Thursday, April 22, 2021


is the pilot episode of a seven part anthology series that immerses its audiences in all colors of the rainbow. With this beautiful vision as a focal point, the show starts in a most opportune place, a sophisticated and modern art gallery. 

Creator, writer and director Sarah Deakins, a graduate of the University of Victoria Department of Theatre who was born in Wisconsin to British parents, brings a vibrant palette to her filmmaking craft. Her choices of lighting, color, and arrangement, and best of all, her intimate eye for the subtleties of acting, altogether lend warmth and spirit to a setting that is often felt as imposing and somber. Museums have the potential to evoke calmness, reflection and openness—a visit is a classic way to break the ice on a date—and Deakins brings this potential to full effect. Her international background begets a genuine appreciation for diversity, too, not just in character type but also in personality and tone. 

This is a fine work. Yellow captures a moment in time, with the infinite yet subtle profundities that can arise from something as simple as sharing a selfie or wheeling a baby past great works of art. There is no discernible story arc as the film flits from one vignette to another, but then when you stumble upon a rainbow, you may have reached the end the story already. So you move on to the next color, expectant. 

You can watch the trailer here: Yellow Trailer

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

My Sister Hali

Many years ago, when a gymnastics coach asked filmmaker Paul Sheriff whether he was related to a once-rising gymnastics star, the only word Paul could summon was no.  

Hali Sheriff's rocketlike career as a world-class gymnast began to escape Earth's orbit in 1966, as her dominance in all areas of the sport made her the frontrunner for the 1968 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team. She was only 14 at the time: plucky, gifted and destined to make her mark, yet still devoid of the rich life experiences that surely would follow.   

Hali's story ended right there. Instead of claiming Olympic glory, she faded into history, largely forgotten by all except family, teammates and those who follow gymnastics. You see, Hali died in a plane crash in the early summer of 1966. All six passengers on the small plane perished, including her mother and father.

Her brother Paul Sheriff couldn't muster the word yes when asked about his relationship to Hali because he understandably found the subject too painful. And hadn't his sister's life ended with an epic no, too, so could there have been a more appropriate answer in a grand, cosmic sense? 

This documentary is a fine tribute to a young athlete who burned brightly, then disappeared into the stars, over 50 years ago. Hali tells her story here in absentia with the assistance of her brother Paul, who deserves special thanks for his everlasting devotion. You can watch the trailer here: 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sincerely and Literally Yours

The feelings associated with emerging from self-isolation are nearly universal today, but one filmmaker has taken the realities of COVID quarantine to a level where we may not be looking—do we still love ourselves? Can a person who's been to the breaking point still say hey, I'm good, then look in the mirror and say "I love you?" 

This is not a common experience I would wager, but student filmmaker Kimberly Hauser has asked the question for everyone through this tender film of the heart. Imagine discovering a letter from your younger self that you'd written before your life changed radically, and you may understand where the unusual twist in this short is going. I can't think of a better way to reopen the New Hope Film Festival than with a film shot in self-isolation, yes, but with a central character who possesses such a strong will to keep living and growing.  

You can watch the trailer here: Sincerely and Literally Yours Trailer 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

2020 Award Winners

Top Awards

Best Picture: Gutman's Alternative (Aleksandrs Mirskis, Latvia)

Best Script: LimoCop (Kevin Lapsley, Michael Craig, Canz)
Nominees: Erased, Palmetto, Persona, Rainbows and Silver Buckles: The Adventures of Joe and Muz, The Vanishing Point, The Women of Harcourt Street, They Came from the Seaweed

Film Jury Awards

Best Alternative Film: Under the Lights (Miles Levin, USA)
Nominees: Bennifer, Daffodil, The Remaining Eight, Dark Alley, On My Own, Salting the Fly, Come! (Eat)

Best Student Film: June Heist (Angela Marie Houston, USA)
Nominees: High Card, Johnny Anarchy, Here to Collect

Best Short Film: The Lossen (Colin Skevington, UK)
Nominees: A Piece of Cake, Under the Lights, Together, The Remaining Eight, Wives of the Skies, Daffodil, Entwined, The Simple Path

Best Documentary: The Hoy Boys (Dave Simonds, USA)
Nominees: The Valley, Strange Tenants: Ska'd for Life, The Campaign of Miner Bo, Return to Nam, Mentally Al, Overdosed

Cultural Spirit: Overdosed (Mary Sue Connolly, USA)
Nominees: Tending Clouds, LifeSaver: The SLO Noor Foundation Story, Wish Come True, Once in a Hundred Years: The Life & Legacy of Marian Anderson

Animal Welfare: Catnip Nation (Tina Traster, USA)

Best Short Documentary: Once in a Hundred Years: The Life & Legacy of Marian Anderson (Bill Nicoletti, USA)
Nominee: The Magic Behind the Mojo, Tending Clouds

Best Biographical Film: Mentally Al (Joshua Edelman, USA)
Nominees: Once in a Hundred Years: The Life & Legacy of Marian Anderson, The Magic Behind the Mojo, The Hoy Boys

Female Eye Filmmaking: Wives of the Skies (Honey Lauren, USA)
Nominees: Becoming Bethany Rhodes, Borrowing, Come! (Eat), Daffodil, Feminist Theory and How It Relates to the Patriarchal Dividend, Joan on Her Own, June Heist, You Can Kiss Me

Best TV Pilot: Oddly Popular (Fred Gallo, USA)

Best Comedy: A Piece of Cake (The Bragg Brothers, USA)
Nominees: Bennifer, Wives of the Skies, Love Gov 2: A Crisis Not to Waste, Joan on Her Own

New Hope: Tending Clouds (Joel Sandvos, USA, Cambodia)
Nominees: LifeSaver: The SLO Noor Foundation Story, Overdosed, Return to Nam

LGBTQ Spirit: Garden DayZe (Evie Hammer, USA)
Nominees: You Can Kiss Me, Feminist Theory and How It Relates to the Patriarchal Dividend

Best Supernatural Film: Daffodil (Nicola Fan, Hong Kong)
Nominees: The Lossen

Best Webisode: Joan on Her Own (Sherise Dorf, USA)
Nominees: Love Gov 2: A Crisis Not to Waste

Best Music Video: Bullet Man (Vadim Lasca, Venezuela)
Nominees: Wish Come True

Music Video Cultural Spirit: Wish Come True (Sharon Doyle, USA)
Nominees: Bullet Man

Best Director: Colin Skevington (The Lossen, UK)
Nominees: The Bragg Brothers (A Piece of Cake, USA), Honey Lauren (Wives of the Skies, USA), Bill Nicoletti (Once in a Hundred Years: The Life & Legacy of Marian Anderson, USA), Nicola Fan (Daffodil, Hong Kong), Aleksandrs Mirskis (Gutman's Alternative, Latvia), Miles Levin (Under the Lights, USA), Joshua Edelman (Mentally Al, USA)

Script Jury Awards

Best Narrative Feature: Persona (Jeffrey Howe)
Nominees: Saving the West, The Vanishing Point, The Women of Harcourt Street, They Came from the Seaweed, Erased, Chupacabra, East Farm

Best Teleplay: Forever Home (Sarah Shook, Scott Goldstein)

Best Period Script: Rainbows and Silver Buckles: The Adventures of Joe and Muz (Stuart Schulz)
Nominees: Saving the West, The Wild Heart of Alaska

Best Short Screenplay: The Joymaker (Tara Grover Smith)
Nominees: Prepare the Way, Rescued, The Lesson

Friday, June 5, 2020

The Magic Behind the Mojo

Down in the Louisiana Bayou, they sure know how to live—and party.

If you are weary of stay-at-home culture and you're a wantin' t' join 'em, why not grab your hat and/or dancin' shoes and head on out to a live performance of Mojo and the Bayou Gypsies, the subject of this frolicking documentary? Or at least virtually via the link below. Bandleader Mojo and his Cajun accordion have been entertaining audiences around the world for over half a century, and he's showing no signs of slowin' down.

The Magic Behind the Mojo is a biographical film about a culturally authentic artist, but to its credit it's also a highly entertaining concert because there is plenty of music. About six years ago, filmmaker Joe Gallo discovered this Deep South musician while working on the soundtrack for a film involved in supporting the newly minted National Museum of the United States Army. Now, I'm no expert on Cajun culture, but Mojo has a one-word name so he must be a star.

You can watch the trailer here: The Magic Behind the Mojo Trailer

LifeSaver: The SLO Noor Foundation Story

A humanitarian foundation in San Luis Obispo, California runs medical, dental and vision clinics in their area with the praiseworthy mission of serving the uninsured. It's almost astonishing that even after health care reform millions of people remain uninsured in the United States of America, the wealthiest country in history.

Despite its technical sophistication, the nation's health care delivery system can be callous towards people who cannot afford to participate in it. Moreover, the costs of housing, automobiles and other basics of modern life have grown with the stock market and technological progress over time while multitudes who aren't well positioned to benefit fall between the cracks.

An immigrant physician who saw people struggling to make it in this country set out to effect positive change, and these clinics are the result. Although the foundation is small and its area of service is confined to the immediate area, its work is important and the model deserves wide recognition. Filmmaker Robert Williams is compounding the good done by SLO Noor Foundation by putting this documentary on the festival circuit; let's hope the publicity will spawn imitators.

You can watch the trailer here: The SLO Noor Foundation Trailer

Tuesday, June 2, 2020


The concept of togetherness is under great duress today, which makes a film entitled Together all the more timely. In this 17-minute short, Carver and Ella have enjoyed a successful marriage for 50 wonderful years and now they want to celebrate with the trip of a lifetime. They raised good kids who are now adults and the couple is free to go it alone, just as they were when they started their matrimonial journey together.

There is only one problem—it's medically related—and it pushes the meaning of the word together in an unexpected direction. The plotline should touch a chord amidst a worldwide pandemic. Helmer A.W. Scott is a former venture capitalist who made a challenging career change to the arts via completing a program at UCLA Graduate Film School, and his dedication to learning the crafts of writing and directing is clearly evident in this fine, humanistic film.

You can watch the trailer here: Together Trailer