Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Thoughts on Hostiles (2017) the first time through

On the verge of mustering out, an army captain is forced to take captured Native American chief and his family from New Mexico to Montana so he can die at home. He wants no part of it, but he is  not one to disobey orders, especially if it means he will lose his pension.  Along the way he will pick up a woman whose family was killed by raiders, fight off various forms of attack and have to come to terms with who he is.

HOSTILES was not what I expected. That is a good thing.

Billed in TV commercials as an action packed road trip, it is in fact a deliberately paced, thoughtful examination of our souls.It is a film that isn't action packed but has action. It has moments of intense violence and touching humanity.

I don't know were to begin discussing this film. It's not that there isn't anything to say but almost that there is too much to say. Literary in construction, I suspect some people may not like some of the thoughtful exchanges that pass between the traveler. This is a film with a lot on its mind. It is a film poses a good many questions such as who are we really? What is the cost of war? What is the cost of racism? and most importantly can we find a way back to being human? It is a film that makes a stab at answering, or if not answering then wrestling with, all of them as well a several dozen more.

A road movie of the soul, we are on a trip where all of the characters are going to have to deal with the crucibles of themselves. On the road and in close quarters, with no routine but the travel everyone has to face who they are, what they've done and how they feel or don't feel about it. It is a journey that could ultimately free them and return them to humanity or destroy them utterly, a fate that is faced by a few of the travelers. And if there was ever any hope of not having to face their pasts it goes out the window when they pick up a prisoner for transport. An fugitive soldier wanted for murder, he once served with Christian Bale's captain and he knows of Bale's dark deeds. Pleading to be let go, since he didn't do anything Bale hadn't done before, Bale has to find away to keep his charge in chains and his soul intact.

Along the way the film moves us to not just think, but to feel. Twists and violence bring us feelings of shock and awe. Seemingly small moments bring us to tears. This is a film that engages all of us on all levels.

I want to say more. I want to discuss what happens but as this posts HOSTILES is still only in selected theaters so most of you haven't yet had a chance to see it. I don't want to spoil this film by saying too much of what happens. Additionally I want to, nay I need to see this film again simply because this film surprised me so much I need to go back and link up some moments and really take in what happens so I can properly discuss them.

HOSTILES opens wide in theaters across the country Friday. It is highly recommended for anyone wanting an excellent movie or a thoughtful western

The Road Movie (2017)

Full disclosure at the start- I am a huge fan of  Russian and Eastern European dash cam videos. My reaction to the film must gauged by the fact that I've seen a good number of these videos as stand alones and as part of  amateur compilations of  the various footage.

70 minute long compilation of Russian dash-cam videos will either delight you or bore you to tears.
Made up of some bone crushing, WTF videos which have been stitched together to form a kind of an hour long POV road trip. Frequently mind bending this film is guaranteed to make you spill you popcorn all over the place since viewing it becomes a trip you can't escape from.

And if you have the option,  the biggest screen possible is the absolute way to go since it puts you in the car making the impacts all the more jarring because you can't look away and you never know what is going to happen next.

However as much as I like the film, and I do like the film, it never quite builds up a full head of steam thanks to uneven editing. While there are things that will amaze and take your breath away (driving through a forest fire or watching the roof of a building go sailing to name a few) the pacing is never consistent or expected. Rapid cuts of crashes will be capped with a crash and the long take of people stopping to help  follows it. Any rhythm is lost by the seeming random inclusion of a full video for no real reason.

On the other hand the fact that you never know wat is going to happen next keeps you interested. Also seeing this on a movie screen makes this a kind of "you are there" experience that transcends it's You Tube origin.

Recommended and a must see on the big screen.

Monday, January 15, 2018

From the Vault: Postwar Brit Noir plays at the Quad January 29 - February 1

In this new ongoing series the Quad unearths underseen gems from the Cohen Film Collection's archive. For this inaugural edition, we're pleased to present four darkly tinted Brit Noirs from the postwar era

Cast a Dark Shadow
Lewis Gilbert, 1955, UK, 82m, DCP
In this taut thriller, Dirk Bogarde plays a schemer who uses his charm to wed an older wealthy woman, then stages her death to look accidental and seeks out another victim.

Dancing with Crime
John Paddy Carstairs, 1947, UK, 83m, DCP
After his war buddy is killed by black marketers, Richard Attenborough sets about bringing them to justice, sending fiancée Sheila Sim undercover at the dance hall from which they operate.

Jigsaw
Val Guest, 1962, UK, 107m, DCP
An absorbing and entertaining murder mystery following Brighton policeman Jack Warner who pursues the murderer of a woman whose body is discovered in a lonely beach house.

Wanted For Murder
(aka A Voice in the Night)
Lawrence Huntington, 1946, UK, 103m, DCP
Respectable businessman Eric Portman acts out his obsession with his hangman father by picking up and strangling shopgirls—until the prospect of marriage gives him hope that he can overcome his serial killing ways.

The Cohen Film Collection (formerly The Rohauer Library) is a world-renowned archive of rare movie classics consisting of over 700 features and shorts that span 75 years of cinema. This treasure trove was amassed by Raymond Rohauer (1924–1987), the film curator of the Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art in New York, who devoted his life to collecting these distinguished films. This unique library was acquired by Charles S. Cohen in 2011, and is now undergoing systematic preservation and restoration to make it possible for these films to be available to today's filmgoers. The Cohen Film Collection continues to augment its library through the acquisition of classic art cinema from around the globe, ensuring that this varied collection will grow and expand for years to come.

NYJFF 2018 Capsule Reviews: THE COUSIN, THE IMPURE and THE INVISIBLES

THE COUSIN
When an Israeli actor hires a Palestinian handyman things take a turn for the worse after a woman is assaulted in the neighborhood.

Uneasy comedy thriller wit a strong political edge examines the bond between Palestinians and Israelis and how they view each other. While decidedly entertaining I kind of wish it adn't been trying to be so much about the political subtext.

THE IMPURE
Solid documentary about the immigration of thousands of Eastern European Jews into Argentina at the turn of the 20th century. Many were mislead into going to the country only to be forced into prostitution while others turned tricks to survive. Director Daniel Najenson turns our notion of the whys and hows upside down by revealing is own families history. An excellent piece of filmmaking  that quietly reveals the truth that our history is rarely the simple tales written down but someting much more complex.
Recommended

THE INVISIBLES
Documentary/drama hybrid tells the story of four of the almost 2000 Jews who is in plain site in Berlin during the war. This is a very good if slightly over long film highlighting stories I'm guessing most people were completely unaware of. This is a film tat grabs you and sucks you in partly because you don't believe they did it and partly because you want to see what happens. Definitely one to see when it plays at the festival.

For more information and tickets to any of these films go here

Sunday, January 14, 2018

THE DEAD NATION (2017) NYJFF 2018


Radu Jude's documentary of life in Romania from 1937 to 1944 is going to either thrill or annoy the audience. Made up of photographs by photographer Costica Acsitne over which period music, speeches and excerpts from the diary of Dr  Emil Dorian the film seeks to reveal what life was life in the country on the small scale and the large.

Mirroring the work of filmmakers like Chris Marker who used a similar technique, DEAD NATION is at times a heady mix of words and images. However on a personal level the film never truly clicked with me. The problem was that I could not make the words connect with the image except fleetingly wit the result that this is a film I like more than I love. On the other hand I have spoke with a couple of colleagues who found the film rapturous since they connected with the film and what it is trying to do.

Despite my lack of emotional connection this is still a powerful film. The film's portrait of the antisemitism running through the country is often chilling because of the narrations you are there at tat moment description. Additionally when the word and image come together it is a powerful portrait of a country and a time and place most of us are not familiar with.

Very much worth a look.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Mission of Raoul Wallenberg (1990) NYJFF 2018

One of my heroes is Raoul Wallenberg. He was assigned to the Swedish Embassy in Budapest in 1944 and quickly proceeded to save as many Jews as he could, with the number put around 100,000. What endeared him to me was his absolute drive to do the right thing even to the point of telling Nazi officers that they were losing the war and if they didn't respect the papers he had given the Jews , he would make sure that they were punished after the war.

While Wallenberg did so much in roughly six months many people still don't know who he is because in January 1945, he got into a car and disappeared off the face of the earth. All tat is certain is tat te Soviets picked him, but after that noting. THE MISSION OF RAOUL WALLENBERG is a film looking into the mystery.

Released in 1990 and now being screened at the New York Jewish Film Festival in a new restoration, the film seeks to probe the disappearance as best it can. Following leads, the filmmakers talk to people claiming to have seen Wallenberg after his arrest as well as Wallenberg's sister and brother as they travel trough Russia looking for answers. The film also seeks to speculate as to the reasons why it happened. Nothing is clear and in the 28 years since the film was released even more twists and turns have emerged (for example he as connection to the American OSS).

A wonderful puzzle box of a film this is a trip down a rabbit hole. Plots are speculated, false leads are followed and very few answers are arrived at- though it's clear there was a KGB file since his possessions ad to come from somewhere. I was enthralled.

As good and as trippy the film does have two minor flaws. The first, which isn't really a flaw as such, is that the film can be light on details concerning Wallenberg's life. This is about the search and not the man so if you don't know the man you may feel lost. The second minor issue is that after almost 30 years the film could have used some sort of brief updating. In the intervening more facts (The OSS and Sweden declaring him dead) have been discovered as well as new possible answers (e may have been executed) have arisen. While not necessary a brief post script would have helped make it clear that even 73 years on people are still looking for answers.

A great documentary and highly recommended when it plays the New York Jewish Film Festival.

For tickets and more information go here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Vazante (2017)

I was lured into seeing Daniela Thomas's VAZANTE (The Surge) because the listings I found listed it as an action adventure. An action film it is not. Nor is is it really an adventure. It is instead a slow burn drama with one hell of an ending.

In 1821, a rich land owner returns home with a load of slaves and gifts for his wife and soon to be born child. Unbeknownst to him both wife and child have died in child birth. Filled with grief he eventually marries his wife's niece. However he returns to wandering while is new wife is left alone with the slaves.

Slow building drama is a beautiful exercise in mood and place. Watching this film in a darkened theater you can't help but feel all sorts of emotions including dread, isolation and madness. The rich cinematography is a kind of extra character with each image filling in volumes that the characters never express.

The sense of place and of isolation felt in this film is rare. I'm hard pressed to name a film outside of the work of Werner Herzog where you not only feel that you really are some place remote, but also that there was no one there but the characters (not actors) and a cameraperson recording reality.

Amazing.

This is a special film, but it is also not for all audiences. This film is moves at a methodical pace. We are in a place and in a time and things more according to that time. If you can't click with the film's deliberate pacing you are going to feel bored. If you can click with the pacing  then you are going to moved by the film, since the film is all about the ending.

Currently in theaters  VAZANTE is recommended

The New York International Children's Film Festival announces the first films for 2018






NEW YORK INT’L CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES 2018 OPENING NIGHT, OPENING SPOTLIGHT, CENTERPIECE, AND INAUGURAL VR JR. MINI-FEST


OPENING NIGHT: Masaaki Yuasa’s LU OVER THE WALL
OPENING SPOTLIGHT: Alexandre Espigares’ WHITE FANG
CENTERPIECE: Netflix’s A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS:
SEASON 2, THE AUSTERE ACADEMY PARTS 1 & 2


VR JR., NYICFF’s first Virtual Reality mini-fest,
includes WOLVES IN THE WALLS and SON OF JAGUAR








Clockwise: Lu Over the Wall, White Fang, Wolves in the Walls, A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 2



NEW YORK (January 11, 2018) – The Oscar® qualifying New York International Children’s Film Festival has announced their 2018 Opening Night, Opening Spotlight, Centerpiece, and an inaugural Virtual Reality mini-fest. The 21st anniversary of the Festival will run from February 23rd – March 18th. Established in 1997, the Festival is the nation’s largest for children and teens and will present animated, live action, documentary, and experimental shorts and features from approximately 30 countries. Tickets go on sale January 17th for members and January 24th for the general public at www.nyicff.org.

This year’s Festival opens on Friday, February 23rd, with the East Coast premiere of anime auteur Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over the Wall. Boasting a distinctive, off-kilter animation style, eye-popping color palette, and outrageous music, Yuasa’s latest gem is, at its core, a captivating coming of age story. The eponymous Lu is a manic mermaid with a show-stopping voice who helps Kai, a gifted teenager unfulfilled by small-town life, discover his own. Winner of the Grand Prize Cristal Award at Annecy 2017, Lu evokes charming hints of Miyazaki, but claims a frenetic energy and surreal, freewheeling structure all its own.

Rounding out Opening Weekend is the Saturday, February 24th, Opening Spotlight screening of Academy Award®-winning director and NYICFF alum Alexandre Espigares’ debut feature, White Fang. An ambitious animated retelling of the classic Jack London novel, White Fang employs the voice work of Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman, Eddie Spears, and Paul Giamatti to tell the epic journey of White Fang’s life from pup to sled-dog to abused prizefighter and beyond, set in the gorgeously rendered landscape of the Pacific Northwest frontier.

On Saturday, March 10, NYICFF presents a special sneak peek Centerpiece screening of The Austere Academy: Parts 1 & 2, the highly-anticipated first episodes of Netflix’s original program A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 2. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and based on the Lemony Snicket series by Daniel Handler, this lauded adaptation is hailed as having “a respect for the ability of young minds to perceive offbeat, incongruous humor, the very quality that made the books so successful in the first place” (The New York Times). The new season returns with an all-star cast, including the brilliant Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, and plenty of nefarious schemes to catch the Baudelaire orphans. Season 2 releases March 30 only on Netflix.

The 2018 Festival will also showcase the inaugural edition of VR JR., a full weekend of Virtual Reality experiences, a special VR creators’ talk, and demos uniquely curated to provide a thoughtful point of entry for children and families to explore this new medium. Taking place Saturday and Sunday, March 3 and 4, the pioneering program showcases the latest VR projects that place kids at the helm of their own immersive story world. Projects include the East Coast premiere of the Neil Gaiman picture book adaptation Wolves in the Walls, directed by Pete Billington, and Golden Globe-nominated director Jorge Gutiérrez’s Son of Jaguar, a new Google Spotlight Story placing viewers into the story of a family of Mexican wrestlers.


OPENING NIGHT:

● LU OVER THE WALL, dir. Masaaki Yuasa (Japan) – 2018, East Coast premiere, Animation, 107 minutes

Though obedient to his family, Kai’s quiet life in a traditional Japanese seaside town starts to rock and roil when he secretly joins a band with his classmates. His true interest is where they practice —on the foreboding Merfolk Island—a place that turns out to be even wilder than the town lore suggests. Enter Lu: a mermaid girl with the soul and voice of a pop star, who steals the show in this shape-shifting, musical/anime hybrid.

OPENING SPOTLIGHT:

● WHITE FANG, dir. Alexandre Espigares (France/Luxembourg/USA) – 2018, East Coast premiere, Animation, 85 minutes

NYICFF alum and Oscar®-winning short film director Alexandre Espigares returns with his feature debut, a thrilling and thought-provoking adaptation of Jack London’s classic tale. White Fang and his fellow canines call the rugged beauty of the Yukon territory home, but with the Gold Rush of the 1890s they are thrust against the harsh life of profit-seeking prospectors. Will the tribal leader or a new peacekeeping couple offer White Fang another path?

CENTERPIECE:

● A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS: SEASON 2, THE AUSTERE ACADEMY, dirs. Barry Sonnenfeld and Daniel Handler (USA) – 2018, Special Preview Screening, Live Action, 98 minutes (Parts 1 & 2)

Join us for an exclusive sneak peek as the delightfully dark and witty Lemony Snicket Series goes from book to screen in season two of the Netflix original.The ever-intrepid Baudelaire siblings--Violet, Klaus, and Sunny--are back, still plagued by the evil Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) and his troupe. The challenges mount, but shabby disguises, nefarious schemes, and very big words don’t faze this resourceful trio. They won’t relent until they unlock the secret to their parents’ disappearance and enlighten a few less literate adults along the way. Season 2 launches March 30, only on Netflix.

VIRTUAL REALITY:

● VR JR., Interactive VR Experiences and VR JR. Talk

We’re bringing our high-quality, innovative programming into new digital realms, offering the first dedicated Virtual Reality mini-fest for kids and families. A dynamic, interactive experience presented over the course of a full weekend, VR JR. will feature exciting VR projects, special talks, and demos. Just as we’ve made the enjoyment of artful, international films an accessible experience for young audiences, we're excited to do the same for VR. Explore a new facet of creative production with immersive experiences Wolves in the Walls, Son of Jaguar, and more at VR JR.



ABOUT NEW YORK INT’L CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL

Distinguished by its unique mission and high-caliber programming, New York International Children’s Film Festival was founded in 1997 to support the creation and dissemination of thoughtful, provocative, and intelligent film for children and teens ages 3-18. Celebrating its 21st year in 2018, the flagship New York City Festival takes place February 23 - March 18, and has grown from one weekend of films into the largest film festival for children and teens in North America. Presenting consistently sold-out screenings for the general public and weekday screenings for school groups throughout New York City over the course of four weeks at venues throughout the city, the Festival’s rich and dynamic film program -– drawn from roughly 2,500 international submissions – boasts over 100 short and feature films, filmmaker Q&As, retrospective programs, parties, premieres, audience voting, and a Closing Night celebration. The Festival is an Academy Award® qualifying festival, one of only four film festivals in New York State – and only two children’s film festivals in the country – to hold that honor with the Festival’s esteemed jury selecting the qualifying films. The Festival experience cultivates an appreciation for the arts, encourages active, discerning viewing, and stimulates lively discussion among peers, families, and the film community.

In addition to presenting the annual event, New York International Children’s Film Festival is a multifaceted arts organization that offers year-round engagement, including a nationwide touring program, filmmaking camps, and Film-Ed educational field trips for public and private schools, with free or reduced cost school programs offering equal access to the art of film for all. Goldfish Colors is a Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 Festival. New York International Children’s Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and a Humanities New York Action Grant. Girls' POV programming is supported by Eileen Fisher and Sony USA Foundation. Film-Ed is supported by AMC Cares. Japanese films at the Festival are supported by Japan-United States Friendship Commission.

NYICFF 2018 information:
www.nyicff.org / 212-349-0330

Sammy Davis Jr- I Gotta Be Me (2017) NYJFF 2018

Sam Pollard's look at the great performer Sammy Davis Jr is a trilling watch. A look at the man's life through the ups and downs is going to make you want to keep watching and listening to Davis for days afterward.

Moving at a brisk pace the film covers everything you need to know about the man from winning a talent contest a three to upstaging Ethel Waters at 7 or 8, the seismic appearance with Eddie Cantor in the early days of TV  on to the Rat Pack, his political activism and his death. It's all here and it's all amazing.

As a life long Davis fan I was in heaven. My one regret is I never saw him live (I had saved for a long time to buy tickets to see him only to have illness take him). Seeing this film on the big screen was magical.You really get a sense of just how good he was and how he managed to help open the doors for those who followed him.

This is a great documentary whose only flaw is that even running 100 minutes is much too short to fully do Davis justice. Davis did so much that the film either can't cover it or breezes over it.

Still this is a must see and highly recommended. One of the Best films at the New York Jewish Film Festival

For tickets and more go here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 Milwaukee Film Festival Opens Call For Entries

Free Entry for All Films; Festival Offers To Pay for Work That Is Screened

MILWAUKEE – Thursday, January 11, 2018Milwaukee Film is now accepting entries for the 10th annual Milwaukee Film Festival. Works of all genres, forms, and lengths will be considered. The deadline for all entries is Monday, June 25, 2018. The festival offers free submission for all films and, for the third consecutive year, Milwaukee Film will offer to pay for all work that is screened in the festival.

Support is also given to filmmakers through cash awards.This year, the following juried cash awards will be presented, with additional possible awards to be announced prior to the festival:

●      Herzfeld Competition Award ($10,000)
●      Cream City Cinema Jury Award ($5,000)
●      Milwaukee Music Video Award ($5,000)
●      Black Lens Jury Award ($5,000)
●      Documentary Jury Award ($5,000)
●      Cream City Cinema College Filmmaker Award ($2,500)
●      Shorter Is Better Award ($1,000)
●      Kids Choice Short Film Award ($1,000)
There will also be two non-juried audience awards, presented by Allan H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig.
The entry form and complete information regarding eligibility for the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival Call for Entries is available at http://mkefilm.org/call-for-entries. Questions about submissions may be directed to entry@mkefilm.org.
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About Milwaukee Film
Milwaukee Film is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to entertaining, educating, and engaging our community through cinematic experiences. The 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival will take place from October 18 - November 1, 2018. For more information, visit us online at mkefilm.org.

Facebook: facebook.com/MilwaukeeFilm | Twitter: @mkefilm | Instagram: @mkefilm

About the Milwaukee Film Board of Directors
Milwaukee Film’s independent board is made up of the following members: Chris Abele (Past President); John P. Bania; Donna Baumgartner; Elizabeth Brenner; Karen Ellenbecker; Alexander P. Fraser (President); Cecelia Gore; Bill Haberman (Past President); Susan Haise; Katie Heil; Patti Keating Kahn; Michael G. Klein; Tracey L. Klein (Immediate Past President); Michael J. Koss Jr.; Kenneth C. Krei; Mary Ann LaBahn; Alexander Lasry; Steve Laughlin (Past President); Emilia Layden; Michael Lovell; Marianne Lubar; Sara Meaney; Mark Mone; Kenneth W. Muth; Barry Poltermann; Bob Pothier; John Ridley; Joseph A. Rock; Ramona Rogers-Windsor; Lacey Sadoff; Dave Stamm; Julia Taylor; John Utz. Emeritus members: Tom Barrett, Jacqueline Strayer.

First Look ’18: Railway Sleepers

If you ever book a ticket on Thailand’s rail system, make sure you have forty or fifty baht in your pocket. That is because there are no shortage of hawkers selling tasty sounding street food like fried peanuts, fermented pork, and pork dumplings for a mere ten baht. Of course, most western tourists are up in first class, where you can enjoy some fine dining during overnights. Sompot “Boat” Chidgasornpongse documents the breadth and diversity of Thai society, as reflected by the passengers of each and every line of the Thai railroad in Railway Sleepers which screens during this year’s First Look at the Museum of the Moving Image.

There is something soothing (or lulling) about rail travel, as the frequently dozing passengers remind us. It is not called Railway Sleepers for nothing. Chidgasornpongse is mostly content to observe, offering commentary sparingly and obliquely, as when the aisles are suddenly patrolled by heavily armed soldiers rather than fried peanut vendors.

We clearly see passengers who are rich and poor, old and young, and Buddhist and Muslim. Unfortunately, we just see them and rarely listen to them converse, which is a shame, because they probably have a lot of interesting things to say. In fact, that is why J.P. Sniadeki’s thematically similar The Iron Ministry was such a rich and engaging viewing experience. It essentially immersed viewers in the man-on-the-street opinions and concerns of a wide cross-section of Chinese society. In contrast, Sleepers is really about how the passengers relate to the train itself.

Still, Chidgasornpongse has a keen eye for imagery and the involvement of his former mentor-boss Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul is sure to spur interest on the festival circuit. It does stimulate train-based nostalgia. If you went to school in the Midwest, you maybe miss the sound of distant train whistles when you’re turning in around 3:00 in the morning. Yet, it just doesn’t stimulate on a social-intellectual level the way Iron Ministry does (but, it should be granted that is a really good documentary).

Those who are admirers of the Sensory Ethnology Lab’s documentaries (which indeed includes Ministry, as well as Sniadecki’s Yumen and People’s Park) should definitely appreciate Railway Sleepers, but even Joe Weerasethakul fans might catch their heads nodding. Best saved for an elite slow cinema-vérité audience, Railway Sleepers screens this Sunday (1/14), as part of First Look 2018, at MoMI.

Saturday Church (2017)

Damon Cardasis's SATURDAY CHURCH is a masterpiece. It is a wonderful film about finding yourself and finding a place you fit in. It is a one of a kind film that must be seen.

Ulysses is a teenage boy who is a shy and effeminate boy. He likes wearing women's clothing, something tat causes him no end of trouble. Uncertain of who he is and where he belongs, he stumbles into Saturday Church a program for LGBTQ youth. There he finds a place where he can open up and be who he is. Unsure of how the two worlds will see each other he struggles to keep his regular life and church separate. However when the two collide his life is thrown into disarray.

When SATURDAY CHURCH played Tribeca last year anyone who saw it loved it. Word was so good that I rearranged my schedule to see it because few films at Tribeca result in that much universal love. I saw the film, loved it, but never fully reviewed it because  a miscommunication about who was covering it resulted in only a brief capsule being posted. I didn't realize it until I saw that the film was coming out and I went to rerun the review only to find there wasn't anything to rerun. It was clear I had to see the film again and get something up.

This is a great film.

Refusing to be anything but itself this is a film that kind of defies classification. A heartfelt look at feeling as though you are an outsider it doesn't skim on either the good or bad emotion. We feel the pain of being unstuck in our lives and we feel the joy of finding a place to belong. Director Cardasis always manages to balance the emotions perfectly so  we feel the terror of Ulysses bible thumping aunt but at the same time he never lets Regina Taylor's performance fall completely into being a one note villain.

Cardasis also manages to blend in the musical performances (did I forget to tell you this is a musical?) perfectly. The songs come at perfect times and they manage to enhance both the emotion and plot by never going for a showstopper in a small moment.

How and why this film isn't getting a bigger buzz confounds me. This is a great great film that needs to be seen and shared. That more people haven't been talking about the film I can only chalk up to not enough people seeing the film yet. Certainly anyone who as seen it will always have it rattling around in their brain- I certainly do.

Simply put this is a beautifully made and wonderfully acted film that worms it's way into your heart and carries you along.

Highly recommended.

SATURDAY CHURCH opens in NY and LA tomorrow as well as hitting all VOD platforms

LET YOURSELF GO (2017) NYJFF 2018


Misanthropic psychologist Elia's life is a mess. He falls asleep on his patients, his wife is getting fed up ad things just don't seem right. When a health scare send him to the gym he ends up working with personal trainer Claudia a flighty young woman with her own problems. Forced by fate to work together the pair slowly begin to repair their own lives.

Charming and increasingly funny film is just what the doctor ordered. A mix of situational comedy and a bit of slapstick the film has something for everyone, especially if you like to laugh. Initally I was not particularly impressed with the film, smiling more than I was laughing, but once the ELia meets Claudia and the characters are allowed to run free and grow I rapidly warmd to them and the film with the result that my smiles turned to belly laughs.

Absolutely enjoyable and worth your time.

This film plays Saturday at the New York Jewish Film Festival. For more information and tickets go here

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

St. Clair Bourne, a Retrospective of the Towering Documentarian and Those He Mentored, at Metrograph Beginning February 16


St. Clair Bourne

A Retrospective of the Towering Documentarian, Including Works by
Filmmakers He Mentored, On the Occassion of His 75th Birthday
St. Clair Bourne, Harlem-born and Brooklyn-bred, was a towering figure in the documentary film world: a filmmaker, writer, activist, teacher and organizer. Bourne passed away in 2007, yet his body of work, an essential chronicle of African-American life, and influence is enough for many lifetimes. In honor of his 75th birthday, Metrograph pays tribute to Bourne’s legacy beginning February 16, from his early days as a producer, director and cameraman for the pioneering series Black Journal (including colleagues Lou Potter, William Greaves, Kent Garrett and Madeline Anderson), to the founding of the journal Chamba Notes, the Black Documentary Collective (BDC) and BADWest (Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West). Screenings include selections from a career dedicated to portraying what was ignored by mainstream media representation, along with work from a number of the many filmmakers Bourne mentored, films on which he assisted, and many other projects that came to fruition due to Bourne’s engagement, ingenuity and passion.
With very special thanks to Judith Bourne, Rafee Kamaal, and Sabrina S. Gordon, Black Documentary Collective.
Films by St. Clair Bourne
 
The Black and the Green (1983/45 mins/16mm)
Something to Build On (1971/29 mins/16mm)
One of Bourne’s greatest films, The Black and the Green documents a meeting of the minds in Northern Ireland, as activists discuss parallels and differences between the Black American and Irish liberation struggles. Bourne said the film “ends up seeming pro-Irish Republican Army in the same sense that a film about Selma in the ‘60s might have ended up seeming pro-black, but then I’m a filmmaker from the ‘60s. I try to be humanistically political.” Screening with Something to Build On; simultaneously a documentary and an instructional film, Bourne here creates a unique hybrid that presents new, community-based alternatives to traditional higher education, as well as ideas for students on post-high school options.

In Motion: Amiri Baraka (1983/60 mins/Video)
This video portrait, filmed in the days leading up to Amiri Baraka’s appeal of his 90- day sentence for resisting arrest following an argument in his car outside the 8th Street Playhouse movie theater, documents Baraka at his radio show, at home with his wife and children, and performing at readings. It is a delicate vision of a revolutionary who has grown quieter—though never at rest, and as sage as ever.

Langston Hughes: The Dream Keeper (1988/60 mins/16mm)
Described by Bourne as “a narrative performance documentary,” this category-defiant film on the life of poet and writer Langston Hughes and the times in which he lived and worked moves from America to Senegal to Paris, from the 1920s Harlem Renaissance to the Black Pride awakening of the 1960s. Scriptwriter Leslie Lee adapts her then-new biography of Hughes, while the film offers the additional the insights of luminaries including Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, and James Baldwin.

Let the Church Say Amen (1973/67 mins/16mm)
Another of Bourne’s undisputed classics, made at the precocious age of 30, is revealing, dramatic and poignant, both the story of a young minister finding himself and his place in religious life, and the significance of the church in African-American life during a time of new consciousness. Edited by Bourne’s former Black Journal colleague, filmmaker Madeline Anderson.

Making 'Do the Right Thing' (1989/60 mins/16mm)
Statues Hardly Ever Smile (Stan Lathan/1971/21 mins/Digital)

More than a behind-the-scenes portrait of the making of a film classic, Bourne brings to life the tremendous scope and ambition of Lee’s triumph (made when he was barely in his thirties) as he works with actors and oversees an entire city block of activity for weeks of shooting. A masterpiece of a portrait of the artist at work. Screening with Stan Lathan’s Statues Hardly Ever Smile, in which children observe and discuss the art in the Brooklyn Museum, answering Marker and Resnais’ Statues Also Die in their own voice. Bourne was a DP on this small, perfect film, with an all-star production team: in addition to being directed by Lathan, Kent Garrett produced and Kathleen Collins edited.

New Orleans Brass (1989/25 mins/Digital)
Big City Blues (1986/28 mins/Video)
Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band (Carol Bash/2015/68 mins/DCP)
Two music films showing the ease with which Bourne could move from subject to subject, made with a grace and interest which other filmmakers would reserve for a particular area of expertise, that are simultaneously works of historical value, catching great musicians on camera to be appreciated for years to come. Screening with Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band, the story of the unsung jazz genius: a pianist, composer and arranger. “Saint raised money to do a film about Mary Lou Williams in the ‘70s, but it never came to fruition. I kept this memory in mind as I pushed through to complete my documentary. I stand on his shoulders, like so many of us.”—Carol Bash.

John Henrik Clark: A Great and Mighty Walk (1996/94 mins/Digital)

With this film, screened at Sundance and narrated and co-produced by Wesley Snipes, Bourne demonstrates the extent of his ability to coordinate talent and resources towards the goal of a film that educates the uninitiated and places Clarke front and center, speaking in his own voice, as a teacher, scholar and Pan-Africanist, with a long interview that weaves throughout the film.

Paul Robeson: Here I Stand (1999/117 mins/Digital)
A perfect meeting of subject and filmmaker, Bourne’s epic is one of his greatest achievements. A biography that instantly became the definitive work on Robeson, and a master class in the synthesis of archival research and modern documentary filmmaking. A rightful classic of the form.
Films by Collaborators and Assisted by St. Clair Bourne
 
American Promise (Michéle Stephenson and Joe Brewster/2014/135 mins/DCP)
Thirteen years in the making, following two middle class African-American boys navigating life at a prestigious Manhattan prep school, and the implicit bias and systemic racism of elite private schooling. Stephenson, a co-founder, with St. Clair Bourne, of the Black Documentary Collective, writes, “His revolutionary vision, philosophy and guidance is needed more today than ever. I miss him. He is present with me in all the work I do.”

Brothers Hypnotic (Reuben Atlas/2013/94 mins/Digital)
From a family of twenty-four on Chicago’s South Side, these are the real life brothers of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, brought up on a strict diet of jazz, funk and Black consciousness, raising brass horns as they play around the world. St. Clair Bourne started on the project before introducing director Atlas to Sam Pollard, who produced the lm, and served as a mentor yet again on the project of a young filmmaker making his first documentary.

The Deadliest Disease in America (Crystal Emery/2018/56 mins/Digital)
Clearly highlighting the unequal treatment that individuals often receive based on the color of their skin, Emery’s film is a direct hit on racism in the health care system, what to do about it, and the responsibilities of individuals and institutions to overcome the racial and ethnic inequities in comprehensive health care reform. St. Claire Bourne was a friend and mentor to filmmaker Crystal Emery, and the production supervisor on this film. 


Innocent Until Proven Guilty (Kirsten Johnson/1999/65 mins/Digital)
A critical look at the criminal justice system which traces the first year of an alternative high school for juvenile ex-offenders, co-founded by James Forman Jr. (author of this year’s Locking Up Our Own). Of Executive Producer Bourne, Johnson writes “...in his fierce commitment to exposing the mechanisms and destructive powers of racism he remained ever warm as he challenged my young white self to face and struggle with the ways racism lives in images as well as systems.”

The Long Night (Woodie King Jr./1976/85 mins/35mm)
Produced by St. Clair Bourne, and directed by theater legend King, this is the story of one night in the life of a boy spent on the street, encountering the denizens of mid-1970s Harlem, while commenting on Vietnam, marital discord, substance abuse, paternal relationships, schooling, and unemployment—in short, the life of an American family.

On My Own (Rachel Miller Bradshaw/2014/53 mins/Digital)
Shattering the stigma of single motherhood, and a sweeping journey through the discourse of black family life in the US, through conversations with mothers, fathers, community leaders and family experts. “St. Clair’s bold work reflecting the African- American experience influenced my editorial direction. His filmmaking was a blueprint of integrity for directing I applied when telling the stories of all the subjects featured.”—Rachel Miller Bradshaw

Promised Land (Yaruba Richen/2010/53 mins/Digital)
Promised Land follows two black communities in South Africa as they struggle to reclaim their land from white owners and create just solutions, amidst rising tensions and wavering government policies. Filmmaker Yoruba Richen cites St. Claire Bourne as a mentor, who organized a Los Angeles work-in-progress screening that provided the film visibility and momentum.

A Question of Color (Kathe Sandler/1992/56 mins/16mm)
Of this, one of the best docs of the decade, filmmaker Sandler writes, “I wanted to shed light on a recurring theme in human relations: how opposed people adapt and internalize the very views their oppressor has used to oppress them...that issues of color consciousness are also real for other people of color—in the Caribbean, in Africa, in Latin America, and in Asia—who have experienced similar forms of domination. I also wanted to tackle the intersection of gender and color: the position of men over women that seems to further oppress and divide black women.”

Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela (Thomas Allen Harris/2005/75 mins/Digital)
A lesser-known story from the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa about the generation of young men who left their country to clandestinely build the African National Congress (ANC) and spread its liberation message. One of many great films by Harris on which Bourne advised and assisted, who shares the common refrain from filmmakers of “the extent of appreciation for [Saint’s] honesty, activism, support and nurturance of their work and careers.”

Wilhemina's War (June Cross/2016/61 mins/DCP)
The story of a South Carolina grandmother’s struggle to destigmatize HIV in her community. "Saint often spoke of reporting on African-Americans that was done from the point of view of mainstream journalists reporting on a sub-culture and his work which identifies with the subjects he filmed. Working as a journalist and activist, I serve as Wilhemina’s conduit and translator to help tell her story to the world.”
— June Cross

The series starts February 16

PRAISE THE LARD and THE RED HOUSE NYJFF 2018

PRAISE THE LARD
Portrait of the pork market in Israel. If that sounds odd it is because pork is not kosher, however an entire industry exists to provide pork to those who don't keep kosher or who aren't Jewish.

A very good and very breezy film looking at the battle of dietary religous laws and the human love of pork products.

It plays with

THE RED HOUSE
Excellent short documentary on the life and times of one building in Tel Aviv and how what happened there mirrored what was going on in the city and the country during the same period of time.

Hands down one of the best films at the New York Jewish Film Festival and one of the first great films you'll see in 2018.

Both films play tomorrow at the New York Jewish FIlm Festival. For more information and tickets go here.

The second Have Sword Will Travel happens at the Quad Sun January 28, 7.15pm

Here is the Quad's press release on the next installment of HAVE SWORD WILL TRAVEL

For our second installment of this new monthly series exploring the multifaceted figure of the knight errant in East Asian films, we're proud to present this double bill of Zatoichi on the Road (on 35mm!) and Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance. Co-presented and programmed by Subway Cinema and the Quad

Zatoichi on the Road
(aka Zatoichi and the Scoundrels)
Kimiyoshi Yasuda, 1963, Japan, 87m, 35mm
To honor the will of a dying man, Zatoichi, a blind masseur, agrees to escort a distressed maiden back to her family. But his oath finds him caught on the warpath between rival yakuza clans. His hand forced, Zatoichi shocks the ruffians with the fury of a blind man’s blade.

In Japanese with English subtitles

Followed by...

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance
Kenji Misumi, 1972 , Japan, 83m, DCP
The Yagyu ninja clan has fomented the mother of all conspiracies to take over samurai Itto Ogami’s prized position as shogun’s executioner. With his infant son in tow, the disgraced assassin roams the land, slowly hatching a master plan of bloody revenge against the evil schemers.

In Japanese with English subtitles

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival announces 2018 films



Returning for the second year the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival brings women directed horror and gore to the forefrontFebruary 1st - 3rd!

Watch the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2018 Trailer HERE!

Berlin, DE – The 3rd edition of Final Girls Berlin Film Festival will take place in Berlin, Germany from the 1st to the 3rd of February 2018, with a program consisting of 5 feature films, six curated short blocks, a horror storyboarding workshop, a talk on vampires and women, and a filmmaker panel. Final Girls Berlin Film Fest showcases horror films that were directed, written, and/or produced by women and non-binary filmmakers.

Festival co-director Eli Lewy says “this year we have selected a range of unnerving feature films - most of which are also exclusive German premieres!” Fellow co-director Sara Neidorf adds "we're excited for another three days of communal fear and challenging discussions with filmmakers and spectators. Underground horror cinema is alive and well with the works of women who are steadily reshaping the landscape of the genre."


THE BOOK OF BIRDIE

The opening night feature is Anami Tara Shucart and Elizabeth E. Schuch’s offering THE BOOK OF BIRDIE. When a fragile, imaginative teenager is placed in a remote convent, will her unusual obsessions and hallucinations become a mark of sainthood or dark heresy? Reserved teen Birdie is sequestered to a life of religious servitude by her grandmother, in the hope that it will suppress the young girl‘s dark thoughts. Now far from home, her interests remain far from pious, as she develops a fascination with blood and sparks a romance with the groundkeeper's daughter. This haunting and aesthetically arresting directorial debut of Elizabeth E. Schuch features an all-woman cast. UK, dir. Elizabeth E. Schuch (2017, German Premiere)

LYLE
A mother’s grief turns to paranoia when she begins to suspect her eccentric neighbors are involved in a satanic pact. Starring Gaby Hoffmann (Transparent, Girls) and Ingrid Jungermann (WOMEN WHO KILL), and paying homage to ROSEMARY'S BABY, this queer psychological horror brings the viewer through a nightmarish journey of gaslighting, loss, loneliness, and mistrust. USA, dir. Stewart Thorndike (2014, Berlin Premiere)

PIN CUSHION
Iona and her mother are new in town and excited about starting a new chapter in their lives, but things don’t go as they hoped in this off-kilter, heart-wrenching film about two generations of outcasts. This ‘social horror’ film world premiered at the 2017 Venice Film Festival. UK, dir. Deborah Haywood (2017, German Premiere)

PREVENGE
A pitch black, wryly British comedy, PREVENGE follows Ruth, a pregnant woman on a killing spree that’s as funny as it is vicious. It's her misanthropic unborn baby dictating Ruth's actions, holding society responsible for the absence of a father. The child speaks to Ruth from the womb, coaching her to lure and ultimately kill her unsuspecting victims. Struggling with her conscience, loneliness, and a strange strain of prepartum madness, Ruth must ultimately choose between redemption and destruction at the moment of motherhood. UK, dir. Alice Lowe (2016)
MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND
MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND is a psychological thriller set in the world of undocumented female immigrants hoping to make a life in New York City. Shot on Super 16mm with an intimate, voyeuristic sensibility, MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND chronicles one harrowing day in the life of Luciana, a young woman struggling to make ends meet while striving to escape her past. As Luciana's day unfolds, she is whisked, physically and emotionally, through a series of troublesome and unforeseeable extremes. USA, Dir. Ana Asensio (2017, German Premiere)

Short Film Programs
Obsession
PLEASE LOVE ME FOREVER (Dir. Holy Fatma, France, 2016)
FRY DAY (Dir. Laura Moss, USA, 2017)
NOTHING A LITTLE SOAP AND WATER CAN'T FIX (Dir. Jennifer Proctor, USA, 2017)
:(  (Dir. Sydney Clara Brafman, USA, 2017)
WASTE (Dir. Justine Raczkiewicz, USA, 2016)
DON'T EVER CHANGE (Dir. Don Swaynos, US, 2017)
DEAD. TISSUE. LOVE (Dir. Tasha Austin-Green, UK, 2017)

Mind Games
BBROWN WRECK-LOOSE (Dir. Tristian Montgomery, USA, 2017)
LIZ DRIVES (Dir. Mia’kate Russell, Australia, 2017)
THE HEAVY ATOMS (Dir. Alice Evermore, Germany, 2017)
THE CLIP (Dir. Maria Forslin, Sweden, 2016)
TONE DEATH (Dir. Sinnead Stoddart, UK, 2017)
HIGHWAY (Dir. Vanessa Gazy, Australia, 2016)
BLACK COAT (Dir. Tatiana Vyshegorodseva, Russia, 2017)
DON'T OPEN YOUR EYES (Dirs. Adrián García Bogliano & Andrea Quiroz, Sweden, 2017)


Dark Gatherings
WHAT METAL GIRLS ARE INTO (Dir. Laurel Veil, USA, 2017)
BLOOD SISTERS (Dir. Caitlin Koller, Australia, 2017)
SPOTLIGHT (Dir. Joe Savage, UK, 2017)
MADDER ISLE (Dir. Laura Spark, UK, 2017)
THE PENNY DROPPED (Dir. A D Cooper, UK, 2016)
MAB (Dir. Katie Bonham, UK, 2017)
PRAYERS (Dir. Edda Manriquez, USA, 2016)
THE CONTEST (Dir. Aimee Morgan, USA, 2017)
DEVIL IS ON HIS WAY (Dir. Ophelie Neve, Belgium, 2017)



Metamorphosis
TALKING HEADS (Dir. Alyx Melone, Canada, 2017)
THE DAY MUM BECAME A MONSTER (Dir. Joséphine Hopkins, France, 2017)
APOCALYPSE BABIES (Dir. Anabelle Berkani, Canada, 2017)
BEAUTIFUL INJURIES (Dir. Judith Beauvallet, France, 2017)
NANA (Dir. Yunxuan Wang, China 2017)
LE PEAU SAUVAGE (Dir. Ariane Louis-Seize, Canada, 2016)

Family Dysfunction
UNBEARING (Dir. Aidan Weaver, USA, 2016)
MADAME MACABRE TELLS A TERRIBLE TALE ABOUT RONGUES (Dir. Tracy Rosenblum, USA, 2017)
METAMORPHOSIS (Dir. Elaine Xia, USA/China, 2017)
HOME EDUCATION (Dir. Andrea Niada, UK, 2017)
CRESWICK (Dir. Natalie Erika James, Australia, 2016)



Serial Killers
STRANGE AS ANGELS (Dir. Austin Elston, USA, 2017)
HOBBY SHOP (Dirs. Stephanie Liquorish & Isabel Stanfield, Australia, 2017)
MARTA (Dir. Lucia Forner Segarra, Spain, 2017)
DON'T EVER CHANGE (Dir. Don Swaynos, USA, 2017)
SHOES (Dir. Ray Kermani, Belgium, 2017)
FRY DAY (Dir. Laura Moss, USA, 2017)

The Woman and the Vampire with Sonia Lupher
What is the significance of the relationship between women and vampires? Whether they are fans, victims, or predators themselves, women enjoy a privileged erotic relationship to vampires onscreen, perhaps out of a perverse affinity to blood. 

Sonia Lupher from the University of Pittsburgh will explore these avenues with particular attention to the European vampire, spanning the 1930s with the Spanish Drácula (1931), the 1970s with Jesus Franco and Jean Rollin’s respective vampire exploitation films, and culminating with two Spanish short films directed by women: Jules D. by Norma Vila and Asuntos Domésticos by Alexia Muiños Ruiz.

Storyboarding with Elizabeth E. Schuch
Storyboarding is the art of pre-planning a film using a sequence of drawn or digitally constructed frames to help the creative and technical team visualise what the final film will look like. Especially when using visual effects and extensive post production, storyboards can be a time and cost saving tool to help get make the director’s vision come to like.  Making a storyboard is also a great way to hone your directing skills and share your ideas.

Director/designer Elizabeth E. Schuch has been working in London and internationally as a professional storyboard artist for 15 years, creative visuals for film (Wonder Woman, Pacific Rim 2), TV (BBC, History Channel, Discovery Channel) as well as live events (The Last Jedi London Premiere, The Kingsman London Premiere, TED Talks.) THE BOOK OF BIRDIE is her feature-length debut.

Filmmaker Panel
An array of filmmakers, who are screening their films throughout the festival, share insights into their experiences and creative processes. The audience has a chance to ask questions and engage in dialogues with filmmakers about the state of women in horror.
 
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