Saturday, May 23, 2020

Wives of the Skies

Set in 1965, a time of glamorous jet travel and less-than-ideal attitudes towards women at work, this short from California by seasoned actress and writer Honey Lauren pokes and prods in the right areas. A leering male photographer finds willing subjects in two bubbly young flight attendants, but just when you think someone should expropriate his camera and send him packing, the women demonstrate that he who plays a game can also be the one who is getting played.

Lauren hails from the gorgeous Los Angeles seaside community of Pacific Palisades, and it shows in her work's impressive aesthetic sensibility, from sharp-eyed cinematic choices down to minute details of the era.  This is eye candy, indeed, but it's also a reminder that he who self-indulges in sweets may end up with a toothache.

Or a lifelong row of false teeth. You can watch the trailer here (parental discretion advised): Wives of the Skies Trailer

Monday, July 29, 2019

2019 Award Winners

Top Awards

Best Picture: The Last Witness (Piotr Szkopiak, UK)
Nominees: Union, Sandpaper, Nathan's Kingdom, Ek Aasha, Second Samuel, Freshman Year, Wheels

Best Script: Requite (James Castagno, USA)
Nominees: The O'Malley, Rodeo, Brock Wilbur Adventure Pig, The Fourth Psalm, Caught Between Two Worlds

Film Jury Awards

Best Narrative Feature: Tarab (Jennifer Hanley, USA)
Nominees: Union, The Last Witness, Second Samuel, Shadow Lands, Ek Aasha, Nathan's Kingdom, Just Between Us, Sandpaper

Best Alternative Feature: Ek Aasha (Mayur Katariya, Australia/India)
Nominees: Freshman Year, Shadow Lands, Just Between Us, Nathan's Kingdom, Wheels, Another Yesterday

Best Student Film: Sif (Arnar Tomasson, Stefan Mekkinosson, Iceland)
Nominees: A Cold Spring, Can Dolls Be My Neighbor, The Shrinking Sky

Best Short Film: The Reckoning of Darkness (Christopher Kulikowski, USA)
Nominees: My Million Dollar Mom, Their War, Virtually, The Magic Lantern, Son of Blackbeard, Foreign, A Blood Throne

Best Documentary: Shattered Dreams: Sex Trafficking in America (Bill Wisneski, USA)
Nominees: The Stateless Diplomat, Beyond Sixty Project, Day of the Western Sunrise, From Liberty to Captivity, Doctor C, Beautiful Lie

Cultural Spirit: From Liberty to Captivity (Debbie Wright, USA)
Nominees: Minor Injustice, Shattered Dreams, From the Afghan People for Americans, Community First, Day of the Western Sunrise, Clean Hands

Best Biographical Film: The Stateless Diplomat: Diana Apcar's Heroic Life (Mimi Malayan, USA)
Nominees: Doctor C, Beautiful Lie, Against the Wall, Anthonisen Sculptor, The Time We Have

Animal Welfare: Voice for the Wild (Brianna Dent, USA)
Nominees: Charlie Bee Company

Best Short Documentary: Vietnam Aftermath (Tom Phillips, USA)
Nominees: Redemption, Song of the Open Road: The Story of the Southern California Youth Chorale, Against the Wall, Voice for the Wild, Can Dolls Be My Neighbor

Best Foreign Film: Their War (Max Mason, UK)
Nominees: The Last Witness, Their War, Ek Aasha, Foreign, Think Back, Just Between Us

Best Experimental Short: A Blood Throne (Xavier Garcia, USA)
Nominees: Foreign, From Emily, A Song for Luise

Indie Spirit: Just Between Us (Christopher Kay, Australia)
Nominees: Tarab, Shadow Lands, Just Between Us, Think Back, Another Yesterday

Best Sci-Fi Film: Virtually (P. Patrick Hogan, USA)
Nominees: The Reckoning of Darkness, A Song for Luise, Sif

Best Animated Film: Eagle Feather (Steve Encell, Thailand/USA)
Nominees: Refrigerator Animation, Night Light, Day of the Western Sunrise

Female Eye Filmmaking: Beyond Sixty Project (Melissa Davey, USA)
Nominees: Signs of Aging, Gloria, Union, From the Afghan People for Americans, From Emily, Tarab, Pretty Pretty Prison

Best Comedy: Son of Blackbeard (Thomas Verdi, USA)
Nominees: Happy Birthday Rachel Confrancisco, Refrigerator Animation, Pretty Pretty Prison, Just Between Us, Only a Movie

Best Period Film: Second Samuel (J Wayne Patterson Jr, USA)
Nominees: The Last Witness, Union, Their War, The Reckoning of Darkness

Student Cultural Spirit: Anyone Like Me (Mimi d'Autremont, USA)
Nominees: Voice for the Wild

New Hope: Against the Wall (Kyle Saylors, USA)
Redemption, Shattered Dreams: Sex Trafficking in America, Against the Wall, Clean Hands, Song of the Open Road, From the Afghan People for Americans

Artistic Spirit: Union (Whitney Hamilton, USA)
Nominees: Song of the Open Road: The Story of the Southern California Youth Chorale, Against the Wall, Ek Aasha, Union, Sandpaper, Nathan's Kingdom

GLBTQ Spirit: Beautiful Lie (Joe Loverro, USA)
Nominees: Australia Says Yes, Ek Aasha, Union, Foreign, Hiding in Daylight

Best Supernatural Film: Nathan's Kingdom (Olicer Munoz, USA)
Nominees: Devil's Food Cake, The Reckoning of Darkness, From Emily

Best Webisode: Epic Quest (Chelsea Goodman, Canada)
Nominees: Extra/Ordinary

Best Music Video: Shut Up! I'm on a Roll (Oscar Martin, Spain)
Nominees: Tether, Lover Her Better, Let It Go: The Cat Thief, Never Been to War

Best Director: Whitney Hamilton (Union, USA)
Nominees: Piotr Szkopiak, Max Mason, Jarett Bellucci, Jennifer Hanley, J Wayne Patterson, Xavier Garcia, Olicer Munoz, Mayur Katariya, Christopher Kulikowski

Script Jury Awards

Best Narrative Feature: The Fourth Psalm (John Martins III, USA)
Nominees: Requite, Old Soul, The O'Malley, Aktion 4, Beneficiary, Behold, Little Things Mean a Lot

Best Teleplay: Rodeo (Ian Reichbach, USA)
Nominees: Caught Between Two Worlds, Brock Wilbur: Adventure Pig, Utopia Planitia, Forgiveness

Best Period Script: The O'Malley (John Sarno, USA)
Nominees: The Gael, Aktion 4, Robert Smalls, Life in a Time of War

Best Short Screenplay: The Gael (Lucas Diercouff, USA)
Nominees: Saraya, A Lonely Painter, So, Aliens from Inner Space, Wheels, The Vendor

Audience Choice Awards

Best Webisode: Extra/Ordinary (Benjamin Long, USA)
Best TV Pilot: Charlie Bee Company (Ashley Scott Davison, USA)
Best Music Video: Let It Go: The Cat Thief (Jonathan Raines, USA)
Best Narrative Feature: Second Samuel (J Wayne Patterson Jr, USA)
Best Documentary: Beyond Sixty Project (Melissa Davey, USA)
Best Short Film: Virtually (P. Patrick Hogan, USA)
Best Student Film: Voice for the Wild (Brianna Dent, USA)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Stateless Diplomat: Diana Apcar's Heroic Life

This sublime biographical film profiles woman of letters Diana Apcar, the de facto ambassador for Armenia as the borderless nation suffered under Ottoman rule. Through personal connections, press outreach and on-the-ground relief efforts, she fought tirelessly to stop the genocide of her people. Due to her distinguished record, Apcar later earned a diplomatic post in the First Republic of Armenia at a time when women were barred from such endeavors around the world.

Director Mimi Malayan went to the highest lengths to honor Apcar's life, with fine production values and a deep reservoir of research. This film will take you back to a time when the world was very different, reminding us of how far we've come and how far we could fall if we forget the lessons of history.

You can watch the trailer here:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Against the Wall

If you're looking for a fresh source of inspiration, this is your ticket.

At a perilous moment in his childhood, Kevin Foster was electrocuted with 65,000 volts and 30 amps, leaving him in a recumbent state. Doctors told his parents he would never walk or talk again; he would be an invalid for the rest of a likely-shortened life. But after several years of therapy, right at the time President Nixon opened the door to the People's Republic of China, Kevin somehow climbed onto a bicycle. It was a pivotal time for international relations and the youngster.

The confluence of events planted an idea in Kevin's head: wouldn't it be cool to ride his bike across the entire length of the Great Wall? It would be indeed, and 18 years later the Chinese government kindly granted Kevin his wish. The Great Wall is a national treasure to China and one of the great wonders of the world. To his credit, the previously unlikely athlete performed his feat with all the required diplomacy and grace.

Against the Wall auteur Kyle Saylors grew up in what he calls a dusty West Texas town and he dreamed of traveling the world. Now, let's set things right, folks think big in Texas. When Saylors learned about this giant achievement in China, he couldn't resist the chance to make a documentary, and it's easy for even a non-Texan to see why.

You can watch the trailer here: Against the Wall Trailer

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Moon River

Student filmmaker Cody Noble produced this narrative short film while studying abroad at The American University of Paris. Kudos to him for taking the initiative while overseas; the adjustment to a new language and culture can be challenging enough without taking on a film project.

In the story, a young man feels social recognition only when singing, so one night at a party he spontaneously belts out a few bars of "Moon River." Although it's a hit from the early 1960s, and perhaps because it is, he immediately garners the attention of a young woman with whom he lands a date. All is well in Mathieu's life, but laryngitis derails his plans, leaving him wondering what in the world he has to do to fit in—and whether he should even try at all.

You can watch the trailer here: Moon River Trailer

Voice for the Wild

This thought-provoking and explorative student documentary looks at the positive side of zoos amidst increasingly vocal opposition to any and all forms of animal captivity. The Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, Pennsylvania provided the backdrop for the film, with employees of the zoo generously offering their time for interviews.

Many arguments favor zookeeping, and it's also important to acknowledge the abuses and injustices where they exist. But injustice against animals is far from resigned to cases of confinement, and protecting endangered species from poaching and other forms of callous human behavior is one of the powerful arguments in favor of zoos. Director Brianna Dent does a commendable job of thinking independently and shedding light on a controversial and emotional subject in a way that street activism alone won't deliver.

Opinions will continue to differ, but healthy discussion is needed because it can lead to better decisions. This film makes clear that many people involved in zookeeping genuinely love animals and have their own legitimate story to tell. You can read more about the pro and con arguments for zoos on ThoughtCo and watch the trailer here: Voice for the Wild Trailer

Monday, July 8, 2019

John Hemmer & the Showgirls

This lively and nostalgic short documentary takes a behind-the-scenes peek inside Lou Walters's famous Latin Quarter nightclub in New York. Situated at the northern edge of Times Square, the hot spot attracted A-List celebrities galore, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Patti Page and Mae West.

Director Kirsten Larvick includes testimony from performers who graced the stage, bringing a flashy establishment that operated on a grand scale down to an intimate and accessible level. Anyone who experienced the Latin Quarter in its heyday will be transported back in time by this short documentary, while others who missed the era will still feel its spirit. On the streets of Times Square, a place Larvick captures very well, the club's legacy lives on through flashing lights and round-the-clock energy.

You can watch the trailer here: John Hemmer & the Showgirls Trailer