Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Australia Says Yes

Continuing a long line of LGTBQ offerings at the New Hope Film Festival, Australia Says Yes tells the riveting story of the struggle to achieve same sex marriage rights in the land Down Under. Moviegoers may not be aware of Australia's lag behind other industrialized countries, the harsh criminalization of homosexuality and the degree to which politicos blocked the rainbow movement.

Through interviews and a variety of relevant footage, director/writer/producer Kirk Marcolina reveals in stunning detail the dignity, frustration and ultimate triumph of his country's LGTBQ community. This documentary is an important archive that deserves serious attention, but more than that, it is thought-provoking and inspirational.

You can watch the trailer here: Australia Says Yes Trailer

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Mi Amor

Set in Los Angeles, this involving and well-produced dramedy features two teenagers in the midst of a sensational crush. Both are intelligent and looking for a real relationship, and an extra dimension of commonality emerges when they discover their parents are both from Miami.

But there is more to their parents' back story. When Jonathan's mother and Raquel's stepfather bump into each other one day, quite literally, they discover they're not only from the same city. They also know each other, and the history isn't all honey and spice.

Director Yeniffer Behrens has a gentle, astute eye for relationships. You will smile and laugh with the characters of Mi Amor, and then you might feel unsettled—the shift in tone during this film is striking. And nothing is the fault of the kids. Behrens may be telling us that experience can and often does work against you in the cross-currents of love, yet when we allow ourselves innocence we can very much swim in it.

You can watch the trailer here:

Monday, April 15, 2019

Nathan's Kingdom

Director Olicer Munoz brought considerable inspiration, pedigree and experience to Nathan's Kingdom, a sci-fi coming of age drama about two siblings who chase a dazzling fantasy while fleeing social service workers. A graduate of Chapman University Film School with an M.F.A. in directing from the American Film Institute (AFI), Munoz incorporates Latino and social justice influences into his craft.

In the story, an autistic brother and opiate-addicted sister risk everything, including their lives, in pursuit of a fantastical vision they come to share, battling monsters both internal and external along the way. As their physical world merges with their fantasies, all things external become a means by which they conquer their demons—a shared experience through which their relationship grows.

The direction in this film is very strong and so is the acting. Nathan's Kingdom draws you in, not so much through enchantment and special effects, but through a magical realist's sense of how something quite out of this world can be grounded in reality. Lead actor Jacob Lince is on the autism spectrum, an unusual twist for such a significant production. Dallas native Madison Ford, who plays his sister Laura Freeman (Young Laura is played by Sarah Assumma), balances Lince's performance with a full range of emotions. Both actors bring depth and insight to their roles.

The excellence of this wonderfully progressive film is another feather in the cap for emerging director Olicer Munoz. This production also bodes well for the future of autism spectrum actors. You can watch the trailer here: Nathan's Kingdom Trailer

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Their War

Perhaps no war in history serves as a better metaphor for senseless killing than World War I—ironically also known as the Great War. Fighting for a flag without a clear cause on both sides of the battlefield, men were torn between following violent orders on the one hand and survival on the other. The stalemate and utter madness of it all led to many stories of camaraderie between Triple Entente (French, British, and Russian) forces and soldiers of the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy), almost invariably veiled over fears of getting charged with cowardice or treason.

Director Max Mason takes a hard but intimate look at these complexities in Their War, a superb short film with a keen sense of how far you can push soldiers into the pits of hell before they really fight, not against each other, but against the mission itself. For in the trenches of the Great War, deep down, most soldiers didn't want to kill their fellow man. They simply wanted to go home to their families with all limbs and faculties intact.

You can watch the trailer here: Their War Trailer

Monday, July 30, 2018

2018 Award Winners

My Amish World (Samuel Wickey, USA)
Best Picture
Winner: My Amish World (Samuel Wickey, USA)
Nominees: Carving a Life, Dark Blue Girl, Fortune Defies Death, At the End of the Day, The Doctor's Case, Nymphadelle

Best Script

Winner: Christopher Marlowe (Francis Hamit, USA)
Nominees: The Music of Men's Lives, The Black Swallow of Death, Mindful, True Colors, Howard Hall

Film Jury Awards

Best Student Film
Winner: Nymphadelle (Quentin de Jubecourt, France)
Nominees: Lockdown, Dark Blue Girl, Grasping Air, Return Safely, Crossing the Line, Carry On Little Sis, Leaving Malcolm

Best Short Film

Winner: The Secret Nobody Knows (Nick Ronan, USA)
Nominees: Danny Boy, Washed Out, A Memory, Fugitive, Reconnected, Redcoats, Daisy Belle

Best Documentary

Winner: We Are Columbine (Laura Farber, USA)
Nominees: Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest, The Oyster Farmers, An Unknown Country, The Foreigner's Home, We Are Columbine, The Listen Project, Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries, Sand on the Floor

Cultural Spirit
Winner: Dirty Laundry (Conor Lewis, USA)
Nominees: Sand on the Floor, The Trouble with Wolves, We Are Columbine, Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries, The Foreigner's Home, Hope Loves Company

Animal Welfare

Winner: The Trouble with Wolves (Collin Monda, USA)
Nominees: A New Chance, Aeris, Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest

Best Short Documentary

Winner: One Mother's Fire: The Gail Minger Story (Diana Nicolae, USA)
Nominees: People of the Forest: Orang Rimba, A New Chance, One Mother's Fire: The Gail Minger Story, At The Table, A Day in the Life of Elijah, Monumental Change

Best Foreign Film

Winner: Dark Blue Girl (Mascha Schilinski, Germany)
Nominees: The Doctor's Case, Danny Boy, Fugitive, Daily Bread, People of the Forest: Orang Rimba, Nymphadelle

Best Experimental Short

Winner: Daisy Belle (William Wall, USA)
Nominees: Pulp, The Kara Morgan Show, The Brittany Show, S'eclipser

Indie Spirit

Winner: Carving a Life (Terry Ross, USA)
Nominees: Nymphadelle, Dark Blue Girl, Shellfish, At the End of the Day, Night's Still Young

Best Animated Film

Winner: Two Balloons (Mark Smith, USA)
Nominees: Crack'd, Dreamweaver, Daisy Belle, Pulp, The Kara Morgan Show, Cuddlefish

Female Eye Filmmaking

Winner: The Third Act Series (Michele Fillion, USA)
Nominees: Carving a Life, Redcoats, Giselle, The Kara Morgan Show, The Third Act Series, The Red Lotus, A Memory

Best Comedy

Winner: The Brittany Show (Nasser Samara, USA)
Nominees: Zen Parking, Another Girl, The Kara Morgan Show, The Phages, Love Radio

Best Period Film

Winner: The Doctor's Case (James Douglas and Leonard Pearl, Canada)
Nominees: Redcoats, Attila, Nymphadelle, Daily Bread

Student Cultural Spirit

Winner: Monumental Change (Jake Segelbaum, USA)
Nominees: A New Chance, At the Table, Portrait of an Artist: Janet Chambers

New Hope

Winner: One Mother's Fire: The Gail Minger Story (Diana Nicolae, USA)
Nominees: A New Chance, A Day in the Life of Elijah, Hope Loves Company, 4 Dancers' Dreams, East Side Story

Artistic Spirit

Winner: The Listen Project (Gary Bassin, USA)
Nominees: Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest, Kings of Blah, The Listen Project

LGBTQ Spirit

Winner: At the End of the Day (Kevin O'Brien, USA)
Nominees: High Rocks, At The End of the Day, Cuddlefish

Best Supernatural Film

Winner: Shellfish (J.D. Wilson, USA)
Nominees: Return Safely, The Phages

Best Webisode

Winner: The Third Act Series (Michele Fillion, USA)
Nominees: The Kara Morgan Show

Best Music Video

Winner: Mission to Mars (George Pasles, USA)
Nominees: Fourth of Julivar’s, Pulp, Hunting Day

Best Director

Winner: Jennifer Hulum (Fortune Defies Death, USA)
Nominees: Terry Ross (Carving A Life, USA), Liam O'Neill (Danny Boy, Ireland), Mascha Schilinski (Dark Blue Girl, Germany), James Douglas (The Doctor's Case, Canada), Alice Boucherie (Washed Out, France), Quentin de Jubecourt (Nymphadelle, France), S. J. Main Munoz (Reconnected, USA)

Script Jury Awards

Best Narrative Feature Screenplay
Winner: Mindful (Diana Lewis)
Nominees: Christopher Marlowe, The Black Swallow of Death, The Music of Men's Lives

Best Teleplay

Winner: Howard Hall (Judy Spencer)

Best Period Script

Winner: The Black Swallow of Death (Daniel Russ)
Nominees: Christopher Marlowe, The Music of Men's Lives

Best Short Screenplay

Winner: True Colors (Scott Dissinger)

Audience Choice Awards

Best Webisode: The Third Act Series (Michele Fillion, USA)
Best TV Pilot: New York 2150 (Harry Assouline, USA)
Best Music Video: Fourth of Julivar's (Tony Fulgham, USA)
Best Narrative Feature: At the End of the Day (Kevin O'Brien, USA)
Best Documentary: Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries (Janet Gardner, USA)
Best Short Film: Reconnected (S.J. Main Munoz, USA)
Best Student Film: Lockdown (Max Sokoloff, USA)

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Phages

A young married couple has found a creative way to make ends meet in an uncertain economy—flipping haunted houses—and the money sure is easy. After all, one person's paranoia is another's opportunity, and the worse the fear about the house, the more an enterprising duo can bank.

It's a near-bulletproof plan until you find a house that really is haunted, and then all bets are off. That is the situation facing them now in a gothic mansion set back from the road, with a child ghost who likes to play with their daughter and other fiends who visit them in the night.

There is a tongue-in-cheek aspect to this story, of course, but the other message might be that you don't want to be messing with the dead like this. Co-Directors John Benedetto and Matt McNevin have cooked a boiling cauldron of fright in this black-and-white short. You can watch the trailer here:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries

The roots of Quakerism stretch back to mid-17th century England, but the Religious Society of Friends has remained vibrant and influential throughout modern times. A central feature of the Protestant denomination since George Fox founded it in the wake of the English Civil War (1642 - 1651) is activism—and a concomitant passion for shaking the halls of power over matters of injustice. This history explains why so many leaders in areas ranging from abolition to women's suffrage to civil rights and the environment have arisen from or been inspired by Quaker congregations and ideals.

In this probing documentary, filmmaker Janet P. Gardner combines Ken Burns style archival imagery with "captured in the moment" footage, underscoring the combined sophistication and day-to-day relevance of Friends Church, a movement that is rooted in principles yet constantly evolving.

The film is also critical, citing transgressions by Quaker political leaders and lamenting the Quaker approach to desegregation in the 1960s and 70s. Yet the legacy of progress and achievement overshadows these concerns as Gardner paints an overall picture of relevance and high social value.

You can watch the trailer here: Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries Trailer