Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Markham Tactical

Talk about timeliness.

Completed in July 2015, Markham Tactical bears an uncomfortable resemblance to current events, raising the stakes in what is already a tense, action-packed film. Co-Directors Bayley Pokorny and Jeremy Earl are based in Chicago, where the latter works as a police officer. Their take on the day-to-day complexities, hardships and hair trigger decisions that necessarily come with a law enforcement career is sympathetic, yet raw, drawing a metaphoric thin blue line between reality and film, order and chaos.

The verisimilitude is uncanny when a fictional documentary film crew visits the police station in Markham, Illinois, where they've been invited in a bid to improve community relations. The station's outreach is an apparent success, but when a stakeout goes bad, the police are forced to handle an escalating situation while the cameras roll.

Sound familiar? You can watch the trailer here: Markham Tactical Trailer

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Frogmarch

Drug intervention.

If you've ever wondered why independent films exist—what the risk, sacrifice, and burning passion is really all about—The Frogmarch is your answer. The story is oceans deep and relevant to your life, not as escapism or entertainment, but as life really is when you are fully present in it. No one but filmmakers Jonathan D'Ambrosio and Matthew C. Flynn could tell this story of friendship and love quite as well because it is their story—fictionalized, but true to their own experience.

Drug addiction is viewed in different ways by different people, but it takes a special kind of insight and courage to transition from an attitude of "this is someone else's problem" to "this is my problem, and I'm going to do something about it." Whether one is the addict or not, it's a quantum leap.

Travis Portman, reunited with his best, oldest friends after serving five years for a drug offense, is ready for a relaxing holiday at a remote lake house at the start of this film, but something much more important lies in store for him. His friends send off the car keys, leaving themselves stranded and, in a real sense, living in a makeshift rehab center with an addict who desperately needs their help. Travis will get that help, whether he likes it or not; he has lost has freedom again, but release from prison is a mirage for someone who isn't free from drugs.

This is an exceptional film. At times, it's a shocking one, yet also wise and tender. D'Ambrosio and Flynn grab you and won't let go, as if The Frogmarch needs you in the myriad ways these friends need each other, proving once again that the emotional impact of a humble little indie flick can be epic.

You. Must. See. This. Film. Watch the trailer here: The Frogmarch Trailer

Thursday, July 7, 2016


In this touching portrait of a woman who has just been released from prison, filmmaker Jen Woldrich brings a heartbreaking social problem into the light of day. Gina is an adoring mother, but her toddler daughter doesn't even know she exists.

Gina travels to the girl's present home, and despite the cool reception she receives from the adoptive parents, the recent inmate enjoys a golden opportunity to sit with and speak to her child. But she doesn't reveal her identity, and the question quickly shifts from how to connect with her daughter to how she can let her go.

Forever. You can watch the trailer here: Out Trailer

Monday, July 4, 2016

Stained Glass Windows of the Shenandoah Valley

Take a contemplative walk through historic churches in Stained Glass Windows of the Shenandoah Valley, an informative film by Virginian D. Lee Beard that focuses on one of art history's less explored crafts. The film covers a wide range of styles, from medieval gothic revival to Tiffany windows and on to more modern, abstract designs, lending many opportunities to see how philosophy, theology and technology combine to produce a continuum of art history and change.

Along the way, Beard discusses what these beautiful windows mean to the communities they serve, elevating an art form into the broader contexts of what a community values and how communities engender self-worth.

You can watch the trailer here: Stained Glass Windows Trailer

Sunday, June 26, 2016


Teenager Haley Thompson acts awfully bratty after moving in with her tennis pro relative, Uncle Chad, but not without reason. In the back seat of the car when her parents were broadsided and killed by a truck, this heretofore typical seventeen-year-old now suffers the PTSD horror of reliving her parents' intense suffering, and her horror, over and over again.

What's more, she's hurting herself, a habit that could turn deadly soon. Her bachelor uncle, already struggling to raise an eight-year-old son on his own, isn't well equipped to handle the emotions of a troubled girl who constantly lashes out at him for his inadequacies. They both want to connect and heal, but the road to this place is impassable.

Director Estes Tarver, who superbly plays Uncle Chad alongside an explosive performance by actress Madeline Taylor, literally pulls no punches in his portrayal of family life, and does so with a single-parent structure that heightens the agony, vulnerability and social relevance. Changeover is a film puissant, one that pulls the drapes on parent-child issues that are even more tectonic in real life.

You can watch the trailer here: Changeover Trailer

Monday, May 30, 2016

Primrose Lane

Eight years into a childless and financially stressful marriage, Chris and Robin drive to another couple's gothic, upscale home in suburban Los Angeles for a visit. Upon arrival, they find the front door unlocked, and when Robin steps inside, her instincts tell her something is wrong. Their friends have disappeared without a trace, having left their car keys and cell phones in the house.

They search the house from top to bottom, and while it seems lifeless, the emptiness of the home, its dearth of sunlight, and the antiquated mosaic of objects and shadows that shape and haunt room after room collectively add to Robin's concern. Unlike her assumptive husband, she harbors a gnawing awareness: they have left their upwardly mobile life in LA for a realm of strange and unknown proportions, a place where the known rules of the universe no longer apply.

A boy is watching them. He plays tricks on them. He rolls marbles on the floor and toys with their minds.

Swirling into a black hole where everything she knows and loves is snatched, twisted, and inverted, Robin calls upon friends and strangers alike in ever-puzzling ways, only to learn that she, too, is an integral part of the maelstrom, a predicament from which there is no escape. With Primrose Lane, lead actor and director Kathleen Davison, who returns to New Hope after an award-winning screening in 2015, has not so much shot a film as woven it. An original story, an outstanding score and a multitude of visual touches are exquisitely fused into an eerie, sensory experience, one that questions the nature of one's existence.

You can watch the trailer here: Primrose Lane Trailer

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Birth of an Artist

Cerebral palsy is a hard and relentless disease, but one filmmaker has captured an astounding response to the severe physical limitations it imposes. Dasha is a girl who paints with her feet. Despite her difficult circumstances, her mind's eye sees nothing but life and beauty in the world, and her feet are enough under her control to render her visions into glorious artworks.

The Birth of an Artist is an astounding and unforgettable portrait of courage. Born in Ukraine and educated, in part, at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Graduate Film program, filmmaker Natasha Babenko is fascinated by duality, which in this case is her subject's "physical hardships intertwined with the beauty she expresses from within." But there is no duality for Babenko in terms of the merit of her film, because it is simply wonderful.

You can watch the trailer here: The Birth of an Artist Trailer