Friday, May 20, 2022

I Mustache You

Poor, dearest Abby. Obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and agoraphobia are aligned against her, quashing her big life-in-New York dream. The city lights, the shopping, and the bustling's all so close yet elusive, huddled as she is inside her modest apartment. She might as well ditch it all and move upstate, or Iowa for that matter, because she's paying all this rent for next to nothing. 

Then something happens. Something exciting, mysterious and yes romantic! She receives an anonymous love letter, and suddenly the magic of the Big Apple is not only possible but alive in her heart. It doesn't matter who wrote the letter or whether they're at all a match. The outside world is suddenly not so frightening, after all, and now she can finally take down this town and show everyone who's on top. 

Filmmaker Shara Ashley Zeiger produced this film entirely MOS (a film biz acronym representing "without sound" in German), and it's a brilliant choice. Abby's inner dialogue is not audible, anyway, and she doesn't need to say a thing to get a little needed help. You can watch the trailer here: I Mustache You Trailer

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Something in the Clouds

When a 14-year-old boy witnesses a kidnapping on his normally quiet, residential street, he's understandably shocked. Feeling a sense of panic over the situation unfolding, he gathers his thoughts. Something needs to be done, and fast, but should a kid his age really tackle an emergency or should he call for proper help? 

The problem is a lack of time. The car is getting away and there may be only one chance to save his trapped neighbor. Then the boy remembers his father's words about bravery and always doing the right thing. Springing into action, he races outside, hops on his bike and chases after the speeding car. It's a wild pursuit and his adrenaline is sky high. 

There is one more complication, too. The boy happens to be black, the girl is white, and they're on a collision course with the police. Nothing is going to stop him from saving her in this critical moment, even at risk of a misunderstanding with law enforcement. He has little time for such thoughts now. He's going to save the girl, period. 

Co-directors Josh Sikkema and Johnny Ray both grew up in Michigan before heading to Los Angeles, where their accomplishments include working with top recording artists such as the Rolling Stones and Snoop Dogg. Their story arcs have given them much to say and the talent to say it well. Something in the Clouds is a thought-provoking film that will stop you in your tracks. It asks everyone to take a few moments to reflect and weigh before making any life-or-death judgment. 

You can watch the trailer here: 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Haunted by memories of their journey to Auschwitz in a dimly lit boxcar, an American couple searches for a refuge from decades of pain. They find this special place on the dance floor, a realm where they can be as intimate as ever while keeping their trajectories, both physical and emotional, under their own control. 

Esteemed director Alyn Darnay brings considerable experience to this indie project from Florida, but BOXED is only his second film about the Holocaust. It's a novel break from many films about this period of history, too, because Darnay's theme is more about triumph than suffering. 

After a nightmarish experience, this husband-and-wife team finds a way to live and move forward. You can watch the trailer here: BOXED Trailer

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Call Now

A man is glued to his TV set while the shopping channel touts a whizbang new vacuum cleaner; his own unit is on the blink. The host of the show is one oily pitchman, so the viewer quickly fumbles for his credit card and grabs a phone. 

Too bad that all-important phone number keeps flashing across the screen before he can write it down. Moreover, the emcee is sporting a grin, which is maddening. Needing that gosh-darn vacuum cleaner more than anything, and worried it might sell out, the man persists. 

After a few minutes of this lopsided dynamic, one begins to wonder whether the man on the TV is just messing with a wannabe consumer. That would be impossible, of course, because everyone knows a TV host can't interact with the audience at home. Ahem—the world envisioned by Kutztown University College of Visual and Performing Arts student Cody Hawley is strange indeed. You can watch the trailer here: Call Now Trailer

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Raised Up West Side

Many films screened at the New Hope Film Festival are made from a perspective of advancing the culture and improving people's lives, and this documentary is a great example, as it delves into the many challenges facing Chicago's West Side. Known for gun violence and, at least among non-residents, not much else, this predominantly black section of the third largest city in the United States exists in a vortex of mass incarceration, food insecurity and disparate life expectancy. 

But there is hope. Featuring interviews with ex-offenders, social workers and entrepreneurs, Raised Up West Side exposes many kinds of problems, but also offers ideas and solutions. Along the way, the film reveals how pride, clarity and tenacity can exist within a community even as many residents feel overwhelmed and abandoned. 

It's easy to be hardened by the troubles of the world, and certainly many folks in this urban community have experienced hard circumstances. At times, their lives have been pure hell. To his great credit, producer/director Brett A. Schwartz made this constructive film all about the antidote to such numbness: caring, then doing something thoughtful about it. You can watch the trailer here: Raised Up West Side Trailer

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Call of Water

Set in the lush Rocky Mountains of Colorado, this independently produced short film started as an NYU Tisch School of the Arts thesis project until the COVID pandemic shut down educational institutions. From that challenging position, helmer Kaya Tone continued undaunted, drawing from her rich imagination, childhood memories of the area and a talented filmmaking team. The rock-strewn, unpaved road to completing The Call of Water must have informed a storyboard that leads to quite trippy and existential places. 

High on mushrooms and faced with selling the family homestead, lead character Nadia plunges into the astral plane, coming face-to-face with a mythologically inspired creature called The Horned One. A guardian of the land and water, this strange being will release Nadia's soul back into her body only under certain conditions related to its captive's earthly responsibilities. Nadia is trapped inside her own imagination by something that exists outside her mind, and the only means of escape is to do the right thing. 

Tone produced the film with an ethical concern for the environment to the extent of running a green set; love for her Colorado homeland and the ecology in which it resides is evident throughout. Punctuating undercurrents of appreciation and longing with moments of fear, she hints that all can be swept away forever by unwise decisions. You can watch the trailer here: