in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup (1966), and Kaleidoscope (1966). In 1968, she began a years-long working and personal relationship with Serge Gainsbourg; The duo released their debut album Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg in 1969, and Birkin also appeared in the film Je t’aime moi non plus (1976) under Gainsbourg’s direction. Birkin later starred in the Agatha Christie adaptations Death on the Nile (1978), and Evil Under the Sun (1982), and continued to work as both an actress and a singer, appearing in various independent films and recording numerous solo albums. In 1991, she appeared in the miniseries “Red Fox,” and in the American drama film, A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries in 1998. Having lived primarily in France since the 1970s, Birkin is the mother of photographer Kate Barry, actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, and musician Lou Doillon.

About Charlotte Gainsbourg
Charlotte Gainsbourg grew up on film sets as both of her parents, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, were involved in the film industry. At the age of 13, she debuted in her first motion picture playing Catherine Deneuve’s daughter in the film Paroles et Musiques. In 1986, Charlotte won a César Award for Most Promising Actress for An Impudent Girl. That same year she appeared in the film Charlotte For Ever written and directed by Charlotte’s father Serge Gainsbourg. From 1988 until today, Charlotte expanded her career with various projects such as The Cement Garden, Jane Eyre, 21 Grams, Ma Femme Est Actrice, I’m Not There, The Science of Sleep, Golden Door, The Tree, Samba, Mon Chien Stupide, and Lars von Triers’ films Melancholia, Antichrist and Nymphomaniac. In 2009, she won the award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for Antichrist. While Charlotte has been working on film projects, she led another rich career in Music as a singer and a composer and released several albums: Charlotte for Ever (1986), 5:55 (2006), IRM (2009), Stage Whisper (2011), Rest (2017).


 

Netflix documentary series review: ‘BAD VEGAN: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.’ is the weirdest con job you’ll ever see. Streaming today!


Presents

Bad Vegan: 

Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.
From Chris Smith, the executive producer of Tiger King and director of Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened, comes BAD VEGAN: FAME. FRAUD. FUGITIVES., a wild four-part documentary series that explores how Sarma Melngailis, the celebrity restaurateur behind the glittering New York hotspot Pure Food and Wine, went from being the queen of vegan cuisine to being known as the “Vegan Fugitive.” Shortly after meeting a man named Shane Fox on Twitter in 2011, Melngailis begins draining her restaurant’s funds and funneling the money to Fox after he cons her into believing he could make her dreams — from expanding her food empire to making her beloved pitbull immortal — a reality…but only if she continues to obey his every request without question. A few years later the couple, now married and on the lam after stealing nearly $2 million from the restaurant and its staff, are found holed up in a Tennessee motel by law enforcement. Their undoing? A charge made under Fox’s real name, Anthony Strangis, for a Domino’s pizza. BAD VEGAN: FAME. FRAUD. FUGITIVES. takes viewers on a journey more bizarre than fiction.


On the heels of The Tinder Swindler and Inventing Anna, watching individuals fall under the spell of another human being is fascinating. The overlooked red flags are easy for me to spot as I watch from my couch at home. We’ve watched some crazy stories over the years, but nothing like Netflix’s documentary series, BAD VEGAN. Sarma Melngailis gets into hot water when a conman steals not only her heart but her employees’ money. But, is it that cut and dry? Witnessing this twisted plot unfold, I have serious reservations about the genuine involvement of Sarma in her own undoing. Desperate for funds, her entanglement and secretive marriage to Anthony Strangis leads to massive fraud, lies, and some of the strangest behavior from a smart and successful woman I’ve ever heard of.

The doc has unprecedented footage, some of which looks like it came from Strangis’ cell phone. Sarma’s moments of pushback while on the run show a clear head through her tears and anger. I’m not sure I believe her version. Through sit-down interviews with her former staff, restaurant associates, lawyer, and even her father, I don’t think they know what the real truth is, either. Along with phone calls between Sarma and Anthony, the series spans the rise and fall of this sophisticated businesswoman. The promises and threats she endured are, quite literally, unbelievable. When do we ask Sarma to take responsibility for her part in this apparent lunacy? The book deals and tv appearance feel inevitable if we’ve learned anything from Anna Sorokin (who is being deported back to Germany as of this week). Part of me wants Sarma to rise from the ashes, and yet there is this nagging feeling that she doesn’t deserve it. The series covers a lot, but I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that has reservations *no pun intended* when it comes to Sarma Melngailis.

BAD VEGAN is now streaming on Netflix. We’re very eager to hear your thoughts as you watch.

Premieres on Netflix this Wednesday, March 16th, 2022

From Director and Executive Producer Chris Smith (Tiger King,
Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened)
Executive Producers: Chris SmithRyann FraserMark Emms


SXSW 2022 review: Winner of Best Cinematography ‘A VANISHING FOG’ is spellbinding journey of whimsy and warning.

A VANISHING FOG

Facing the imminent return of an unnamed social and ecological violence, F – played by the emblematic and commanding newcomer Sebastián Pii in his debut cinematic role—yearns to overcome his human limitations and plan his escape, knowing all too well that his departure will come with a heartrending goodbye to the only world he has ever known.


It should be no surprise that A Vanishing Fog won the SXSW22 film festival award for Best Cinematography. This film not only speaks to the race against the climate crisis, but The Vanishing Fog also specifically tackles the helpless human aspect. The film follows a young man named F. He appears to be the last protector of an enormous and lush hidden landscape. As capitalist outsiders seek to buy his home, F’s internal struggle between escape and loyalty is palpable. Caring for his ailing father, attempting to communicate with any possible remaining ally by yelling out into the abyss, F understands the end is nigh, whatever that form may take. 

First-time cinematographer Gio Park shot A Vanishing Fog in the mysterious and formidable Páramo of Sumapaz—the largest swath of alpine moorland in the world. It is the first feature film to be shot in this location. You won’t believe such a place exists. It is so incredible that it looks to have been created on a soundstage or green screen. It will take your breath away. 

A Vanishing Fog is a film that deserves enormous screens. Imagine sitting in a room surrounded by IMAX-sized walls. The film begs this experience. I could easily see this becoming a staple at any museum. Lead actor Sebastián Pii leaves every ounce of himself in this role. He’s charming, innocent, desperate, endearing, and determined. You are right alongside his emotional journey. Visual grandeur aside, Pii captures your heart with his wonder and physical fearlessness. A Vanishing Fog is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. It’s a must-see.

 


A VANISHING FOG (Entre la niebla). Colombia/Czech Republic/Norway, 2021, 76 min. In English and Sunapakún with English subtitles. Director / Writer: Augusto Sandino; Producer: Augusto Sandino; Executive Producer: Alejandro Santo Domingo, Munir Falah and Nubia Stella Cubillos; Cinematography: Gio Park; Editor: Augusto Sandino; Production Designer: Constanza Romero; Sound Designer: Emil Nygård Olsen; Music: Emil Nygård Olsen; Principal Cast: Sebastián Pii, Mario de Jesús Viana, Christian Ballesteros; Worldwide Sales: Pluto Film.

About the director:

Augusto Sandino is one of the outstanding names in Colombian contemporary cinema. Winner of over 30 international accolades and the National Cinema Award 2000-2005 given by the Ministry of Culture of Colombia for his short Aniversario. His feature debut Gentle Breath (Suave el aliento) won the Special Jury prize and the FIPRESCI award at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in 2016. Founding Director of the Auteur cinema symposium manifesto with Carlos Reygadas, Lisandro Alonso and Amat Escalante in 2014, Sandino has also been the producer of his films plus the works La forma del presente (The Shape of Now) at DOK Leipzig Next Masters 2018; La torre (The Tower) at IFFR Bright Future 2018; and Karen llora en un bus (Karen Cries on the Bus) at Berlinale Forum 2011. A Vanishing Fog (Entre la niebla) is his second feature film.


SXSW.com


Review: ‘Pasang: In The Shadow of Everest’ Showcases a National Hero with Tenacity to Spare

Pasang: In The Shadow of Everest

Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest brings to life the untold and inspiring story of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepali woman to summit Mt. Everest who, in her quest, awakened her country to the entrenched inequalities confronted and endured by women and in Nepal.


Why do people climb mountains? What is it that drives a person to climb to the peak of the highest mountain on earth? As a person afraid of heights and generally risk-averse, I, for one, will certainly never understand. But whatever it is that lights that kind of internal fire within a person, it is certainly not a male instinct alone. 

 Although not intentional, it was ultimately very appropriate that I watched Pasang: In The Shadow of Everest on International Womens’ Day. The film tells the story of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepali woman to summit Mt. Everest in 1993. Succeeding in a sport dominated by men and traditionally an elite pastime of the western world, Pasang also battled ethnic discrimination, cultural gender norms, and even political opposition to become a national hero. Filmmaker Nancy Svendsen does a lovely job presenting Pasang’s tenacity and determination, which boldly shines through as she pushes back against skepticism and critique at every turn.

 Just in time for Womens’ History month, this film is a poignant example of the many untold tales of female heroism that are frequently under-recognized. Pasang: In The Shadow of Everest is an inspiring story that deserves the attention and recognition of international audiences.


Pasang: In The Shadow of Everest premiered at SBIFF on March 3rd.


Director: Nancy Svendsen

Writer/Producer: Sharon Wood

Producer: Christy McGill

Executive Producer: Ang Dorjee Sherpa

TRT: 72 minutes

Country: USA

Year: 2022

Language: English, French, Nepali


SXSW 2022 review from Unseen Films: ‘This Much I Know To Be True’

This Much I Know To Be True

THIS MUCH I KNOW TO BE TRUE is Nick Cave & Warren Ellis performing songs from the albums Ghosteen and Carnage. It’s a performance film shot over five days before they took it on tour.

If I told you this film is a religious experience, you would think I was daft, unless you’ve ever seen Cave in concert. I’ve seen him twice and this film is kind of like that. It’s the point at which music transports one to another place without the need for drugs. The visual tricks are simply the space, lighting changes, camera moves, and the performers. Yes, there are a few interstitials where they discuss what they are doing, but they are merely points to collect ourselves. In all seriousness moments in this film moved me to tears-the beauty of the sound and image took me to somewhere beautiful. The reason was somewhere beyond words.
What stays with me is the soundscape. This is a film I know I will watch hundreds of times in the time I have left simply so I can have the music swimming around inside me. This is a space occupied by very few films, the closest is the Sigur Ros documentary HEIMA which creates a sonic space that is pure magic.
I apologize but this film lives in a place beyond words. I can’t explain it I can only feel it. And I feel it deeply in the bottom of my soul.
You must see this film with as good a sound system as possible. (I am cursing myself for not putting on headphones.)
One of the best films at SXSW and 2022 as well.


For more of Steve’s thoughts on SXSW22, check out Unseen Films!


SXSW 2022 review: ‘WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND’ is filmmaker Iliana Sosa’s intimate portrait of her grandfather.

WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND

What We Leave Behind is not only Iliana Sosa‘s documentary feature debut but also a loving ode to her grandfather. SXSW22 audiences follow an intimate portrait of the family patriarch in his final years. Tirelessly loyal to his family, Julián Moreno endured monthly 17-hour bus rides from his home in Primo de Verdad to El Paso. He did everything in his power to show his loved ones how much they meant to him. Sosa documents her grandfather’s trips into town, his morning routine, and the construction of a new family home from the ground up. She takes what might seem mundane and creates personal magic. Her sporadic voiceovers add an unexpected but soul effecting layer to the narrative. Alongside this device, she captures the life-breath of Mexico and its everyday hum. It is fair to say that I was weeping at the end. Along her journey to know her grandfather, Sosa invites us to be another member of her family.



To learn more about SXSW22 click here!


 

SXSW EDU 2022 review: ‘TOMORROW’S HOPE’ is a blueprint for success.

TOMORROW’S HOPE

In the SXSW22 short film Tomorrow’s Hope, filmmaker Thomas Morgan examines the effect of two foundations for early childhood education on its first-ever class. Educare and The Ounce of Prevention Fund are sound arguments for universal Pre-K. I’m a former preschool teacher who can attest to the impact these years have on the lives of children and their families. Working in a school in the River City Building in downtown Chicago, I taught predominantly Head Start children, giving me a new insight into the socioeconomic disparity in education, not something I had faced growing up in Connecticut. 

In Tomorrow’s Hope, we follow three high school seniors and hear their personal stories. We also hear from the administrators and teachers, from then and now. These determined women promised their community safety and a loving environment for their families. They made good on that promise, navigating through gang violence, demolition, and uncertainty. The unadulterated passion of these administrators and teachers pours off the screen. 

The graduation rate of the inaugural class at Educare tells you everything you need to know about the importance of early childhood education. It is an unheard-of rate of 100 percent. Every single participant reached high school graduation. Tomorrow’s Hope features families and educators from the school, allowing them to tell their stories in their own words. This film is a forty-minute blueprint for success. 



To find out more about this year’s SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2022 is coming. Here are some films to add to your watch list in this year’s hybrid festival.

It’s here and boy is it happening. This year’s hybrid edition of SXSW 2022 has it all. Here are a handful of films we’re excited about this year.


Linoleum

When a satellite falls from orbit and crashes into the home of a dysfunctional family in suburban Ohio, the father seizes the opportunity to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut by re-creating the machine as his own rocket ship. While his wife and daughter believe he is experiencing a midlife crisis, surreal events begin to unfold around him, forcing him to reconsider how interconnected their lives truly are…

We’ve been living through hell these past few years and could all use a bit of whimsy. Linoleum provides us the opportunity to reconnect with our inner child while simultaneously dissecting the family dynamics. Plus, I think a lot of people forget how incredibly talented Jim Gaffigan is as an actor. Look out for this one.


The Cellar

A woman must confront an ancient and powerful entity after her daughter mysteriously vanishes in the cellar of their new home.

Shudder has already picked this title up before its SXSW22 premiere. Becoming the best streaming platform for all things genre-related, when they see potential in a film they snap it up ASAP. An old mansion, a new family, a disappearance, The Cellar has my attention.


DIAMOND HANDS: THE LEGEND OF WALLSTREETBETS

It was the perfect storm. A global pandemic. An app aspiring to democratize trading. A group of Reddit users stuck at home with stimulus dollars to burn. And a video game company on its last legs. DIAMOND HANDS is the incredible true story of how an army of retail traders rallied around GameStop to rock our financial system. This is the legend of r/WallStreetBets.

Everyone watched in awe and confusion as GameStop stock began to skyrocket. The fallout was disastrous, but the idea that a bunch of dudes on Reddit were able to completely disrupt the market is pretty much my favorite (anti)capitalist giggle from 2020.

MSNBC Films and NBC News Studios will premiere “Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets,” on MSNBC Sunday, April 10 at 10:00 p.m. ET, following the global premiere at SXSW on March 13. “Diamond Hands” is produced by NBC News Studios and ZCDC Films. The film is set to stream later this Spring on Peacock. 


Hypochondriac

A young potter’s life devolves into chaos as he loses function of his body while being haunted by the physical manifestation of his childhood trauma.

If you’re looking for some kick-ass casting, look no further than Zach Villa in Hypochondriac. Unrecognizable from his American Horror Story seasons, Villa plays the writer-director Addison Heimann‘s words with care. The film is based on Heiman’s own experience with mental health.


The Cow

Synopsis: Upon arriving at a remote cabin in the redwoods, Kath and her boyfriend find a mysterious younger couple already there — the rental has apparently been double-booked. With nowhere else to go, they decide to share the cabin with these strangers until the next morning. When her boyfriend disappears with the young woman, Kath becomes obsessed with finding an explanation for their sudden breakup— but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.

If you go to IMDB the plot for the film is still under wraps, so SXSW22 fans are in for a treat. I’ve always been a Winona Ryder fan and with Stranger Things revamping her genre status, I cannot wait to see what is in store in this mysterious-sounding plot.


Mickey: The Story of a Mouse

Mickey Mouse is one of the most enduring symbols in our history. Those three simple circles take on meaning for virtually everyone on the planet. So ubiquitous in our lives that he can seem invisible, Mickey is something we all share, with unique memories and feelings. Over the course of his nearly century-long history, Mickey functions like a mirror, reflecting our personal and cultural values back at us. “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” explores Mickey’s significance, getting to the core of what Mickey’s cultural impact says about each of us and about our world.

When I was 19 years old, I moved to California on a whim in hopes of working at Disneyland. During my amazing time performing there (those details are top secret via the stack of NDA’s you sign as a cast member), I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting a special individual. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland he presented the world with Mickey Mouse, live and in person. I met that man backstage and had my photo taken with him. The impact Mickey Mouse has had on generations of children and adults is unfathomable. Mickey: The Story of a Mouse will undoubtedly touch a massive audience. As I share Mickey with my own small children now, I can still picture my first meeting with a character so magical I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement. He never gets old, pun most definitely intended.


The Prank

Synopsis: Ben is your typical high-school overachiever. He’s organized, careful, goal-oriented and extremely dedicated to school. His best friend, Tanner, couldn’t be more opposite. She is a lackadaisical, messy, slacker, who lives in the moment. They aren’t popular, but they don’t seem to care that much because they have each other. Ben has a stern, mean and cruel physics teacher, Mrs. Wheeler. She has been teaching at the school for decades and has a reputation for being the hardest, coldest, strictest faculty member. She fails Ben’s entire class unless a student who cheated comes forward. When no one does, Tanner and Ben hatch a plan to ruin he life and frame her for murder on social media.

Social media is such a catalyst for action, terror, and weirdness these days that anything is possible when it is involved. But, it’s this cast that caught my eye. Rita Moreno, Connor Kalopsis, Ramona Young, Keith David, Kate Flannery, and Meredith Salenger will get my butt in a seat. Also, who didn’t have a teacher in high school everyone loathed?


The Unknown Country

An unexpected invitation launches a grieving young woman on a solitary road trip through the American Midwest as she struggles to reconcile the losses of her past with the dreams of her future.

I was first introduced to Lily Gladstone in Certain Women. Her ability to captivate with but a glance is something that is rare. The Unknown Country tackles a beautiful mix of anxiety, grief, and identity, all in a unique road trip movie. It’s a film we’ll be talking about all year.


Sissy

**WORLD PREMIERE**

WRITERS/DIRECTORS: Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes
STARRING: Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti, Daniel Monks, Yerin Ha, Lucy Barrett, Shaun Martindale, Amelia Lule, April Blasdall, Camille Cumpston

Synopsis: Cecilia and Emma were tween-age BFFs who were going to grow old together and never let anything come between them, until Alex arrived on the scene. Twelve years later, Cecilia is a successful social media influencer living the dream of an independent, modern millennial woman… until she runs into Emma for the first time in over a decade. Emma invites Cecilia away on her bachelorette weekend at a remote cabin in the mountains, where Alex proceeds to make Cecilia’s weekend a living hell. #triggered

Listen, girls are mean. We hold grudges and we play dirty, those are just the facts. When friendships are disrupted, those scars last a lifetime. With social media affecting the way we lead our daily lives, SISSY sounds like a perfect storm for great horror.


SOFT & QUIET

Playing out in real time, Soft and Quiet is a runaway train that follows a single afternoon in the life of a female white supremacist as she indoctrinates a group of alt-right women, and together they set out to harass two mixed-raced sisters.

Any film that has the audacity to play out in real time has my attention. I am hardwired to loathe these main characters so I am hoping that some horrible fate befalls them. The plot is socially relevant even if I wish it weren’t. I’ll be paying close attention to how writer-director Beth de Araújo brings her first feature-length film to life.


Radical Honesty

At the tail end of a great date, Jack and Rachel bond over a shared interest in deconstructing traditional relationship structures. When Jack reveals the reality of his “radical” open relationship, things take a turn for the absurd in this short film about the co-option of the language of liberation for means of manipulation and control.

At 41, I cannot imagine navigating a new relationship at this precise moment in time. I remember when Match.com first became a thing and how weird I thought it sounded. Then I recall attending four weddings in the years that followed, each couple had met through Match. RADICAL HONESTY, a 7-minute short film, tackles the complexities that Gen Z and Millenials face day-to-day. I’ll be watching with popcorn in hand knowing that it’s one hell I don’t have to keep in check these days. (*knock on wood) Check out the teaser trailer for the film’s aesthetic.

Radical Honesty Teaser from Bianca Poletti on Vimeo.


Slash/Back

Synopsis: Pangnirtung, Nunavut: A sleepy hamlet nestled in the majestic mountains of Baffin Island in the Arctic Ocean, wakes up to a typical summer day. No School, no cool boys (well… except one), and 24-hour sunlight. But for Maika and her ragtag friends, the usual summer is suddenly not in the cards when they discover an alien invasion threatening Pang. But these teenagers have been underestimated their whole lives, and using makeshift weapons and their horror movie knowledge, they show the aliens you don’t fuck with the girls from Pang.

Slash/Back is an unexpected coming-of-age film. With some Stranger Things vibes, it tackles tradition, boredom, boys, and aliens. Wait until you see this young cast kicking ass and taking names.


Pirates

New Year’s Eve 1999. Three life long friends drive through London in their tiny Peugeot 205, pumping a UK Garage set from the stereo and arguing about their Avirex jackets and Naf Naf imports. As the eighteen-year olds step into adulthood, they know their lives and friendships are on the brink of change. Determined to end the century on a bang, they drive from place to place in a desperate search for tickets for the best millennium party EVER. In their efforts to end up somewhere, they end up closer together.

I know I’m aging myself but I was 19 on New Year’s Eve 1999. I lived this chaos and hopefulness. Anything was possible during the course of one evening. I’m here for the nostalgia and some solid shenanigans.


Jethica

Hiding out in New Mexico after a freak accident, Elena runs into Jessica, an old friend from high school. When Jessica’s stalker suddenly shows up at their door, they must seek help from beyond the grave to get rid of him, for good.

Wild and collaborative filmmaker, Pete Ohs brings an exciting edge to the indie scene with Jethica. Shot during the pandemic in 2021 and edited live on Twitch, SXSW22 audiences are surely in for some unexpected twists and turns.


The Voice Actress

Kingyo, a veteran voice actress working in Tokyo, possesses a unique ability to see the soul in all things, living and inanimate. The voice acting world is changing and she must find a way to reconcile her way of living with the modern industry. As Kingyo prepares for an upcoming audition, she seeks inspiration from the world around her and from her pet goldfish, Asatte. In the face of professional and personal adversity, Kingyo looks decidedly inward for strength through empathy and kindness.

A peek inside the recording booth and inside the mind of a working voice actress. Urara Takano puts a face to the performers we don’t talk enough about. Written, directed, and edited by Anna J. Takayama, we are invited into the world of a veteran voice actress and how she copes with forces beyond her control.


For more information on this year’s SXSW Film Festival click here!

Stayed tuned for Reel News Daily coverage as well as guest posts from Steve Kopian at Unseen Films. We’re making our schedules and doing all we can to bring you everything we’ve got. Stayed tuned!