ICYMI: Fantastic Fest 2022’s massive full lineup includes, ‘SMILE,’ ‘WOUNDED FAWN,’ ‘TRIANGLE OF SADNESS,’ & ‘BLOOD RELATIVES’

FANTASTIC FEST ANNOUNCES A COLOSSAL 2022 LINEUP

There’s only one place where you’ll find killer teddy bears, man-eating sharks, elderly zombies, cocktail-serving robots, and Park Chan-wook… all under one roof. That’s right, the world-famous genre festival Fantastic Fest is back for its seventeenth edition featuring 21 World Premieres, 14 North American Premieres, and 21 U.S Premieres. The festival will once again take over the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in Austin, TX from September 22nd – 29th and on the web via a virtual FF@Home experience from September 29th – October 4th.

“It’s been far too long since we’ve all been able to gather together and celebrate film the Fantastic Fest way,” says Festival Director Lisa Dreyer. “We’ve really put our all into crafting an extraordinary week, from the exceptional programming that spans exciting discoveries to highly-anticipated features, to our signature events that will inject a much-needed dose of fun into 2022.”

Badges are available now at FantasticFest.com.


The opening night film for Fantastic Fest 2022 is the world premiere of Paramount Pictures’ SMILE, the intensely creepy debut feature from Parker Finn that’ll have even the seasoned FF crowd gripping their armrests in genuine fright.

This year’s edition of Fantastic Fest will also honor a legendary genre filmmaker and show his latest masterpiece. Park Chan-wook, the South Korean director of OLDBOY, SNOWPIERCER, and THE HANDMAIDEN has been defining (and defying) genre films for decades, and his latest work – MUBI’s DECISION TO LEAVE – is a stunning achievement. In conjunction with the U.S. Premiere of his new film, Park Chan-wook will be present at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar to accept a lifetime achievement award from Fantastic Fest in celebration of his mind-bending, artfully-crafted body of work.

The closing night film at Fantastic Fest 2022 will be director Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning pitch black comedy from Neon, TRIANGLE OF SADNESS. The latest Drafthouse Recommends selection, TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is an outrageously funny and audacious social satire, with a second act that could have been engineered in a lab specifically to delight Fantastic Fest audiences. It’s a joyful romp that’ll serve as a fitting capper to the fest, and the perfect segue to closing night festivities.

Other major studio films include two Searchlight films perfectly tuned to the Fantastic Fest palate – the U.S. Premiere of THE MENU, a sharp satire about a destination-dining experience with unexpected surprises, and the U.S. Premiere of director Martin McDonagh’s THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, chronicling the dissolution of a friendship that escalates with shocking consequences.

A24 brings us the North American premiere of MEDUSA DELUXE, a murder mystery set in the world of competitive hairdressing, MGM and Distributor United Artist Releasing’s BONES AND ALL, from director Luca Guadagnino and starring Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon-Green, Jessica Harper, Jake Horowitz and Mark Rylance, and the U.S. premiere of Miramax’s SICK, the latest slasher from John Hyams.



Other World Premieres include:


Noah Segan’s directorial debut, BLOOD RELATIVES, a father-daughter vampire comedy.
Dark Side of the Ring co-creator Jason Eisener’s KIDS VS. ALIENS, which sees a group of friends face off against evil space invaders.
An anthology horror film featuring many Fantastic Fest alumni, SATANIC HISPANICS, from Epic Pictures.


“Fantastic Fest has always been the purest expression of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s founding principle: share the joy of cinema with people you love,” says Fantastic Fest founder Tim League. “I am beyond proud of the team for forging one of, if not the all-time best, Fantastic Fest experiences ever. This is my favorite week of the year, and I cannot wait to share it with all of you.”


The Parties
For the first time since 2019, Fantastic Fest’s legendary parties and events are back.

A special performance in The Highball from the experiential sonic sorcerers Itchy-O while they’re in Austin for a show at the Far Out Lounge.
Hailing all the way from Vienna, Roboexotica makes its Texas-debut at the Fantastic Fest opening night party, bringing their famous cocktail-concocting robots to astonish and amuse.
Podcast recordings and live events on The Highball stage with Leonard Maltin, Scripts Gone Wild, The Kingcast and Screen Drafts.
Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher of The Found Footage Festival fame will perform a live show after their documentary CHOP & STEELE.
And finally, Fantastic Fest essentials like 100 Best Kills, the Fantastic Feud and the Fantastic Debates will return at this year’s festival.


FF@Home
For the second year in a row, Fantastic Fest will be a hybrid festival that offers in-person and virtual screenings. The Burnt Ends lineup will headline the online festival, with programming that seeks to champion eccentric and obscure indie cinema. Two in-person screenings will introduce audiences at South Lamar to the new series: THE PEOPLE’S JOKER and ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS, both with filmmakers in attendance. The rest of this virtual lineup will be announced at a later date, featuring a selection of films from this year’s in person fest and will also include virtual exclusives such as a retrospective of cult DIY filmmakers Matt Farley and Charles Roxburgh’s MOTERN MEDIA movies.

 


Shark Attack & AGFA Takeover

This year’s sidebar is dedicated to the man-eater from the deep blue sea. Centered around the North American Premiere of FF alumni Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma’s YEAR OF THE SHARK, Fantastic Fest programmers dug deep to bring audiences the most entertaining shark movies from around the world. Many of them have never before screened in the USA and are now available thanks to our friends at AGFA.


The shark sidebar features TINTORERA! (Mexico) — which will be shown on 35mm from a print coming directly from Quentin Tarantino’s vault — as well as AATANK (India), GAMERA VS ZIGRA (Japan), MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH (USA), and 12 DAYS OF TERROR (USA).


We are thrilled to present 85 feature film titles and episodics, as well as a variety of short film selections to be announced at a later date — all showcasing World, North American, U.S. and Regional Premieres. See below for the full lineup of feature film programming at this year’s festival.


FESTIVAL FILM LINEUP BELOW:



12 DAYS OF TERROR

USA, 2004

Retrospective, 95 min

Director – Jack Sholder

In attendance – Director Jack Sholder

During the record-breaking summer heat of 1916, beachgoers on the Jersey shore are threatened by a shark that has developed a taste for human flesh.



AATANK

India, 1996

North American Premiere, 113 min

Directors – Prem Lalwani & Desh Mukherjee

A gangster’s hunt for black pearls sparks a series of vicious shark attacks. No diver, boat, or helicopter is safe in this B-grade Bollywood oddity.



ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS (Burnt Ends Selection) *Previous coverage here*

USA, 2022

Texas Premiere, 72 min

Director – Alex Phillips

In attendance – Director Alex Phillips

A psychedelic journey of self-discovery leads to romance when a man shares his addiction to psychotropic worms… and Chicago will never be the same.



AMAZING ELISA

Spain, 2022

World Premiere, 104 min

Director – Sadrac Gonzalez-Perellon

In attendance – Director Sadrac Gonzalez-Perellon

In the aftermath of a horrific accident, Elisa believes that she’s been given super powers and will stop at nothing to avenge her mother’s death.



THE ANTARES PARADOX

Spain, 2022

World Premiere, 96 min

Director – Luis Tinoco Pineda

In attendance – Director Luis Tinoco Pineda

An astrophysicist working for the SETI project risks her career and family to verify an extraterrestrial radio signal before her access is cut off.



ATTACHMENT (see our previous coverage)

Denmark, 2022

Texas Premiere, 105 min

Director – Gabriel Bier Gislason

In attendance – Director Gabriel Bier Gislason

Maja and Leah’s relationship is off to a great start, but they face two perilous threats: the whims of a Jewish demon and Leah’s overbearing mother. Read More →

Fantasia International Film Festival is back with its 26th edition to rescue us from reality. Here’s what we’re excited to see! #Fantasia2022

It’s no secret that all the best genre films come through Fantasia Film Festival. 2022’s fest comes just in time to distract us from all the actual horrible things happening in the world.

Welcome to a list of things we’re excited about playing this year. Some are already on our best of the year lists and some we anticipate adding. Check out our picks below.

For all things Fantasia Film Festival 2022 stay tuned to Reel News Daily with some special posts from our friends at Unseen Films


Six films we’ve seen at previous festivals and their reviews can be found below. Highly recommend each of them for a myriad of reasons.

Next Exit
Legions
Sissy


Honeycomb
Hypochondriac
Speak No Evil (One of the year’s most brutal films)



FREAKS OUT (Italy)

– Dir: Gabriele Mainetti

Rome, 1943. A pack of sideshow performers with supernatural powers face off against occupying Nazis in the most unusual superhero film you will ever see. This fantastical and gutsy celebration of the different that walks an electrifying tightrope between blockbuster filmmaking and edgier, more subversive genre work. From the director of THEY CALL ME JEEG. Winner of the Leoncino d’Oro at last fall’s Venice Film Festival. Canadian Premiere. 

Sounding like a genre fan’s wet dream, FreaksOut is a priority watch this year.



Princesse Dragon

Bristle is a little girl raised by dragons. But when her father, Dragon, has to pay the Sorcerog using his second most valuable asset, he offers her Bristle – Throwing her into an infinite sadness and forcing her to flee the family cave. Bristle then embarks on a journey to discover the world of men.

Feminist anime? Give it to me all day, every day.


Polaris

Set in 2144 against the harsh backdrop of a frozen wasteland, Sumi, a human child raised by Mama Polar Bear, narrowly escapes capture from a brutal Morad hunting party and sets out across the vast winter landscape. When Sumi stumbles across Frozen Girl, an unlikely friendship is forged and together they race ahead of the vindictive hunters towards the only guiding light Sumi knows, the Polaris star.

All female-led opening film. Sold.


One Cut of the Dead

(French remake of the cult classic)

After opening this year’s Cannes, FINAL CUT (Coupez!), Michel Hazanavicius’s riotous remake of Shinichirou Ueda’s ONE CUT OF THE DEAD, is coming to North America. Starring Romain Duris, Bérénice Bejo, Grégory Gadebois, Finnegan Oldfield, Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, and Yoshiko Takehara reprising her beloved role from the original film as a producer, this hilarious ode to the do-or-die spirit of filmmaking is a joy to behold. It is especially noteworthy for the film’s North American journey to be starting at Fantasia, as the festival was among the first to popularize the original Audience Award-winning ONE CUT OF THE DEAD in the West. Poetically, Ueda’s latest, POPRAN, will also be having its North American Premiere at the festival this year. Bet your viewfinder that FINAL CUT is going to bring the house down in cheers. North American Premiere.

Without knowing the original, the buzz around this remake is out of this world. Will it live up to its predecessor? I guess we’ll all find out together.

Huesera

Pregnant with her first child and consumed by terrifying visions, Valeria (Natalia Solián) believes that she may be cursed by a supernatural entity. A brilliant and frightening breakout debut as important as Jennifer Kent’s THE BABADOOK, HUESERA firmly announces Mexico’s Michelle Garza Cervera as one of the leading new voices of the genre. A scorching personal vision that asks complex questions with ferocious honesty, this profound, nightmarish blessing comes to Fantasia hot off its award-winning Tribeca launch and is already one of the most talked-about genre works of the year.  Canadian Premiere. 

A big winner out of Tribeca 22, this is a slick film tackling identity and motherhood in a surprising way. If you’ve ever been pregnant and didn’t love every single second of it, this one will cut extra deep.



Bodies, Bodies, Bodies

Also screening as part of Fantasia’s closing night events will be Halina Reijn’s wildly entertaining and gloriously twisted BODIES BODIES BODIES. A party game leads to murder when young and wealthy friends gather at a remote family mansion in this instant classic comedy horror joyride that maintains a taut balance of uneasy tension and wicked humor. Starring Amandla Stenberg (THE HATE U GIVE), Maria Bakalova (BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM), Myha’la Herrold (INDUSTRY), Rachel Sennott (SHIVA BABY) and comedy superstar Pete Davidson. Special Screening.

When people cannot stop talking about a film, you know you have to see it. Coming to theaters August 5th.

 DIRECTOR: Halina Reijn CAST: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, with Lee Pace and Pete Davidson


Piggy

Laura Galán appears in PIGGY by Carlota Pereda

During the sweltering summertime of rural Spain, Sara carries an extra load of teenage agony due to the perpetual bullying from her peers. She’s also an outsider at home—her parents and little brother just don’t understand her—so, feelings internalized, she’s often found buried in her headphones, drowning out her surroundings. One day, Sara’s usual solo dip at the local pool is disrupted by the presence of a mysterious stranger in the water and an exceptionally grueling bout of abuse at the hands of three girls. But, in a strange twist of fate, along the way home Sara witnesses her bloodied tormentors being kidnapped in the back of the stranger’s van.

Another buzzy title, this one focusing on mean girls and morality is a star vehicle for actress Laura Galán.


The Pez Outlaw

Steve Glew spent the 1990s smuggling rare pez dispensers into the USA from Eastern Europe, making millions of dollars. It was all magical until his arch-nemesis, The Pezident decided to destroy him.

Who wouldn’t want to watch a film about rival pez dispenser smugglers is really the question.


Everybody Goes To The Hosptial (short film)


Based on a true story, EVERYBODY GOES TO THE HOSPITAL is a stop motion animated exploration of physical, psychological, and familial trauma, telling the tale of 4-year-old Little Mata (writer/director Tiffany Kimmel’s mother) as she’s taken to the hospital in late 1963 with appendicitis.

This is s personal pick for me, as someone traumatized by hospitals more than once in my life. The first time was when I was diagnosed with appendicitis. Check out a teaser here.


For all things Fantasia 2022 stay tuned to Reel News Daily with some special posts from our friends at Unseen Films.


 

Tribeca 2022 reviews from Unseen Films: ‘Space Oddity’

SPACE ODDITY

One of my favorite films of this year’s Tribeca was a film I wasn’t planning on seeing. It wasn’t until I decided to focus on the films not in the press library that it jumped onto my dance card…. and right into my heart.

The story follows Alex, a young man in a broken family, who is planning on heading to Mars on a one-way mission.  He wants to go to get away from the troubles of the world, but also from the reminders of his brother who died saving his life in a car crash. Unfortunately for him, his plans end up crashing into Daisy, a young woman new to the town. Now that Alex has met Daisy will he give up his plans and stay on earth.

Do you have to ask?

Yea, you know how this will go but it’s so well done you won’t care. I mean you really won’t care because you will be so absolutely in love with everyone on screen. These are wounded people we know. They are us. God bless director Kyra Sedgwick for keeping everyone real and not insisting that everyone gets fixed by the end. Yea there is hope but the damage is still there. As a result, the film resonates deeper.

What a glorious film.

The performances are across the board wonderful Kevin Bacon may have his best role here. Yea it’s nothing special on the face of it but watch all of the shading he gives it. Listen to the emotion in his voice. Alexandra Shipp is magical. She makes Daisy the person we all want to fall in love with.

I love this film. I really do.

It’s a joy.

Highly recommended.


DIRECTOR
Kyra Sedgwick
PRODUCER
Valerie Stadler, Kyra Sedgwick, Meredith Bagby, Richard Arlook, Jack Greenbaum, Mark Maxey, Mickey Schiff
SCREENWRITER
Rebecca Banner
CINEMATOGRAPHER
Alar Kivilo
EDITOR
Stefanie Visser
COMPOSER
Travis Bacon and Scott Hedrick
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Paolo Mottola Jr., Joe Z. Crosby, Ibrahim Alhusseini, JL Pomeroy, Daryl Roth, Brent Emery
CAST
Kyle Allen, Alexandra Shipp, Madeline Brewer, Carrie Preston, Simon Helberg, Kevin Bacon, Andrew Polk

Tribeca 2022 review from Unseen Films: ‘HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN, A JOURNEY, A SONG’ is out now!

HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN, A JOURNEY, A SONG (2022)

One of the great films playing Tribeca this is a look at Leonard Cohen through the song Hallelujah. It took him seven years to finish it enough to record it and then it took a long path to discovery and rediscovery along a path that resulted in many versions (he wrote at least 180 verses) and many hits.

The audience I saw this with was crying. Yea it’s about a song, but it’s also about a man’s quest to find his place in the universe. It’s a moving tale of more than any one thing. It’s a film that reveals to us our lives as lived and sung by other people. Everyone saw themselves up there.

I was rocked to my core.

This film spoke to me on a deeply personal and spiritual level and I came out loving the song and it many versions even more. It also made me very sad I could never have sat down and talked to Cohen about life and his journey.

Go see it.

One of 2022’s best



Directed by: Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine Selections: Venice Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and more Featuring: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, John Cale, Brandi Carlile, Eric Church, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Glen Hansard, Sharon Robinson, Rufus Wainwright, and many others Synopsis: HALLELUJAH: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song is a definitive exploration of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen as seen through the prism of his internationally renowned hymn, “Hallelujah.” This feature-length documentary weaves together three creative strands: The songwriter and his times; the song’s dramatic journey from record label rejection to chart-topping hit, and moving testimonies from major recording artists for whom “Hallelujah” has become a personal touchstone. Approved for production by Leonard Cohen just before his 80th birthday in 2014, the film accesses a wealth of never-before-seen archival materials from the Cohen Trust including Cohen’s personal notebooks, journals and photographs, performance footage, and extremely rare audio recordings and interviews.


Tribeca Film Festival 2022 reviews from Unseen Films: ‘It Ain’t Over’ & ‘Of Medicine and Miracles’

Of Medicine and Miracles (2022) Tribeca 2022

This is the story of young Emily Whitehead’s battle with cancer through the battles of her doctors to cure her and others.

This is a good look at the battle to cure cancer for everyone. There is a great story here about how thinking outside of the box has opened the door to curing numerous cancers and possibly other diseases as well. Watching the film you will be filled with a great deal of hope for tomorrow.

As good as the film is the film isn’t perfect. The film is very dense with a lot of material, some of which doesn’t need to be here. Points are hammered home several times and more than once I wished bits had been removed. The film also is a bit too manipulative. This film is structured from the start to be a tearjerker in an obvious way. We are not given the choice to feel, the editors took care of it for us. I felt manipulated.

And yet this film has haunted me. The hope for a cure the film highlights can’t help but make you smile.

Reservations aside the film is worth a look.


It Ain’t Over (2022) Tribeca 2022

When Major League Baseball had the four greatest living baseball players show up at the  All-Star Game, they made a major mistake in forgetting Yogi Berra. While he is best known for his Yogi-isms, most people forget how good a player he really was. How good was he? He has 13 World Series rings, 10 as a player, which is more than the four players the shuttled out combined. When Berra’s granddaughter saw the “mistake” she took steps to correct it.

Containing a who’s who of admirers, both in baseball and out, IT’ AIN’T OVER is a moving film that fixes the record regarding Yogi Berra. One of the greatest that ever played, this film makes it clear that he was in many ways more amazing than Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. The trouble is he was a lovable guy who said things that sounded goofy (When you see a fork in the road take it).  He let the media create a character for him and he went with it, which endeared him to generations while hiding his real achievements.

Everything seems to be here, from his friendship with Jackie Robinson to his support of LGBT rights to a long laundry list of amazing things. Berra never stopped doing and doing the right thing.

I really liked this film a great deal. This is a superb film that is full of laughs and tears and more nostalgia than you can shake a stick at.

That said the film has one big problem and that is the film relies a bit too much on Berra’s granddaughter. While what she tells us is golden, having so much come from her and not other baseball players kind of lessens things. Why is she telling us this and not some of the other people who are interviewed? While I’m a long-time Berra fan and understand how good he was, I know people coming in blind may not be convinced.

Slight reservation aside, this film is an absolute must, more so if you love baseball.


For more of Steve’s insights on Tribeca 22, head over to Unseen Films!


Tribeca Film Festival 2022 reviews from Unseen Films: ‘Bowery’ & ‘The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks’

Brief thoughts on Bowery (2022) Tribeca 2022

BOWERY is a wonderful film. A deeply moving portrait of people living on the street in the Bowery section of New York City, it is warts and all portrait of some good people in a bad circumstance. I was moved.

One of the biggest head-scratching moments to come out of Tribeca is why BOWERY didn’t play in person at the festival (it played online). The Bowery is down the street across  Manhattan from the area that gives the festival its title. It’s a film that is rooted deeply in New York City and the festival should have put it up on the big screen.

I really liked this film a great deal. Being someone who frequented the areas in the film I felt at home. I loved that the film didn’t judge anyone. It simply let everyone be, with the result being is a documentary of great power.

A must-see.


The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (2022) Tribeca 2022

The life and times of Rosa Parks, best known for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in the segregated south. The truth is there is a hell of a lot more to the small woman than most people know. She was politically active from an early age and never stopped trying to change the world.

This is a really good look at a woman who was revered by millions around the world. She was a woman who shook the pillars of heaven and influenced unexpected people. For example, when Nelson Mandela came to the US  he was going along a receiving line shaking hands until he caught sight of Mrs. Parks and he then bolted to her and snatched her up and gave her a bear hug. This is a film that is going to go a long way toward enhancing her reputation simply because it lets everyone know how special she was.

If I have any problem with the film it’s that the film drops the linear structure a couple of times to jump ahead for various reasons. While I understand why it was done, thematically the flash-forward tied into the moment at hand, the problem was that we didn’t have a setup for them. For example, The Republic of New Afrika is mentioned but fully explained.

Minor quibbles aside this film is a must-see simply because odds are you don’t know the full story of what Mrs. Parks did, and you really need to.

Recommended


See more of Steve’s insane amount of Tribeca 22 coverage at Unseen Films


Tribeca Film Festival 2022 review from Unseen Films: ‘Jerry and Marge Go Large’

Jerry & Marge Go Large

After retiring Jerry feels lost. A mathematical genius he just wants to feel like he has a place. His wife doesn’t know what to do with him. While sitting having coffee he discovers that one of the lottery games has a legal loophole that assures a win under certain circumstances. After winning 15 grand his secret is discovered by his wife, who decides that they should be stupid together. Realizing that they can help their friends and family they form a corporation and start to make trips to Massachusetts to legally scam the system. All is good until a Harvard student realizes the trick too.

Sweet little film is almost certain to bring a smile to your face. It’s a lovely film about a man finally connecting with his friends and family. It’s a film full of great characters who you really like and want to hang out with. Yes, the plot is contrived, with the whole Harvard student rivalry feeling grafted on for suspense, but you won’t care.

The reason this film works as well as it does is the cast. Bryan Cranston is great going against type as a bookish guy with odd social skills. He is matched by Annette Bening who is radiant and makes it clear that she is madly in love and horny for her husband. ..AND YOU BELIEVE IT. We believe they are long-time lovers who have the love that you want. They are matched by Michael McKean, Ann Harada, Rainn Wilson, Anna Camp, and Larry Wilmore, all of whom you want to hug.

It may not be the greatest film ever but it’s a good time with great people.

See it.


Jerry & Marge Go Large is now available on Paramount+

DIRECTOR
David Frankel
CAST
Bryan Cranston, Annette Bening, Rainn Wilson, Larry Wilmore

Tribeca Film Festival 2022 review from Unseen Films: ‘BLAZE’

BLAZE

After accidentally witnessing a violent crime, a young girl is left catatonic with shock, and struggles to make sense of what she saw, ultimately finding renewal in the inestimable world of her own imagination.


It is a  brilliantly made, beautifully acted film that is an excellent exploration of dealing with trauma. I applaud the filmmakers for making a film that deals honestly with the subject and doesn’t make it so everything instantly goes away in 90 minutes.

That said, we have to talk about the opening.

I am being more forthcoming than the promotional material for the film in that I am telling you our right that the terrible thing mentioned in the promotional material is a sexual assault, I am also warning you that it is really brutal.  While I hate warning audiences this time there should have been a warning on the content before going in – especially since some write-ups mention the film being about a girl and her invisible dragon- which many, myself included, made us think slightly lighter fare.

I mentioned this because I have friends who are victims of sexual assault and watched them walk out after discovering a film or play not knowing the subject matter. I have a day job where I have come into contact with survivors and I have seen them triggered by off-handed mentions of their own or another’s assault.  I have been yelled at by friends for not mentioning lesser assault in a film recommendation, so despite the filmmaker’s desire that audiences not be told and discover the event on their own, I am warning you.

Critically the assault raises an important question about the structure of the film in that there is no constructive need for us to witness the whole thing when our heroine does not. She only peaks at the rape, hiding behind a tree and listening to what she can hear over the sound in her headphones. There is no rational reason for us to see the rape in detail from multiple angles other than the creating of a head space, which ends up being overdone since the rape hangs over the film. Think about it- I am talking about the start of the film despite the ending being hopeful.

In an age where we label what is in the film, there was, as of this writing (June 3) no warning anywhere. There should be one. More so since I know other festivals such as Sundance and SXSW earlier this year had warnings on films that were much less jarring.

And no I am not big on trigger warnings but this film really requires one- even if my calling for one may make you think it’s not as bad as all that- because someone is not going to get the memo.

Warning given the film is gorgeous and amazingly well made (dare I say it could be called a great film), but everything is colored by the rape and as such, I don’t want to discuss it.

You’re on your own


For more Tribeca coverage from Unseen Films click here!


Remaining screenings:
Fri June 10 – 5:45 PM

Cinépolis: Theater 5

Fri June 17 – 8:00 PM

Village East by Angelika: Theater 2


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: ‘CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH’

CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH

My feeling toward Cooper Raiff’s CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH is summed up by the warning one learns very early when going to or following the news out of film festivals, which is beware anything anyone tells you because it is invariably wrong. More times than not writers, myself included, are caught up in the moment and something you see produces a reaction that over-sells the film. Such is the case with CHA CHA, a film many of my friends oversold when it played at Sundance.

Director Cooper Raiff plays a young man, just out of college who is stuck working at Meat Stick and acting as a guy who can get people to have a good time at various parties. He meets Dakota Johnson and her daughter at one and is smitten. They bond despite her having a fiance in Barcelona. What will happen?

How you feel about the film will be determined by how you feel about Raiff as a leading man and his technique behind the camera. Looking like a younger David Tennant but with 50% less charm and zero weight, Raiff wanders through the film in a part that makes him seem like a gee-whiz sweet guy that everyone likes. Gosh darn it, why can’t he get his life together. Its a saccharine part of the sort that only exists in “you can’t be serious” romantic comedies. This results in moments that had they been played by any other actor or written by any other writer might have seemed remotely real instead of artificial.

And it’s a shame because Dakota Johnson and Vanessa Burghardt as her daughter are magnificent. They take roles that shouldn’t work as written and turn them into something special. They are what make the film work as well as it does.

Yes, despite my bitching the film works as disposable romance. But it should have been better. It also should have had a different ending which seems to be there just to give the proceedings weight. Forgive me, while it may be slightly logical, Johnson is engaged after all, it feels out of place. Yes I know it’s the result of the film being from Raiff’s character’s POV, but it seems wrong and out of left field like many serious works of literature that go serious in the final pages/minutes. But what annoys me is the whole thing outside of Johnson and Burghardt are not far removed from a sitcom so it didn’t have to end real. (Yes know it’s foreshadowed in conversations but it still seems wrong to me)

Worth a look for Dakota Johnson fans or those who want to have their socks knocked off by newcomer Vanessa Burghardt. Everyone else you’re on your own.


To see more #SXSW22 coverage from Steve, head over to Unseen Films


CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH will make its global premiere on Apple TV+ later this year.


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 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 from Unseen Films: ‘The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See The Titanic’ (2021)

The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See The Titanic

One of the great finds at SXSW, this is the story of Jaakko a  blind movie fan who has a long-distance relationship with a disabled woman he has never met in person. Because he is also in a wheelchair Jaakko’s mobility is limited so they have been unable to work out meetings. When circumstances take a turn Jaakko decides he has to make the trek to his lady love.

Beautiful romance turns thriller as we worry how this is all going to go. Things are made tenser thanks to director Teemu Nikki shooting the film to simulate blindness. Anything outside of our focus is blurry we can’t really see around Jaakko. It’s a genuine claustrophobia that heightens everything.

What makes this film work are the people. Everyone is wonderful. Actually, Petri Poikolainen as Jaakko is magnificent. This is an Oscar-worthy performance. It’s stunning. Poikolainen is so good that I want to see him in more films,  he’s so good that he makes it clear that we need to hire more people with disabilities. (Poikolainen is blind and has MS)

Highly recommended. This is one of the great finds of the festival


To read more of Steve’s coverage of SXSW22, head to Unseen Films!


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!


Review: ‘THE LONG WALK’ is an ever-evolving entity of grief.

THE LONG WALK

The Long Walk is Laotian director Mattie Do’s third feature, and centres around an old man, who discovers that he can travel back in time and speak with the dead. The film stars Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy, Noutnapha Soydara, Vilouna Phetmany, Chansamone Inoudom and Por Silatsa.


Do not take your eyes off the screen for a second.m The Long Walk has an enigmatic script that obliterates genre norms. When a colleague and trusted friend Steve Kopian, at Unseen Films, told me that I had to make sure to watch without distraction, he was not exaggerating. Blink, and you might miss pertinent information. Part sci-fi and a lot of ambient horror, The Long Walk is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Spirits and time manipulation are the tips of the iceberg.

Performances are mesmerizing. As the plot evolves, each actor runs the emotional gambit. The lush Laos countryside becomes a haunting backdrop for a story you won’t see coming. The trickiest part about writing a review is not wanting to spoil the experience for the audience. There are rare occasions where going into a film blind is in your best interest. The Long Walk is one of those films. This film will take your breath away as you move from fear to heartbreak, confusion to awe. The Long Walk is one of the year’s most intriguing films. It bears repeating, do not look away. 

The Entrancing Time-Travel Ghost Story — Out Now In Select Theaters + On VOD March 1

The first Lao film to screen theatrically in the US, from Laos’ first and only women director:

ABOUT MATTIE DO:

Mattie Do is Laos’ first, and only, female filmmaker. Born in California to recent refugees of Laos’ Communist Revolution, Mattie was raised in Los Angeles, but returned to Laos a decade ago after her father retired in Vientiane.

In 2012, Mattie directed her first feature film, Chanthaly. The film was the ninth feature film produced in the country of Laos since the 1975 revolution, the first feature film to feature a female protagonist, and the first Lao feature film to be directed by a woman. Chanthaly also challenged Laos’ strict censorship which at the time mandated that Lao women only be depicted in traditional dress speaking formal Lao, and restricted any depiction of supernatural or superstitious beliefs. The film premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas becoming the first Lao film to screen outside of SE Asia. Chanthaly’s success at festivals led to Mattie’s selection for the Cannes’ Fabrique des Cinemas du Monde, TIFF’s Directors Talent Lab, Berlinale Talents, and BIFAN’s Fantastic Film School. Afterward, Mattie worked with the Ministry of Culture to create the infrastructure necessary to introduce foreign co-production to Laos, including a framework for managing the country’s rigid censorship. In 2015, Mattie produced Laos’ first American and Japanese co-productions, which later respectively premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and Locarno Film Festival.

Mattie Do’s second feature, Dearest Sister, premiered at Fantastic Fest before screening at BFI’s London Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival and nearly two dozen other film festivals. The film received Special Jury Mentions at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, Lund’s Fantastisk Filmfestival, and Fantasporto Film Festival. The film was later selected as Laos first official submission to the 90th Academy Awards.


Unseen Films Sundance (2022) review: ‘NAVALNY’ (coming to CNN and HBOMax in the spring.)

NAVALNY

Follows the man who survived an assassination attempt by poisoning with a lethal nerve agent in August 2020. During his months-long recovery he makes shocking discoveries about the attempt on his life and decides to return home.


My final film for Sundance was  NAVALNY about the Russian opposition leader whom Putin had poisoned with a nerve toxin that if administered correctly shuts off all of your nerves, killing you in a way that looks like a natural death because it dissipates quickly from the body.  The film is an examination of the poisoning by various places including the excellent Bellingcat coupled with a look at Navalny’s career.

Coming into the film after several days of my friends talking it up, I was initially rather disappointed. The early part of the film was kind of dull and run-of-the-mill. The film wasn’t doing anything bad, rather it was hitting the typical points of a story like this. It wasn’t until the poisoning happened that the film clicked and we were off to the races as the story of trying to find a smoking gun link to Putin gave a serious shot of adrenaline into the proceedings. Suddenly there was not only a mystery to be solved but also there was a real danger to the proceedings because other than a stupid person can see clearly how evil Putin is.

I really liked this film a great deal. It’s a compelling story with a connection to current events (the Russian threatened invasion of Ukraine).  You really get a sense of how bad Putin is for his country and the world.

If I have any reservations is that watching the film doesn’t always give us an entirely clear-eyed picture of Navalny. The filmmakers clearly love him, and there’s is no denying he’s at least a seeming better choice than Putin, but there are still questions about his past (links to ultranationalists) and he is a bit too smooth for me to entirely take the word of one film.

Reservations aside the film is highly recommended, if for no other reason than it’s a hell of a story.



To read all of Steve Sundance 2022 coverage, head over to Unseen Films!


Unseen Films Sundance (2022) Midnight review: ‘PIGGY’

PIGGY

An overweight teen is bullied by a clique of cool girls poolside while holidaying in her village. The long walk home will change the rest of her life.


Laura Galán will probably become an international star after people see PIGGY because she gives the role everything and then some. Truthfully if Oscar noticed films like this she would be a front runner, but the Academy never does, so her Oscar will no doubt come for some other, lesser performance.

I probably shouldn’t say this but PIGGY made me laugh. This tale of Sara, a heavy girl who ends up tied to the crimes of a serial killer, struck me as exceedingly funny. The reason for my chuckling was that everything was so overdone. For me, it played like an uncomfortable comedy where lots of bad things happened and a lot of blood flowed.
While I admire Laura Galán’s work, I have to wonder if writer Carlotta Pereda likes the character. She abuses the shit out of Sara and has her running around in such a way that she always seems to be on the verge of being completely naked both physically and emotionally. It never struck as believable because she is never given a respite, even for a second. What’s worse, the ending, which I guess is supposed to be cathartic, just didn’t make sense.
Then again much of this film doesn’t make sense, with so much of the film seemed to provoke a reaction either in the audience or the characters, with the result that some of the turns had me scratching my head-beginning with why in the hell the killer would leave a body underwater where he does- I mean it was clearly going to be discovered ASAP.
Yes, the film provokes a reaction, but I don’t know if it does more than that. The plot doesn’t make much sense and as a portrait of bullying, it’s so over the top and so incredibly cruel, especially to its main character, that on its own terms it isn’t one that should be preaching.

Worth a look for Laura Galán’s performance, I’m not too sure of the rest.


To read the rest of Steve’s Sundance 2022 footage head over to Unseen Films!


Unseen Films Sundance (2022) review: ‘FIRE OF LOVE’

FIRE OF LOVE


This is the story of volcanologists  Katia and Maurice Krafft who met and fell in love with each other and the earth’s firey mountains.

Made up mostly of the words and images of the Kraffts the film is many things. It is one of the most visually stunning films of the last few years. It is a history of volcanology over the life of the Krafft’s. It is one of the grandest love stories of our times. And the film is a philosophical examination of life and man’s place in the world. I was moved to tears.

What I love about the film is that the film doesn’t try to tell us everything, and in so doing does. Nominally it is about these two people, but the telling makes it into a myth. Not in the untrue sort of way, but the myth that gets at the hidden truth of human existence. It’s exactly the sort of thing that Werner Herzog strives for in his films where he will bend things toward the fantastic to give us a great truth. I don’t think anything was bent, I just think the shaping was a bit more mythic than the reality. And this is fine because it puts the love story on the level of the massive and overpowering volcanos

I can’t say this enough, the film moved me to tears.

A must-see, this is one of Sundances and 2022’s truly great films


To read all of Steve’s coverage of Sundance 2022, be sure to head over to Unseen Films!

To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!