Thursday, June 16, 2022

Breaking the Silence

This intensely personal documentary explores mental illness in an innovative way through the eyes of the filmmaker himself, because writer, director and producer Dara Sanandaji is the subject of his own film. Creating a movie about yourself is a professional and cinematic risk, to be sure, but Sanandaji pulls off the feat through extensive analysis and considerable use of expert testimony. He makes some assertions and observations, too.

Part of the project's success can be attributed to his fine education. Sanandaji earned a BA in Economics from Dartmouth in 2000 and a JD from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2006 before embarking on a career that ultimately led to filmmaking. At times, the film has an educational look and feel, making it a worthwhile experience for anyone who's interested in the subject of mental health. At the same time, the filmmaker's personal take on his condition is relatable to anyone who has experienced mental health issues firsthand. 

His surprising message? Mental illness is a bad thing, but it's not all bad. You can watch the trailer here: Breaking the Silence Trailer 

Love and Communication

When filmmaker James Christy Jr.  set out to write, produce and direct Love and Communication, he had something urgent to say. His son had been diagnosed with autism at the age of three, setting off a distressing whirlwind of efforts by Christy and his wife to obtain the best possible therapies. The couple quickly discovered a Kafkaesque landscape of conflicting advice, school officials in denial and seemingly endless online research. The situation no doubt put strain on their marriage while their child marked time at best. 

The whole ordeal is brought to light through this fictional, but true to life, narrative feature film. Christy's home base of Princeton, New Jersey, an area best known for stately homes and an Ivy League university, seems an unlikely place for a grinding struggle. Surely, they must have had the best doctors and healthcare options at their fingertips? 

Apparently not. Autism can strike any family, and Christy's affecting account suggests that the system around autism care needs to improve for everyone. You can watch the trailer here: Love and Communication Trailer

Sunday, June 12, 2022


Experimental films are typically more experienced than understood, stirring up thoughts and feelings about a work uniquely for each viewer. 

Wake is a surreal journey inside the unconscious mind of a young man. Two narratives run in parallel, with one involving him emerging from beneath sand on a beach while strange forces keep him shackled around the neck, and the other involving him watching static on an old TV set while an old fisherman evokes buried memories. 

Cinematic excellence makes the whole experience a visual and auditory treat despite the pervasively depressed mood. The story arc of the tormented man's life is left a mystery, but some apparent realities seep through the crashing waves of his island-like mind. In the end, Director Brendan Kissane leaves much to the imagination, perhaps asking his audience members to probe deeper to dig out their own, buried truths. You can watch the trailer here: Wake Trailer


A chef in a bustling Tel Aviv restaurant already has a lot on her plate, but when she returns to work after the COVID shutdown with no ability to taste and smell, the resurgent eatery descends into chaos. Louisa insists she can perform her job with sight and feel, but her conviction is not necessarily shared by others within her circle. 

This TV pilot features a sympathetic heroine who, like so many of us, struggles mightily to get back to normal after a brutal lockdown. Shot on location in Israel and produced, written and directed by Queens, New York-based helmer Amnon Carmi, Tasteless presents the look and feel of a city with sophisticated tastes, high expectations and a pragmatic ethos that one should either contribute or step aside. Carmi takes you to that exciting and challenging place, then lets you see what's happening behind the scenes, where talented professionals strive and make things work—despite it all.  

You can watch the trailer here: 

Saturday, June 11, 2022


A rock singer who has been constantly hounded and abused by her boyfriend has had enough. On the run from the creep, she stumbles into a photographer who has problems of his own. A friendship forms immediately and they're stronger together, but now action is needed. 

This social conscience film points to a sub-set of domestic violence that involves people who are not trapped by marriage, yet find themselves imperiled by someone else's twisted need for control. Queens, New York Writer and Director Guil Parreiras employs two types of abuse victims in the story, thus pointing out that victimhood comes in many forms. Furthermore, the film demonstrates that abusers will not necessarily limit their offenses to one person. 

Although painful to watch and hard-edged, Click draws you in. Moments of art enhance the humanity of the victims, making the offenses of the abuser even more detestable and alarming. You can watch the trailer here (parental discretion advised): Click Trailer

Friday, June 10, 2022


When a six-year-old girl named Yuanyuan finds her teacher and father in a spontaneous hug, her inexperienced mind cannot process the sight, but it sure feels odd and wrong. Compounding the problem, her unborn brother is bringing tension to the family. After a classmate describes the former situation as an affair, a term she doesn't really grasp, Yuanyuan sets off to create problems for her parents and, in turn, bring calm and stability back to the family's home. 

It's a bold plan, and naive, and this little girl in China is going to disturb the universe in a way she cannot control. Director Shiyue Xu, a native of Tianjin who studied film at Hofstra and the New York Film Academy, reveals a gentle, comic touch with this dramatic material. When combined with Xu's fine production values, the cheeky story delivers a well-aimed jab at dysfunctional marriages by showing how callow spouses who openly quarrel can look when compared with the children they affect. 

You can watch the trailer here: 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Inside Outside

This thoroughly modern project started when Co-Director Adrienne Mackey tapped into her game design and immersive theater backgrounds to offer an interactive experience to people who hike nature trails. It was a wild idea by her own reckoning, but it was also a timely and marketable concept. Soon she landed a collaboration deal with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) and incorporated—prepare for some 21st century terminology—locative immersive media experiences into the mix. If this all sounds a mite confusing, consider further that the project's architects have synthesized cutting-edge technologies with timeless Mother Nature and old-fashioned storytelling to create The Inside Outside. This short is one of 10 film spin-offs from the trail app series, and the section of trail presented in this episode runs straight through New Hope. 

Co-Director Nazlah Black (they/them) is an Administrative Associate at SwimPony, Mackey's interactive performing arts company, and they earn director's credits for the contribution. Self-described adventurers who jet between the east and west coasts when not indulging in passions for baking, watching esports and reading poetry, Black no doubt enhanced the film's whimsical spirit. Local author Erin McMillon and actor  Brian Anthony Wilson brought additional celebrity cred to the project. 

So much is going on around this not-quite-7-minute-long short film, an audience could not possibly discern the backstory from the narrative, which by the way is ghostly and subtly comic. But now you know the larger tale behind the making of this distinctive and quirky little film, and if your interest is piqued, you can watch the trailer here: The Inside Outside Trailer

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Mountains We Climb

After nailing a personal best at the 2019 Bucks County Classic professional cycling race, Chris Baccash looked forward to a promising future as an endurance athlete. The hard training and demanding lifestyle were paying off big via personal accomplishments, camaraderie and exceptional fitness. But all the burgeoning success went from flash to crash when he received an unsettling diagnosis. From that point forward, Baccash had much bigger hills to climb—indeed, a mountain, as the title of this documentary says.

A graduate of CB East High School, Director Ryan Canney has roots in the Bucks County area. A homespun, GoPro style of filmmaking, combined with his local affinity, manifests in a film with lots of sentimental appeal. Here is an example of an athlete whose achievements are more impressive than trophies. You can watch the trailer here: Mountains We Climb Trailer