‘MISSING FROM FIRE TRAIL ROAD’ (Tribeca 2024) Shouting from the rooftops for their loved ones

tribeca 2024 logoMISSING FROM FIRE TRAIL ROAD 

World Premiere: Spotlight Documentary Section

Sabrina Van Tassel‘s TRIBECA 2024 documentary MISSING FROM FIRE TRAIL ROAD speaks for those without a voice. Indigenous women are in crisis. Why aren’t we talking about the statistics of missing native women? The number is vastly higher than any other group in the United States.

The film focuses on the story of Mary Ellen Johnson Davis, missing since 2020, as her family tries to piece together all the information they can, while also showing up for those in their community with similar circumstances. There are far too many unexplained disappearances and deaths for one community not to call it an epidemic.

MISSING_FROM_FIRE_TRAIL_ROAD 2The reservation has its own justice system, under which not a single white man has been prosecuted in connection to a disappearance. Families must rely on the Feds to intervene. They never do. It is endless, lawless mayhem.

Story after story, family after family, one thread connects them all. That is abuse from white outsiders. You can’t tell this story without delving into the trauma of native children stolen from their families and physically and emotionally tormented in boarding schools. MISSING FROM FIRE TRAIL ROAD delivers the horrific truth through the words of survivors.

MISSING_FROM_FIRE_TRAIL_ROAD 1A quote from a manual given to households when children the government was ripping from their homes reads, “The goal is not to make scientists, or doctors or lawyers out of these citizens. The goal is to make domestic housewives and farmers and laborers.” Keeping the population suppressed remains the goal. It’s cyclical genocide. It is the continuation of colonization, plain and simple.

The question remains. How many of these documentaries need to be made to get the message across? Tribeca 2024 audiences can share the native plight and, perhaps, move the dial toward justice. Do something.

Remaining Screenings of MISSING FROM FIRE TRAIL ROAD:

Saturday, June 15 – 11:00 AM:  AMC 19th St. East 6


Mary Ellen Johnson Davis has been missing since the eve of Thanksgiving 2020 from the Tulalip Reservation. She is only one of hundreds of Native American women who continue to go missing in the U.S. As director Sabrina Van Tassel (“The State of Texas vs Melissa”) investigates Mary Ellen’s case, dozens of Native women speak up about the violence suffered and observed by them. 

 

Executive Produced and featuring Deborah Parker, activist and indigenous leader, Deb Haaland, US Secretary of the Interior, to many of Mary Ellen’s friends and family, the film threads a haunting but important report about these underlooked cases and the urgency for attention and action in these investigations. 

MISSING FROM FIRE TRAIL ROAD 

For more Tribeca 2024 coverage, click here!

‘BLACK TABLE’ (Tribeca 2024) A vital lesson in excellence

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BLACK TABLE

Spotlight Documentary

Feature | United States | 93 MINUTES | English

BLACK_TABLE-Tribeca 2024Yale’s Class of 97′ boasted the largest admission of black students in the university’s history. Filmmakers John Antonio James and Bill Mack bring Tribeca 2024 BLACK TABLE, a documentary that delves into the complexities of learning, thriving, and simply existing within a predominantly white Ivy environment and beyond.

The documentary interviews an array of graduates from the 90s. Each comes from a different background, but in almost every admission story, parental involvement plays a vital role in communicating with guidance counselors.

As the spouse of a Yale School of Management ’13 grad and president of The SOM Partners Club during our time in New Haven, hearing The Whiffenpoofs sing is a nostalgic sensory memory. To no one’s surprise, we are both white. The reality for the featured alum evokes vastly different experiences, particularly their introduction to the environment. One thing they all had in common is that each individual had their validity and accomplishments relentlessly challenged.

Commons is the university’s overwhelmingly beautiful dining hall. Everyone who sees it likens it to something straight out of Harry Potter. Our alums describe making room for other black students, thus creating a safe space for their community, sometimes pushing tables together to grow the joy and share their daily knowledge and experiences. It is described as black excellence training for their time on Yale’s campus.
BLACK_TABLE-Clean-02 Tribeca 2024There is no escaping the discussion of Affirmation Action, and filmmakers fully understand it. We delve into the racist talking points that thrive today in diminishing accomplishments and a sense of belonging. An explosive incident at Naples forced Yale and its student body to confront the reality of being black on campus. Rodney King changed the name of the game from a student action standpoint. Then O.J. Simpson’s trial reignited cultural tension.

A fascinating conversation surrounds reasons not to sit at the black table. Alums discuss that perhaps the table hindered their growth, their fear of branching out, and the ensuing judgment from their black peers. It is a complicated conversation that continues with their children.

The photos from the alums are storytelling gold. When friends get together in 2022, they break down their college experiences, childhoods, and ancestral wisdom. One statement from the film succinctly tackles the overall message: “Even if it were affirmative action that got you here, affirmative action is not keeping you here.” BLACK TABLE is a history lesson and a celebrated tour through years of black excellence.

Black Table


Remaining Screenings of Black Table:

For more Tribeca 2024 coverage, click here!

‘VESELKA’ (2024) doc follows a restaurant entering the global stage

VESELKA:
THE RAINBOW ON THE CORNER
AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD

VESELKA: THE RAINBOW ON THE CORNER AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD

New York City’s beloved Ukrainian restaurant Veselka is best known for its borscht and varenyky, but it has become a beacon of hope for Ukraine. As the second-generation owner Tom Birchard reluctantly retires after 54 years, his son Jason faces the pressures of stepping into his father’s shoes as the war in Ukraine impacts his family and staff.


The first time I ate at Veselka, I’d only lived in New York for six months. A friend of mine, a lifelong New Yorker, walked us in at 1 am. We were sober but sleepy. The palpable energy of the packed wood-paneled room woke us up before a dish was served. I remember being a little awed by the fragile ecosystem – here, Wall Street players were sitting shoulder to shoulder with grinning grandmothers. Warm chatter and the smell of fried onions filled the space. That environment, that first bowl of borscht at Veselka, was one of the many little moments that helped me feel at home in a busy, sometimes uncaring city.

Michael Fiore’s documentary, Veselka: The Rainbow on the corner at the center of the world, takes the viewer into both the history and heart of the beloved Ukrainian restaurant. With the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the restaurant finds itself catapulted onto a transformational crossroads. Already tested by the global pandemic, its owner, Tom Birchard, hands the reins to his son, Jason. Jason finds himself at the helm of a world-famous family business, trying to put his own stamp on the restaurant while understanding its rapidly evolving role in both the local and global Ukrainian community.

VESELKA_Press ShotThe documentary is by turns uplifting and shattering. Most powerfully, it is a stark reminder of the human costs of ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. Unbelievably, this week will mark 2 years since Russia’s invasion and escalation of the conflict. While the war may not be at the forefront of the public conscious in 2024 to the same degree as it once was, it remains a constant for the staff and families at Veselka. This is not an overseas battle for them – these are their loved ones and families fighting and dying while the world moves on to the next crisis.

As a leader, Jason Birchard is equal parts toughness and warmth. His determination for his staff and community is inspiring.  Early in the Russian invasion, Veselka hosts Mayor Adams and his delegation to advocate for additional support for Ukraine. Watching this scene gives the viewer the rare experience of seeing an elected official being written off by a constituent in real-time. This superficial political moment stands in stark contrast to Veselka’s kitchen, which is humming with empathy and support.

Veselka: The Rainbow on the corner at the center of the world is many things. A  reminder of a brutal ongoing conflict. A challenge to the audience to remember how far the support of individuals can go in the face of global needs. A testament to the grit and determination behind a family business….And a reminder that you’ve really been craving borscht lately.


In Theaters This Friday 
February 23rd, 2024

Written, Produced, and Directed by Michael Fiore

Narrated by Golden Globe Award-winner David Duchovny (“The X Files”)
Score by Ryan Shore, featuring Grammy Award-winning saxophonist David Sanborn (“Lethal Weapon”)

Poster designed by Neil Jamieson (TIME “Person of the Year” cover artist – feat. President Zelensky)

Featuring interviews with father-son owners of Veselka Tom and Jason Birchard, additional Veselka staff as well as footage of New York Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul


For more of Sam’s reviews, click here!

‘GOD & COUNTRY’ (2024) explores the twisted reality of Christian Nationalism

Oscilloscope logo

GOD & COUNTRY

God & Country 2024 poster

What the hell happened to Conservative Christians? Growing up Catholic taught me that you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the refugee, and love thy neighbor as yourself. What we’ve come to see is that none of those so-called values matter these days as long as the underlying hatred and cultlike lies fuel a fired-up voter base. GOD & COUNTRY takes us down the rabbit hole of skewed ethics and the genuine danger we found ourselves in at those moments in our country’s history.

God & Country 2024 Rally FlagsOn-the-ground video from January 6th, up close and personal from cell phones, retraumatizes the viewer. The new footage is mind-boggling and will undoubtedly fill you with rage and disgust. The film features sociologists, authors, historians, lawyers, and pastors. We examine the Constitution and the precise articles requiring separation of church and state. We look at evolving statistics on social issues through the years. The interconnectedness of women’s rights, race, and power is undeniable.

God & Country Faith & Freedom ImageViolence as a means of “spiritual defense” comes directly from the pulpit over and over. The film effectively builds towards January 6th by wading through the madness swirling in the years prior. It is utterly bewildering and 100 percent terrifying. This coordinated effort to keep people in a cult is deliberate and well-funded. History repeats itself. Wait until you find out the architect of Evangelical sermons.

God & Country 2024 Washington StillGOD & COUNTRY keenly explores the long history and bastardization of Christianity through White Nationalism. It is a political movement about power. America is a ticking time bomb encouraged by social media, media, and billions of dollars. Stay vigilant and show up at the polls because democracy depends on it.

Oscilloscope Laboratories’ GOD & COUNTRY,  produced by Rob Reiner and directed by Dan Partland (Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump), is opening in select theaters nationwide beginning This Friday, February 16th.

 

For more reviews from Oscilloscope Laboratories, click here!

 

Sundance 2024 review: ‘And So It Begins’

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AND SO IT BEGINS

AND SO IT BEGINS

AND SO IT BEGINS at Sundance 2024

Amid Filipino elections, a grassroots movement emerges to protect truth and democracy from growing threats. People unite in joyful acts of resistance, kindling hope while autocracy expands.

Returning to Sundance four years after the premiere of A THOUSAND CUTS, director Ramona S. Diaz gives audiences a companion piece about the fragility of democracy. In the Philippines in 2016, the country elected a President and Vice President from opposite political spectrums. VP Leni Robredo is a compassionate, former NGO human rights attorney. She is articulate, funny, and fearless. If you took President Biden and combined him with Hillary Clinton, you might begin to understand Leni Robredo.

The passion of the people is evident in their cries for equality. Her supporters wear pink and come from every socioeconomic background and age group. She has a special bond with the LGBTQ community. Her extraordinary grassroots campaign still fights an uphill battle against the children and candidates of the former dictatorship.

Holy misogyny, Batman! The overt corruption of President Duterte looks familiar. The US had a tyrant appear in 2016. In 2021, Leni must contend with the attacks from the outgoing president and campaign against the son of former President Fernando Marcos, one of the country’s most notorious dictators. Under his reign, martial law pervaded the Philippines, and Marcos fled with billions of dollars. BongBong Marcos Jr wants to bring back the policies that destroyed democracy. To remind you, he is also Imelda Marcos’ son. A quote that hangs on the wall of Marcos’ former vacation home, now a museum, reads, “We must make this nation great again.” Hmmm. Where have we heard that before?

AND SO IT BEGINS is simultaneously a story about journalist Maria A. Ressa, the co-founder of the news outlet Rappler. Duterte falsely convicted her of breaking laws that never existed before her arrests. Ressa dared to challenge dictators and has since paid the price for years. Their relentless pursuit of quieting Rappler will make your blood boil. A wondrous moment happens in the film as Ressa receives a phone during a Zoom panel, informing her she’s just received the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptable speech, she tells the world about the extensive online misinformation machine built by Marcos, Jr, once again reminding viewers how fragile any democracy is.

We cannot ignore the parallels in tactics. We would be foolish to think the playbook hasn’t gotten thicker as technology replaces knocking on doors. What can we learn from AND SO IT BEGINS? History revisionism threatens everything we hold dear, so pay attention, and don’t look away.

And So It Begins (2024) poster

And So It Begins (2024) poster

Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)

 

Meet the Artist

Ramona S. Diaz

Ramona S. Diaz

Ramona S. Diaz’s award-winning films — Imelda (2004), The Learning (2011), DSB: Everyman’s Journey (2012), Motherland (2017), and A Thousand Cuts (2020) — have screened at top-tier film festivals and been seen globally. Diaz is both a Guggenheim Fellow and a USA Fellow. In 2021, she was named the inaugural McGurn Family Trust Resident in Film by the American Academy in Rome.

Credits

  • DIRECTOR(S)

    RAMONA S. DIAZ

  • SCREENWRITER

    RAMONA S. DIAZ

  • PRODUCER

    RAMONA S. DIAZ

  • YEAR

    2024

  • CATEGORY

    FEATURE

  • COUNTRY

    UNITED STATES/PHILIPPINES

  • LANGUAGE

    ENGLISH, FILIPINO AND OTHER DIALECTS

  • RUN TIME

    113 MIN

For more information about Sundance 2024, click here!

 

You can read all of our Sundance coverage throughout the years here.

Sundance Color logo 2023

Review: ‘First We Bombed New Mexico’ (2023) a chilling reminder of the hidden costs of the Trinity test

FIRST WE BOMBED NEW MEXICO

First We Bombed New Mexico

Anyone getting ready to vote Oppenheimer for best picture should first have to watch Lois Lipman’s First We Bombed New Mexico. America has much to reckon with when it comes to the legacy of the nuclear bomb – much of it on our own shores. This documentary potently explores further dark shadows this scientific achievement has left behind.

First We Bombed New Mexico still 1 The documentary follows Tina Cordova as she advocates for herself and her fellow “downwinders.” Downwinders are innocent bystanders who may have suffered negative health effects from the Trinity test  – the 1945 detonation of a newly developed nuclear weapon in New Mexico.

Cordova speaks for the many citizens who were unwillingly and unknowingly exposed to the radiation from the nuclear test. She is a compelling lead figure, warm and driven.

First We Bombed New Mexico still 2The anecdotes from the immediate aftermath of the nuclear test are truly horrifying. One particularly striking recounting involves children playing with what they thought was “warm snow, but may have actually been nuclear fallout. Still more disturbing is the potential generational effects of the test. There are recounts of stillbirths, of children born without eyes, and of widespread cases of cancer across the affected communities. Cordova herself is a thyroid cancer survivor, the 4th generation in her family to have cancer since the test in 1945.

The struggles of Cordova and her fellow downwinders seem relentless. Their end goals – formal recognition and an apology from the US government – seem so meager in comparison to the widespread challenges they face. It is easy for the audience to lose hope. Those expecting a neat resolution will be disappointed. But for those willing to explore the messy history behind Trinity, this documentary proves a worthwhile watch.


An inspiring Hispanic cancer survivor bangs on the corridors of power to fight for compensation and an apology for Native and Hispanic communities in New Mexico whose land and water was radiated by the Trinity Bomb.

WINNER OF THE DOCUMENTARY FEATURE JURY AWARD

 AT THE 2023 AUSTIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

WINNER OF THE AUDIENCE CHOICE BEST COMPETITION DOCUMENTARY AT THE 2023

 SANTA FE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Official Film Website: FirstWeBombedNewMexico.com

 

Instagram: @FirstWeBombedNMFilm

Facebook: @FirstWeBombedNewMexicoFilm

X (Twitter): @FirstWeBombedNM


Click here for more of Sam’s reviews!

Review: The Bloomquist Brothers satirical, political slasher ‘FOUNDERS DAY’ earns your gory adoration.

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FOUNDERS DAY

Founders Day - Theatrical Poster

Synopsis: In this bold political slasher from the Bloomquist Brothers, a small town is shaken by a series of ominous killings in the days leading up to a heated mayoral election. As accusations fly and the threat of a masked killer darkens every street corner, the residents must race to uncover the truth before fear consumes the town.

Founders Day Still 1 - Credit David Apuzzo Mainframe PicturesPolitical spin can make or break a campaign. Those few who possess the skill have the power to command entire nations. In the Bloomquist Brothers’ latest film, FOUNDERS DAY, a small-town mayoral race brings chaos in the form of a serial killer dressed as, you guessed it, a twisted Founding Father straight out of a cliche painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. As members of the town of Fairwood get knocked off, one by one, the race is one to find the killer and their ultimate motive. Tackling every political hot-button issue and tactic with a bucket of gore, FOUNDERS DAY is here to mix things up.

Naomi Grace

Naomi Grace in Founders Day

The cast is chockful of familiar and talented faces. Naomi Grace is Alison. Her character endures relentless trauma, and Grace handles it like a pro. Andrew Stewart-Jones plays Alison’s father, Thomas. He is someone that should be on Jordan Peele‘s radar. This guy is a star. Devin Druid is Adam, the son of Mayoral candidate Harold Faulkner. Druid eats this complicated character for breakfast. He is magnificent.

William Russ in Founders Day

William Russ in Founders Day

Jayce Bartok plays Faulkner with an over-the-top air straight out of Mad TV. Amy Hargreaves is the current mayor, Blair Gladwell. Her sass and seriousness are a perfect fit for the satire. Director Erik Bloomquist plays Oliver, Gladwell’s right-hand man. He is amazing. William Russ plays the beloved local teacher, Mr. Jackson. Like me, you might know him as Corey’s dad from Boy Meets World. In FOUNDERS DAY, Russ offers the audience the same emotional, moral anchor we loved so much. Catherine Curtin plays Police Commissioner Peterson. Her overly dramatic comedic timing is a thing of the gods. Give her an entire franchise solving small-town murders, I beg of you.

Founders Day

Founders Day

Bloomquist uses key political phrases that anyone living through the ridiculousness of the country since 2015 knows all too well. From the faux outrage, sugary glad-handing, and infighting, what’s a little murder between neighbors. The idea of political tribalism hits you square in the face. You’re simultaneously intrigued and giggling. The kills are brutal as hell. Bloomquist gives us the customary obnoxious ancillary characters but anchors the film with fleshed-out, small-town folks we all relate to. No one is safe, and you have to respect that. The screenplay delivers twist after twist. Don’t for one second think you know what’s going on. The inspirations from SCREAM are unmissable. AK Roy’s end credits kick ass. FOUNDERS DAY has all the makings of a cult classic, with an ending so nuanced it garnered my vote.

 

Releasing in theaters nationwide on January 19

 

The newest film from the Bloomquist Brothers (Ten Minutes to Midnight) marks the reunion of 13 Reasons Why duo Devin Druid and Amy Hargreaves, who join an ensemble cast including William Russ (Boy Meets World), Catherine Curtin (Stranger Things), Naomi Grace (NCIS), Emilia McCarthy (SkyMed), Jayce Bartok (SubUrbia), Olivia Nikkanen (The Society), and Andrew Stewart-Jones (Gotham). 


Founders-Day-Character-Lineup

Founders-Day-Character-Lineup

Distribution Company: Dark Sky Films
Production Company: Mainframe Pictures
Release Date: January 19, 2024
Director: Erik Bloomquist
Screenwriters: Erik Bloomquist, Carson Bloomquist
Producers: Erik Bloomquist, Carson Bloomquist, Adam Weppler
Cast: Devin Druid, Emilia McCarthy, Amy Hargreaves, Catherine Curtin, William Russ, Naomi Grace, Olivia Nikkanen, Jayce Bartok, Andrew Stewart Jones, Tyler James White, Erik Bloomquist, Adam Weppler, Kate Edmonds, Dylan Slade, Arun Cameron Storrs
Social Media (Instagram, TikTok & Facebook): @FoundersDayMovie


 

Sundance 2024 preview: A film for everyone at the festival’s 40th Edition.

Sundance Film Festival 2024 Color Logo
The Sundance Film Festival has launched the careers of indie film directors, writers, and actors now for 40 years. Back with in-person and online screening opportunities, this year’s iteration boasts new and bold storytelling from every genre. Here are a handful of films we’ll track in 2024.

 

For more information and tickets to Sundance 2024, click here! Be on the lookout for shared coverage with our good friend, Steve Kopian, at Unseen Films. To see all of his reviews and what he’s looking forward to this year, head over to his home base.

(World Cinema Dramatic Competition)
SUJO

S till from the Sundance film SUJO
When a cartel gunman is killed, he leaves behind Sujo, his beloved 4-year-old son. The shadow of violence surrounds Sujo during each stage of his life in the isolated Mexican countryside. As he grows into a man, Sujo finds that fulfilling his father’s destiny may be inescapable.

A movie about time and trauma, this beautifully acted and hauntingly written film from the directors of Identifying Features will be sure to captivate audiences. 

This film contains strobe effects.
Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)


40th Edition Celebration Screenings And Events

DIG! XX

DIG! XX tracks the tumultuous rise of two talented musicians, Anton Newcombe, leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Courtney Taylor, leader of the Dandy Warhols, and dissects their star-crossed friendship and bitter rivalry. Through their loves and obsessions, gigs and recordings, arrests and death threats, uppers and downers, and ultimately to their chance at a piece of the profit-driven music business, they stage a self-proclaimed revolution in the music industry.

DIG! premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary Competition, where it ultimately won the Grand Jury Prize in the documentary category. DIG! XX, which will premiere at the upcoming Festival, is not only a digitally enhanced, remixed, and remastered version of DIG!, but also a special 20th anniversary new edit of the film culled from footage shot over seven years, and brought to you by the original sibling team, Ondi and David Timoner.

*Digitally enhanced and featuring new footage


(Premieres)

And So It Begins

Amidst the traditional pomp and circumstance of Filipino elections, a quirky people’s movement rises to defend the nation against deepening threats to truth and democracy. In a collective act of joy as a form of resistance, hope flickers against the backdrop of increasing autocracy.

Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)


(World Cinema Documentary Competition)

Eternal You

Startups are using AI to create avatars that allow relatives to talk with their loved ones after they have died. An exploration of a profound human desire and the consequences of turning the dream of immortality into a product.

“I wanted to see if he was okay,” explains Christi, one of the users of Project December. With this innovative software, users can communicate with a virtual version of the deceased through a chatbot that simulates the dead person’s conversation patterns. Hers was an attempt to check on her first love. Others may simply miss someone, seek permission to move on, or want to rid themselves of guilt.

At this point, I think we’ve all seen the app that turns photos into moving images. The idea feels equally sentimental and disturbing. Eternal You takes this tech further, begging the question, “How far are we willing to go to feel connected to those we’ve lost, and how might that affect our brains?” 

Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)


World Cinema Documentary Competition

A New Kind of Wilderness

In a forest in Norway, a family lives an isolated lifestyle in an attempt to be wild and free, but a tragic event changes everything, and they are forced to adjust to modern society.

Silje Evensmo Jacobsen mixes home movies and a carefully intimate approach to the Payne family, whose isolated existence gets shaken up quite suddenly. This beautiful portrait of connection and resilience in the face of grief will touch your heart.

Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)


(NEXT)

REALM OF SATAN

An experiential portrait depicting Satanists in both the every day and in the extraordinary as they fight to preserve their lifestyle: magic, mystery, and misanthropy.

Filmmaker Scott Cummings is no stranger to Sundance, having edited many highly acclaimed festival premieres over the past decade, including Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Monsters and Men, and Wendy.

When I tell you that you aren’t ready for this doc, I mean it in the best way possible. Created to ruffle feathers and dispel right-wing hypocrisy, Scott Cummings titillates with gorgeous framing and a touch of tongue-in-cheek magical realism. 

This film contains graphic sexual content. Audiences must be 18 or older.

Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)


(Premieres)

My Old Ass

Maisy Stella and Aubrey Plaza in Sundance film MY OLD ASS

Maisy Stella and Aubrey Plaza in the Sundance film MY OLD ASS

The summer before college, bright-yet-irreverent Elliott comes face-to-face with her older self during a mushroom trip. The encounter spurs a funny and heartfelt journey of self-discovery and first love as Elliott prepares to leave her childhood home.

The concept alone should get your butt into a seat, but filmmaker Megan Park casting Aubrey Plaza is chef’s kiss in indie cinema.


(Midnight)

I Saw the TV Glow

Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine  in I SAW THE TV GLOW

Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine in I SAW THE TV GLOW

Teenager Owen is just trying to make it through life in the suburbs when his classmate introduces him to a mysterious late-night TV show — a vision of a supernatural world beneath their own. In the pale glow of the television, Owen’s view of reality begins to crack.

Writer-director Jane Schoenbrun’s We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021 Sundance Film Festival) gave us one of the coolest genre-bending films with a breakout performance from star Anna Cobb. I cannot wait to see how this one twists my sanity and senses. 

This film contains violence and gore.

This film contains strobe effects.


Sundace Film Festival 2024 Black and White logoTo find out more information on all things Sundance 2024, head to https://festival.sundance.org/

 

Review: Now available on HBO and MAX, ‘TIME BOMB Y2K’ recalls hysteria and provides a warning.

TIME BOMB Y2K

Time Bomb Y2K poster features a desktop being crushed by the times square new years eve ball drop

Synopsis: As the clock counts down to the dawn of the 21st century, the world faces the largest potential technological disaster to ever threaten humanity. The problem is comically simple yet incredibly complex – a bug that could cause computers to misinterpret the year 2000 as 1900, sowing chaos throughout the world as electronic systems failed. Crafted entirely through archival footage, TIME BOMB Y2K is a prescient and often humorous tale about the power and vulnerabilities of technology. By re-appraising both the cooperative efforts and mass hysteria surrounding this millennial milestone, TIME BOMB Y2K explores how modern life has been dramatically transformed by the digital revolution.


HBO’s TIME BOMB Y2K

The most hyped fearmongering moment of the end of the 20th century began in the few years before the ball dropped on Dec 31st, 1999. I was a freshman in college when Y2K was all the craze. The media had us believing we were on the brink of global collapse and that anything housing a computer chip would cease to work. In reality, nothing happened. But the concept of Y2K feels much more apocalyptic today.

TIME BOMB Y2K consists entirely of archival footage. Interviews with experts and talking heads at the time give the audience a perfect insight into how fringe groups thrive today. The pure wonder of new technology on the faces of those featured is fantastic nostalgia for those of us who lived through those few years. Anyone born after Y2K might find the doc either shocking or terrifying. Putting things into perspective as we enter into 2024, if the global internet went down, there would be genuine chaos. What would keyboard warriors do without the ability to share their BS and vitriol? In all seriousness, we exist in a capitalist economy that leans heavily on wifi and online presence. What would younger generations do without practical skills? How would it affect our ability to access money? Would modern vehicles start? Entertainment outside of live theatre would disappear.

TIME BOMB Y2K makes terrific points about the effects of technology on human interaction. The film delves into how certain groups of people reacted during the unknown. Some folks became preppers, while others cried “Hoax” from the beginning. It’s a perfect metaphor for the power of disinformation, closely mirroring how a particular subsection of alt-right people think a homegrown militia uprising is coming. I had no idea this existed in preparation for Y2K. We have to take into consideration how the world reacted during COVID. The potential for violence equals the potential for peace. It is a fine line.

If anything, TIME BOMB Y2K reminds us of the delicate balance of power. It introduces very fundamental questions about humanity’s ability to survive without technology. It’s a dizzying dichotomy of ideas, perhaps proving nothing has changed, and it’s only gotten worse. It’s a sobering conversation starter.


The HBO Original documentary TIME BOMB Y2K, directed by Brian Becker and Marley McDonald, and executive produced by award-winning filmmaker Penny Lane (HBO’s “Listening to Kenny G”), debuts SATURDAY, DECEMBER 30 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and will be available to stream on Max.
 

Now streaming and out on Blu-ray today, Shem Bitterman’s ‘DISTANT TALES’ tackles the good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity and isolation

DISTANT TALES

In a near-future dystopia, when a worldwide event means people can no longer meet face to face, four stories — PLACEBO, PLEASE LOG ON, TOUCH, and R NOUGHT — unfold with unexpected revelations as the screens through which they connect hide the twisted reality of their lives.


Writer-director Shem Bitterman

Writer-director Shem Bitterman taps into human nature with four stories that capture the echoes of the Covid lockdown. The dialogue is theatrical. DISTANT TALES could easily transition from screen to stage. The real-time, intensely intimate vulnerability would be electric. It already pours off the screen.


TOUCHCo-workers surreptitiously connect over late-night Zoom calls. Once discovered by their partners, Ben and Seraphina show their true colors. Samuel Martin Lewis gives Ben a relatable longing. The performance from Tiffany Wolff is chilling.


PLEASE LOG ON
A job interview goes off the rails when the effects of prolonged isolation rear their ugly head. Liz Fenning gives Beth an irritable edge and desperation we all recognized during lockdown. Rupak Ginn is Rohit, a character in the opposite headspace. This segment presents the viewer with an awkward moral dilemma.


PLACEBOThe head of a clinical trial and one of her subjects find common ground through culture and shameless flirting but clash over social distancing protocols and the trial’s progress. Amen Igbinosun plays Ese as a jovial spirit. His physical and emotional journey is heartbreaking. Carolyn Michelle Smith balances skepticism and kindness. It is a nuanced turn.


R NOUGHTThis intense piece explores online extremism and conspiracy theories with phenomenal performances from Ben Bowen and Christoper Curry. An online talking head pushes a grieving husband to take up arms against the government. Can he battle his emotions and resist the influences in his life?


As a whole, DISTANT TALES tackles all the chaos of lockdown in complex ways. Each story gets under the audience’s skin for vastly different reasons. If nothing else, Bitterman’s keen observation of human desperation will undoubtedly have people talking.


“Distant Tales” trailer:


 
IS NOW AVAILABLE ON iTunes, AMAZON.COM, and VUDU
COMING OUT ON BLU-RAY ON DECEMBER 12


The dark psychological thriller, DISTANT TALES, a 4-part anthology from writer/director, award-winning playwright, Shem Bitterman (who, as a young screenwriter, wrote HALLOWEEN 5) and executive produced by Oscar-winner, Tom Schulman (Academy Award – Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen “Dead Poet’s Society”), will be released on Blu-ray December 12.


What’s Your Story?



Los Angeles, CA (November 30, 2023) – After a two-month exclusive run on Cable TV OnDemand with Xfinity, Spectrum, and Contour, DISTANT TALES, from acclaimed playwright and screenwriter writer/director Shem Bitterman and executive producer and Oscar-winner Tom Schulman (“Dead Poet’s Society”), is now available on iTunes, Amazon.com, and Vudu. The film will be available on additional streaming platforms later in December. Pre-orders are now available for the December 12 Blu-Ray release on Amazon.com.


DISTANT TALES, a dark, four-part dramatic anthology where desire, madness and a struggle for love erupt in a dystopic future after a worldwide event prevents people from meeting face to face, was filmed in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In DISTANT TALES four individual stories set during a worldwide pandemic unfold with unexpected twists and revelations: an extramarital affair, cut short by a pandemic and continued online; a mysterious job interview, overseen by an unseen judge; a vaccine trial, where a burgeoning love leads to some bad decisions; a grieving dad who finds sympathy from an online advocate for violence.


 

Vampires, Werewolves, Frankenstein, Time Travel, and Fever Dreams. Oh, is that all? Nope. What to Watch at Fantasia Festival 2023, coming this week!

Fantasia Festival 2023 logo

Fantasia 2023 is almost upon us, or as we like to say, “It’s Christmas in July, Motherf*ckers!” But, we usually keep that on the inside. Now that you have a taste of how demented we naturally are, here is a handful of films we are stoked to check out at this year’s fest. It’s the stuff we’ll undoubtedly be buzzing about for the remainder of the year. We have been lucky enough to have seen a few of the titles already making the rounds. You can catch our reviews for the following films:

With Love and a Major Organ

Suitable Flesh

Satan Wants You

Paiffe

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls

Talk To Me

Molli and Max in the Future


Now, onto the films that we cannot wait to get our eyeballs on for the first time…

 

LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP

lovely dark and deep poster


LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP is the hotly anticipated directorial debut of Teresa Sutherland, screenwriter of THE WIND and a writer on MIDNIGHT MASS. Laced with stunning visuals, this ominously beautiful, deeply frightening nightmare is anchored by a captivating lead performance from BARBARIAN’s Georgina Campbell. Campbell plays a park ranger in an isolated forest outpost, the site of multiple mysterious disappearances, and she is plagued by visions blending the past and present with something even more sinister. This transfixing film oozes an immersive, fever-dream atmosphere. Also starring Nick Blood, Wai Ching Ho, and Edgar Morais. World Premiere. 

You had us at Georgina Campbell and the woods. Teresa Sutherland understands how to create atmospheric chaos, both physically and emotionally. We’re betting on this one.



APORIA

Sophie’s (Judy Greer, HALLOWEEN) life takes a sudden hard turn when either fate or a terrible chance of circumstance sees her husband Mal (Edi Gathegi, THE HARDER THEY FALL) killed in a drunk-driving accident. Left to parent her grief-torn teenaged daughter (Faithe Herman, SHAZAM!) on her own while trying to keep things together with an emotionally taxing nursing job, her breaking point might be coming up fast and it takes every bit of her remaining strength not to fall apart. One day, her husband’s best friend (Payman Maadi, A SEPARATION), a brilliant former physicist, approaches her with an experimental machine that he’s secretly been working on for years. One that’s capable of bending time in specific ways. A device that could — perhaps — bring a version of Sophie’s old life back to her. She understands that by taking a chance with this, the consequences will be entirely unforeseeable. It’s an impossible choice to make. And a lifeline that’s all but impossible to resist.

As a self-proclaimed Whovian, time-bending is my jam. Add in Judy Greer, whose career is a delicious buffet of eclectic tastes, and you’ve got my eyeballs for however long you want them.


STAY ONLINE

Stay Online poster

STAY ONLINE, the feature-film debut of Ukrainian filmmaker Eva Strelnikova, follows Katya (Liza Zaitseva), a volunteer from Kyiv who is fighting against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While using a laptop donated to the resistance, she comes into contact with the original owner’s superhero-obsessed son, who is looking for his lost parents. In an effort to make a positive change in this boy’s life and pull herself out of a destructive cycle, Katya risks all that she holds dear to locate his parents.

If your heart isn’t pumping, palms sweating while watching this film, check your pulse. Told through the lens f a laptop screen, this political thriller set during the early days of the war in Ukraine will have you on edge from start to finish.


BLACKOUT

A still from Larry Fessenden's Blackout

In a small upstate New York town, artist Charley Barrett (Alex Hurt) checks out of the motel that’s been his recent home and sets out on a series of personal missions. These include exposing the corruption of ruthless developer Hammond (Marshall Bell), and reconciling with former lover Sharon (Addison Timlin), Hammond’s daughter. Another is connected to his tragic secret: Charley is a werewolf, recently infected with the curse and responsible for a series of gruesome murders. The local residents have scapegoated one of the Latino workers on Hammond’s construction site for the killings, and as a full moon rises, their desire for justice hits a fever pitch while Charley succumbs to his transformation once more.

Larry Fessenden, Ladies and Gentlemen, and All Genre Fans. This horror legend not only appears in every single instant cult classic but writes and directs slick horror through his production company Glass Eye Pix. Fessenden’s Monster Mania takes a new turn in werewolf form this go around. 


WHERE THE DEVIL ROAMS

Darkest prayers will be answered, in sawdust and sacrilege, when Fantasia goes WHERE THE DEVIL ROAMS. This astonishing new feature from cult favourites The Adams Family (Toby Poster, John Adams, Zelda Adams), follows a family of traveling sideshow performers as they traverse Depression-era America on a bloody search for eternal life. As in THE DEEPER YOU DIG and HELLBENDER, both Fantasia World Premieres, the gifted filmmaking family’s latest creation continues their inspired explorations of familial power dynamics through the prism of horror. Haunting, poetic, sometimes funny, frequently freakish, and told with conviction through a deeply personal lens. World Premiere. 

Filmmaking phenoms The Adams Family has been rocking my world for years with their uniquely smart storytelling and jarring imagery. Fellow born and bred New Englanders, I love them and their work on a deeply personal level. If you check Twitter notes, they have publicly accepted me into the family. They can do no wrong in my book.


EMPIRE V

EMPIRE V

A disaffected student (Pavel Tabakov) follows an invitation to join “the elite” and finds himself forcibly transformed into a vampire, joining a supernatural ruling class who exercise an anonymous dictatorship over humans. Celebrated Russian-American director Victor Ginzburg (GENERATION P) demonstrates a striking visual imagination, perfectly complementing a story that reinvents nearly every aspect of vampire lore in clever and fantastical ways. This is the MATRIX of vampire cinema. Years in the making, EMPIRE V is both next-level blockbuster storytelling and megabudget anti-Oligarch satire, electrified with breathtaking visuals from the great Aleksei Rodionov (COME AND SEE). Co-starring Miron Fedorov, AKA rap star Oxxxymiron, whose anti-War benefit concerts led the Russian justice ministry to condemn him as a “foreign agent.” EMPIRE V itself has been banned by Russia’s Ministry of Culture, ensuring that the citizens of its home country may never see the film. World Premiere. 

I don’t care how many vampire films we’ve seen, I’m a Child of the Night, an Anne Rice, Stephen King lover. And yes, even Twilight, baby. Vampires will get me through the door every single time. Empire V looks slick as hell, and I’m all for satire. Especially when it involves Russia and all forms of revolt. This new take clearly has teeth.


BIRTH/REBIRTH

Rose (Marin Ireland, THE DARK AND THE WICKED) is a morgue technician with little patience for the living. Brilliant and obsessively driven, she also has a personal side-project that’s consumed much of her waking energies: The reversing of physical death. Celine (Judy Reyes, SCRUBS) is a hardworking maternity nurse who gives her all to patients shift after shift, the emotional intensity of her work only finding reprieve when she comes home to her effervescent six-year-old daughter, Lila (A.J. Lister). Fates take a horrific turn that smashes the lives of both women into each other, dropping them down a gruesome rabbit hole of desperate choices and ascending moral compromise that will shake you to your core. We’ll reveal no more.

Female-driven horror storytelling with motherhood at the center, Birth/Rebirth may connect with childbearing audiences that don’t usually go for this kind of fare. Risky, visceral, and unafraid to shock, audiences cannot prepare for what they are about to witness. Mary Shelley approves. 


WHITE NOISE

white noise short film still

Ava’s debilitating hyper-sensitivity to sound is becoming unliveable. Her doctor’s prescription of exposure therapy backfires as she descends into a fit of panic in both her class and the subway. When her attempt at suicide fails, she pleads with her doctor to enrol her in an experimental trial involving an anechoic chamber: the world’s quietest room. The doctor has his reservations, but Ava is convinced this is the ticket to her salvation. In this soundless space, her euphoria quickly mutates into madness when she begins to hear the inner workings of her own body.

Drawing on producer Christina Saliba’s experiences, this short film from director Tamara Scherbak made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Suffering from the same affliction, this brilliantly torturous short places the viewer inside the body of someone with constant sensory overload. *Shiver and wince*


Last but not least, the annual goodness that is BORN OF WOMAN 2023 shorts program. Every year I look forward to the brutal, genius, angry, gorgeous, bloody storytelling from a handpicked group of female filmmakers. 130 mins, 8 films, from the United Kingdom, USA, Belgium, France, Germany, and Argentina. 

For all things Fantasia Festival 2023, click here.

 

Reviews will be rolling out as fast as we can watch and type!


 

Review: Growing a conscience is painful in Lola Blanc’s ‘PRUNING’- Premiering at Palm Springs Shortfest 2023

 

Shortfest 2023 logo

PRUNING

Madeline Brewer in PRUNING

Filmmaker Lola Blanc tackles the growing evil of Right-wing extremism in the short film PRUNING. Sami is an up-and-coming right-wing commentator. You know. The kind that lives to cause controversy by spewing “alternative facts” and plays the faux patriotism card. We know these bobbleheads all too well. They are dangerous. PRUNING is a manifestation of festering hatred.

Madeline Brewer in PRUNINGFollowing her rise to fame in shows like Orange is the New Black, The Handmaid’s Tale, and CAM, Madeline Brewer continues to prove herself a chameleon. Brewer’s Barbie doll platinum hair is perfect. You can see the wheels turning as the fruit of her labor causes chaos. Wrestling between fame and misfortune, the choice physically changes her. It’s a performance that should turn your stomach and give Brewer a standing ovation.

Madeine Brewer in short film PRUNINGThe main all-white set plays a dual role, subconsciously reminding you of white power and allowing your eye to focus on Brewer and the green plants she tends in her quiet time. The practical FX are gag-inducing. The score is ominous. It is easily one of the most affecting and unsettling things I’ve seen this year.

In its fifteen-minute runtime, PRUNING shines a white-hot spotlight on the damage of irresponsible lies. Words matter. There are real-life consequences for hate speech. If you feed the beast, why would it leave? With too much power, the soul rots, and something else grows in its place.


SHOWTIMES

 

8:00 PM, SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 2023

Director: Lola Blanc
Producers: Nick Paskhover, Chris Beyrooty, David Lawson, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Madeline Brewer (executive producer), Deric A. Hughes (executive producer), Elia Petridis (executive producer)
Screenwriter: Lola Blanc, Jeremy Radin
Cinematographers: Sonja Tsypin
Editor: Brian Mitchell, Ian Start
Music: AJ Nilles
Cast: Madeline Brewer, Peyton Kennedy, Jeremy Radin, Akilah Hughes, Ben Gleib, Betsy Zajko, Avital Ash
Country: USA
Language: in English
Year: 2023
Running Time: 14 minutes

To find out more about Palm Springs Shortfest, Click Here!!


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