Tuesday, September 21, 2021

CHERNOBYL 1986(2021) hits theaters and VOD Friday


Fireman reconnects with his lost love just right before the Chernobyl reactor explodes and he goes off to fight the fire.

This is a wildly uneven film that is one part cheesy soap opera and three parts frightening recreation of the early hours of the nuclear accident.  If you can get through the mawkish and over blown soap suds machine of the first half hour you’re going to find yourself in one hell of a frightening ride. The opening bit, and anything having to do with the romance is going to have you talking to the screen because it is so obvious and so heavy handed.

On the other hand the main section of the film following our hero’s tragic fighting of the fire with scare the living shit out of you. Yea the HBO series may have rocked you, but this film will terrify you. I say that as a person who is a student of the accident. I’ve seen all sorts of recreations and but the one in CHERNOBYL 86 are really visceral. The film wants to make a statement and it does. Where the HBO series made me ill with what happened, this film punched me in the gut.

I’m not going to lie and say the film is perfect, it isn’t. It tweaks events for its own ends and to make it love song in a way to mother Russian, and of course it is overly melodramatic. It occasionally under cuts the thrill ride tension with a misguided move to tug the heart strings, but it still drags us along.


Monday, September 20, 2021

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film starts Thursday

 Because Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film is up against the New York Film Festival (it runs  September 23 to October 2) I’m sadly not going to be able to do any coverage. This sucks because the festival has programmed some great stuff. How do I know? Because I’ve seen a good number of the films already. As you can see by the list below there are some great films you need see.

AMERICANISH (dir. Iman Zawahry) - Los Angeles Premiere

MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE (dir. Kate Tsang) - Los Angeles Premiere

SNAKEHEAD (dir. Evan Jackson Leong) - Los Angeles Premiere

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MRS. WU (dir. Anna Chi) - West Coast Premiere

TIONG BAHRU SOCIAL CLUB (dir. Bee Thiam Tan) - West Coast Premiere

ACCEPTED (dir. Dan Chen) - West Coast Premiere

ASCENSION (dir. Jessica Kingdon) - Los Angeles Premiere

CANE FIRE (dir. Anthony Banua-Simon) - Los Angeles Premiere

FACELESS (dir. Jennifer Ngo) - U.S. Premiere

LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES (dir. Suzanne Joe Kai) - West Coast Premiere

WUHAN WUHAN (dir. Yung Chang) - Los Angeles Premiere

Since the fest is in person and virtual you can get tickets here.

Archipelago (2021) Camden International Film Festival


A mix of animation and live action propel a meditation on fictional islands that exist in out heads, hearts and on paper. 

The best way to see this film will be a darkened theater where you can get lost in the magic of the story telling. Told through a series of conversations and speeches that tell us about imaginary islands, the film is one you need to give yourself over to. This is not conventional story telling since it uses animation on live action plates mixed with an ever changing image shape. We are not in Kansas and we are all the better for it.

To be honest I didn't click with the film at first but somewhere in the first 15 minutes it all came together and was willing to go anywhere with it.

Truly a one of kind viewing experience, this is a film you need to see instead of read about- and as such is very recommended

Citizen Ashe (2021) Camden International Film Festival 2021

Arthur chose to speak- what did you do? 

Portrait of tennis great Arthur Ashe that doesn't focus just on his tennis but the course he took off court in order to stand up for social justice in his own way.  

Excellent look at a man many people know for the stadium named after him. More a film on the man himself then the achievements he achieved in sports, this is a film that will reveal to many what a great humanitarian he was. It is a film that beautifully explains how is need to fight racism and justice in his own way ended up changing the whole world. 

The fact that Ashe wouldn't follow the more radical path of fighting for racial equality. As several people pointed out his seeming non-confrontational approach had him labeled as an Uncle Tom, however in retrospect the ones labeling him realized they need his ability to walk both sides of the barriers. They also pointed out that Ashe was the one who started to bring awareness about South Africa. Ashe was so important to that fight that when Mandela was released and came to America, he stopped what he was doing to go over and hug Ashe at a function.

The film moved me repeatedly to tears. The Mandela moment touched me. As did the bond between Arthur and his brother Johnnie. Johnnie knew what his brother was capable of and to prevent his getting killed in Vietnam he signed up for a second tour. It may not sound like much, but he clearly loved his brother and sensed his brother was going to do great things.

I truly love this film though the film stumbles slightly in the last third when the matches with Jimmy Connors shifts things away from Ashe the activist to Ashe the sportsman. The film also missteps by going into a coda about Ashe's books after the mic drop statement that heads this review is spoken. To me that's the perfect ending and a perfect summation of Ashe's life and we don't need to go beyond that.

Quibbles aside this is a great film and a must see.

El Planeta (2021) opens Friday


Leo and Maria are a mother and daughter living in Northern Spain who are constantly running scams and doing deals. No matter what they are doing, they always seem to have an angle to some how get ahead, but they never really do.

Gorgeously shot in black and white, EL PLANETA delighted me. Normally I'm not a fan of a mannered film full of dry humor but something about the two women clicked with me and I was happy to go along. 

What I like about the film is that it allows us to have mixed emotions about the two women. Normally with a film like this the filmmakers want us to either like or hate their main characters. Here writer-director-star Amalia Ulman  allows us room to like, loath and feel sorry for the pair of con artists. We like them because they are charming, we don't like them for some of the things they do and we  feel sorry for them because its clear that if they played a it y the rules they wouldn't have to lay games and use their glasses the curse the people who did them wrong.

EL PLANETA is a small charmer. What I especially like about it is that while many films that play  New Directors New Films often seem to get lost after the festival this is a film that I suspect is going to have a long life down the road.


The New York Film Festival Starts Friday

The 59th New York Film Festival starts Friday and if you are in the New York area you should try and get tickets and go.

This is the big fest for me. This is one that I first noticed as a kid, it was the first one I ever attended (Peter Greenaways PROSPERO’S BOOKS), the first fest I was ever accredited for. It’s a festival that means the world to me and its back for the 59th time. And it’s all over the New York area with screenings all over the place (details here)

This is a fest where you need to be in a theater seeing films because you never know what will happen. I mean I’ve heard an audience plot to kill a director. I’ve seen walk outs. I ‘ve seen fights. I was there when Debbie Reynold’s called in to a Q&A where Carrie Fisher was holding court. I saw Hayao Miyazaki be completed confused when  a smiling young man waded into a sea of young girls to get his autograph. And I’ve wandered out of screenings talking to various celebrities who just happened to be there.

It’s a magical fest where anything can happen.

Normally at this point I would make some recommendations, but to be honest I’ve only seen a handful of films at this point. Indeed the press screenings are only starting today so I haven’t seen enough to do a must see list (though The First 54 Years: An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation​, Chameleon Street and Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song are must sees). As a result you will just have to keep checking back to see what we are reviewing.

I did see a couple of films at Sundance and as I did at that festival I am only mentioning them rather than doing full reviews:

PASSING was one of my must sees at Sundance. However when I saw it  I couldn't connect to it. I kept seeing the hand of the filmmaker instead of the film. Worse I kept wondering what an African American writer/director would have done with it. Its on okay period piece that needed a different director.

I tried the film FLEE about an Afghani refugee in Denmark after seeing three of the best films of Sundance in rapid succession. Not long after starting the film I realized that what I was seeing was very good but it was paling in comparison so I stepped away. I retried the film again at the Camden International Film Festival and while I still like the film (but I still don't love it) I also still feel disconnected enough to it not to write it up where my words may end up sounding like a pan, when they are not.

And now to go back to writing up films.  While I do that why not go here and buy some tickets.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Filmmakers You Need To Search Out Part 6


Christina Walford and John Wildman

This is the sixth entry in my list of filmmakers you need to search out. (The previous entries can be found here). For those just coming upon the series it was put together in response to Film Twitter’s insistence that there is only a handful, or less, of filmmakers we should be watching. Everything else not of  their chosen few are not worth bothering with – despite the fact that the innovations in the art form are coming from the up coming filmmakers.

The list is neither definitive nor ranked. No one is better  than anyone else. Additionally there are a lot of people I know I will have missed when the list is finally finished (there are several more entries in the works)

And now this week’s entries

I love what Christopher DiNunzio is doing with the form of the drama. In films such as A LIFE NOT TO FOLLOW  he is taking what could be a run of the mill plot line and turning it into something special. I don’t think I’ve seen one of his films that hasn’t impressed me in one way or another. Also track down KINNARI and DELUSION

Devin Rice’s  BEING BLACK ENOUGH is one hell of a film. The semi-autobiographical story of a black man who grew up in a white neighborhood and what happens when moves in with his cousin in a black neighborhood is not your typical story. It’s a film that raises a lot of questions about race thatno one else is raising, forcing us to see things with different eyes.

Patrick Green is a hard working filmmaker who is turning out a great series of films. One of the few filmmakers who excels at both narrative and documentaries, he delights me with every new film.  Each time one of his films like FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION, BUNDINI or MOMMY’S LITTLE MONSTER drops I drop what I’m doing to see what sort of wonders he’s released on the world. His up coming SINCERELY, LOS ANGELES looks amazing, and as do his other upcoming projects.

I’ve known John Wildman for over a decade and I’m a better person for it. He began his cinema career as an actor and was once called by Leanna Quigley as one of the sexiest men alive, he then moved on to making horror films such as LADIES OF THE HOUSE and started rattling cages. (Interview here)

Shakespeare Sisters made THE SOUNDTRACK TO SIXTEEN and it’s a film that’s killer. It’s a film that made a crochety old fart like me scream at the screen feeling as if I was decades younger. It’s a film that made me delighted for what I was seeing but chomping at the bit to see what their next film is gonna be. These young ladies have their fingers on the pulse of what it means to be alive.

Ross Monroe‘s EUROPEAN VACATION is the simple retelling of a family trip many years ago that speaks volumes. What could he do with a feature?

Jeff Giordano’s  ROMANTIC CHORUS is too much of everything. An animated documentary, it a feast for the eyes and ears and brain and it leaves you exhausted by the need to try and take in everything its throwing at us. If other filmmakers would just throw this much stuff at us the movies would be so much more intelligent.

What can I say about Ted Geoghagen? Ted was someone I met through the New York Asian Film Festival. I just thought he was this great guy, And then sometime later I discovered that not only was he writing and producing films he was directing wonders like WE ARE STILL HERE and MOHAWK.  My question is when is Marvel going to come calling and let him do something BIG. (Interview here)

Julian Fort is one of the great filmmakers making crime films and turning them into something gloriously meatier. For example his film THE MIDNIGHTERS is nominally caper film but it speaks about fathers and sons and other things. I can’t wait to see what’s next/

Jon Huber, your truly, Ted Geoghagen

The Faithful: The King,The Pope And The Princess (2021) Camden International Film Festival


The Faithful is a look at the cult of personalities for Elvis, The Pope and Princess Diana. It’s a mediation on images, memorabilia and their importance in peoples lives.

One part documentary and four parts essay this is the sort of cinema exploration that would play in an experimental section of film festival. The film is footage shot over several decades relating to the subject while writer director Annie Berman talks about the ebb and flow of her interest in the subject and related matters. It’s a kind of illustrated lecture.

Whether you like this film is going to be determined entirely by how you take Berman‘s presentation which is low key and bit rambling. My interest came and went. I kept thinking this would have been better if it was tightly crafted short  about  a third  of the  length. On the other hand I know from attending film festivals over the years I know there is an audience for this sort of thing. If you are part of it then this film is for you.

News of the World (2020)


In the days following the American Civil War Tom Hanks travels the country performing the news  for paying audiences. Along the way he agrees to return a young girl who was taken by native Americans and get her back to her family. Along the way all sorts of things happen…

Beautifully made western is a solid tale of the rough existence in the American West. It’s a film about love, loss and family. It’s a film that you fall into and are carried along to the conclusion—which disappoints.

Yea as good as the film is technically the plotting is dead nuts cliché. There isn’t one thing that happens where it doesn’t go as expected.  The film is a catalog of cliched adventures where nothing surprises you. Yea I was dragged along, but at the same time I was watching it not because I wanted to know how it came out, but whether it would do something unexpected. Yea I was entertained but I wanted more.

Worth a look on cable, but I wouldn’t pay for it.

The Real Charlie Chaplin (2021) Camden International Film Festival

This Showtime BBC produced film begins with an quote that warns that there are a lot of different Charlie Chaplins and that it is impossible to connect them all up. The film then tries to explore all the different Chaplins in an effort to find create a much more complex portrait of the actor than we’ve seen before.

Mixing contemporaneous interviews, film, the written record and recreations The Real Charlie Chaplin gives us a great deal to ponder.  We get a wide variety of differing views of Chaplin, from childhood friends to the FBI and everyone in between we get a look at the man that is not really like any other version. Its not a glossy fan based portrait but something closer to the man himself. Its also colored by the film’s examination of the Chaplin that is in the public eye. We see the man who was so popular that there were literally hundreds of rip off films.  

As someone who has been a Chaplin fan since I was a young kid, I was enthralled. While I have seen a lot of this before, there was a great deal more I hadn’t. More importantly the film is magnificently edited with several sequences delighting the eye with the magical way that they connect up all sorts of other wise unconnected films.

As a fan I was enthralled.

If I have to quibble, and in this case I do, the one thing working against the film is the narration. Much too low key and occasionally rambling, it seems intent of not pulling us into the proceedings as deeply as the images and the stories want us to go.  Its not fatal, but it makes an other wise excellent film just a very good one.

Definitely worth a look, more so if you can see it on a big screen where the film’s visual wonder can overwhelm.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Becoming Cousteau (2021) Camden International Film Festival 2021


Jacques Cousteau is one of my boyhood heroes. I grew up watching his TV show and watching him on the TV talk shows. He opened my eyes to the world in ways you can not imagine. He along with Muhammad Ali were the two people I regret not meeting. 

As you can imagine when I found out there was a documentary of the man I had to see it. Honestly I sooooooo had to see it it was the only reason I made a hole in my dance card to cover the Camden Film Festival.

Culled from hundreds of hours of film and video and hundreds more hours of audio BECOMING COUSTEAU is a film about the man in his own words and images. It does have the words of other people chiming in, but mostly this is all Cousteau.

I both loved this film and as disappointed. What I loved about the film was that the film brings us back into the world of the man himself. I never realized how much I missed listening to him talk about things until I saw this film. He was a man full of wonder and it bleeds off the screen. We also get a sense of how the TV nature documentaries we see today all come from him. If there was no Cousteau there would have been no Discovery Channel or Nat Geo. I love that we see how important he was to people in the 1970's. I also love that the documentary kind of takes the man to task for the bad things he did like working for big oil and killing many of the animals he was supposed to be studying. 

What disappointed me was that the form and structure of the film is incredibly conventional. Yes Cousteau created the conventions, but he did it by destroying out previous notions of what the form could be. I was hoping for something that was magical in form, instead of by the numbers. Basically I wanted something as special as the man himself. And while what is here is choice I would have liked more fireworks.

Then again I suspect that had I seen this on the big screen I would have loved this unconditionally.

BECOMING COUSTEAU is playing  The Camden International Film Festival before hitting theaters in October and is highly recommended

They Won't Call It Murder (2021) Camden International Film Festival 2021


This is the story of five people killed by the police as told by the women who knew and loved them. All of the killings should have been considered murder but were not. For example in one case a vice cop who was under investigation killed a woman at a sting. Another is the story of short teen was killed by a cop looking for someone who was a foot taller than his five foot two inch frame.

This is a film that needs to be made into a feature film. We need to know more about these people than the roughly four minutes each is allotted.  All our lives deserve more than mere minutes.

Quibbles aside this film is a kick in the gut. Short or no the accumulative effect is a deep sadness. These people should not have died, certainly not at the hands of cops who should have known better

The film is currently screening at the Camden International Film Festival (and other festivals soon) and is recommended.

Hopefully this will also get turned into a feature film

Underdog (2021) Camden International Film Festival

UNDERDOG is the story of Vermont Farmer Doug Butler. He is a man whose life is rapidly imploding as the bills are out pacing his ability to pay them off. Butler is always upbeat and always looking toward a brighter future. He is also looking to compete in the oldest dog sled race in America in Fairbanks Alaska. With his farm’s future in jeopardy Butler loads up his dogs and heads off to try his hand at racing.

This is a good portrait of a man just taking life as it comes. He is desperately trying to show a brave face but there are times we know that that much of his life is slipping away and that there is little he can do to stop it. Everyone wants their money and Butler can’t make it fast enough to pay off everyone with their hand out. It a sad portrait of our times, and we feel it more because we really like Butler and wish him well.

I should be honest and say that while the dog racing is thread through the film, most of the film is not focused on it, it only becomes the real focus in the last third. Its an interesting turn in a much too familiar tale of small farmers getting squashed.

To be honest I don’t know what I think of this film. While I very much like Butler, I’m not certain that there is enough here to make a feature. A huge problem is Butler is so low key and so easily rolls with the punches that there really isn’t enough conflict to make this absolutely compelling.  This is low key to the point of no key.  While none of it is bad, I mean I watched it three times, I simply don’t know why this is a feature film. Outside of showing us a really nice guy and the sled dog racing bit, there isn’t a great deal here. I suspect if this was reshaped to focus more on the racing this would have been a more compelling film.

Reservations aside this is worth a look if it sounds interesting to you

Erick Oh and Kane Lee talk NAMOO


I know this is late. I did this interview back in June at Tribeca and then things happened. (The short version is transcribers messed up the delivery by six weeks) My apologies to Erick Oh and  Kane Lee

What follows is my discussion with Mr Oh (tThe director) and Mr Lee (the producer) about the film NAMOO which premiered at Sundance as a  VR experience and Tribeca as 2D film. Based in part on the life of his grandfather, Mr Oh's film is a look at the arc of a life and the things we take with us. It's an amazing film and one you need to track down.

This is a slightly edited version of my talk. I trimmed a couple of questions and answers that required you to have seen the film for them to make sense. I also removed a very brief talk about Mr. Oh's Oscar Nominated short OPERA where we discussed that film being designed as a museum installation as something as being a film you could get up close to. While I had hoped to talk more about the film talk instantly bounced to NAMOO.

I want to thank Mr Oh and Mr Kane for taking the time to talk to me abou their amazing hort film.

Steve: How how did you decide to turn your grandfather's life into a short film?

Erick: Yeah, so my grandfather passed away almost 10 years ago. And then, you know, within the grieving process, I got to think a lot about life, you know, where we come from and then where we go.  But, at the time, I was a little too emotionally overwhelmed to take this out to the world. And I didn't know how, even though I had this core idea and concept of tree immediately when I lost my grandfather, almost, but I didn't take it to the next level.

But as I grew up. I learned more about life. At a certain point I kind of realized that now it's about time, really. I'd love to put this together as an art piece or a short film and then share it with a lot of people because, you know, there is some-, something very truthful in it.

Steve: How did you decide, like, which pieces of your grandfather's life to use? You have to have the painting, you have, all the things in the tree. How did you decide which, what were you going to put in there?

Erick: This was not about my grandfather, I mean it’s inspired by him but  I kinda wanted to talk to about this human story of who we are, you know? So that being said, you know, all the object choices I made, you know, is really based on my own personal experience as well. I'm an artist. My grandfather wasn't. He was a professor. So I was merging everything I've been learning from my own life. Of course my relationship with my grandfather and my own  life helped me choose all those objects that's, the belongings hanging on the tree.

Steve: Does the main character look more like you or more like your grandfather?

Erick: [laughs] It's really mixed, you know, because I'm basically in late 30s, so there's no way I’m, passing middle, middle age. I mean  these characters are real ones, even my father. And then even my newborn niece, who was born, two years ago. I got so inspired by my newborn niece, and then passing certain life stage, that's when everything turns a little more closer to, like, my, my father and grandfather.

And for example, the grandfather sequence there is a lot of objects that create a little more kind of traditional like a teapot or some sort of lens. And those were actual physical belongings my grandfather used to have.

So it is, again, all combination of what I was  experiencing throughout my whole life.

Steve: How did you decide on the visual style of this? You worked on "DAM KEEPER," you did "OPERA," which was nominated for an Oscar prior to this. And while this looks a little bit like DAM KEEPER, it has its own look. How do you decide what the visual style's going to be of a film you're gonna do?

Erick: It is a spiritual journey, internal journey to yourself, so I really wanted something that's really warm, traditional hand-cut feeling. I wanted to keep the watercolor look, and that has been there from the get-go. But then we invited this technology that we can actually animate and paint and create everything directly in VR the software called Quill. And Quill's aesthetic was very unique.

And so, with that and with a bit of, post-production effects work, we were able to achieve what we did. And as an outcome, what we got is it is a very heart-warming and  hand-touched vision of feeling but three-dimensional.

I'm really happy with how it turned out. But Kane, if you wanna, explain a little bit about the VR or, or that aspect, please, please do.

Kane: Yeah, I mean  bn  you know, we worked with a crew across nine different time zones. And actually made our plan for our production before the pandemic. We decided to go with  our top choices no matter what time zones or what part of the world they were in. We were really excited to use  Quill which, you know, you can paint and hand-draw in real time. They literally put on a headset and they're in a three-dimensional space. The back is the objects. Everything that's painted like, a really sort of hand-sculpted, feeling and texture and you can feel every brush stroke. And  the imperfections are actually what makes it feel really handcrafted.

And so with that being translated 2D animated film that you see is what gives this sort of a dimension-, dimensionality, and a feeling of handcraftedness that we feel looks unlike other projects that Erick or Baobab Studios, the animation studio  behind this, have ever done before.

Steve: Is there a VR version of this or just, just the 2D?

Kane: There is a VR version of this. So we created them at the same time. The VR version of it premiered earlier this year at Sundance. But the Tribeca Film Festival gave us this opportunity to have it in person and for people to see it on-screen.

I was our huge pleasure and priority to get the 2D version to people together so they can experience the emotion and, and that feeling of being in the crowd, seeing,  something on a big screen amazing sound at the same time.

Steve: I'd loved to see the VR thing of that version of this. Because when you're watching it, there's, you know, it's, it's very 2D for most of it. And there's a couple of times where it's like, the, the, suddenly the animation pops in the 2D version. Suddenly you get, everything gets the depth of 3D. Suddenly it's like you get chills to a certain degree.

How did you design the soundtrack? The story is tols told completely visually, But the sound is just as important as the visuals. It's a perfect marriage. And a lot of times, you don't really necessarily get that.

Erick: You're totally right. because we don't have any dialogue, we already knew that we are making a visual poetry. So we knew that look and music, it's like almost a 50/50 balance.Then music is telling you the story. It is guiding you with the feel and he story points and all that. So we paid extra, extra attention to the music. Thankfully, we were able to come up again with the DAM KEEPER original composers, , Zach Johnston and Matt Roberts. So they did a tremendous job taking this to the next level musically.

Steve: Were they writing the music as you were doing it, or they just came in afterwards?

Erick: You know, this was really interesting. I had them tape the music earlier stage, even before starting animating, so I, because I wanted our animators and artists to be inspired by the music first. And, of course, they had to retime it and resynchronize the animation in the post-production.

So music was almost the standard. In the pre-production, I already give them all, musically, the overall direction and  the things and then the actual key melody and then those iconic moments. And then with them I've be using them as our test sounds for a long, long time. And then, of course, in post-production, when every visual is locked, they cleaned up and polish the final. And, of course, we did the live orchestra recording events, and then that's how we actually created it, the music.

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain (2020) opens today

This is a long pained scream. Its watching a horrible event happen that you know is going to go wrong and as much as you want to you can not stop it. This is the film you find in the dictionary under gut punch.

The film is a recreation of  the killing of Chamberlain in 2011. He accidentally set off his medical alert and the company called the police. The police showed up. Chamberlain said he was fine the cops didn't believe him and they eventually broke down the door and then shot him while he was on the floor, later claiming he lunged at them.

This film will break your heart and make you scream at the screen. ten years on we see all the mistakes that were made, but we can't change them. This is a tough film to watch not just because its tragedy, but because we see how big it was and how it could have been stopped.

While the film, isn't perfect, the cast is a bit on even, Frankie Faison as Chamberlain is dead on. This is a performance that if this were a bigger film would have had him in talk for an Oscar. It is one of the top three performances you will see all year. This is the role of a life time and Faison grabs it by the throat and gives us a man we can grieve. This is a character with a soul that we can not help but follow to his much too early end.

This film crushed me.

A must see.

(Better yet program it with the documentary JOE AND ERNIE CRISIS COPS for a real life look at the way these sort of situations should be handled.)

Savior For Sale (2021)

 How you react to Savior For Sale will be determined by if you saw the  earlier Lost Leonardo which was released a couple months back. Both films are about the discovery and sale of the possible found Leonardo painting, Salvatore Mundi,  its restoration, authentication and sales. However  each film has its own focus. The earlier film is focused on the whole process from the discovery to the eventual sale to a Saudi Prince. The current film is less concerned with the discovery and restoration and focuses more on  the authentication and the sales of the painting.

The short version of the story is that a painting that looked to potentially be an old master came up for sale in New Orleans. A New York art dealer bought it. In looking at it, he and his experts decide that it may be a Leonardo DaVinci. They have it restored, its shown at the British National Gallery when experts say it’s the real deal (well possibly…). Its then sold and then resold to very rich people for more than the GNP of some countries.

To be honest I’m not sure what I think of this film. I know that my feelings for it were influenced by seeing the other film mere months ago. The fact that I have  that film in my head influenced my feelings for this film since the earlier film raises some intriguing issues that are not covered here. A key one is how much of painting that we see as the “restored painting” is the work of Leonardo and how much is the work  of the restorer. The earlier film also raises different issues about the authentication process. I wish  that the film had more of the details on the painting from the earlier film.

That said I do like the way this film deals with the big money aspects of art  and of this sale. It raises a lot of questions about how the art world works and whether things are really what people hold them out to be.

Frankly I would love to take the two films and cut them together.

My reservations aside  Savior For Sale is worth seeing when it hits theaters on Friday

Thursday, September 16, 2021

OSTROV - LOST ISLAND (2021) Camden International Film Festival

 Absolutely magnificent portrait of the inhabitants of Ostrov Island in the Caspian Sea.  Years ago the island was thriving community with a collective fishery but Soviet Union fell, people left, the farm was destroed and the authorities closed down the caviar harvesting. Those that were remained were left to fend for themselves. Fending means scratching out a bare subsistence and trying to avoid the coast guard, who will arrest them if they go to sea to fish (the government won’t grant them licenses to do so)

Beautifully shot film is a real slice of life. This is the arc of life on the island as we get to know the few inhabitants, see the rhythms and feel the pace of life. The images put us into the homes and on the beaches and we have a real sense place. You can feel the breeze and smell the food. Its an amazing achievement.

I love this film. I love how the film pulls us in and makes us truly understand what it’s like to be living on the island. Rarely have I ever walked out of a movie not feeling as though I was watching a film, but having gone somewhere else. OSTROV puts us in this other place.

This film is a stunner.

And when you see the film, stay with it. Yes, it can feel a little draggy. That’s okay. That’s what life on the island is like.  Just stay with it. I say that as someone who felt a little bored at times, I was tempted to wander off. However by the time the ending came I found I was deeply moved, just saying Wow over and over again. Not because it ended spectacularly but because I felt as though I was touching life.

Playing as part of the Camden International Film Festival OSTROV is highly recommended

Last Night in Rozzie (2021) opens tomorrow

Ronnie Russo returns to Boston to see his dying friend. He’s tasked with finding the friends son so that he can connect with him before he passes away. As sets out on his appointed task, the past come calling and he begins to ponder a tragic event from his childhood that linked the two friends.

Beautifully acted film over comes the occasional feeling that we have been here before. While there is nothing wrong with the story, it’s the cast that does the heavy lifting. You fall in love with the characters that Neil Brown Jr., Nicky Whelan, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Chapman play and they make taking the ride worth the trip.

This is a nice little film. It may not rattle heaven but it entertains and moves us.

Worth a look 


Portrait of the city that became the epicenter of protests when Michael Brown, an unarmed black man was shot dead by the police. It is a look at what happened and how the city try to fix the problem and rebuild.

This is a very good film, that unfortunately may end up getting lost among the similar films that are coming out on the never ending  police misconduct incidents . That said if you want a film that focuses just on Ferguson this is the one to see.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Indie Memphis Film Festival Announces Full Slate, Ft. Sean Baker’s RED ROCKET Opening Night, World Premiere of FERNY & LUCA + More


The 24th Annual Indie Memphis Film Festival Announces Full Slate, Ft. Sean Baker’s RED ROCKET as Opening Night Film, World Premieres of FERNY & LUCA and BUNKER, and More

(September 15, 2021 | Memphis, TN) Indie Memphis Film Festival, presented by Duncan Williams, Inc., is pleased to announce the full slate of films for its 2021 incarnation, spanning from October 20th - 25th, 2021. This year’s festival promises to be a very exciting and wildly varied one, featuring films ranging from new discoveries to beloved classics, from festival hits to experimental wonders, and everything in-between. 

“I am incredibly excited by what we are offering this year with the festival,“ says Indie Memphis Executive Director Knox Shelton, “The programming is stellar and, in terms of how we've planned the festival, we hope that we have found ways for people to celebrate independent filmmaking based on their comfort level. We understand that there is no perfect way to do this, but we've taken steps to ensure the health and safety of our filmmakers, attendees, volunteers, and staff.”

In the quest to reach a large audience while taking staunch COVID-19 precautions, this year’s festival will be a hybrid of online and in-person screenings and events. For in-person Memphis screenings and events, proof of COVID-19 vaccine is required for all staff, volunteers, contractors, and attendees and masks are required at all times indoors. Venues for screenings are now focused on larger theaters to better accommodate social-distanced seating; these include Crosstown Theater, The Block Party will be delayed until a year in which we can better protect the health of our attendees, partners, and staff. Circuit Playhouse, Playhouse on the Square, and the Malco Summer Drive-In. Festival parties will be limited to outdoor celebrations on Opening and Closing Night.

The 2021 festival features work from up-and-coming filmmakers, as well as festival hits such as Jonas Carpignano’s A CHIARA, Jane Schoenbrun’s WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR, Penny Lane’s LISTENING TO KENNY G, Céline Sciamma’s PETITE MAMAN, and many more. 

The festival also features exciting premieres, such as the World Premiere of Andrew Infante’s FERNY & LUCA. The film is a look into the on-and-off relationship between Ferny, a sweet and naive pretty boy, and Luca, a rough and tumble disco queen, who is more concerned with chasing her dreams than chasing boys. There’s also the World Premiere of Jenny Perlin’s BUNKER, a documentary that investigates the lonely lives of American men who have decided to live in decommissioned military bunkers and nuclear missile silos, and follows the process of building and selling these structures to the wealthy and not-so-wealthy alike.

The Opening Night film is Sean Baker’s Cannes favorite RED ROCKET, starring Simon Rex as a pornstar who returns to his Texas hometown that barely tolerates him, the Centerpiece Presentation is Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s DRIVE MY CAR, and the Closing Night is Pablo Larrain’s SPENCER. Some additional standout titles include Robert Greene’s PROCESSION, a documentary about a group of survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests battle for justice, and Rhayne Vermette’s STE. ANNE, a drama that traces an allegorical reclamation of land through personal, symbolic and historical sites.

“We’re honored to be introducing these titles to Memphis audiences,” said Indie Memphis Artistic Director Miriam Bale. “I’m confident many of these are classics that will be talked about for a long time to come. We aim to have a collection of films that is winnowed down to the best of year, and I think this line-up reflects that.”   

The festival continues to feature live music performed in the theaters before every screening. The Black Creators Forum also returns for a fourth year, this time in a hybrid format, both online and with an outdoor in-person component. This festival programming continues to reflect diversity in all areas, with a special focus on films from the African Diaspora and Africa. Indie Memphis is privileged to present the North American premiere of JUJU STORIES, an anthology film from the Nigerian new wave cinema collective known as Surreal16, after its World Premiere at Locarno.

Additional upcoming announcements will include the Black Creators Forum program, virtual IndieTalks Panels, Live Music Lineup, and more.

The 2021 slate was unveiled publicly on the evening of Tuesday, September 14th via Zoom. For more information, please visit http://indiememphis.com/.

 2021 Indie Memphis Film Festival Slate

Alphabetical by Category