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

Foreign

Ruby Welles is a thirtysomething woman getting by in London's Soho, the bustling West End area known for its restaurants, coffee shops, live entertainment and gay and lesbian bars. She happens to be lesbian and single, giving her plenty of material for her work as a stand-up comedienne.  To be honest, however, some of the quirky people flitting through her life are more exasperating than funny. City life can be wearisome after all.

Welles is played by real-life star comedienne Suzi Ruffell in an impressively nuanced acting debut. Director Mark Pinkosh is a veteran actor with credits going back to the 1970s, including a show many Americans will recognize, Charlie's Angels. His acting metier is fully utilized by a highly character-driven style, with excellent performances across the board.

The stand-up comedy theme and Soho setting are delivered with a concomitant touch of risquéness. By exploring such aspects of Welles's life, Pinkosh lends his lead character an added sense of need and vulnerability, making whatever small triumphs she achieves all the more meaningful.

You can watch the trailer here: Foreign Trailer

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Too Many Bodies

This distinctive music video by North Hollywood helmer Reena Dutt wowed our judges with its soulful choreography, haunting melody and strong message about gun violence. The project is tied to a website where many resources for advocacy and survivor support can be found; the URL is listed below.

Before sending anyone off to the website, it's well worth commenting that no one has ever approached the school shooting epidemic this way before, making Too Many Bodies quite special indeed. Dutt's passion for the cause of ending the tragedies shines through in the fine manner in which she produced this piece, a fitting tribute to the suffering experienced by so many young people. A music video like this one should not even have to exist, but it does and the world is better for it.

Here is the URL for the website: Too Many Bodies Website

You can watch the trailer here: