Friday, August 6, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Then John Frankenheimer picked up the story at USA Today. Here's a link.
Congratulations to Plagianos for garnering the buzz. The Crimson Mask made its world debut at Cannes Film Festival on May 17.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Many people who've discovered the New Hope Film Festival don't realize I've been publishing literary novels for almost five years. Two of my novels, Shadow Fields and Dasha, are on the back burner for film adaptations and the third, Snooker Glen, also exists as a screenplay. I have a farcical romantic comedy with the working title Peg on my iMac's hard drive and three more novels in progress, two of which are complete in first draft form.
Although it's the height of summer and I'm taking it pretty easy, no one could accuse me of sloth. For the better part of a year, I put most of the writing on hold to get NHFF off the ground, but now I'm moving ahead with projects.
I spent most of today integrating my film and literary worlds, and I have to say it's an exciting moment! With a new sense of focus and purpose, I'm writing again; and in that spirit, I'm also running a special on the Kindle editions of Dasha (USD $2.99) and Snooker Glen ($4.99). These prices are good through August 31st. If the lower price points attract the kind of readers I want, that is, those who are looking for more than a cheap beach read, I may extend the low-price model indefinitely. I also lowered the Shadow Fields price to $9.99, as Amazon.com no longer requests a price that is 100% in line with the paper version.
If you want to experience the art created by the man behind NHFF's curtain, now is a great opportunity. They're beautifully written and lots of fun, and many say they were, and still will be, prophetic. They were certainly a joy to write, although as living documents, they never feel finished.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Dir. Danishka Esterhazy, Canada
By Sarah Leventer
Black Field, a historical drama set in the 1870s, follows sisters Maggie (The Vampire Diaries’ Sara Canning) and Rose McGregor (Ferron Guerreiro) as they struggle to make a life on the Canadian prairies. Their parents died years ago, leaving Maggie as the family farm’s and her sister’s only protector, a role complicated by the arrival of the mysterious, handsome French Canadian, David. This role is even further complicated when Rose goes missing.
The McGregor women live constricted lives typical of the time period, but have the same depth and self-possession as Jane Eyre and other Gothic heroines that inspired Esterhazy when making her film. Maggie is particularly wise, flawed and untamable. The desperation verging on wildness in her eyes, coupled with her conviction and protective instincts make for powerful tension as she searches for Rose and sets off a final chain of events that alters hers and her sister’s life forever. Complimenting Canning’s captivating performance is Mathieu Bourguet as David, who matches Maggie in intelligence with the charm (and moral ambiguity) of a lost Romantic poet.
These strong performances are what give the film life, along with Paul Suderman’s striking cinematography. Especially stunning is Rembrandt-style lighting and shadows created during the Black Field’s darker scenes. When the three leads share a meal early in the film, the budding connection between David and the much younger Rose first becomes clear to Maggie and the audience. As Maggie’s awareness crystallizes, the camera moves to a close-up of her face glowing out from the darkness in the center of the room as she seems to vibrate with worried energy—the candles around her face visually separate her from Rose and David, with a hauntingly beautiful effect.
The night scenes in the McGregor home form an even more striking contrast with the stark, day-lit prairie—the film as a whole is beautifully shot, and in look as well as in tone, has a palpable Gothic influence. As is perhaps obvious, however, this is not the castle-on-a-dark-stormy-night, pulpy kind of film.
Black Field is Gothic in the classic, literary sense of the word, meaning the film tells a story about 19th century characters in a style true to that place and time. The end result of Esterhazy’s almost scholarly devotion to matching style to content is a film that actually takes the viewer somewhere: not to the could-be-next-door set often expected in independent films, or the glamorous, recognizable locales of Hollywood cinema but inside a fully-realized, earthbound fantasy.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
|(L to R) Doug Whipple, Andre Hennicke, Andreas Arnstedt & Thom Mulligan|
|Festival Director Thom Mulligan|
Honorable Mention - Best Picture Black Field (Danishka Esterhazy, Canada)
Audience Favorite - Feature Film The Dispensables (Andreas Arnsedt, Germany)
Additionally, the following films were nominated for jury awards:
Danny Award - Best Picture Nominees
Hope (Steve Thomas, Australia, Documentary)
The Good Fight: James Farmer Remembers the Civil Rights Movement (Jessica Schoenbaechler, USA, Documentary)
Black Field (Danishka Esterhazy, Canada, Art House Feature)
Earthwork (Chris Ordal, USA, Art House Feature)
The Dispensables (Andreas Arnstedt, Germany, Art House Feature)
The Soil and the People (Sisir Sahana, India, Art House Feature)
The Book of Tomorrow (David Yohe, USA, Student)
Breathtaking (Vojin Vasovic, Serbia/Montenegro, Short)
Artistic Spirit Award Nominees
This award honors artistic quality and bravery in the face of substantial obstacles.
The Soil and the People (Sisir Sahana, India, Art House Feature)
Esther's Diary (Mariusz Kotowski, USA, Art House Feature)
The Journey (Chineze Anyaene, Nigeria, Student)
When Police Become Prey (Candis McLean, Canada/UK, Documentary)
Made in America (Jessica Thoubbouron and Mike Infante, USA, Student)
Bakhtiari Alphabet (Sima Sedigh and Reza Ghadyani, USA/Iran, Documentary)
Overload (Robert Fritz, USA, Art House Feature)
A Little Bit of Love: The Making of a Message (Scott Hatfield, Uganda/USA, Short)
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Dir. Andreas Arnstedt, Germany
By Sarah Leventer
The Dispensables is a beautifully shot family drama, reminiscent in look and tone of Andrei Zvyagintsev’s The Return. Based on a true story, the film follows 11-year-old Jacob (Oskar Böckelmann) as he tries to hide a devastating secret about his father, Jürgen (André Hennicke), and opens as a drunk Jürgen publicly defaces a German political campaign poster with an axe. This opening suggests that, also like The Return, The Dispensables is an intensely personal story with connections to a much longer, complicated national history, another aspect that sets it apart from the air-brushed perfection of Hollywood summer blockbusters of late. However, it is worth noting that The Dispensables’ nationalistic tone is subtle and understated, meaning references to Germany’s past are there for those who choose to see them, but majoring in German is not a prerequisite to appreciate the film.
Fitting its semi-autobiographical content, The Dispensables is told in first-person so the audience gets to experience the world as Jacob does. While lying beside his father, Jacob looks up lights that remind him of a carnival, and flashes back to a date with his girlfriend, Hannah (Kathi Hahn); this is one of many instances when Jacob’s memories erupt (often unexpectedly) into the present-day. Moments like these are an interesting comment on the way memories work in life, coming unexpectedly and often “out of order,” and also give insight into Jacob’s current situation in a subtle, artful way. As Jacob snaps out from the memory of the carnival, for instance, the audience realizes that, because of the man lying beside him, this date will be the last carefree memory he’ll have for a very long time.
Andreas Arnstedt treats the children who anchor his film with a great deal of respect and authenticity. The director successfully resists the urge to infantilize his protagonists though they don’t sound straight off the set of Dawson’s Creek either. Jacob and Hannah are at once thoughtful, considerate and thoroughly childlike—they are also wiser than adults give them credit for, another aspect that makes watching the world from their perspective a uniquely worthwhile experience: especially compared to their precocious or alternatively 20-somethings-playing-a-14-year-old Hollywood counterparts.
In addition to Hannah, Jacob’s world is populated by compelling characters like his grandmother, Rosemarie, (Ingeborg Westphal) the only truly reliable adult in his life, Mr. Rott (Mathieu Carrière), an elderly neighbor who is a haunting reminder of Germany’s past and Jacob’s only other friend, and Jacob’s parents, Jürgen and Silke (Steffi Kühnert). Demonstrating a wisdom few first-time directors have, Arnstedt shows both the loving and damaging sides of Jacob’s parents, giving their performances the same meaningful complexity as the rest of his film.
To buy tickets to the U.S. premier of The Dispensables, go to: https://new-hope-film-festival-ltd.ticketleap.com
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Sarah Leventer, a terrific and new addition to New Hope Film Fest, earned her Master's of Fine Arts in Film Studies at Boston University last year and now, in addition to working as a freelance writer, she's heading up our online efforts.
Don't miss the terrific reviews, interviews and other gems she's finding all over the World Wide Web!
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Los Angeles filmmaker Patricia van Ryker has been making the festival rounds with her touching portrayal of Oaxacan artist Alejandro Santiago, and after screening at the Cannes Independent Film Festival this month, she heads to New Hope.
For six years, Santiago, his family, and many assistants worked tirelessly to bring “2501 Migrantes” to life. Sculpted from local clay and painted with colors derived from the soil near his birthplace in Mexico's Sierra de Ixtlan Mountains, these "lost soul" sculptures speak for those who are gone. They are the voice of those who return only on holidays, those whose only presence is a Western Union money gram, and those who will never return. Graciela Cervantes, the artist's representative in Oaxaca, says "...what Alejandro has dreamt, he has made reality."
As van Ryker puts it, "Alejandro's Migrantes are a haunting reminder of the common problems we face. For, in our global life, what affects one, affects all." You can watch the trailer here: 2501 Preview
Friday, May 7, 2010
Sisir Sahana already enjoyed an international reputation as a painter and sculptor when he decided to write, produce and direct his first feature film. He lives in India. But an actual event in a rural town inspired him to branch into a new direction, and the result is The Soil and the People (Maati-O-Manush).
The film employs elements of visual art——impressionism, pointillism and modernism——in a denunciation of community predators who tormented a beautiful soul for their own gratification, ideology and political profit. The accusation against her? Witchcraft. As someone with an ancestor who was hanged at the Salem Witch Trials, I consider the message timeless and universal.
The Soil and the People will fascinate anyone who's open to something offbeat and provocative, and actress Rimjhim Gupta clears the way with an aching performance as a mute lady who, despite loving life and her village with all her heart, finds her life utterly shattered. You can watch the trailer here: The Soil and the People
Thursday, April 15, 2010
With an all-star cast that includes Hollywood legend Ernest Borgnine, Theresa Russell, Timothy Bottoms, Christopher Atkins, Olivia Hussey, Danny Trejo and many others, I Am Somebody: No Chance in Hell is a compelling and powerful look at race and injustice in the Wild West frontier of the 1870s.
Auteur Aki Aleong is one of New Hope Film Festival's many American filmmakers, and he's no beginner to the world of filmmaking, having amassed an impressive career over more than 50 years as a producer, actor, writer, singer and activist. If you love films with substance, a strong sense of social relevance, fine historical details and of course excellent directing, acting and cinematography, you need to watch I Am Somebody: No Chance in Hell. I'll say this, too: there's plenty of chance in hell that this film will delight and inspire audiences.
Here's the trailer: I Am Somebody
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Films hardly get more sensitive and wonderful than The Dispensables, the remarkable true-life story of debut filmmaker Andreas Arnstedt. Already a famous television actor and comedian in his native Germany, Arnstedt took a brave step when he decided to produce his first movie; foundations and powers-that-be simply didn't want anything to do with a raw and honest look at poverty and child abuse in post-war Germany.
But Arnstedt has many friends, as evidenced by the gifted actors and filmmakers he assembled for this underground project. The results are groundbreaking: The Dispensables shatters many perceptions of how Germany should be portrayed in film.
Parental discretion is advised for this trailer: The Dispensables
Thursday, April 8, 2010
If you live in the Bucks County area, you'll see the segment on Comcast Headline News at various times until the festival. You can also watch the interview on YouTube: Comcast Newsmakers Interview
Saturday, April 3, 2010
You can check what he's saying here: RMP Story
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Shot over a six day period in Denver, Colorado, Pawned peers into a realm seldom examined and talked about: the world of the homeless. In an age when losing one's home is becoming a more tangible risk for many, filmmaker Randal Kirk decides to journey inside this alternate reality by living with homeless people and hearing them speak.
According to Kirk, "Some shared stories of tragic events that would shatter any spirit, some spoke of dreams unfulfilled and a few revealed a spirit of adventure and dreams still alive. They were a mix of heroes, artists, tragic figures and some very ordinary people just extraordinarily down on their luck."
Pawned will be screened at New Hope Film Festival along with Abandoned Heroes, a short documentary about American war veterans who also feel detached from the mainstream. Here's the trailer: Pawned
Virginia Beach filmmaker J. Darin Wales tells a tale in Plink that evokes thoughts of smoky, backwoods America, pick-up trucks and a way of life not often associated with foreign and art house films. All the more reason to add Plink to our lineup, because NHFF is a global film festival and, after all, our globe includes this land of Wales's imagination.
So here's a world premiere. We love the acting: Plink The Trailer
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
North Hollywood producer and director Bernard Garceau tells the story of a crime and its tense aftermath in this 19-minute thriller. The film was an undergraduate project at Baylor University.
The lead character has the body in a trunk, but what should he do now? Watch the trailer here: One Day
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Trace the rarefied footsteps of Agatha Christie in this rich and exquisitely shot combination of travelogue and biography by director Petra Haffter, who currently resides in Los Angeles. Executive producer Sarah Sieber is based in Leipzig, Germany.
So intimate is this film, you'll almost swear you feel the rumble of the Orient Express in your seat and sense breezes that waft through windows casually left open. Unexpectedness and wonder abound in Tracking Agatha; you are there, writing your own novel, and in style.
The documentary is narrated in English and Petra Haffter has generously provided three clips of her film, which you should preview here: Tracking Agatha
Friday, March 19, 2010
Father and Sister, an animated short film by South Korea's Soyeon Kim, will be sweeping the nation in 2010, having been accepted at Beverly Hills Short Film Festival, Memphis International Film Festival, Central Florida Film Festival and elsewhere. A prolific artist, Kim currently resides in Marina del Rey, California. Here's her website: Soyeon Kim
Told with a wry sense of humor, the story entails a chance occurrence and plenty of temptation taking place within an otherwise unassuming church. How will Kim's two protagonists, a father and a nun, handle their perilous situation?
Here's the teaser: Father and Sister
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Go cross-country with your best, shaggiest, and most cantankerous puppet friend? Why not, I suppose? In this offbeat take on the classic road trip movie, Los Angeles actor Dan Gordon—a native of New Hope's Delaware River neighbor, Yardley, and a graduate of local Pennsbury High School, I might add—makes his world debut as an executive producer.
The results are, well, scruffy...and lovable. Watch the trailer on IMDb: Chris & Steve
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Set amongst the warm breezes and sunshine of Venice Beach, California, The Ice Cream Man tells the story of a man from Moscow who suddenly finds himself jockeying for customers in a rickety ice cream truck. Executive producer and director Dylan Rush and his co-producer, Cynthia Carlomagno, both from Santa Monica's The Bus Note Press, premiered this short film in North America at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival in March 2002.
Now they get to make their splash on the East Coast. You'll find the trailer on their website by clicking on "video."
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Montreal-based Red Barlo Productions makes its world premiere with Conditional Affection, a film that addresses the psychological repercussions of adultery. This is a first project for producer/director Michael Mando and his co-producers Amber Mullin and Joseph Mroue.
The filmmakers are keenly interested in exploring moral questions and I'm looking forward to finding out where their ambitious metier takes them. Here's the trailer: Conditional Affection
Friday, March 12, 2010
Out there on the existential edge is Autology, a world premiere short film by California filmmaker Mark Preciado. This highly experimental piece captures the story of a woman searching for her voice between a daily, soul-depriving hell where no one hears her and a vocalless world where there's nothing to say.
This film preview only hints at what's in store for the audience: Autology Trailer
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Payola in exchange for getting your record on American Bandstand? Hear it from the artists themselves in this probing documentary by Arkansas producer/director Shawn Swords. Wages of Spin provocatively asserts that the game in the Philadelphia music scene from 1952 through 1963 was rigged; decide for yourself after watching this documentary.
The film has been shown to select audiences but this is a festival premiere. Filmmaker Swords plans to be at the screening in June and will field questions about his work. You can watch the trailer here: Wages of Spin
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Part biography and part testimonial, Gus: An American Icon is a tribute to Gus Giordano, the founding father of jazz dance. This lively documentary includes several extracts of his choreography, including a full performance of "Wings."
Filmmaker Pedro Brenner is screening his film for the second time at NHFF, having premiered at Chicago's Jazz Dance World Congress in 2009. You can watch the trailer here: Gus
This socially aware film by Scott Hatfield, who is based in Philadelphia, features an upbeat, catchy, MTV-styled hit on the topic of HIV/AIDS prevention. The film has been making the festival rounds since premiering at the Mid-Atlantic Black Film Festival in July 2007 and NHFF is delighted to help Hatfield & Co. get out their message.
As people walk and sing down Parliament Avenue in Kampala or share their thoughts in a roadside cafe, the vibe is always uplifting and positive in A Little Bit of Love: The Making of a Message, so the film does indeed offer hope that a little bit of love will bring better tomorrows.
Here's the trailer: A Little Bit of Love
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Filmed amidst the ruins of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, this underground film probes the difference between entrapment and psychological freedom. Filmmakers Erin Davis and Nathan Edmondson are based in Philadelphia and this is Edmondson's first project.
Eastern State is the oldest penitentiary in the United States, and when English novelist Charles Dickens visited in 1842, he described the "slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain" at the prison as "immeasurably worse than any torture of the body."
Here's the trailer: Number 9
Monday, March 8, 2010
The Good Fight: James Farmer Remembers the Civil Rights Movement is a powerful documentary about one of the African-American Civil Rights Movement's most dynamic and relentless leaders. This is the first feature film for producer/director Jessica Schoenbaechler of Dallas, Texas.
James Farmer fought the good fight at great cost to himself and his family, and Schoenbaechler delves into this personal side of a man who's remembered for his nonviolence, dignity and effectiveness.
You can watch the trailer here: The Good Fight
With awards for Best Short Film and Best Screenplay under his belt, Puerto Rico's Julio Benito Cabrera makes his way to the mainland with Naco, the story of two brothers who are having a little too much fun with a homeless man.
And you don't wanna mess with Naco. Here's the trailer: Naco Trailer
Produced as a final thesis at New York Film Academy by Spanish producer Martin Rosete, Basket Bronx deals with an African-American kid named Alex who dreams of playing basketball. The problem: the older boys in the neighborhood insist he can't. But just as things look grim for diminutive Alex, a Chinese girl teaches him something about Zen...
You can watch the trailer here: Basket Bronx
This 16-minute drama by New Jersey-based filmmaker Sophia Eptamenitis is loosely based on her true-life experiences as a teenage cancer survivor. Anyone familiar with ABC's after school specials and CBS's Afternoon Playhouse will readily understand the intent behind this film, which is at once intensely compassionate and edifying.
When Faith, a 16 year-old girl recovering from cancer treatment, begins to reclaim her life as she once knew it, she finds that much has changed: her friends, her school, her secret crush. But what has changed most of all, the audience learns, is Faith's determination to live.
You'll find a trailer on IMDb: Invincible Summer
Sunday, March 7, 2010
This deeply unsettling and penetrating documentary by German filmmaker Gerburg Rohde-Dahl involves conversations with Berliners during and after the construction of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Through her film, Rohde-Dahl reflects upon her family's role during the Nazi era and examines the broader significance of collective guilt.
American architect of the Holocaust Memorial, Peter Eisenman, has this to say about Expansive Grounds: "I must say it is the most moving and poignant film that I have seen using a project of mine as a backdrop for another narrative. I have shown it to several people who, in their own way, have been equally moved by it."
You can watch the trailer here: Expansive Grounds
If you love gospel music and something that urges you to follow your dreams, see The New, True, Charlie Wu, a World Premiere film by Murfreesboro, Tennessee filmmaker Bob Pondillo.
The story involves Charlie Wu, a twentysomething accountant who's stuck in a career rut. He wants to break free, but can't until a woman—the Queen of his Soul—appears in a dream. That's when the par-tay begins. Here's a teaser: Charlie Wu
This 19-minute drama asks whether it's possible to be both a homosexual and a Christian in a small town. The film includes footage of Lambertville, New Jersey, which is directly across the Delaware River from New Hope.
Filmmaker Jeannie Sconzo explores her challenging material with both delicacy and grace through close-up examinations of her main characters, Jean and Maryann; the actresses who play these lead roles bring emotional weight and impact to what is already a thought-provoking theme. Here's the trailer for this East Coast Premiere: When Beliefs Are Questioned
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Do we measure our lives by numbers? Can we stand our ground in spite of them? These questions and others are explored in Annie's Life in Numbers, a 13-minute short film from Calgary, Alberta. Producer/director Michal Lavi focuses her camera on Annie, whose awkward but poetic wanderings take us on a journey of self-discovery—for Annie and ourselves.
Here's the trailer: Annie's Life in Numbers Trailer
Canadian director Candis McLean makes her festival world premiere with this hard-hitting documentary about a drama that took place on the outskirts of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The situation involved two Saskatoon constables, Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson, who were convicted and jailed for a terrible crime; but did they commit it? Or was this actually a witch hunt? Find out what happened in the shocking, so-called "Starlight Tours" episode in When Police Become Prey.
Here's the trailer: When Police Become Prey Trailer
Friday, March 5, 2010
This feature-length world premiere enters New Hope Film Festival in the Mid-Atlantic category; filmmaker Rocky Yost is based in Virginia.
A fast-paced, funny and irreverent dramedy about a young shopkeeper named Lilly Nash who takes on a you-love-to-hate-her real estate mogul named Hillary Thorn, Lilly's Thorn is as biting as it is enjoyable. Watch the sparks and jokes fly in this Capraesque tale of the little guy versus the corporate machine.
Here's the trailer: Lilly's Thorn
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Esther's Diary tells the haunting yet inspirational story of two second-generation Holocaust survivors, Maria and Sarah, who are brought together by a diary that links their family histories. Through their struggle to understand and cope with the past, they find deeper meaning in their lives today. As you'll see in the trailer, the movie features some beautifully acted scenes.
Born in Poland, debut filmmaker Mariusz Kotowski is now producing films in the United States. You can watch the trailer here: Esther's Diary Trailer
A man enters a restaurant needing cash. The employees are too broke to comply. A hair-trigger situation. How will this go down? Find out as filmmaker Rick Gioiello, who made this 9-minute short as a student final piece at an advanced directing workshop, makes his festival premiere.
Here's the trailer: The Restaurant