Thursday, April 30, 2020

MY BROTHER'S KEEPER (2020) Tribeca 2020


One of the best films at Tribeca is a portrait of former Guantánamo detainee, Mohamedou Ould Salahi, and his one-time American guard, Steve Wood.  They formed a friendship that transcended the prison to become a true bond that grew past guard and prisoner to become a friendship that borders on brotherhood and changed their lives and those around them for the better.

Small jewel of a film shows the difference that good people can make within the lives of other people. Seeing how the basic goodness of these two men transcended borders, they simply respected each other as humans, is one of the most hopeful things you will see all year. An absolute must for too many reasons than I can go into here- this is glorious. Though all you need know is it will make you feel good.

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #25 Absurd [1981] ★½


Joe D’Amato’s Absurd is one of those movies where the backstory is infinitely more interesting than the movie itself. Originally conceived as a sequel to D’Amato’s slasher Antropophagus (1980), the script was thrown out and rewritten from scratch as a Halloween (1978) rip-off by actor George Eastman who played the killer in the first film. However, the film was still treated as a spiritual sequel to Antropophagus, being released in some markets as Anthropophagus 2. At least, that’s what it was called when it wasn’t also being sold as Zombie 6: Monster Hunter, the unofficial fourth sequel to Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (1979), itself an unofficial sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). In other words, Absurd is the unlicensed spin-off to no less than three different movies.

Regardless of what one chooses to call it, the film is nonetheless painfully blasé and boring, not so much borrowing from Halloween as copying its playbook scene by scene. An unstoppable killer escapes from the authorities, arrives in a small American town, stalks a little boy who calls him the boogeyman, and kills all the adults around him until he’s finally killed himself by the boy’s guardian. There’s even a Dr. Loomis surrogate in the form of a Catholic priest responsible for his condition who tries to track him down (weird Vatican medical experiments gave him regenerative powers at the cost of his sanity).

Putting aside the Halloween similarities, the most striking thing about Absurd is its abundance of head and neck violence. All six members of the film’s body count are killed via head and neck trauma: a nurse gets power-drilled through her head, a janitor has his noggin split in half with a table saw, a biker gets strangled, a family friend gets a pickaxe to the brain, a babysitter gets her head fried in the oven then stabbed in the neck with scissors, and the killer eventually gets decapitated. (Spoiler for a nearly thirty year old slasher, I guess.) None of these kill scenes have any tension to them, partially because they’re all obviously telegraphed and because they’re accompanied by an obnoxious two note ostinato on the soundtrack that in no way is reminiscent of John Carpenter’s Halloween theme. (Pinky promise.)

At least Antropophagus demonstrated some creativity with its gore. It was a terrible movie, but nobody will forget the fetus-eating scene.

Among Them (2018) is a huge WTF?

After a bank robbery two robbers head to motel in a sleepy little seaside town. Their contact is supposed to be coming and they just have to wait until he arrives. But things are not that easy, the contact is has gone off the grid, there is a woman bound and gagged in the trunk of their car and weird things are beginning to happen.

Huge WTF film is something you are either going to accept or one that is going to leave you scratching your head.  I'm in the head scratching mode  since after about a half an hour I felt totally lost. There are flashbacks, we are left out of some events,strange things happen and a couple of times things happen that make you wonder what planet these people are on (for example there is an early scene with the characters talking where no one sees the hotel clerk is looking in through the window. Really? You're looking straight at him).

This is weird for weird's sake to such an extent that by the denouncement came I really didn't care. That is a shame because if you remove the script this is a solid little film, It looks good, the cast is top notch and basic idea has possibilities.  I just wish the filmmakers hadn't thought this was the best way to go with the material.

While not bad, this really isn't all that hot. This is probably best for anyone who likes head trippy films that make you wonder but provide no answers.

Out  now on VOD platforms

Albert Serra's LIBERTE hits VOD tomorrow- don't bother.

With a lot of films streaming in virtual theaters where your local movie theater gets half the money and the distributor gets half there is at least a good chance of theaters getting enough money to at least have a shot at staying open. I could and probably should repost my reviews of the films I saw at festivals when they hit the virtual cinemas but the question would then be which theater do I support? I have reposted a couple of reviews, but mostly I have not. 

The one thing I (generally) will not do is repost a review for a film I don't like. With theaters struggling for cash I  don't want to prevent them from getting any money. Then again sometimes I feel my obligation is to the reader and not the theaters because I would rather warn you away from something that will make you feel ripped off. If you feel ripped off you are less likely to go back.

With LIBERTE hitting virtual theater VOD  I am taking the time to repost my review because I feel it's a big con job.  It is a film that my friends in the critical community scratched our heads over.  Even the ones who liked director Albert Serra's earlier films  were left bored to tears if they didn't walk out at the tedious nature of the film.

You can read my thoughts below, but my advice is if you want to support your local theater watch anything else they are co-sponsoring other than LIBERTE. In all seriousness don't waste your money. I wouldn't break my rule if I thought you couldn't do better elsewhere.

There is nothing quite as sad as an art film with smutty intentions. More times than not the great artist who fancy using graphic or semi graphic  or shocking sex bollocks it all up and you end up with a film that is just boring as all hell.

Boring as all hell is the best way to describe Albert Serra's still born film LIBERTE, which would be funny if it wasn't so incredibly sad. A  night of sexual escapades in the French forest before the French Revolution is in the words of Shakespeare, "sound and fury signifying nothing".

Serra's film begins in twilight as various parties arrive and make plans. I will not go into what they are but they involve sex and various acts bodily fluids and sound more like the words of ten year old who wants to be shocking. What then follows is two hours of people wandering around in the forest taking their pants off so we can see their unexcited privates while they either touch themselves or occasionally have sex. (I have no clue if it was real or simulated because frankly it's so badly done). Some bottoms are caned, and some stuff that might be shocking to anyone who has lead a cloistered life happens before the sun comes up and the audience's pain and misery is ended.

That Albert Serra managed to get this into the New York Film Festival is proof that he is a highly skilled con man. Even duller than last year's ROI SOIEL which was a record of an art installation where an actor rolled around on the floor for an hour moaning, LIBERTE makes you wonder what he has on the programmers that has gotten his films into the festival on a regular basis. Either that or the programmers really don't get out much.

I honestly don't know what the point of it is. It's not sexy. It has almost no real dialog. It's just kind of sexual acts that just leave me wondering if Serra has just had someone financed his own personal fetish film. More to the point it left me wondering why he just didn't do a google search for whats in this film... and then chose not to share his kinks with us. No offense but we don't need to know.

What kind of throws me for a loop in the festival write up indicates that the film is supposed to be about freedom, both in society and in sex. I don't see it, but if that's the case I have no idea why they chose this film to deal with the subject. If the festival really wanted to show a graphic film about sexual freedom then they could have actually gone to a some of the adult film producers and gotten a film that was actually good and heady and even sexy. There are more than a handful out there and there are any number of really good directors making challenging films in the adult industry...

...but I digress.

Albert Serra's LIBERTE is a big nothing. It is the work of a lazy filmmaker who wants to "push boundaries" but who then retreats into the pee and poo boundaries of children. It 's the cinematic equivalent of a six year old cursing to look older.

Not recommended as a heady discussion of anything. And don't even think about this as a sex film or I will think rather sad thoughts about you.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Film: Michael Moore Presents: Planet of the Humans



What if our move to electric vehicles, solar and wind power, recycling and all of that isn't working and is instead perhaps just away of denying that we are still doomed? Could it be that the methods don't work or that the masters of industry and our own natures are working against us?

I've only watched part of this because of my connection to other projects, but what I saw intrigued me. While I am curious about the information presented, I'm mixed on director/presenter Jeff Gibbs who is a tad too low key for me. One would have thought he's be a bit more emotional,he is saying we are pretty much doomed at this point.

Regardless of  that, the information here may mean something and should be considered, so I'm presenting it here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

23rd Brooklyn Film Festival Goes Virtual; More than 140 Films Viewable for Free From May 29-June 7 --- Partial Lineup Announced!

Brooklyn Film Festival Goes Virtual for its 23rd Edition: TURNING POINT More than 140 Independent Films Viewable for Free From May 29-June 7

Partial Lineup Announced

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, April 29, 2020 - Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF), New York City’s longest running international-competitive film festival, stands together with all New Yorkers to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19, announcing that its 23rd edition, themed TURNING POINT, will go on in the form of a virtual festival with its full film lineup of more than 140 films viewable for free from May 29 through June 7 at www.brooklynfilmfestival.org. A partial lineup of Feature Narrative films and Feature Documentaries are listed below. All festival films will play for free via BFF’s website for the whole duration of the festival, but viewers must first open a free account and can begin to pre-register starting today on the BFF website at https://www.brooklynfilmfestival.org/bff-audience-registration. The video server will be hosted by Vimeo. Audience voting will be limited to one vote per account. BFF will also organize parallel live events such as filmmaker introductions and Q&A sessions on the BFF website, Facebook and other social media.

BFF, a Canadian Screen Award qualifying festival, received for the current edition 2,590 film submissions from 92 countries and selected more than 140 film premieres programmed into 36 different, two-hour program blocks. The films are divided in six categories: Feature Narratives, Feature Documentaries, Short Narratives, Short Documentaries, Experimental Films and Animation. All types of short films, whether they are narrative, doc, experimental or animation, will play as part of the two-hour program blocks and each Feature Narrative and Feature Documentary film will play within their own program blocks. BFF’s selection criteria, a 23-year-old set of rules, constitute the true festival’s trademark. Participating films cannot be older than two years. Films are selected from submissions only. All the selected films participate in the competition. And the smallest film can win the top festival award: The Grand Chameleon.

BFF Executive Director Marco Ursino said of the 23rd edition: TURNING POINT, “Just a few months ago, nobody, not even the most daring sci-fi screenwriter, could have predicted the current situation and/or the extent of the COVID-19 takeover. Besides the fact that we are all still dealing with the basics and a resolutive approach feels still far away, one thing seems certain: we won’t be able to go back to the pre-virus thinking and lifestyle anytime soon. The fear of the ‘invisible danger’ that threatens our life is radically modifying our own life routine and the way we deal with our neighbors. It is a ‘Turning Point’ in history. It is a moment that will ultimately reveal who we are as human beings. The Brooklyn Film Festival, with its 2020 event, plans to highlight and dissect people’s character and problem solving attitude as it shifts from one time zone to the next. The international role BFF has always played on the world’s stage, will now come truly handy while with our film lineup we travel from one corner of the planet to another. ‘Turning Point’ is about refreshing our own point of view. It’s about rethinking our old assumptions and learning from the people who share our screen whether they live in a different continent or across the street. ‘Turning Point’ is about reinventing our planet and our life.”

BFF’s list of sponsors for 2020 includes WNET-Thirteen, Yelp, Sobre Vista Resort, AbelCine, Be Electric, Xeno Lights, Big Screen Plaza, Final Draft, MPE, Media Services, The Pod, Noble Jewelry, Brooklyn Film Society, and for the 7th consecutive year, the “disruption company,” TBWA/CHIAT/DAY, will create the 23rd BFF promotional campaign.

In terms of special events, we are sad to announce that the ninth BFF Exchange has been cancelled while the 16th kidsfilmfest will follow the BFF’s steps and be staged online via the BFF’s website from May 29-June 7. kidsfilmfest, aims to discover, expose and promote the youngest generation of filmmakers. The film program is tailored for children of all ages (films are rated "G"), and consists of numerous animated shorts, documentaries and live-action films.

In each of the six film categories, BFF’s judges will select the Best Film, while the festival will select the Spirit Award, and the audience the Audience Award winners. Among all the six categories combined, BFF will award one of each of the following: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Composer, Best Style, Best Editor, Best Cinematographer, Best Screenwriting, Best Producer, Best New Director, and Best Brooklyn Project. Through the resources of our sponsors, BFF will assign to the winning filmmakers more than $60,000 in prizes (cash, products, and services).

Below is a partial line-up of BFF films including the Feature Narrative and Feature Documentary sections in alphabetical order. The film lineup, which also includes Narrative and Documentary Shorts, Experimental Films and Animation, will be announced soon on the BFF site at www.brooklynfilmfestival.org.


FEATURE NARRATIVES:

Thoughts on weekend two of Cabane à Sang 2020

The second weekend of Cabane à Sang had a rough start. Streaming on Facebook the festival got booted off when they were reported for violations. The why's and hows puzzled the organizers since they had screened similar films in week one and had also checked before hand.  They regrouped and got the festival back on track elsewhere.

I did not get a chance to see Facebook portion of screening but I did get to catch the regrouped portion of the festival of the festival.

I have to say right at the top the second night was even more crazy and over the top as the first week.  I really have to consider getting to Montreal for the next one because if they do another night of films like this one is will be a total gas to see it  with an audience. I can only imagine what this would have been like with an audience yelling screaming and talking to the films.  Yea, I know that's normally a bozo no no but when you program almost four hours of over the top gory funny and twisted films you can't help but talking to the screen - I did and I was home. (actually I was talking to myself so much that the other people in my house thought I was having an animated conversation on the phone).

For the record, as much as I absolutely loved the second night of the fest, I would rate this one a half a step behind the first. Now before Frank and the rest of the Cabane à Sang come to New York and kick my ass, understand that while the films are pretty much all on the level of the first week, the  fact that the humor was all over the place made me put it a half step back. In more practical terms where almost every film in week one created tension, and more often than not bone chilling scares, the films this week produced differing levels of laughter. Laughs are more a matter of personal taste than scares.

Most of the second week was mix of laughs and gore and it was a welcome relief after the madness going on the world. I really liked that I was allowed to laugh at some really sick things like flying eyeballs, masked wrestlers squashing heads, killer sofas and popping pimples. Sure I wanted to throw up but at the same time the oozing orifices and wounds were opened up in such a good natured way that I stopped gagging and started laughing. Trust me some these films are profoundly gross to the point that I was often wondering if they really had to go there. (Yes, they did and yes that is a rave.)

I absolutely had a blast. For my friends in New York the best way to describe this is consider the wildest and craziest nights of the old New York Asian Film Festival and double it. I'm talking about the Sushi Typhoon screenings that were so out of control they festival ended up getting banned from the Japan Society- but where NYAFF did it in the theater the mad guys and gals of Cabane à Sang did on screen. (which now makes me realized I need to do a road trip to Montreal for the next live event just in case....)

On the basis of the two nights of films the programmers put together Cabane à Sang is easily one of the best fests in the world. Sure it's not for everyone but for those who want to mainline genre films that pushes the envelope of storytelling and good taste this festival is for you.

Cabane à Sang is one of the best programmed festivals I have ever seen, taking a wide assortment of out there films and putting them together in short blocks that perfectly enhance every damn one of them. If you don't think that's an achievement, then the next film festival you go to take a look at a block of their shorts. It will run anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes  and I am certain that there will be one if not more film that will make you scratch your head wondering why they programmed it. By comparison the people at Cabane à Sang programmed over seven hours without any real hiccups. That is unheard of and I've never seen it.

 Ultimately the the best thing I can say is the fest is balls to the wall goodness with a glorious fuck you attitude toward polite Hollywood cookie cutter cinema. If you ask me it doesn't get much better than that.

Below you will see some quick thoughts on the films in the mix for night two.

However before I to I need to give a shout out, a big socially distant hug and HUGE thank you to Frank Appache who put the festival on my radar, made sure I saw the films and answered my stupid questions. Frank- let me know what you need in the future and keep sending me good stuff.



PLAY PAUSE KILL- A woman who is writing a screenplay is interrupter by a friend texting. I can't say where this is going but some people are going to wince....and some are going to cheer.

I didn't catch the title of the second film  but it involved a world of masked wrestlers and went into some very experimental places

SAVAGE EN ESTI an Aussie takes tourist around who wants to see dangerous animals in the wids of Australia...but there are only magpies...or they think. Funny little film

GRAVE SIGHT- a couple tries to dig up a witch and unleashes a demon. Wicked black comedy full of blood and gore is a great deal of fun.

BONNE FETE PHIL - gory fun about a monster cake....

A NIGHTMARE ON CHOCOLATE - A wicked Elm Street send up

BUMPS IN THE NIGHT- a girl, her pimples and a monster. This was gross. Funny  but gross. I mean really gross

EVSTRONGER - a wicked spin on Ikea furniture and their instructions in particular.

I missed the title of this one but this was an intentionally badly dubbed Friday the 13th style film send up about a killer summoned when you pee in the lake

WHISPERS- a man sees rats- and while this is stomach churning in the extreme, no animals were harmed

COWBOY- in a frozen forest three cowboys are starving....its a black as night Christmas tale- destined to be a classic

(THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE OF SAINTS AND SINNERS ERUPTS INTO A) GUNFIGHT-
a silent movie spoof set around a gunfight

PAPA WRESTLING Masked Wrestler father of a bullied kid bullies the bullies. Its a gruesome revenge film that will make you laugh out loud

MEAT GRINDER- animated film about a meat grinder accident

I missed the title for this one but it involves weird guy growling and throwing up. Its a strange hybrid of art film and trash film that actually works both sides well. Not my cup of tea but I appreciate what it did.

MANIAC PLUNGER 2: PLISSCON'S ESCAPE- when the toilets back up in a super security prison the guards get the killer "Maniac Plunger" Slip Plisscon out of his cell to clear the blockage. Sadly they should have listened when he said going back to being a plumber was dangerous.

Another one I missed the title of. This was weird experimental film that acted as palate cleanse.

HORRORSCOPE- solid horror movie trailer send up involving a new disease with a WTF denouncement

PEOPLIN-- if John Waters and Eraserhead has a child it would have been this film.

LAZY BOYZ--food and weed and a killer couch. This was wild and crazy and out of control.

BREAKER- award winning  film has a cybernetically enhanced hacker invade by a sentient weapon everyone wants. Its a stunning piece of filmmaking

There was a rerun of the Bladerunner style film SLICE OF LIFE

LA VIE EST BELLE- This is a short about dubbing porno, I think. I couldn't really say since the film is in French.

A FAMILY TALE- the weird family with a strange way of making money....

Brief thoughts on Banksy Most Wanted (2020) Tribeca

There seems to be an endless parade of films "about Banksy".  They are all sold in such away that them make you think they are about him but they are really not. In the last few years we have had SAVING BANKSY about trying to save one of his works, CHASING BANKSY a narrative about trying to take a Banksy off the side of a house, THE MAN WHO STOLE BANKSY about a guy who stole a piece of his art, THE BANKSY JOB about an artist who steals a statue because he was mad he wouldn't sign a piece of art, BANKSY DOES NEW YORK  about an NYC residency and there are more. That doesn't include the art docs where he is mentioned. All of them dealt with his art and not the man....

...which is why BANKSY MOST WANTED is so vital and important. It is a film that is about the man, or as much as one can know about a true ghost, through the lens of a discussion of his career and the quest to unmask who he really is. This is the first film, or at east since EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, that is really about the person and not just about a specific work or exhibition.  The result is this is one of the more informative and compelling Banksy films you are likely to find.

To be certain there are no answers. While Banksy may have been seen in some video putting up his art,who he really is is not revealed, but while watching the film I got the feeling we really don't need to know. Nay, we really shouldn't know who he is because once we do we suddenly will have a limit on the canvas of our imagination. More importantly once we know who he is we will incorrectly start to force limits on his work that shouldn't be there. So what if he is, say a bricklayer from Scotland, that shouldn't influence his art. It didn't before and knowing that now shouldn't change how we see what he does.

What I loved about watching the film was I got a better sense of this Banksy creation than I had before. The dots were connected up and I grew to truly appreciate his entire body of work more than I had before.

This is a great film and highly recommended, especially for anyone who is a fan or has any interest not only in his art but modern art, both of the museum and street variety.

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #24 A Japanese Tragedy [1953] ★★★★

In his book Japanese Cinema, film scholar Donald Ritchie argues that in the post-war years a new sub-genre arose in Japan which he calls the “haha-mono,” literally the “mother film.” “There is no escape for mother,” he writes, “she must sacrifice and suffer.” More often than not her suffering was for the sake of ungrateful children who eventually abandon her.

Of all the actresses associated with the sub-genre, Ritchie points to Yūko Mochizuki as its queen, and of her films he lauds Keisuke Kinoshita’s A Japanese Tragedy as one of the best. Indeed, the film seems to apotheosize the suffering, unappreciated Japanese mother much as Olive Higgins Prouty’s Stella Dallas did for her American counterpart. The film follows Haruko Inoue (Mochizuki), an impoverished geisha working as a prostitute to support her two children after her husband was killed in an air raid during the war. Her son Seiichi (Masumi Taura) is a medical student who resents her and sues to get removed from the family register so he can be adopted by an elderly couple who plan to make him the head of a hospital. Meanwhile her cruel daughter Utako (Yōko Katsuragi) has an affair with a married English teacher and ignores her (it’s implied she never forgave her mother for sharing their property with her brother-in-law who raped her as a child). Eventually the two children succeed in cutting themselves off from Haruko and she throws herself in front of a train.

Western viewers who only know Kinoshita for his gentler comedies and painterly jidaigeki like Twenty-Four Eyes (1952) and The Ballad of Narayama (1958) might be shocked by the film’s cynical venom and formalist experimentation. The film makes broad use of jarring flashbacks, popping up in the middle of scenes with no transition. Consider one early moment where Seiichi and Utako eat udon together in a noodle shop. While they’re talking, Kinoshita cuts to a shot of them as children eating eating noodles in the charred remains of their bombed out neighborhood before cutting back to them in the present. The first act is particularly unusual in its use of cinematic collage, intercutting the action with news clippings and documentary footage of Japan’s societal upheaval in the wake of the Occupation. Kinoshita’s message is clear: this is a Japanese tragedy, yes, but it’s merely a symptom of a larger Japanese anomie.

NIGHTFIRE (shot 2016 released 2020)

Opening with the US offering aid to Ukraine and essentially buying it for a cash donation of 2 billion dollars (not bloody likely) the film then shifts to two CIA men gathering two computer circuits hidden in the arm of a dead agent. As they try to flee they end up taking a political prisoner along with them. Things don't go smoothly.

This short very feature (it's 43 minutes long making it a feature according to many organizations definition) moves like the wind before getting off. There isn't an ounce of filler anywhere in this baby and we are so much better for it.

Shot as a student thesis it looks more polished than most bigger budget action films we are seeing these days. Its so good in fact that it could work as a pilot for a killer TV series though I doubt highly that any show could have as many chases and gun fights as this on a weekly basis.

That the film works as well as it does is due to a cast willing to sell what is going on on screen as well as the completely lack of CGI. Everything is practical effects or actual locations which means we believe more easily.

How good is this film? I initially was hesitant to see the film but decided to do so because Covid19 wrecked the release schedules. However now that the film is out I'm emailing friends telling them to watch it. You do so too.

NIGHT FIRE hits streaming platforms, including Hulu and Amazon, May 1 via Hewes Pictures

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Film THE TEN GLADIATORS (1963)



First of three films featuring the 10 Gladiators who end up kicking ass and taking names. It's one of the more enjoyable sword and sandal films

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Announcing #WatchTheUnseen

With everyone locked away, how about doing an Unseen Films watch party? The idea is that we should all view a film at the same time and drop running comments on social media, sort of a MST3K for Unseen family, friends, and fans.

Accordingly, we want to focus on a film that isn't well known but is still going to be fun and provoke commentary. The goal is to strike a balance between something we can enjoy, something we can comment on, and yet something not everyone has seen or riffed on endlessly elsewhere.

Below are the three films we are going to make the selection from. Your vote will decide, so look for an upcoming poll on our @unseenfilms Twitter account.

Neutron Vs the Amazing  Dr Caronte

This is the third in the Neutron series. Tangentially related to the masked wrestler films that came from Mexico, this flick has the supposedly dead Dr. Caronte coming back to haunt the masked hero Neutron and his friends as he attempts to take over the world. You don't need to have seen the first films since this film is so out there.

Ship of Monsters

Mexican scifi madness as a ship of monsters lands and causes problems. The link should take you to right before where the monsters show up in force (about 43 minutes in). This film is crazy, to put it mildly. (Click on the closed captions for subtitles.)

The Brain Eaters

Robert Heinlein's Puppet Masters is turned into a schlocky scifi film about dustballs with pipe cleaner antennae trying to take over the world. It’s a breezy hour of insanity with a supporting role for Leonard Nimoy.

So please head over to The Unseen Films Twitter page to let us know which film tickles your fancy, and we'll set up the first #WatchTheUnseen party for early May. Thanks.

Finding Sally (2020) plays Hot Docs at Home on CBC on April 30th

Filmmaker Tamara Mariam Dawit grew up in a family of Ethiopian refugees in Canada.  She knew that her family came from the upper strata of society and that her family had been part of the government of Emperor Haile Selassie when the country was beset by unrest and eventual revolution. While she knew that she still had family in Ethiopia, it wasn't until she was thirty when she realized that there was one aunt no one ever mentioned. She had disappeared back in the 1970's after joining the communist cause and seemed to disappear from the family. Having moved to the country after realizing that it was in her blood she begins to talk to her surviving relatives about the family's history in order to find out what happened to her aunt. Along the way she reveals the history of her country and of that part of Africa.

Solid documentary may confuse or disappoint you if you go in expecting this to be fully focused on finding Selamawit aka Sally because this film is something greater. This is a film that is looking to fill a hole in our understanding of what exactly happened in the 1970's and 80's that changed a whole country and forced so many people to leave. This is also a portrait of a whole family and not just one member.

Full of wonderful people who are great storytellers FINDING SALLY is compelling not because of flashy visuals or some grand mystery (though there is a mystery)  but rather because the ladies who make up the older generation of Dawit's family can tell a great story.  We are hooked because they invite us in and just start talking. They have stories to tell and they are going to do so. And as long as they are talking we are willing to listen.

Sitting in my home watching the film I fell into the film and was carried along. As a result not only did I learn a great deal about the history and politics of Ethiopia, but I watched a mystery get solved in the only way it really could.
This is a lovely little film and recommended

World Broadcast Premiere
HOT DOCS AT HOME ON CBC
Thursday, April 30, 2020
CBC and GEM, 8:00pm (8:30 NT) and documentary Channel, 9:00pm ET/PT

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #23 If You Could Only Cook [1935] ★★

Everything about William A. Seiter’s If You Could Only Cook should’ve worked. The plot is the kind of madcap nonsense only Depression-era screwball comedies could muster. After getting vetoed by his board of directors over the creative future of his company, Jim Buchanan, wealthy president of a car manufacturer, goes on the lam the week before his marriage to a shrewish, gold-digging aristocrat. While slumming, he meets an unemployed young woman named Joan Hawthorne who mistakes him for an unemployed, down-on-his-luck bum and takes pity on him, inviting him into a scheme to pose as husband and wife to apply for a joint butler/cook position at a nearby mansion. Disillusioned, Jim goes along with it and the two find themselves in the employ of Michael Rossini, an Italian bootlegger. To his surprise Jim takes a liking to his work, even running out at night to get butlering tips from his actual butler. Even more surprisingly, he finds himself drawn to Joan. After a series of misunderstandings and mistaken identities, Joan gets arrested, Rossini puts out a mob hit on Jim, and everything ends with an impromptu kidnapping with the bootleggers ultimately helping Jim get Joan to confess her love for him.

Additionally, the film had a dynamite leading couple with the reserved yet amiable British star Herbert Marshall as Jim and screwball comedy legend Jean Arthur as Joan. (Though Arthur had been making movies since the silent era, it was only until her breakthrough role in 1934’s Whirlpool that she came into her own as a leading lady. Though it didn’t require the same comedy chops as John Ford’s The Whole Town’s Talking [1935], her role as Joan demonstrated her effortless knack as a comedienne.) It also stars a scene-stealing Lionel Stander as Rossini’s second-in-command Flash, a nosey wiseguy who sounds a little like if Harvey Fierstein crawled down a Brooklyn cabbie’s throat.

But for its delicious plot and wonderful cast, If You Could Only Cook fails to come together due to Seiter’s flat, lifeless direction. Though Seiter occasionally made decent films—his Laurel and Hardy vehicle Sons of the Desert (1933) is a legit all-timer—he was not himself a particularly compelling filmmaker. His compositions are disinterested, his scenes inert, and his handling of his leading couple surprisingly dull. The one thing a screwball shouldn’t be is boring.

Red Rover (2020)

Put upon geek Damon meets free spirit Phoebe when she is handing out fliers for the Red Rover project, a one way trip to Mars. Damon is smitten by both the project, which he sees as an escape from his crappy existence and by the girl who seems to be the bubbly person he needs in his life. As the friendship grows and he tries to get on the trip to Mars Damon isn't sure which is the right direction for his life...

Strip away the uneven mix of people around Damon and Phoebe and you have a sweet little rom com. While the bosses, brothers and ex girlfriends are drawn as if they were cartoons, Damon and Phoebe remain real and wonderful. God bless Kristian Bruun and Cara Gee for giving us two wonderful charmers we can fall for.

This is a small dimond in the rough and recommended when it hit VOD on Friday

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Film: Most Creepy Vidos to watch in Isolation



36 minutes of scary Slapped Ham stories

Monday, April 27, 2020

LOOKING FOR A LADY WITH FANGS AND A MOUSTACHE (2020) Tribeca 2020

You won't understand it if I explain it simply so I'll make it complicated - a monk to Tenzin about how he can save his life

Tenzin has been having strange dreams and visions of a young girl. Sometimes she is in a field of flowers and sometimes not. He is so haunted by her he is having troube focusing on finding a place to open his coffee house in Kathmandu. A friend of his says it maybe an omen and after consulting with a monk Tenzin is told he has a week to live. If he wants to avert his fate he must find a certain kind of mystical being.

As unwieldy as my explanation of the plot is, the reality is this is a smooth flowing spiritual quest of a film. Putting us in a particular place and particular time, we are travelers with Tenzin on his spiritual quest for enlightenment, or at least a reconnection to the world.

As much as Tenzin is desperately trying to find the "lady with the fangs and a moustache" he is also on a quest to reconnect with the world. Everything in his life is focused on making money. What will be the best place for his coffee shop?  Never mind that it is an abandoned, but still holy temple, maybe that will do. And maybe, perhaps the goddess cursed him as a result, or maybe he just ventured too far into the world of the yellow haired people. His drive to making money is stepping on toes and beliefs an whether gods are real or not he is bumping into things people hold dear.

The lessons here are quiet and accumulate. It's a series of ah ha moments not bone shaking thunderbolts. The reality is it takes time for Tenzin to change and it takes time for us to do so as well.

Beautifully shot by Mark Lee Ping-bing (In the Mood for Love) the film is a love song to the world with everything, every moment being perfectly rendered. This is life in balance even if Tenzin's isn't.

Director Khyentse Norbu, a Lama himself, has fashion philosophical journey that melds Nepalese thought with the modern world through a beautifully written script that he has augmented with a kick ass music score. Traditional songs meld with music from people like Tom Waits. And a small thing that I love is that Norbu doesn't use pieces of songs, but more often than not he sets an sequence to one song. It's a small thing but it is vitally important to keeping us in the moment.

As with Norbu's earlier film VARA: A BLESSING this is a film that you need to see rather than read about. It is like a looking at a picture of a fabulous place. To be certain the picture can show you the beauty but it can't make you feel what it is like to be physically there, especially after the journey to it.

LOOKING FOR A LADY... is a stunner and highly recommended. It is one of y favorites of the year.

OUTstream Film Fest Announces QUEERING THE QUARANTINE FILMMAKER CHALLENGE

Recently announced virtual LGBTQIA+ film festival launches contest for queer quarantine short films

Los Angeles, CA (April 23, 2020) — OUTstream Film Fest (June 1-7) announced the QUEERING THE QUARANTINE FILMMAKER CHALLENGE, which is now open for submissions. Short films made while observing social distancing orders and submitted to OUTstream Film Fest will be screened on the fest’s website and shared on social media, with a “Best of” compilation screened together as part of the kick-off for the inaugural edition of the virtual film festival on May 29.

OUTstream Film Fest Co-Founder and Co-Director Ben McCarthy, said, “We know that there are many filmmakers out there itching to pick up their cameras and dust off their equipment to tell their stories again, just as all of us would love to get back into the swing of things.”

“Until they are able to get back to the set or the studio and have a crew at their disposal, we thought it would it would be fun and maybe even cathartic for people to make a short film expressing what their quarantine experience has been like,” said Co-Founder and Co-Director Megan Garbayo.

Teaming up with OUTstream Programmer and independent film producer Gil Sima to build a festival within the festival, Garbayo sees the filmmaker challenge as a way to bring queer filmmakers together again online instead of in person.

QUEERING THE QUARANTINE FILMMAKER CHALLENGE films can be any genre (drama, comedy, documentary, musical, horror, western, sci-fi, animation, etc.). The object is to best express your queerness and experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Filmmakers can film on their phone, camera, animate on paper – anyway they want to tell their story.

Films can be no longer than 5 minutes in length (including credits).

Additional rules are as follows:

Only original content produced during the quarantine period will be considered for this challenge. (If you have a short film you made before, please consider submitting it to OUTstream Film Fest.)
Filmmakers must observe social distancing during all stages of production of the film.
Film must be in English or with English subtitles to be considered. Silent films also qualify.
Films must have a queer theme and ideally, a beginning, middle, and end.
Films must not appear anywhere online prior to May 29, 2020.
Submissions can be made at FilmFreeway.com/outstream.

OUTstream Film Fest will kick off Pride month amid the COVID-19 crisis offering a selection of films celebrating queer cinema and seeking to bring all audiences together online to enjoy the films, as well as be virtually introduced to the filmmakers. Produced by McArts Consulting, the seven-day virtual film festival featuring queer film, episodic, and short films from all over the world will provide audiences an opportunity to view the programs from any device as well as participate in interactive online Q&As and discussions about the state of queer art, film, and media.

For more information, please go to: www.mcartsconsulting.com/outstream.

About OUTstream Film Fest
The OUTstream Film Fest is a seven day online on-demand and livestream film festival featuring queer film, episodic, and short films from all over the world. OUTstream Film Fest was created to give audiences everywhere an opportunity to see queer cinema and participate in interactive online Q&As and discussions about the state of queer, art, film, and media.

About McArts Consulting
McArts Consulting represents film festivals and other creative clients across the United States. Led by Ben McCarthy, MFA, McArts Consulting specializes in fundraising and marketing strategies, arts and film programming, box office management, and leadership development. In addition to consulting services, McArts produces cultural events and programs with a focus on building inclusivity among communities.

Major Film Festivals Across the World Join with YouTube to Announce We Are One: A Global Film Festival Starting May 29

The 10-day digital festival, produced and organized by Tribeca Enterprises, will feature programming from 20 festivals including Berlin International Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and many more, enabling audiences to experience films from around the world

Festival to benefit World Health Organization Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27, 2020 - Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube jointly announced today We Are One: A Global Film Festival, an unprecedented 10-day digital film festival exclusively on YouTube, bringing together an international community of storytellers to present festival programming for free to audiences around the world. Set to begin on May 29 on YouTube.com/WeAreOne, the festival will feature programming curated by the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM), Jerusalem Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and more, immersing audiences in stories from around the world and providing a voice for filmmakers on a global stage.

Core to the DNA of film festivals is the belief that artists and creators have the power to bring people together and create meaningful connections during a time when the world needs it most. Through We Are One: A Global Film Festival, audiences will not only get a peek into different cultures through a new lens, they’ll be able to support local communities by directly donating to organizations helping the relief efforts for those affected by COVID-19. The festival will benefit the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as local relief partners in each region.

"We often talk about film's uniquely powerful role in inspiring and uniting people across borders and differences to help heal the world. All of the world needs healing right now,” said Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. “We Are One: A Global Film Festival unites curators, artists and storytellers to entertain and provide relief to audiences worldwide. In working with our extraordinary festival partners and YouTube we hope that everyone gets a taste of what makes each festival so unique and appreciates the art and power of film."

"One of the most unique and inspiring aspects of the world staying home is our ability to come together and experience an event as one, and We Are One: A Global Film Festival is just that," said Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer, YouTube. "Along with Tribeca Enterprises and our incredible partners, we are bringing fans the opportunity to experience the curated programming each of these festivals provides as part of our ten-day long event. It's an event that's never been done before and we're proud to be the home for this fantastic content that is free to fans around the world."

“We are proud to join with our partner festivals to spotlight truly extraordinary films and talent, allowing audiences to experience both the nuances of storytelling from around the world and the artistic personalities of each festival,” said Pierre Lescure, President of the Cannes Film Festival, and Thierry Frémaux, Cannes Film Festival General Delegate.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival will run from May 29 - June 7 on YouTube.com/WeAreOne. Programming will be available for free, and will include films, shorts, documentaries, music, comedy, and conversations. A full schedule will be available closer to the festival start date.

About Tribeca Enterprises

Tribeca Enterprises is a multi-platform storytelling company, established in 2003 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Tribeca provides artists with unique platforms to expand the audience for their work and broadens consumer access to experience storytelling, independent film, and media. The company operates a network of entertainment businesses including the Tribeca Film Festival; the Tribeca TV Festival; and its branded entertainment production arm, Tribeca Studios.

About YouTube

Launched in May 2005, YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch, and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small. YouTube is a Google company.

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #22 Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps: But What About the Children [2020] ★★★½ Tribeca 2020


Andrea James’ Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps: But What About the Children is an eighteen-minute truncated version of pioneering trans artist Scott Turner Schofield’s 2007 performance piece that examines the transgender experience through a series of 127 theatrical vignettes. During live performances, the audience is encouraged to shout out numbers from 1 to 127, picking and choosing which vignettes will be performed, thereby inviting the audience into becoming active participants in that night’s journey of trans self-discovery. The piece was a smash hit, leading to Schofield taking it overseas for over twenty international productions, transforming him into one of the leading trans voices in the American entertainment industry. (His bona fides include becoming the first openly transgender actor in American daytime television with a recurring role on CBS’s soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful as well as serving as creative consultant for the groundbreaking trans lead Jules in HBO’s teen drama series Euphoria.)

Since James couldn’t put all of Schofield’s vignettes in a film—if the three featured were any indication of length then all 127 would result in a nearly thirteen hour movie—she seems to have chosen the three most indicative of the childhood trans experience. The first entitled “#1 - Get Lucky” sees Schofield changing the tire to a sports car as he wistfully recounts his conception that resulted from his mom fatefully meeting his dad one day while trying to fix a flat tire. Even more crucially, he explains how his stepfather (who happened to work in a tire factory) was the first person to accept him as trans growing up. The second, the comedic centerpiece of the film, is called “#8 - Wear Boy Underpants.” After his Uncle Bill dies while visiting his family one Christmas morning, he got shuffled over to his friend Noelle’s house while the EMT’s removed the body. Once there, he got to wear Noelle’s brothers underpants—the first boy underpants he ever wore! It ends with Schofield thanking his Uncle Bill for “one free day of childhood.” The last vignette, “#125 - Transmit What Little Wisdom You Possess,” tells of his heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful encounter with a homeless trans teenager while serving as Grand Marshall of a small town Pride parade. Combined, these shorts create an empathetic experience that leaves us eager for more. Hopefully James and Schofield will continue to make more of these vignettes available.

OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES (2020) Tribeca 2020

Portrait of chef Yotem Ottolenghi and his work to prepare a food gala based on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's  exhibit “Visitors to Versailles". We get know Ottolenghi and then watch as he chooses other chefs to help him and then their work putting the show together.

Every couple of years Tribeca programs a film on some event or another that the Met held. Almost always the films are great looking puff pieces that are the cinematic equivalent to a large coffee table book. OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES is no exception.

A largely good looking film that clues us in on an event that tried to be as extravagant as was Versailles itself there didn't seem to be a hell of a lot to hang my hat on as a bunch of very clever chefs worked in  fancy kitchens to make food most of us could never have.  It's all really clever but there is no connection to life only to an artifice and the nuts and bolts of pulling off a fancy idea. Normally I am a food film junkie but I lost interest early and it never came back.

It doesn't help that the film's framing bothered me. I watched the film twice, once on the Tribeca site and once on a screener that was sent to me and many of the images looked wrong. Seeing them on a big screen kind of hurt my eyes as if we were too close. When I played the images on a smaller player about the size of a cell phone I found that the images looked good, but once I bumped them up to full screen they looked wrong. I'm curious if either the film was shot on a cellphone or edited that way. Then again I've seen several films shot on an iPhone but you could never tell unless you wee told.

You may like this put to me this is a great looking cinematic that tastes stale once you bite into it.

Bull (2019) Hits VOD May 1


In BULL a young woman breaks into a neighbors house after she exchanges words with the neighbor about the death of one of his hens which was killed by her dog. Bringing along a group of friends they party and trash the house, stealing all his pain meds. There is a problem there in that he is on the rodeo circuit and he needs them to get through the day. Making a deal with the girl’s grandmother- he won’t press charges if she cleans up the mess. The two begin to slowly bond over time.

Nice little slice of life BULL scores in several ways. First it has a lived in quality. In a way it feels more like a documentary of a life well lived. These are real people and real places. They carry a weight that most narrative films never achieve. If director Annie Silverstein were to actually cut the film slightly differently she could probably pass this off as a documentary. It is a grand achievement.

Another way that the film scores in that there are no good guys or bad guys, there is only people. We see all sides to pretty much every character with the result they are much more real. These are people we might know. More importantly the cast allows us to see behind their eyes and come to understand why they are doing what they are doing. We understand their choices or more importantly their lack of them and so we embrace them more than hate them .

For me BULL is hard film to write on. It is so easy to write about events and their meaning but this is a film that is ultimately about emotions, of things not said, and quiet moments. It is a film that puts you in a place where you feel things and when you are talking about emotion it is always better to experience than discuss. As such Bull is a film you need to see. Don’t read on it- just go see it and feel what it makes you feel- the result will make you better for it.

Bull hits VOD Friday.

Stay at Home Fest Bonus Films- Time Travel Mysteries



Sunday, April 26, 2020

Thoughts on PS Burn This Letter Please (2020) Tribeca 2020

In 2014, in a storage locker in LA, a trove of letter to "Reno Martin" from his friends in New York. The letters opened the door to the drag scene in the city in the years before Stonewall in a way that no one who hadn't lived it could ever know. Taking the letters as a starting point directors Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexiera then spent five years trying to find the men who wrote the letters and piecing together the stories told in the letters. The result is a story that will make you smile and cry (sometimes at the same time) as we are allowed to spend time with some wonderful people.

PS BURN THIS is a magnificent film in so many ways.  First and foremost it is full of so many great people you will not only want to go out and track them down so you can talk to them, but more importantly you will regret this isn't able to screen at a physical Tribeca Film Festival. I mean can you imagine what the premiere would have been like? Do you have any idea what post screening Q&As could have been? The mind boggles.

As for the stories I'll just say that the title of the film comes from the story of the theft of wigs from the Metropolitan Opera. The plea was not because it involved being gay, but because it revealed who stole the wigs.

The film is also an opening up of history. It kicks open the door to a part of LGBTQ history that many people were not aware of. It reveals how the drag queens quietly helped to open the doors for gay rights simply by being.

One of the things I like about the film is that it shows us a lot of the good as well as the bad. Since the letters that form the spine are friends dishing to friends we get to see all of life not just one extreme or the other. Everyone is sharing good news, the romances, the balls and  the bad, such the arrests and the time in the psyche ward.  It's all there, told  to us not in cold distant narration, but through the words of a friend and confidant. The letters don't hide anything, nor do the letter writers who fill in details all through the film.

 It is glorious.

One of the things that is magical is the sense of community. Yes, the letters were all between friends, but you get a sense through the stories of a bigger world. We come to understand how these people found a place - and how the balls like Phil Black's Ball in Harlem gave them a place to be where there was no prejudice, there was only a sense of belonging.

Forgive me if I stumble but I am having trouble finding words to express what I feel about the film- which is a great deal of love.

PS BURN THIS made me cry a couple of times. Watching the men in their 80's and 90's tell it like it was moved me, often when they were moved by their memories. I also cried when we find out what happened to some of the letter writers. I felt so bad losing these friends I had  just made there was nothing else I could do.

But lest you think the film ends on a down beat note- the final fade out is a belly laugh that made me laugh so hard that I hope to meet Daphne one day to thank him.

A must see film. Highly recommended....

...and if you don't mind I am going to go watch it again while I am still able.

SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (2020) Tribeca 2020

If you wanted to make the argument that this is the best portrait of the Rolling Stones, and one of the members in particular I would be perfectly willing to go along with you. If you wanted to take the argument further and say it's one of the best rock biographies, or at the very least most satisfying rock docs (insert time frame of your choice) - I will be happy to agree.

SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME is a rough and tumble and not really polished but solid conversation with Ron Wood who is best known for joining the Rolling Stones in 1975, but  had earlier played with Jeff Beck, Faces and Clapton, not to mention his own solo work.

The film is a series of conversations with Wood and director Mike Figgis intercut with music, painting and talks with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart, Damien Hirst  and Imelda May who relates how Wood always says he discovered her years before she became famous but never told anyone. This is not a film so much as hanging out with your mate in a pub and having him tell you his life story. There is zero pretense and even less artifice (or is it the other way around?)

To be certain it isn't all here, but who the hell cares? Wood  is just being himself and telling tales. So often these days music bios are polished and controlled to a ridiculous degree. Don't get me wrong I loved the recent Eric Clapton and Robbie Robertson docs, but they were stage managed to a ridiculous degree. This isn't like that. This just feels like I'm sitting in a restaurant with your friend  shooting the breeze and what happens happens.

I suspect the lack of covering it all will piss off some people who want to hear it all, but that would be a less alive film. To be certain we'd know more about the details of his life but we wouldn't know the man who lives and breaths. For my money I want the living and breathing man.

Highly recommended.

Nate Hood' Quarantine Qapsule #21 The Covered Wagon [1923] ★★★★

All but forgotten today, James Cruze’s The Covered Wagon was one of the most popular American Westerns of the silent era. Shot largely on location in Utah, Nevada, and California with a massive cast and crew, it told the story of two pioneer wagon trains traveling two thousand miles to Oregon in 1848.

A massive hit, it reportedly nearly doubled the box office take of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments released the same year. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how striking the film must’ve appeared to audiences in the early Twenties. Despite technical limitations there’s a dazzling pictorial grandness to it, particularly in its repeated visual motif of an endless line of covered wagons snaking their way from horizon to foreground. There are moments of intense, almost painful beauty as well, whether it’s a shot of a cow skull emblazoned with a message from Brigham Young and his party of wandering Mormons or a string of covered wagons lining a riverbank like clouds as the settlers bathe and swim in the water. Or consider one nighttime scene where a group of pioneers break into an impromptu Virginia Reel around the campfire, the crowd dancing around and between billowing plumes of opaque smoke. Here the film almost veers into Expressionism, but Cruze doggedly strives for objectivity elsewhere. One prolonged sequence where the settlers carefully cross the “Big Missouri” river smacks of Robert J. Flaherty docudrama (this is not a flippant comparison—the covered wagons were all authentic pioneer wagons rented out from the descendants of their original owners who also appeared as the extras driving them).

But for all its patriotic posturing about the pioneers seeding the West for civilization, the film’s largely suffocated by a tepid romantic triangle between two rival wagon masters and an ingenue. Compare this to John Ford’s The Covered Wagon released the following year: another epic about the Taming of the West, it also featured a prominent romantic subplot. But Ford counterbalanced the romantic melodrama with populist vignettes of railroad immigrant laborers and nearby frontier settlers. Unlike The Covered Wagon where the settlers themselves are largely overlooked as a faceless, homogeneous mass, Ford actually cultivated the sense that we were watching the seeding of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic nation. Cruze was no Ford, but The Covered Wagon was still fundamental to the evolution of the Western from nickelodeon distractions into legitimate popular art.

WAKE UP ON MARS (2020) Tribeca 2020


This film focuses on the Kosovar who are living as refugees in Sweden having fled from Kosovo. This is their second time attempting to find refuge in the country. The cycle of escape, deportation and escape has taken its toll on the family and on sisters, Ibadeta and Djeneta who developed “resignation syndrome” which put them in a coma like state. (The illness is not understood and seems to hit highly stressed refugee children, particularly in Scandinavia. As the family struggles with the sister's illness and their refugee status, young Furkhan dreams of flying off into space.

One of a kind documentary mixes the straight on telling of the story with some flights of fancy. How you react to the mixture is going to determine how you feel about the film as a whole. Personally I was intrigued with the story of the daughters and how their plight may have brought on their illness. I'm not to sure the less striaght forward bits work. Don't get me wrong, the sequences are very well done I'm just not sure they integrated enough for me.

Regardless of my reservations it is nice to see something do something different and as such it is recommended.

Ariela Rubin on Vanilla (2020)


Vanilla is an indie movie about two people who don't know each other who go on a road trip together.

Elliot is trying to create his own app, Kimmie works at a pizza shop. Elliot is trying to sell his van and Kimmie wants to buy it, until she changes her mind. Elliot finds someone who's in New Orleans who wants to buy it, and so Elliot and Kimmie decide to go on a road trip from New York to New Orleans together to sell the van. They make up some rules ahead of time, and soon discover each other's secrets and personalities.

This is  a fun movie. It wasn't your usual friendship road trip movie. It felt different, and I was happy that the ending felt more real than most movies. I don't want to give it away though. While I don't think it's a must see, it's a light film and was entertaining. I enjoyed it. It also had what I consider the perfect runtime of an hour and a half.

VANILLA hits VOD Tuesday April 28

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Film: Mystery in a "Game Over" Screen



This is a trippy investigation into what may be a picture of a dead body in the game over screen of a video game called Hong Kong 97

Saturday, April 25, 2020

STATELESS (2020) Tribeca 2020


This is the story of the ethnically Haitian citizens of the Dominican Republic. In 2013 retroactively revoked their citizenship backdated  to 1929. In order to sort everyone out the government decided to issue new identity cards, requiring a mountain of documentation.  As a result of this 200,000 Dominican's with roots in Haiti may end up stateless.

The film follows three people:
Activist - Rosa Iris Diendomi-Alvarez who is fighting to make sure everyone is documented.
A nationalist-Gladys Feliz who sees all Haitians as monsters who must be removed.
A respected business man Teofilo Murat who is caught in the middle.
Through their stories we see how the country is potentially going to tear itself apart

As bracing as the film can be, the  film lags at times. While the film  gives us the whole story there are several points were we see similar events play out over and over again. Conversations seem to repeat. While this is undoubtedly what happened, seeing them repeated within a short time makes it hard to remain engaged. I like the film but I wish it was a bit shorter.

Reservations aside this is worth seeing because this is an intriguing story. It is one that echoes the divides within America where nationalists want to keep any one who doesn't look like them out.  Seeing America's woes through a different lens is enlightening. It is a warning to anyone what may happen if stupidity isn't kept in check.

Director Jean-Cosme Delaloye talks about his films HARLEY and STRAY BULLET Tribeca 2020

When I saw Jean-Cosme Delaloye's HARLEY, the story of defense attorney Harley Briete, I fell in love with its off beat subject. Harley was a charming man who was struggling for love and to win a murder case.  As much as I liked the film I still had questions because I simply wanted to know more about Harley and his life.  When I finish a film and want to talk to a director about what I just saw it is always a good sign that I like a film. 

Before I had a chance to run down Mr Delaloye, we met up on Twitter when he retweeted a link to my review of the film. I then, impulsively, asked him if I could ask him a couple of quick questions. He graciously said yes. He then asked me if I had seen his first feature film STRAY BULLET, the story of a shooting where Harley plays a large role. I said I hadn't, but I would take a look.

I then immediately went to Netflix and watched STRAY BULLET....

...and I ended up with a hell of a lot more questions, but in the best possible way. I contacted Mr Delaloye saying that I saw STAY BULLET and I really liked it, however the couple of of quick questions had become a longer list because of how the two films played off each other. I asked if I could send not the couple of questions I first indicated,but a whole bunch. He again said yes.

Because Mr Delaloye is in the middle of a time sensitive project  I thought it would be best if I emailed him the questions and let him answer them when he could. To make it easier I chopped down list of questions I had to the fourteen I really wanted answers to and sent them along. 

What follows are my questions and Mr Delaloye's answers. I need to warn you that the questions and answers cover both HARLEY and STRAY BULLET and contain potential spoilers.  

Before I get to the interview I need to once more thank Jean-Cosme Delaloye for two wonderful films and for taking time out his business schedule to talk about them.

STEVE:  Was Harley on your radar before you made Stray Bullet?

JEAN-COSME: No. I met him while shooting STRAY BULLET. He was representing one of the 3 defendants in the Genesis Rincon case I was filming. But it was clear, he was the most interesting protagonist on the defense side. And that is why we progressively got in touch with him. The story we found there made it a challenge to keep the balance of the film because I could easily have covered the case from his perspective as a defense attorney. But it is not what I had set out to do, when I started filming STRAY BULLET so that is why I stuck to the original idea.

STEVE: Why did Harley allow coverage of the murder trial in Stray Bullet? What did he think it would do for his case?

JEAN-COSME: Harley is a local media celebrity. He likes to say that every time his mom sees a picture of him in the Record, the local NJ newspaper, she is happy because she sees he has a "real job”. Beyond this family story, Harley thrives thanks to the local coverage of his cases. He knows he is different from other lawyers and that difference will either put off people or attract them. He just needs to make sure people know of his difference. So hence the his interest in local coverage. Harley has become the go-to attorney in Paterson, NJ, for difficult cases. He likes to say, he will win some cases and lose some but he stresses he wins enough of these seemingly desperate cases for prosecutors to take him seriously. Media coverage is at the heart of his business model.

We talked after a hearing during STRAY BULLET. We would usually be filming from the jurors box so literally next to the defendants and their lawyers. It creates a bond, especially because these monthly hearings are mostly devoid of any substance. So it creates a routine and a relationship. AS a European, the first time I saw Harley at his home full of weapons, I was taken aback. Harley and I were and still are very different. But Harley grows on you and overtime I got to understand how to navigate his world and appreciate all he is doing for others.

Harley took the case for free well before he knew would do a film on the case. I think he thought he could prove a point that there is never a slam-dunk case.

STEVE: Working in the legal field I know how prickly the courts can be about filming the proceedings. How did you get permission to shoot for both films?

JEAN-COSME:In NJ, you can film in court if you get a permit. I am a journalist and we were shooting this for a news program on Swiss national TV so we could get the permit.

STEVE: You seemed to be very involved with both the families of the alleged shooters and Genesis. Did the fact that you were talking to both sides cause you any problems?

JEAN-COSME:No. Not all, because both sides knew what I was trying to do. But none of this would have been possible without Alexis, Genesis’ father. Alexis came from the same streets as his daughter’s alleged killers. He understood where they were coming from and even identified with them at some point. And that understanding on his part was key to allow me do this film. I wanted to keep it as journalistic as possible. I just wanted to show, how a family, the streets, a city, a court system and society as a whole were dealing with a stray bullet that has by definitely no name. This bullet not only destroyed a bright girl’s life and create unending pain and havoc in her family. It broke the rules of the gangs that specify “no women, no children” and it created a very difficult situation for the DA because no gun was found.I am really proud of what we achieved with STRAY BULLET because when the film came out, we did a screening for all the protagonists in a cinema in Paterson. We had Harley and his mom, Genesis’ family, cops, gang members, family members of the defendants. At the end of the screening, Harley hugged Genesis’ father. The 2 remain in contact to this days. That tells me that we did something right.

STEVE:.In STRAY BULLET Harley shows us his guns and talking about being shot at. How often does that happen?

JEAN-COSME: I don’t know, I have never seen it happen. I have heard and read some of the threats he receives. Harley has created a support system in the streets of Paterson. He has eyes and ears there. He also has some very loyal friends from the streets who give him street credibility. Talking about street cred, he has plenty because he is the only lawyer you will find at night in the dark streets of the 4th Ward. People respect that, rightfully. So even if plenty of people are angry when he loses a case, there plenty who love him to death literally because he saved them from prison. And Harley has a big heart. People know that.

STEVE: At what point did you know you had to make a film that just focused on Harley?

JEAN-COSME: I knew I had incredible material from STRAY BULLET but I was exhausted after that film. I thought I was done with that story until the day Harley gave me a call and told me “Jean. I’ve got a story for you”. I thought it was another case but when I met him to discuss that story, he told me it was his own. He had been trying to make a film with his friend Eddie, a high school teacher. The film focused heavily on Harley and 2 of his friends to try to get in shape. It was called Redemption. At first, I declined but Harley kept calling and when he told me he wanted to to a MMA fight in Brazil for a woman, I accepted. I saw some Rocky and some Don Quixote in that story. And if you read Don Quixote, you see that Cervantes, the writer, keeps mentioning he is just a messenger. And he emphasizes also the role of Don Quixote who tried to write the story of his quest. I felt exactly the same thing. At the core of the film, was Harley’s determination to shape his quest, to write the story of his life. That made for a fascinating shoot.

STEVE: Was HARLEY made with the intention of following the romance story or did that just evolve?

JEAN-COSME: The romance was key, because Harley is obsessed with the romance. He is a passionate man and if he gives you his heart he will try to reach pure love until he runs out of options. Harley is a man who is always on a quest. And romance was the “engine” of his quest exactly like Dulcinea was the driver of Don Quixote’s quest in Cervantes’ book. I read the book before shooting HARLEY. Because I knew Harley’s quest had a similar narrative arc as Don Quixote's. HARLEY is my take on Don Quixote, one of my favorite books. But instead of taking place in 1600’s Spain, it takes place in New Jersey in 2019.

STEVE: How long did you follow Harley around when you were making the portrait of him? How did that go? What I mean is did you just hang around or did you just go say when he was looking for witnesses or when his client turned himself in on the warrant? Did you shoot any footage for STRAY BULLET that ended up in HARLEY? Did you get shot at?

JEAN-COSME: The shoot for Harley lasted 8 months as opposed to 2,5 years for Stray Bullet. The film started the day Harley decided to get in shape for the fight, about 6 months ahead of the fight. We shot some footage after the fight but we started editing a month after the fight. As we were shooting during a trial, we just hung around Harley, who was especially active during the trial. He would also tell us when he would go on errands so it was a combination of both. No material form STRAY BULLET was used for HARLEY. I wanted to make an entirely new film. If STRAY BULLET was like an “article” - very journalistic -, HARLEY was more like a book and way closer to fiction in terms of character development. It was my biggest challenge as a filmmaker.

I was never shot at. It took me 1.5 years to get really deep in the streets of Paterson and get to a point where I did not believe I would get shot at. In these streets, respect is earned and I wanted to show that the camera was not an enemy.

STEVE: Because most defense attorneys that I know spent time as a prosecutor, I was wondering if Harley was ever a prosecutor himself?

JEAN-COSME: Yes he was for a brief period of time. But because of his affinity to defend the down-trodden and the defenseless, he did not last long as a prosecutor. Being a criminal defense lawyer is in his blood. It is actually fascinating to see him at work during a trial. His cross-examinations are usually really short but really to the point. If he were in a ring, you would not expect him to throw dozens of jabs. Harley goes straight for the right hook. And everything he does is for his summation.

STEVE: HARLEY almost exclusively focuses on on the man. I think the only person who talks about him is his mother. Was there a conscious effort not to include interviews about Harley or did it just happen?

JEAN-COSME: Good point. To me the mom was like Sancho Panza in Don Quixote. She enables his quest and at the same time she worries about the quest. She knew what the film meant for her son and in the sit-down interviews she would often have that in mind. We felt it would be way better to have her interacting with Harley. You get more information about their close relationship that way.

STEVE:  How is Harley viewed by prosecutors and his clients?

JEAN-COSME: I think prosecutors respect him even if they find totally extravagant. After all, Harley wears a flamboyant bow ties in a court where anonymous ties are the norm. As for his clients, most of them absolutely adore him and respect him because they know what he can do for them. Like Big Red, a former client of Harley says in HARLEY, when you walk into court with Harley, "you feel like you’re the man”. But when Harley loses a case, clients can get angry at him. Nobody is indifferent with him.

STEVE: Is Harley dating anyone now?

JEAN-COSME: Not that I know.

STEVE: With most film festivals in limbo I was wondering what the next step is for HARLEY?

JEAN-COSME: No idea. We are lucky to have a great agent, Andrew Herwitz, and I am convinced he will find a good home for HARLEY. But first and foremost, I hope that Tribeca will be able to do something in the fall. Tribeca was a dream come true for me. I moved to NYC in 2002, the year the festival was created. I discovered some of my favorite films there. This festival always symbolized the resilience of New Yorkers for me and it meant a lot to me to be able to screen one for my films at Tribeca. I think people will want to watch stories like HARLEY when this is over, especially in NYC. So hopefully, we will be there if Tribeca can organize something.

STEVEL Lastly since both HARLEY and STRAY BULLET focus on murders I am curious to know if you think that his clients committed the crimes of which they were accused?

JEAN-COSME: I am torn and I really don’t know. I am not sure the people involved in the case - the prosecutor, the defense lawyers, the judge, the respective families - can be 100% sure whether they did it. I don’t think they were picked up at random and there were part of a social infrastructure that often gives young people like them no other choice than end up in the streets. But in the end, my goal was to do justice to Genesis and make sure she exists among us. Genesis is not statistic. She was a bright, creative, young girl. My goal was to try to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of politicians who dismiss cases like Genesis to do absolutely nothing against the gun epidemic. And I wanted to do that not by trying to prove them how wrong they are but by simply letting them see and decide by themselves whether our society and our justice system have the tools to prevent other bright girls like Genesis from dying. In Paterson, Nazerah, another teen, was killed by a stray bullet 3 months after Genesis.

Ariela Rubin on Banksy Most Wanted (2020) Tribeca 2020

I have seen several Banksy documentaries before, so I was a little worried that this would be similar, and that I would be bored. However, that was not the case. Banksy Most Wanted is a documentary that revolves around people and journalists trying to uncover who Banksy really is. No one has been that famous, and managed to be invisible before. 99.9% of the world doesn't know who Banksy is or what he looks like.

This documentary tells the history of Banksy's art starting in Bristol, England, going to to New York, to Gaza, and more.

Bansy's agent speaks in this, and that I found really interesting. He said 50-60% of his time was spent trying to keep Banksy anonymous. He says people will never be able to know who he is. It's really fascinating.

I felt that this documentary played out kind of like a mystery movie. First we hear from one journalist who thinks she figured out who he is, and I'm sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to find out if her revelation was correct. Then to the next journalist, and everyone has a different theory. There's even a criminologist who uses methods that people normally use to track down serial killers, to try to track down Banksy.

I really enjoyed this doc. I felt it flowed well, and kept me curious. It was also the perfect runtime of 90 minutes.

Nate Hood's Quarentine Qapsule #20 Evel Knievel [1971] ★½

It always seemed like John Milius had a screw loose. Whether it was his idolization of the military, his proto-fascist heroes, or his uncomfortably fetishistic obsession with Japanese culture, Milius always seemed to move to a defiantly different drumbeat than the rest of the world. But no one thing screams this more than the revelation that of all the films he’d written his favorite was Marvin J. Chomsky’s Evel Knievel (1971). Not the early Dirty Harry movies, not Jeremiah Johnson (1972), not even the seminal Apocalypse Now (1979)—it was this cheaply made biopic of the infamous stunt performer. And if you watch only the first five minutes, you might understand and possibly even agree.

The opening scene sees Knievel (George Hamilton) escorted through an empty Ontario Motor Speedway with a motorcycle honor guard like he was a cross between a Roman Emperor and a Hells Angels foot-soldier. He pulls up to his bike, faces the camera, and addresses the audience with the most over-the-top rah-rah monologue since the opening address of Franklin J. Schaffner’s Patton the year before, name-dropping Columbus, the Wright Brothers, and Neil Armstrong as he expounds his can-do personal philosophy. It’s patently, undeniably preposterous. But something about the speech, something about the performance, something about the pomp and bravado of the sequence makes it work, and for a moment we understand why Knievel thought of himself as the “Last Gladiator.”

Then the scene ends and the whole film falls apart with the filmmakers left holding the wheel. Sloppily tumbling through hackneyed slapstick, good ol’ boys shenanigans out of a Dukes of Hazzard episode, uncomfortably grim behind-the-scenes revelations about Knievel’s anxieties and tyrannies as a star, and grainy stock footage of the historical Knievel’s stunts, the film can’t decide what it wants to be and, more importantly, who its hero is. Is he a Saturday morning cartoon hero giving inspirational speeches before performing impossible stunts? Is he a chilled out take-it-as-it-comes antihero, cracking jokes with his friends at the bar before moseying off to raise hell? Is he a smooth ladies man who’ll ride a motorcycle into a girl’s dormitory to pick up his gal for a date? Or is he an actual bank robber and criminal? There’s certainly an interesting character study to be made about this American icon, but this ain’t it.