Friday, October 23, 2020

After Class (2020)


 Bleak short film about poverty in China and the inability of some parents to afford their children school fees. Min doesn't go to school but she wishes she could. Her mother barely makes ends meet and needs Min to help earn money to keep the house going. When tragedy strikes Min's mother tries to get her daughter into school any way she can.

Incredibly sad short film will break your heart. I didn't see the ending coming and it made me gasp. I was kind of hoping for feature film version until the ending and no I never want to see it again.

That's a kind of a rave since this is a beautifully made, perfectly acted film. It is a wonderful little gem with one hell of a down beat ending


Thursday, October 22, 2020

A repost of my piece on Skeptics, the silence of God and teapots in honor of the passing of James Randi

I have a complicated relationship with the man who was James Randi. There was much that I liked, much that I didn't, but he always challenged me to look beyond the curtain. 

An atheist, he always insisted that there was nothing out there and that anything paranormal was bunk. While I  admired his debunking of charlatans I have always had trouble with his tendency, as with most skeptics, to insist that if he could explain it one way it couldn't be something else. For a man who loved science there a few too many times when he seemed to dismiss things out of hand without really looking, and a couple of times where he fudged things to prove his point.

On the other hand he was a great talker and if you heard him you'd fall under his spell.

What follows was piece I wrote a few years back, not so much on Randi but on belief, skeptics and our right to believe what the things we experience tell us are true. That last bit is one of the the things that annoys the piss out of me regarding skeptics and true believers which is their insistence that they have all the facts when that isn't always the case. 

Since Randi insisted that we question everything - I am reposting my piece on questioning everything except the things we have experienced. 
---- 

 The piece that follows here has been kicking around since Tribeca. It started as a long piece on the Amazing Randi that came out of AN HONEST LIAR and which I decided to abandon for reasons I won’t go into. The piece grew when I saw NOAH and was intrigued at the way the people who god talked to saw the world and those he didn’t saw the world. I linked them because Randi is a devote atheist. I then bridged the pieces with a discussion of Bertrand Russell.

I think it’s a start to something but not a fully formed piece. I’m presenting it here because it’s something related to movies and because I’m so sick of the damn thing I want it out there so I don’t have to revisit it.

The public doesn't listen when they are being told straight forward facts. They would rather accept what some charismatic character tells them then think about what the truth means. They'd rather have the romance and the lies.- James Randi

I’m bumping things around for this week’s Nightcap. I’m going to ramble, briefly, about skeptics, the silence of god and teapots. This rambling is the result of a couple of films and reading some Bertrand Russell.

Before we start I have to state that I’m agnostic when it comes to pretty much everything. I’d like to believe, or even disbelieve but I really need a bit more proof from every side before I sign on to anything.

The idea for the piece was kicked up while seeing the film on James Randi AN HONEST LIAR. Watching the film I was again drawn into pondering skepticism. I’ve been a follower of Randi’s for decades, ever since his battles with Uri Gellar and Peter Popoff brought him into the forefront. I once  hung on his every word in the TV bits and loved what he was doing.

I fell out of love with him when I started reading some of his books and found that he was cooking some material himself (The one thing that hung with me was in Flimflam his presentation of charts in the Betty and Barney Hill UFO case and he spread it across several pages and in differing sizes making any real comparison impossible.) He was kind of cooking the data to prove his point (and even bits Liar seems cooked).

While I applaud Randi and his efforts to find the truth I’m less enraptured by some of his brethren, who take the position that if they can duplicate or explain something it must not be a real and is a trick. Randi at least makes an effort to try and get some sort of scientific control in what he investigates, but there are others I’ve run across who simply make pronouncements that things aren’t so or are the result of some explanation without investigating it. UFO skeptic Philip Glass frequently didn’t do his homework with some of his pronouncements like a sighting being a lighthouse not being possible because of the terrain. He may have been right, but many times it was for the wrong reason.

My feelings toward skeptics is suspect in that many feel that they don’t actually have to back up their pronouncements. These things can’t be so they are not. This has never happened before so it can't happen now.

This week I was reading a bit on Bertrand’s Russell’s Teapot. The teapot thing is Russell’s argument is that if you claim that there is a small teapot in orbit around the sun I don’t have to believe it unless you provide proof. Fair enough.

Actually I think the piece from Russell says that if you put a teapot in orbit around the sun that he doesn’t have to believe it’s there without proof. And I’m good with that but at the same time just because you don’t believe that I did something doesn’t make it not so. The whole teapot thing ultimately should make you question what anyone says or does since we can ultimately know if anything we tell each other is true unless we experience it. We don’t have to believe anything anyone says not just about tea pots or god.

The lack of proof or silence of God is a key point in Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH. Within the frame work of the story mankind is divided into two sections, the sons of Cain and the sons of Abel. The Sons of Cain are forced to deal with the indifference of god. Its their sins and arrogance that god is trying to wipe off the face of the earth. Noah and his clan are in god’s good graces and he speaks to them.

The point that I’m reaching for here is that within the context of the film Tubal-cain and his clan view the universe as being one way because god is silent and doesn’t speak to them. Since he doesn’t speak to them he doesn’t exist. Since he doesn’t tell them how the world is they have created their own way of looking at the world. While it isn’t wrong for them to think that way within the parameters of their world and their knowledge it still doesn’t mean they are right, it just means, within the context of the film that they are operating without all of the facts or possibilities. Or in the real world, like someone coming to a conclusion without all of the facts.

I have no problem with anyone believing in gods or teapots or not believing in them. I firmly support your right to feel either way. But at the same time I have a problem with you forcing your beliefs on me or anything else. Your view isn’t my view. And considering that science is constantly revising what the truth is as more facts come in I find it highly questionable to state that one thing or isn’t possible- especially teapots which are outside of our ability to see orbiting the sun.

The point of this rambling piece is that like James Randi says, we should question what we are told, especially when it's something fantastical like a teapot orbiting the sun. On the other hand just because we don't have evidence (of said teapot) doesn't mean things aren't there...since someday we may find out otherwise (science revises)

Question everything. However be careful when you dismiss for lack of evidence, because one never knows when one might find something unexpected down the road. Besides when you get down to it, we can't tell what's going on in the house next door to ours and you're going to tell me for certainty what's floating out in space or how the universe works?

Synchronic (2019) hits theaters tomorrow


 Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's follow up to their film THE ENDLESS is a trippy time travel film that you are either going to buy or not.

The film has two paramedics Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan running across some weird occurances. All of them seem to be tied to a new designer drug called Synchronic. When Dornan's teenage daughter disappears after using the drug Mackie tries to buy up as much as he can. He is then informed that the drug can be used to time travel and that the missing girl maybe somewhere in time. He then begins a frantic search for her before the drug or the tumor in his head kills him.

I find Bendon and Moorhead's films a mixed bag. Some like THE ENDLESS I like despite it's flaws and others, like SYNCHRONIC I think get overwhelmed by the strangeness. The sometimes want to make us think at the cost of an sort of internal logic.

SYNCHRONIC for all it's narrative mess, is a beautifully acted film with a lot to say about what it means to be alive and what is important. There is a good many thematic elements that really shine and I tried to hold on to them as best I could in the hope that they would tide me over until the plot came together. It never happened.

Sadly the plot doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense. Assuming we accept that there could be a pill that bends time what spins out from it isn't always logical and it left me scratching my head. For example the inventor of the pill sets up rules that the film seems to ignore. Mackie's trips don't always make logical sense (I can't say what since it will give plot twists away). Forgive me I will go along with plot twists as long as they are internally logical, but as with the director's other films, things are often bent to do what they want them to do. When confronted with a film which keeps changing things up I am reminded of Raymond Chandler's warning that an audience will by one illogical thing, maybe two, but never more than that. If you do that the audience will be lost.

I was lost.

As much as I don't like the film as a whole I do like pieces and as such recommend it for anyone who wants to see an interesting misfire.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Bullets of Justice (2019)


I have no idea what to think of BULLETS OF JUSTICE an out there (no, even further out there) film about a world where pig/human hybrids have taken over the world and now farm people. Mixing wild action, a bent world view, some seeming hardcore sex and WTF plot the film is unlike anything you've run across.

I love the action, I love the look, the script needs work because things seem to just jump to the next thing.

Not making a hell of a lot sense and swing from pillar to post, BULLETS holds your attention because it is just so weird. Things just seem to happen because they can. Characters come and go and its all punctuated with some crazy ass action sequences that deserve to be in a more coherent film. I marveled at the action every damn time.

While I'm not a prude I'm not sure that the graphic quality of some of this is really needed. Do we need multiple shots of the pig men soiling themselves? Do we need the sex scenes (forget that some of the shots suggest its not simulated), they really don't serve a purpose except to bring in a certain audience.

Reservations aside this is a film that is a cult film in the making. There is enough weirdness and off the beaten trail appeal that I have n doubt that this film is going to gain a following now that it is out on home video. This is the the sort of weird cinematic confection Unseen FIlms was set up to highlight.

Recommended for anyone who wants something completely out of the cinematic mainstream

Assassination of Western Civilization (2020) hits VOD November 1


 In the aftermath of the assassination of a senator Mark,a journalist, finds himself under scrutiny by the FBI and others.

If you are willing to go along with this single take  thriller you will find yourself rewarded by having yourself caught up in an intriguing mystery as people come to call and our hero has to try and dig himself out of a hole.

The key to really enjoying this film is to understand that much of the first 15 minutes of the film is set up. People come into the room and talk to or at Mark, who says very little. It is only as some FBI agents come in that things heat up. (Actually they heat up just before that but I can't tell you why). From that point on the film becomes a cat and mouse game all the way to the end.

I likes ASSASSINATION OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION a great deal. It was a nice change of pace from all the big and loud thrillers we are seeing these days and it is so nice to simply see a film where the characters carry the film. 

While I could quibble with the one take nature of the film (I think it highlights the fact this was a stage play too much), the film kept me watching once it's all set in motion. Once the drama really kicks in you really won't notice that there are no cuts.

Worth a look for anyone tired of your typical Hollywood thrillers

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

NightStream Shorts: ANNIVERSARY PARTY. HAND IN HAND,LE JET, BEACH DAY. OH SEES- GHOLU, PETER THE PENGUIN, and RAINBOW IN THE DARK

 ANNIVERSARY PARTY
For their anniversary a couple decides to take a drug used by shaman...
Chilling film about the dangers of drug use-

HAND IN HAND
A handshakes goes horribly, terribly wrong
Surreal WTF film is both funny and scary in equal measures.

LE JET(STREAM)
A woman hides in a mens room to watch men pee. 
This is a button pushing film that kind of never pulls it together

BEACH DAY
A man with a camera films his trip to the beach...and guy just trying to swim
Creepy found footage sort of film that both kind of doesn't work and also does, leaving a bad taste in your mouth thanks to the lack of titles

OH SEES-GHOLU'
Animated music video of a serial killer at work.
Gross and troubling heavy metal nightmare

PETER THE PENGUIN
A man goes to meet his partner's daughter in a nightmarish comedy that will catch in your throat. Disturbing.

RAINBOW IN THE DARK
Stunning visuals in hat appears to be an apocalyptic tale of creation. I have no clue what it is about but it looks cool and is hypnotic

After So Many Days (2020)

 


Jim Hanft and Samantha Yonack who make up the group Jim and Sam have been struggling to get by in the music business. Desperate to make things happen the decide that for one year they will travel the world and play one show everyday. The result is an adventure they never could have imagined as they go from playing in theaters to bars to laundromats to living rooms and even a field full of cows. 

Very good documentary about the real grind of being on the road. It's a you are there portrait of two people spending a lot of time together across the globe trying to make their dream come true. Its a lovely portrait of lovely people who are truly trying to make it all work even if it means that night's show is in a gas station.

THe best part of the film is it gives us a ton of great music Jim and Sam are constantly playing something with the result you really get a wonderful sense of what they can do musically. The result is that anyone going into the film is going to come out as a huge fan.

Highly recommended AFTER SO MANY DAYS releases today.

Monday, October 19, 2020

NightStream Shorts: A STRANGE CALM, ANIMALS, ABRACITOS, WHENCE COME BUSSEL SPROUTS and WAFFLE

 A STRANGE CALM 
To kids take a ride they never should have.
Uncomfortable story of why you should be wary of strangers

ANIMALS
This animated tale of people being trapped on the subway and turning into animals, is both funny and disturbing.

ABRACITOS
Completely disturbing tale that sent shivers down my spine... and to hell with it I just don't want to talk about it.

WHENCE COME BRUSSEL SPROUTS
As fucked up a film as they come, this is a hellish nightmare that is just wrong. Recommended

WAFFLE
Two friends argue over waffles with dire consequences. An amusing little film.

First thoughts on Shiva Baby (2020) NewFest 2020


 Danielle meets her family to attend a post Shiva gathering. If having to deal with the prying eyes of family and friends wasn't bad enough, her ex-girlfriend shows up...and so does her boyfriend...and his wife...and their baby.

Wickedly funny and on target story of a family gathering will have you laughing and squirming. This is film version of a gathering of family that we;ve all been at. Sure not everyone is Jewish, but the complications are something we've all experienced.  I've been to gatherings like this and I know of what this film speaks.

I loved this film.  It was put solidly on my radar by Danielle Solzman who had first tweeted good things about the film and then wrote a wonderful review that made me want to see it more. I want to do for you what Danielle dis for me which is put the film on your radar. I want you to search it out and find its wonders.

Certain to be on my end of the year lists- SHIVA BABY is highly recommended.

And now if you don't mind I'm going to go watch the film again


Sunday, October 18, 2020

The State Of Texas vs Melissa (2020) hits VOD on October 20

This is the story of Melissa Lucio who was convicted of abusing her daughter to death. As a result she has been on death row for the last 12 years. The trouble is that there are all sorts of problems with the case, witnesses came forward to say she didn't do it but were ignored; her defense attorney may have railroaded her in order to get a high paying job with the DA; and on top of it all the DA was convicted of corruption not long after and the federal prosecutor on that case said all the death row cases the DA handled need to be re-investigated. Of course that doesn't include the fact that science maybe on her side when a doctor revealed the bruising from abuse may have been due to the brain injury. If there was ever a case where there was reasonable doubt, this is it and then some.

An absolutely riveting case and horrifying miscarriage of justice is a warning to everyone about what happens when public officials do evil. While some may argue that some of it isn't conclusive proof of innocence there is more than enough here to throw out her conviction because the optics of the case are so bad it's more than likely it's all tainted. Watching the film you are going to find that things are so WTF that you will be glued to the edge of your seat.

And that's a good thing because as compelling as the story is, the telling takes a while to get up to speed. Too much time is given over to telling Lucio's story early on. Yes, it makes Melissa more of a person than just someone on the screen, but at the same time it feels like we are being delayed in why we are watching the film. I would love to see the material slightly reordered.

Quibble aside, once the film finds its footing it tears on straight to the end. The film will leave you sick to your stomach and talking to the screen- with the final notes at the end will making you groan at the possible future for Lucio and the case.

Recommended.

Mothman Legacy (2020)


Unexpectedly good documentary on the whole legend of the Mothman. The giant red eyed creature was first sighted in Point Pleasant Virginia in the 1960’s right before the Silver Bridge collapsed killing 47. The mystery was chronicled in  the book the Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, who was then haunted by the mystery for the rest of his life.

Focusing on the town, the legend, the life and times of John Keel who was the guy on the subject (even though he didn’t want to be) as well as Jeff Wamsley and his Mothman Museum in the town of Point Pleasant the film is everything you wanted to know about the mystery and then some. Actually it’s the then some, particularly the sociological musings and history which raise The Mothman Legacy up from many other similar documentaries. Yes the film covers the scary stuff but the film tries to explore what that means for the people it touched. What did it mean for John Keel, or the witnesses or even the town of Point Pleasant itself. The film seeks to answer that question and as a result the film makes it greater.

Watching the film I was shocked and pleased at what I was seeing, even to the point where I was stopping the film even if I had to get up for a second.

Is the film perfect? No. It’s efforts at talking about scary stuff with a puffy opening where a young woman goes out painting and sees the creature and a few similar moments inside the film are not needed and a bit disposable. Regardless of that the over all film is solid reporting and highly recommended

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Cured (2020) NewFest 2020

 


CURED wrecked me. Several times in the film I found myself sobbing and had to stop the film. I am not entirely sure why, I knew how it comes out, but at the same time heart broke time and again as these heroes of our times related the stories of their lives and struggles.

CURED is the story of the fight to get homosexuality off the list of mental diseases in the American Psychiatric Association's list of illnesses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is a battle that a group of activists fought for almost two decades, taking small victories where they could. They knew that the small victories would eventually lead to a greater victory, and they were right. It was because of their determination that minds changed and suddenly several million people who were once mentally ill were now cured.

Full of interviews with the surviving activists as well as with lots of historical footage, CURED is a glorious, often heartbreaking, look at the fight to simply be viewed as a normal human. This film will touch you repeatedly. As I said at the top the film brought me to tears several times and I have no doubt that it will do the same for you.

Forgive me if I don't say a great deal about the film but I really don't know what to say. This is a story we all need to hear and see.

One of the most important films of the year.

See it at New Fest

Forgotten Roads (2020) aka (LA NAVE DEL OLVIDO) NewFest2020

 


Covid has me seeing a lot of films I never intended to see and discovering films that make me feel stupidly wonderful. I don’t think that was something that whom ever created the virus intended.

The latest ball of pure joy is Forgotten Roads which is playing at NewFest. This wonderful little film is about Claudina who is dealing with the death of her husband. Forced to leave her house she moves in with her daughter and grandson. She then quickly meets ELsa who lives next door with her husband who goes away on trips frequently. The friendship between the two women becomes something more and eventually Claudina begins to see possibilities in life .

Wow and Wow.

This film  absolutely delighted me. I fell head over heels for everyone, so much so I want to know where this place in Chile is so I can go down and meet them all. More to the point I want to break social distancing protocols and give everyone a big bear hug.

I was moved to tears, and the ending had me going – “Yes Yes Yes” out loud. Sure that finale could be considered being a tad cliché- but the  moment, the marriage of images and the song is so damn perfect I had to not only talk to the screen but clap and bounce in my seat. (I was  watching this during an extended lunch at work and my reaction made the people around me go- what are you watching- to which all I could say was “Something wonderful”)

That the film works as well as it does is entirely due to the cast who sell it and especially the two ladies at the center Rosa Ramirez and Romana Salt. They make this a magnificent film that should be playing everywhere. Ramirez in particular gives a performance that has burned itself in my heart. When she smiled  my hard exterior shell cracked and let the sunlight in.  If there was a god she would be in the running for all of the year end awards.

I can’t recommend this film enough.

See it at NewFest or wherever you can.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Sinbad:The Fifth Voyage Ultimate Directors Cut (2020)


 Sinbad returns in a film that acts an homage to the films of Ray Harryhausen and makes you feel like a kid again.

The plot of the film has Sinbad returning from a voyage to with a magic amulet. It is a gift for the Princess who has won his heart. However when he arrives he finds the city frozen and the princess stolen by an evil wizard who wants to make her his own. It is up to Sinbad and his crew to get her back.

Mixing CGI and stop motion this film is full of familiar monsters from cyclops, to dragons, to skeletons to multi-armed deities, that would do Harryhausen proud. All hail director Shahin Solimon, a great fan of the Harryhausen, who has intentionally made a film that brings back all the things he loved in the films he grew up on. You will delight, as I did, at all the references to  your favorite moments. While I was hooked by the film itself, another part of me also desperately wanted to see what the next riff was going to be.

The best part about the film is it works on it's own terms. This is a great adventure that grabs you and pulls you along. Yes, some of the use of flashback early on is a tad clunky, but it moves the plot along so we know what is what.

This film is an absolute joy.

Get some popcorn and go to to Amazon Prime and watch this old school winner.

A Ghost Waits (2020)


A handyman is hired to repair a rental property that has gone u for rent. He is also asked to find out  why the property is constantly having it's tenants leave mid-lease. What he discovers is the property is haunted by a beautiful ghost. Soon romance is in the air.

Cutesy romcom ponders whether a ghost and a human (who is kind of a ghost himself) can find a middle ground to be in love. This is an amusing little film that has it's charms. It's hell acted and heart felt which adds a great deal of likability to the proceedings. 

I was amused by the film.

Worth a look if cute romances between the living and the dead are up your alley.

The Old Ways (2020) Stiges

 


The Old Ways is a film I admire more than I like. The story of a woman from Veracruz in Mexico who long ago left and grew up in the US she returns as a reporter with the aim of focusing on the local myths and legends. She finds herself taken prisoner as the people in her home town insist there is a demon inside her.

Beautifully made the film has images and moments that are going to stay with me forever. For example one of the final shots in the film sent chills down my spine. It also has a chilly sound design that keeps the film chugging away.

The trouble for me is that all of the good bits don’t quite come together. I thought it was a little too abrupt getting into the film and I didn’t connect until a good way in. I also thought things were a little too bright to be scary. There wasn’t the proper creep factor for my tastes. I also have grown weary with any film that relies on jump scares.

But if I am quibbling with this film it is because while I like the film I wanted to love the film like I love the pieces. There is so much great here I wanted it all to be great. Regardless of it all there are some wondrous things that lovers of horror films should see.

Recommended

Thursday, October 15, 2020

CUCALORUS FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES COMPLETE FILM SLATE WITH TICKETS AND PASSES ON SALE (November 11-25)

 “Racism, and pandemic boredom under attack at Cucalorus, I dare you!!”  

Drive-ins, Special Live Online Events, and a streaming library with lots of options every day 

Opening night sports a double feature of Mo Scarpelli’s EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF and

Sabrina Mertens’ TIME OF MOULTING

Wilmington, NC (October 15, 2020) – The 26th Annual Cucalorus Film Festival has announced that passes and tickets are now on sale, along with the full schedule of screenings and events for this year’s hybrid event with both online and drive-in screenings. The celebration brings together film and performance and will be held November 11-25 with a slate of challenging new films availave in three formats: at the Curbside Cinema at UNCW, Live Online, and Streaming On-demand. Opening night will feature a one-two punch of Mo Scapelli’s EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF and Sabrina Mertens’ TIME OF MOULTING, and Curbside Cinema at UNCW screenings will include festival must-see titles like Danny Madden’s BEAST BEAST, and Mario Furloni and Kate McLean’s FREELAND, starring Krisha Fairchild. 

A lineup of live performances will be led by infamous performance artist Kristina Wong, Wilmington’s own Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock, and legendary art pop band, Sparks! Cucalorus Connect uses film as a catalyst for discussions about undoing racism and community transformation. Special guests will include author Damon Young, whose book What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker was released in 2019 by HarperCollins. 

Cucalorus Film Festival Chief Instigating Officer Dan Brawley said, “I don’t think anyone was really ready for the strange and challenging energy of the past six months. But we’ve really seized this as a chance to focus in on what we do best: to surprise people, to challenge people, and to bring people together. In some ways, the wacky, off-the-wall energy at Cucalorus is perfect for difficult situations. We’re adaptable and flexible and always looking for a good reason to try something new. This year’s festival aims to continue making that vital connection for filmmakers and performers but we’ve been forced to examine what matters most. So we’ve made a bigger commitment to equity, to sharing more stories centered on Black, Brown and Indigenous people. But also sharing power and making sure those stories are accountable. I see this year’s festival as the beginning of a new era for Cucalorus and for storytellers. The most exciting part is that we have no idea what will actually happen. So tune in, and find out!” 

Opening Night will feature two films, Mo Scarpelli’s EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF, and Sabrina Mertens’ TIME OF MOULTING. EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF is about a young director who is inspired to make a film based on his father’s life in the Amazon jungle, starring his father as himself. That decision – made as an act of love and ambition — takes the film and his relationship to a place he wasn’t prepared to go. TIME OF MOULTING will be the first of four “Convulsions” presentations hosted by film raconteur Aaron Hillis. Set in 1970s Germany, the film focuses on a lively child who enjoys board games and playdates with neighbors, until she becomes increasingly emotionally isolated from her parents. Unfolding as a beautiful series of intricate tableaux vivants of creeping dread, we witness an equally sublime and crushing portrait of trauma.

 Additional online feature film highlights include; Heather Young’s multiple award-winning drama MURMUR, about a woman ordered to perform community service at the local animal shelter, who begins to fil the loneliness in her life by taking more and more animals home until she gets in over her head; Graham Mason’s INSPECTOR IKE, a “lost 70s TV movie” which follows New York City’s greatest police detective, who finds himself in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse after the conniving understudy of an avant-garde theater group knocks off the star actor; Jennifer Sharp’s documentary THE CHASING OF A GREAT MOVIE, looks at the experience of an African American woman who fearlessly travels alone to Mexico to accomplish her 17-year dream of making a movie there; and George King’s THUMBS UP FOR MOTHER UNIVERSE: STORIES FROM THE LIFE OF LONNIE HOLLEY, another award-winner, that looks at the remarkable life of the enigmatic and prolific artist and musician Lonnie Holley. There will also be three “Secret Convulsions” presentations hosted by Aaron Hillis. These secret screenings will likely involve film rarities, unexpected gems, and films not for the faint of heart. 

Twelve shorts film blocks, named after mushrooms (“Dewdrop Dapperling,” “Gassy Webcap,”, “Purple Jellydisc,” etc.) range from three sections showcasing new documentaries about race, land, immigration, and gender to a hefty selection of experimental work and comedies. Following the festival’s tradition of showcasing choreography on film and in front of film, the “Witches Butter” shorts block features the World Premiere of Tuixén Benet’s mesmerizing featurette ALOMA & MILA, shot on the coast of Spain. 

CUCALORUS GOES TO THE DRIVE-IN

Cucalorus’ Curbside Cinema at UNCW will include; Michael Parks Randa, and Lauren Smitelli’s BEST SUMMER EVER, about a couple facing the drama of high school after falling in love at a dance camp over the summer. The film features a cast and crew of people with and without disabilities; Danny Madden’s BEAST BEAST follows ratchets up the tension via three interwoven stories of youth navigating identity, first love, petty crime, and gun violence in a Southern, American town; Jonathan Wysocki’s DRAMARAMA is about a group of conservative drama teens in the mid 90s who throw their final murder mystery party before heading off to college. However, an unexpected visit by a rebel upends everything including the plans of one member who wants to come out as gay to his best friends before they leave – but is terrified of the changes that may bring; and Mario Furloni and Kate McLean’s FREELAND, about an aging pot farmer who suddenly finds her world shattered as she fights against the threat of eviction at the same time the impact of the legalization of the cannabis industry looms.

CUCALORUS STAGE

The Stage program kicks off and closes with two one-woman shows— Reality Television, Political Theater, and Social Change by Kristina Wong, and Gazed At: Stories of a Mortal Body, by Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock. Visual/Sound/Walls returns featuring Sparks!, one of the greatest cult bands of all time for a special Friday the 13th retrospective of their wildly inventive music videos, along with live chats throughout the evening! The middle of the festival is full of get-togethers, including a meet-up with CultureHub to learn about LiveLab, their browser-based media-router for collaborative performance. And in sticking with tradition, Emcees will introduce all programs, bringing living room theatrics to the screen. 

 CUCALORUS CONNECT

This year’s Cucalorus Connect workshops build on the format of the Community Conversations series using film as a catalyst for discussion about undoing racism. Six events will explore the relationship between storytelling and action as we tackle the nation’s most pressing issues and seek a path to real action and change. Sessions will be facilitated by Damon Young (Author, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker), Rebecca Trammel (Author, Enforcing the Convict Code: Violence and Prison Culture), Working Films, Ebony Golden (Founder, Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative), Kim Pevia (Founder and CEO, K.A.P. Knowledge. Application. Practice of the human dynamic), and Kevin Maurer (Author, No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden).

 Cucalorus is sponsored by the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County, University of North Carolina Wilmington, and over 45 local businesses.  The Cucalorus Film Foundation is funded, in part, by grants from grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and South Arts with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

 For information on purchasing passes, tickets, and additional details on the Cucalorus Film festival, please go to: cucalorus.org.

 Cucalorus Film Festival 2020 film descriptions:

 

The 2020 Louisiana Film Prize announces Lorna Street Dopson’s UNTITLED POST-BABY PROJECT as the winner of the $25,000 Grand Prize

 Top 5 trophies went to Anne Nichols Brown’s AWAY, Paul Petersen’s DOUBLE DATE NIGHT, TOPHERSIMON’s IMMINENT, Michael Landry’s NICE TO MEET YOU, and Dopson’s UNTITLED POST-BABY PROJECT

Garret Kruithof (THREE MILE HELL), and Teri Wyble (NICE TO MEET YOU) were named Best Actor and Best Actress

Shreveport, LA (October 13, 2020) – The winner of the 9th annual Louisiana Film Prize was announced this evening in a virtual broadcast from the Film Prize headquarters in Shreveport, Louisiana during a presentation that was viewed by film fans all over the world for the first time in the celebrated film festival/film competition’s history. The Film Prize's top award of $25,000 cash – determined by a mixture of audience votes and top film industry judges – went to Lorna Street Dopson’s UNTITLED POST-BABY PROJECT. 

In addition to directing the film, Dopson also wrote and starred in UNTITLED POST-BABY PROJECT. The New Orleans resident’s film is a heartfelt meditation of a young mother struggling with her feelings of inadequacy, inability to fit into her pre-pregnancy skinny jeans, and other thoughts of not measuring up to images of super-motherhood she sees online. Dopson’s win marks the first time that a woman director has taken the big check.

The films that joined Dopson’s UNTITLED POST-BABY PROJECT in the Top 5 this year were; Anne Nichols Brown’s AWAY, about a troubled teenager who attempts to save his little sister from what seems to be an abusive home; Paul Petersen’s DOUBLE DATE NIGHT, where two roommates find the intimate meaning of friendship through the trials and tribulations of preparing a stay-at-home dinner for their dates; TOPHERSIMON’s IMMINENT, in which a hardworking, everyday man is startled by an unknown, imminent threat that stands between him and his family; and Michael Landry’s NICE TO MEET YOU, which focuses on a recently separated couple who meet up at their favorite bar, and find the reunion awakens feelings of bitterness and love.

All but one of the top five filmmakers are Louisiana-based. Along with Dopson (New Orleans), Brown is from Monroe, Petersen is from Shreveport, and TOPHERSIMON is from Baton Rouge. Los Angeles’ Landry is the sole out-of-state filmmaker to crack this year’s Top 5 group. This was the first year – as a response to difficulties, challenges, and restrictions placed on filmmakers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that filmmakers were allowed to shoot and produce their films in locations throughout the state of Louisiana (as opposed to the confines of the Shreveport, Northwest Louisiana area).  

Garret Kruithof won Best Actor for his performance in Jeremy Enis’s THREE MILE HELL as a haunted man forced to face the consequences of his troubled past. He will have to walk the Three Mile Hell once again – this time to set things right. Best Actress went to Teri Wyble for her performance in Landry’s NICE TO MEET YOU, as a woman conflicted over the finality of her relationship and the fact that her partner has moved on with someone new. 

“Due to the extreme challenges brought about by the pandemic, this year forced both our competing filmmakers and our entire Film Prize staff to find another gear – which they all did. It was inspiring to see the creativity, innovation, and absolute refusal to yield to the difficulties that were laid out for everyone involved in our Film Prize world,” said Gregory Kallenberg, Founder and Executive Director of the Film Prize Foundation. “And the result was unleashing this juggernaut of entertaining cinema and promising filmmakers on the world.”

 The Louisiana Film Prize expanded this year from the traditional weekend of screenings and events in Shreveport, to an 10-day virtual spectacular which was made available to a worldwide audience for the first time. Broadcasting from the Film Prize’s office building throughout the week and a half, the 20 filmmaking finalists, and jury members comprised of film industry veterans and taste makers, participated in a seemingly never ending show hosted by multiple members of the Film Prize staff.

 In that time, over 45,000 streams/viewings took place. Film lovers tuned in from 37 states (including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin), watching the Film Prize films and broadcasts and voting for their favorites. 9 countries around the world also participated in the Film Prize phenomenon this year, including; Australia, Canada, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, United States, and the United Kingdom. 

Those joining in to see the Film Prize world saw a virtual “red carpet” where Film Prize hosts interviewed the filmmaking finalists, Film Prize University panels and roundtables featuring several of the jury members, live broadcast announcements, updates, and interviews with the competing filmmakers. In a year beset by challenges roadblocks and restrictions for filmmakers and film audiences, the Louisiana Film Prize successfully brought its one-of-a-kind film festival/film competition hybrid to the world, which might very well bring the world to Shreveport and Louisiana next year to make more films and compete at the next Film Prize.

The judges for this year’s Louisiana Film Prize included:

Melanie Addington (Executive Director, Oxford Film Festival)

Carlos Aguilar (Journalist, Los Angeles Times, Variety, New York Time)

Kevin Arbouet (Writer/Director, BENJI THE DOVE)

Sharon Badal (Vice President, Filmmaker Relations, Shorts Programming, Tribeca Film Festival)

Xander Berkeley (Actor, The Walking Dead, The Mentalist)

Kimberley Browning (Hollywood Shorts Film Festival Director, HBO All Access)

Jim Brunzell (Festival Director, Sound Unseen)

Milan Chakraborty (Producer, PLUS ONE, ASSASSINATION NATION, MY FRIEND DAHMER)

Steve Dollar (Journalist, Wall Street Journal, Filmmaker Magazine)

Colette Freedman (Writer/Producer/Actor, MILES UNDERWATER) 

Christina Kim (Festival Director, Silicon Valley Film Festival)

Kristina Klebe (Actor, HELLBOY, HALLOWEEN)

Tara McPherson (Hugh Hefner Professor of Censorship Studies and Chair of Cinema + Media Studies in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts)

Jennifer Merin (Journalist, Alliance of Women Film Journalists)

Linda Campos Olszewski (Shorts International)

Jude Prest (Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin)

Jennifer Prince (Director, MILES UNDERWATER)

Shawn Quirk (Program Director, Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival)

Kevin Rahm (Actor, NIGHTCRAWLER)

Paul Sloop (Festival Director, Cleveland International Film Festival)

Mary Sweeney (Producer, INLAND EMPIRE, MULHOLLAND DRIVE)

Harold Sylvester (Actor, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, Married With Children)

Marcus Tamkin (Music Department, US)

Jhennifer Webberly (Producer/Editor, MILES UNDERWATER)

Visit www.lafilmprize.com to learn more information about the Louisiana Film Prize contest and festival.

About the Louisiana Film Prize 

The Louisiana Film Prize invites filmmakers across the country to make a short film between five and fifteen minutes long to compete for the largest short film cash prize offered in the world. The chief requirement is that the films must be shot in Louisiana. The top twenty films that have been submitted are then screened for audiences and judges in October and a winner is chosen based on the voting from those two factions.

LAKE COUNTY FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES COMPLETE FILM SLATE WITH TICKETS AND PASSES ON SALE (November 5-16)

 Jack C. Newell’s MONUMENTS opens the fest and screens  as special double feature in-person with Joshua Y Tsui’s INSERT COIN 

Alexander Jeffrey’s MOLTO BELLA is the Closing Night selection and Röckët Stähr’s DEATH OF A ROCK STAR makes World Premiere 

Ambitious slate of 21 shorts programs includes themes titled, “#BLM,” “Action! Shorts!,” “Always Punch Nazis,” “The Fourth Wall,”“Guns, Guns, Guns,” “Modern Romance,” and “OMG!WTF!” 

Lake County, IL (October 15, 2020) – The 10th Annual Lake County Film Festival (LCFF) has announced that passes and tickets are now on sale and available, along with the full and complete lineup and details for this year’s 10th Anniversary edition of the film festival, taking place November 5-16. An ambitious program of 23 features and 96 short films will be presented in a virtual/in-person hybrid highlighted by a special double feature presentation at The Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest of Jack C. Newell’s MONUMENTS and Joshua Y. Tsui’s INSERT COIN. Newell’s MONUMENTS will serve as the popular film festival’s Opening Night selection preceded by a program of local short films, while Alexander Jeffrey’s MOLTO BELLA will be the Closing Night selection this year. 

The virtual presentations, powered by Seed&Spark, will be available to residents of Illinois and Wisconsin, potentially offering many film fans in those states their first opportunities to see LCFF’s films and filmmakers (via remote Q&As) for the first time. In addition, the film festival will host a 24/7 chat room to add even more opportunity for audience members to interact with their filmmakers. 

Lake County Film Festival Director Nat Dykeman said, “Like many film festivals we have taken the challenges presented to us by restrictions and limitations brought about by the pandemic to actually broaden our scope, extend ourselves and use this moment as a chance to introduce our films and filmmakers – as well as the personality of LCFF to audience in two states. It’s an opportunity to create a bigger tent of film fans, who just might come to Lake County next year to enjoy the show we put on in person.” 

Jack C. Newell’s drama MONUMENTS will both be the Lake County Film Festival’s Opening Night selection on Wednesday, November 5, as well as being part of LCFF’s special double feature presentation in the John and Nancy Hughes Theater at Gorton Community Center at Gorton Community Center (400 E. Illinois Rd) on Saturday, November 14. MONUMENTS follows a man, who at the urging of her deceased wife’s ghost, steals her ashes and her family’s pickup truck to travel across the country to scatter her ashes at the Field Museum. Jack C. Newell is a multi-alumni from the LCFF’s previous festivals, who has been consistently putting out films over the last decade, including the cooking documentary 42 GRAMS, and the award-winning drama, OPEN TABLES. 

The other half of the special double feature presentation at Gorton Community Center will be Joshua Tsui’s documentary INSERT COIN. The film chronicles the rise, fall, and eventual bankruptcy of Chicago-based Midway Games. “Midway Games pioneered the technology of motion capture in games, and went on to publish some of the most influential and successful games of all time, including NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat, Terminator 2, and my personal favorite, Smash TV,” said Festival Director Dykeman.  

The Closing Night screening on Monday, November 16, Alexander Jeffery’s MOLTO BELLA is an intimate narrative film with the natural dialogue of the BEFORE series, and the digetic music of ONCE. The film follows American musician Josie Day (played by IRL musician Andrea von Kampen), who is in Sicily looking for inspiration for the follow up to her first hit record. When she meets a poet there, their chemistry sparks collaboration, and they challenge each other to express their thorniest struggles.

Additional feature film highlights are led by the World Premiere of the animated, science-fiction, retro-rock opera DEATH OF A ROCKSTAR. Written, directed, animated, and performed by musician Röckët Stähr, who spent thirteen years creating the film, almost completely by himself. DEATH OF A ROCKSTAR is a fun, rock 'n' roll trip created by a true auteur. Chelsea Christer’s award-winning BLEEDING AUDIO focuses on San Francisco pop punk band The Matches. The film recently won Audience Awards at both Dances With Films and San Francisco DocFest. Ivan Bordas’ drama CABARETE is about a young man who wants to compete in kite-surfing, and Chris Hansen’s SEVEN SHORT FILMS ABOUT (OUR) MARRIAGE is a festival favorite that follows the life of an interracial marriage between an aspiring filmmaker and a dancer that is made up of seven vignettes that chronicles the better and worse. 

A wide variety of topics, subjects, and issues can be found on the documentary side, includeing; Matthew Salleh’s WE DON’T DESERVE DOGS, which looks at the distinctive bonds that we form with dogs via a handful of heartfelt and unconventional portraits of people with their dogs stories around the world; Zach Marion’s WHERE SHE LIES, a fascinating true-crime film about a woman who suspects her newborn baby was stolen from her and incorrectly declared deceased years ago; and Carolina Monnerat and Theodore Collatos’ QUEEN OF LAPA, which captures the larger-than-life actress, cabaret performer, activist, and proud sex professional since the age of eleven, Luana Muniz – arguably one of Brazil’s most recognizable transgender personalities – on screen.

Films with local connections include Marc Menet and Scott Prestin’s JOHN WAYNE GACY: DEFENDING A MONSTER about the man who became John Wayne Gacy’s defense attorney; Ines Sommer’s SEASONS OF CHANGE ON HENRY’S FARM, about a man reaching a crossroads regarding the future of his farm, which is located downstate; and Chicago native Vince Clemente’s fun look at palindrome creators in THE PALINDROMISTS. 

The Lake County Film Festival has been noted for its short film programming, and this year’s edition will feature it largest and most ambitious lineup (91 selections) yet, that have been curated and carefully (and sometimes whimsically) and put together in 21 separate programs – all running no more than 45 minutes in length. With programs titled “#BLM,” “Action! Shorts!,” “Always Punch Nazis,” “The Fourth Wall,” “Guns, Guns, Guns,” “Modern Romance,” “OMG!WTF!,” “Shutterbugs,” “The Souls of Black Folks,” and “The Woman’s Work,” themes will touch on all genres and sometimes very specific subjects and ideas. Many of the short films also feature recognizable actors, such as Patton Oswalt (THE PRIEST), Alia Shawkat (ALINA), Beth Grant (LA SIRENA, FAITH), Martin Starr (MILFORD), Henry Rollins (MONEYBAG HEAD), Jeremy Sisto (WICHITA), Kerris Dorey from Ray Donovan (SILVERTONE), and Jason R. Moore from Marvel’s The Punisher (HONOR AMONG THIEVES).

For information on purchasing passes, tickets, and additional details on the Lake County Film festival, please go to: https://www.lakecountyfilmfestival.org/.

Lake County Film Festival film descriptions:

DOC NYC ANNOUNCES LINEUP FOR ELEVENTH EDITION NOVEMBER 11-19, 2020

 FESTIVAL GOES ONLINE FOR 2020, AVAILABLE NATIONWIDE FOR THE FIRST TIME; SLATE INCLUDES 23 WORLD PREMIERES, 12 NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERES, 7 US PREMIERES, AMONG MORE THAN 200 FILMS AND EVENTS 

Program reflects the growing diversity of nonfiction filmmaking forms in new films that investigate current events, explore unknown phenomena, reopen settled histories, and profile a host of unforgettable personalities, including John Belushi, Ruth Finley, Pope Francis, Joanna Harcourt-Smith, Bill T. Jones, Jamal Khashoggi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Barbara Lee, Shane McGowan, Sona ohapatra, Lorine Padilla, Kenny Scharf, Nasrin Soutodeh, Tiny Tim, Billy Tipton, David Wojnarowicz, and Frank Zappa

NEW YORK, Oct. 15, 2020 – DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, announced the lineup for its eleventh edition, running online November 11-19 and available to viewers across the US. The 2020 festival includes 107 feature-length documentaries among over 200 films and dozens of events. Included are 23 World Premieres, 12 international or North American premieres, and 7 US premieres. Fifty-seven features (53% of the lineup) are directed or co-directed by women and 36 by BIPOC directors (34% of the feature program). 

While many film festivals’ 2020 editions have been forced to shrink the size of their program or cancel altogether due to the ongoing pandemic, DOC NYC has been able to transition to a completely online event for this year. DOC NYC remains one of the world’s largest documentary festivals, presenting, as it has since 2015, more than 100 feature films in its slate, along with numerous shorts programs and student film showcases.  

In addition to film screenings, DOC NYC’s 2020 edition includes the five-day pre-festival “Road Trip,” October 26-30, a virtual tour on Facebook Live stopping in ten filmmaking hubs across the United States to showcase local documentary makers and organizations, along with festival films from the area. During the festival itself, conversations with festival filmmakers will take place in daily “DOC NYC Live” events, and festival screenings will also include pre-recorded filmmaker Q&As after the films. Schedule and guests for both “Road Trip” and “DOC NYC Live” to be announced. “Road Trip” is co-presented by Netflix.  

The festival’s noted filmmaker development program, DOC NYC PRO, also moved online in 2020, offering webinars to emerging and established documentary markers around that globe. DOC NYC PRO is co-presented by Apple Original Films. 

“Documentary film has never felt so vital as in these tumultuous times,” said Director of Programming Basil Tsiokos. “This year’s lineup represents a wide array of voices both on screen and from behind the camera, creating works of art that will resonate for years to come.” Tsiokos leads the festival’s selection team of Programmers Ruth Somalo, Karen McMullen, and Jessie Fairbanks, and Associate Programmer Brandon Harrison, in collaboration with Artistic Director Thom Powers. 

World Premieres at the festival include Nelson G. Navarrete and Maxx Caicedo's A La Calle, Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker's The Meaning of Hitler, Gong Cheng and Yung Chang's Wuhan Wuhan, Sian-Pierre Regis’s Duty Free, Noah Hutton's In Silico, Nancy Buirski's A Crime on the Bayou, Jeff Daniels's Television Event, Ilinca Calugareanu's A Cops and Robbers Story, Frank Matson's Restaurant Hustle, Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz's Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, Cheryl Dunn's Moments Like This Never Last, and Lauren DeFilippo and Katherine Gorringe’s Red Heaven, among others.

Among this year’s international, North American, and US premieres are Mor Loushy's Kings of Capitol Hill, Oliver Murray's Ronnie's, Ulrike Ottinger's Paris Calligrammes, Siji Awoyinka's Elder's Corner, Meng Han’s Smog Town, Justin Staple's American Rapstar, Mayye Zayed's Lift Like a Girl, Sam Osborn and Nick Capezzera's Universe, Magnus Skatvold and Greg Mallozzi's Blue Code of Silence, and Julien Temple's Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane McGowan.

DOC NYC’s feature programming is curated in 14 sections, including two competition sections. The Viewfinders Competition, recognizing 11 films demonstrating distinct directorial vision, includes Ra'anan Alexandrowicz's The Viewing Booth, Loira Limbal's Through the Night, Cecilia Aldarondo's Landfall, and Bruno Santamaría's Things We Dare Not Do. The ten films of the Metropolis Competition are dedicated to stories set in New York City, and include Chris McKim's Wojnarowicz, Christian D. Bruun's Calendar Girl, and Raquel Cepeda's La Madrina: The Savage Life of Lorine Padilla.

Winner’s Circle highlights 8 films that have won awards at Oscar-qualifying international festivals, and includes David Osit's Mayor, Elizabeth Lo's Stray, Radu Ciorniciuc's Acasa, My Home, and Katrine Philp's Beautiful Something Left Behind.

Other returning sections include Masters, offering a spotlight on the newest work from nonfiction auteurs like Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar (9to5: The Story of a Movement), and Errol Morris (My Psychedelic Love Story); national and global takes in American Perspectives and International Perspectives, with work like Eden Wurmfeld and Margaret Munzer Loeb's Chasing Childhood, Deirdre Fishel's Women in Blue, and Maia Lekow and Christopher King's The Letter; and thematic sections Investigations (thought-provoking investigative nonfiction, including Maya Zinshtein's 'Til Kingdom Come and John Dower's The Mystery of D.B. Cooper), Fight the Power (on activism, including Jeff Kaufman's Nasrin and Ashley O'Shay's Unapologetic), Portraits (profiling singular individuals in work like Rebecca Richman Cohen’s Weed & Wine and Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt’s No Ordinary Man), Jock Docs (on sports, in films like José Permar’s Off the Road and Sami Khan and Michael Gassert’s The Last Out), Behind the Scenes (on films and television, including R.J. Cutler’s Belushi and Mo Scarpelli’s El Father Plays Himself), Arts & Culture (on the arts, including Larissa Bills’s Disney+ series On Pointe and Sachi Cunningham and Vayabobo’s Crutch), and Sonic Cinema (on music, including Alex Winter’s Zappa and Robert Yapkowitz and Richard Peete’s In My Own Time: A Portrait of Karen Dalton). DOC NYC also puts a special Spotlight on Canada this year, celebrating work by Canadian filmmakers, co-presented by the Consulate General of Canada in New York.

Short-form content is represented by the festival’s Shorts Competition (43 films in 8 thematic programs) and DOC NYC U (46 films representing student work from 7 NYC schools), selected by Shorts Programmer Opal H. Bennett, working with Associate Programmers DeWitt Davis and Samah Ali. DOC NYC U is co-presented by HBO Documentary Films.

This year’s edition of the festival includes several filmmakers who have previously been recognized on DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 list of promising nonfiction filmmakers: Cecilia Aldarondo (dir/prod, Landfall), Jameka Autry (prod, Through the Night), Jamie Boyle (dir/prod, Take a Vote), Sonia Kennebeck (dir/prod, Enemies of the State), Anjali Nayar (dir/prod, Oil and Water), Nico Opper (dir,When I Write It), and Izabella Tzenkova (co-prod, Moments Like This Never Last). The 2020 class of 40 Under 40 is represented in the lineup by Jessica Earnshaw (dir/prod, Jacinta), Tiffany Hsiung (dir, Sing Me a Lullaby), Elizabeth Lo (dir/prod, Stray), Nelson G. Navarrete & Maxx Caicedo (dirs, A La Calle), Tommy Oliver (dir, 40 Years a Prisoner), David Osit dir,Mayor), Kellen Quinn (prod, In Silico and So Late So Soon), Jiyan “Jenny” Shi (dir/prod, Finding Yingying), Lesley Steele (dir, By Way of Canarsie), Christine Turner (dir, Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business), and Malika Zouhali-Worrall (editor, Through the Night). 40 Under 40 is co-presented by HBO Documentary Films and Topic Studios.

The festival also includes several completed projects that previously participated in DOC NYC’s Only In New Yorkprogram for works-in-progress: The Big Scary “S” Word, Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, Chasing Childhood, The Dilemma of Desire, Down a Dark Stairwell, Los Hermanos/The Brothers, Red Heaven, and Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks for Me. Only In New York is co-presented by SHOWTIME® Documentary Films. 

"We are proud to support the 11th annual DOC NYC Film Festival, which this year will allow viewers nationwide to enjoy more than 200 documentary films online, including a number of international premieres," said Commissioner of the NYC Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment Anne del Castillo. "Documentary filmmakers are an integral part of NYC's creative economy and production community, and their ability to capture and communicate the human condition is so important during these challenging times." 

More news about additions to the program, DOC NYC’s Visionaries Tribute honorees, competition jury members, the features and shorts named to the festival’s Short List sections, and other festival updates will be announced in the coming weeks. 

Advance ticket sales begin today, October 15. See below for ticketing and pass information. 

The following is a breakdown of programming by section: 

 

May The Devil Take You Too (2020) NightStream


Timo Tjahjanto is back with a sequel to his 2018 chiller. I liked the original but loved the pieces. The same holds true here, though some of the sequences are truly kick ass.

The plot of the film has Alfie, the girl who lived in the previous installment being kidnapped by a bunch of orphans who were raised in an orphanage  where a dark presence lives. They want to fight the evil but need Alphie because they know she will be able to see the evil.

Built like a thrill ride with an ever increasing level of nastiness. The sequences are tense because we genuinely don't know what is going to happen next. Trust me, there are genuine scare here that how beyond simple loud jump scares. Many of the images of the demons are downright frightening.

And that is where  the problem lies, the cast should be wetting themselves and instead they don't appear to be full invested. Perhaps its the way Tjahjanto shot them or perhaps it's because they aren't that good at pretending to be scared, but every I got a good look at one of the cast members the tension drained.

Cast aside, the sequences here are killer. More so since the CGI f the first film seems to be largely gone (yea practical effects!). Truth be told few horror films of recent vintage can boast as many chilling sequences  as this film and as such it is recommended to anyone who likes their horror films scary and doesn't mind if they are bloody.

MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO has just played NightStream and will be available on Shudder on the 26th of October.

White Riot (2020)


The story of Rock Against Racism which came to be in the 1970's as an answer to the rise of the National Front, a political movement that sought t remove all the non-whites from England. The film covers the story of RAR from it's founding to the legendary concert in Victoria Park where 100,000 people marched and then filled the park.

A film for our time, WHITE RIOT, is the story of a time that mirrors the current one where racism is running rampant and many are feeling the need to step up and say that will not do. A hopeful tale that explains how regular people can make a stand and make a difference (The National Front was defeated in the polls not long after)

I loved this film. Not only is it filled with killer music. It is a hell of a story. Watching it you get sucked in and then dragged along. To be perfectly honest I thought I was going to be able to just listen to the film, but instead I found that I was sitting on the edge of my seat and leaning in to get closer to it all.

I can't recommend WHITE RIOT enough It's a story that needs to be told because it puts us in touch with our history (such as the fact that Eric Clapton, David Bowie and Rod Stewart supported the National Front). I was only vaguely aware of what the National Front was and hate it spawned. It opened my eyes and reminded me that the evils of the past are always lurking around. 

Opening tomorrow in virtual cinemas, it is a must see.

(For those wondering the name of the film is from a Clash song that RAR put on posters.)

Werewolf of Washington (1973) starts tomorrow at the Metrograph

 


This political horror comedy has a reporter bitten by a werewolf while in Eastern Europe. Upon returning to the US he ends up as the press secretary for the President.

It’s 2020 so somehow it makes perfect sense that drive-in staple The Werewolf of Washington is getting a week long run at the Metrograph.  My amazement is not that the film is bad, its not, it is quite good so long as you see it as tongue in cheek, but rather this has been kicking around for the better part of 50 years. I thought everyone had seen it… then again there is a new generation of film fans who are hard pressed to watch anything earlier than the 1990’s. Their loss.

Werewolf is an amusing film. Spoofing both the politics of the day, it was made in the Watergate era and horror films it’s a one of kind film we don’t really see that often. It’s a film that seeks to not only entertain but take jabs at the current state of affairs.  I’ve seen this film way too many times (it’s on numerous double feature DVD discs I own) to really know what I think of it. I mean sometimes I like it and sometimes I’m just not in the mood.

I will say that what is really of interest to me is the shooting locations. Despite being set in Washington DC the film was shot on Long Island with land marks like malls  and skylines being decidedly not DC. Its so bad they don’t even try and hide the license plates.

If you’ve never seen it it’s worth your time.

If you have seen it before maybe its time to see it again.

Chris Tenzis' BIG TOUCH (2020) is magnificent



 Chris Tenzis has made a three minute film that you have to see. A glorious piece of filmmaking about the power of the human touch. It will make you feel good and make you tear up.

Currently on the festival circuit (it just played Nashville Film Festival and in November it will be at both HollyShorts and St. Louis International Film Fests) this is film that people need to see. In an age of Covid when we can't interact or touch, this film reminds us that we all need a human connection. This is not  to say that we need to end social distancing, only that sometimes an elbow bump or a hug is what we need. 

This is movie magic.

I love this film. It moved me to tears and made me smile. This is a perfect marriage of music and image. It is the cinematic hug we all need.

I have no idea what Mr Tenzis is going to do next but I want to see.

Highly recommended. Look for this film to be on my end of year lists.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

25 more horror films you probably haven't heard of but you should try

 Two years ago, in a response to a statement from Ted Geoghegan  I put together a list of 25 horror films that you should see. Ted was arguing that all of the “must see horror film lists” everyone does are basically made from the same 15 or 20  films reconfigured with one of two outliers mixed in.

I took some time and pulled together a list that gave 25 outliers you may not have heard of or thought of in a long time.  Now that two years have passed I’ve come up with a list of 25 more horror films from the last two years that you should run down. Again I went for films that are not the big films but ones that you may not know about.

Anything for Jackson – wicked Canadian  film about an older couple who decide to bring back their dead grandson. Of course it all goes horribly wrong. Great fun(On the festival circuit)

Attack of the Unknown- Science fiction meets action as a SWAT team has to join with the criminals to try and survive an alien invasion. Not high art but pure low budget popcorn fun.

Good Things Devil’s Do-Unexpected film about a robbery gone wrong releasing a demon. Gory fun

Alone- I hate the mad man captures the women and tortures them genre. This one some how works thanks to a killer ending.

Mortuary Collection- one of 2020’s best films is one of the best anthology films you’ll ever see. See it on Shudder

Sputnik-an astronaut returns to earth with a creature inside him. Scary and one of the great films of the year

Deeper You Dig- a woman looks for her missing daughter who was killed in a car accident and hasn’t left. Great from top to bottom.

Cry Havoc- not for all audiences. This messy film is for anyone who was curious what would happen if Jason fought Charles Bronson. (no really)

ANTRUM-A low key supposedly cursed film about trying to open the gate to hell

CRAWL- popcorn film about people trapped in a house during a hurricane and the alligators who come to eat them

SHE NEVER DIED-One of the great films of the last few years about an ancient soul and a battle in heaven

PORTALS- small gem about the opening up of portals to other dimensions in the wake of an experiment going wrong

LUZ-Great horror film about a demon in love.

GHOST LIGHT- what happens when a theatrical group runs into a haunted theater? Chilly more than scary this is great fun.

Come To Daddy- Twisty turny film with Elijah Wood going to see his long lost father and it all going weird

The Golem- a retelling of the golem legend is fantastic historic horror

Lifechanger-is the tale of a body thief jumping from body to body....

Altered Skin is the zombie film yu always wanted to see but din't know it.

Deadsight a low key realistic zombie film

The Colony- in a world frozen solid an sos from a distant outpost doesn’t bode well…..

Dreadout is a video game based horror film about demons with needle teeth

All the Gods In The Sky-a brother and sister wait for the aliens to come

Black Circle has two girls opening a gate to hell by listening to a relaxation record

Nights Before Christmas-Imagine Harley and the Joker as Santa and Mrs Claus....

Impetigore- a woman and her friend go home- and the locals are not happy

Brief word on The Boys From County Hell (2020) NightStream

 


Hired to clear a field a construction company has a dilemma in that the land has the grave that ;egend says belongs to the unkillable inspiration for Dracula. Of course nothing could go wrong could it?

This wicked reinvention of the vampire myth into something more terrifying (you really may not be able can't kill the suckers) is an absolute joy. A beautiful mix of horror and humor keeps things scary even when you you are laughing since the humor comes from the situations. This is a film where you laugh despite being scared shitless.

Forgive me for not saying more but this is a film you need to see for yourself. Its a magnificent rollercoaster that starts with a bang and then just goes. I can not recommend this film enough. (ANd no I really don't want to spoil it because this film kicks vampire ass)

One of the best horror films of 2020.

Monster Force Zero (2020)

 


Cosplayers promoting a comic book at a convention are given superpowers by a yeti to help fight an invading alien force.

There is no reason this film should work. While it looks like it was made for a pocketful of change, the film overcomes all its problems because the cast sells it. Too often in low budget films the cast is walking through the film not caring. Here the cast is invested. They are trying to sell what they are doing and not just having a good time. As a result we in the audience have a good time. 

If you want to know how much fun this film consider that my niece saw some of this and asked how she could see it

This low budget charmer is not going to be at the top of your year list but it will entertain you on a rainy night on the couch. Which is all we can ask for.


The awesome JULIA SCOTTI FUNNY THAT WAY plays NewFest 2020 starting Friday

 

Incredibly lovely and loving portrait of comedian Julia Scotti, who was born as Rick. Rick had successful career as a stand up comic  but realized he still wasn't happy. Then  in her later 40's she realized what  was wrong with her life and decided to change from being Rick and become her true self, Julia.

JULIA SCOTTI: FUNNY THAT WAY came across my desk at exactly the wrong time. My father had passed a short time before, I was declining covering films left and right and really wasn't in the mood to see anything. For some reason I clicked on the link for the trailer and it made me smile. There was something warm and sweet about the film and about Julia which perked me up so I agreed to take a look at the film.

What an absolute joy. What an absolutely magnificent portrait of one woman trying to find her happiness and bringing everyone along with her. To be honest the road was hard, marriages broke up, Scotti was estranged from her children for years and things happened, but in the end it seems, that she has found a place  where she can be happy.

The  film opens with Julia talking about how her story doesn't really matter, but it really does. Julia's story matters because in watching her go from Rick to Julia we see a beautiful story of how, if we are lucky, we too can change ourselves and our worlds for the better by following our hearts. Watching the old video and film of Rick you can see how he was shlumphy and self deprecating. You can see the sadness behind his eyes. On the other hand watching Julia now, interacting with people and performing you can see how much better she is being herself. The sadness is gone, as is the self-eviscerating  humor and it is replaced with smiles and jokes that have a warmth to them. Say what you will Julia is so much funnier.

What I love about the film is it leaves me wanting more. Not just more of the story, but it makes me want to track Julia down and just hang out with her. I want some of her joy of life to come my way. I want to go to a diner and shoot the breeze and catch up on old times- despite never having met her before. That the film does this is a testament to not only Julia but director Susan Sandler who has made not so much a film  but a personal introduction via bear hug. It's as if she has invited us over for lunch with someone one we "just had to meet" because she knew we'd be great friends. She was right and after watching the film I feel as though I now have a great friend whom I've never met.

I absolutely love this film and it's subject to pieces.

Highly recommended on the level of this is going to be "one of your most cherished films of the year" level, JULIA SCOTTI is going to be continuing on the festival circuit with the film being an official NEWFEST selection starting Friday.

The Chicago Film Fest starts today

The virtual Chicago Film Festival starts today. Go buy tickets.

My original plan was to cover the festival, but I decided to pass as I was filling out the application since it was coming in  the very brief pause between the end of five festivals and the start of a couple more. While there were more than a handful of films I wanted to cover I realized that I was getting burnt.

Not being able to cover the fest was a let down but I still may jump in with some films if my schedule opens up.

In order to help you pick films I'm giving you some links to reviews of the films we covered previously

THE DARK AND WICKED

AMERICAN UTOPIA

DAYS

MLK/FBI

NIGHT OF THE KINGS

NOMADLAND

NOTTURNO

THE PROPHET AND THE SPACE ALIENS

STUMP THE GUESSER

THINGS WE DARE NOT DO

TWILIGHT KISS

UMBRELLA

THE WOMAN WHO RAN

For more information and tickets go here

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

NewFest starts Friday

Back for its 32nd year the always great NewFest starts Friday and you need to get tickets. 

 You do need to get tickets because some of the best films you'll see all year are playing here. And more  importantly even if you don't care for LGTBQ films you need to see what they program because the films here are always about more than just LGBTQ subjects but abut the human experience. They will touch you on a human level because we are all human.

I love this fest because they run so many good films. Every year I always try to catch some of the film because it is so magnificently programmed. The problem always tends to be is the fest is opposite other things I'm covering. However this year it's fallen in a spot where I can catch a few films which I will share once the fest starts.

As always I've seen a bunch of the films and I'm going to share links to those reviews:

MONSOON

TWILIGHT KISS

JULIA SCOTTI FUNNY THAT WAY This is one of the best films of the year and I am repsting the review  tomorrow

KILLING PATIENT ZERO

TAHARA

QUERY

I also saw GOSSAMER FOLDS and MAURICE HINES previously (I can't find the reviews  on Unseen) and I can honestly say that both are worth your time. 

And there will be more reviews once I am allowed to share but I'll make it easy- its all good so buy tickets.

Seriously do yourself a favor, look over the selections and buy some tickets

Queen Of Black Magic (2020) NightStream


Three friends take their families back to the orphanage where they grew up to say goodbye to the man who raised them. However something from their past is waiting for them.....

Kimo Stamboel takes the name of a legendary horror film and reimagines it as a gross out spectacular. This film is bugs and blood and gore...

Sadly there isn't much beyond that. While the tale of a past wrong is workable and the cast is game the pacing of the film  is much too slow to generate many thrills. I always felt like I was waiting for something to happen and then when it did happen things slowed down so that we could watch the bugs and blood ooze out.

I was disappointed.

A miss.

What The Constitution Means To Me (2020)


I was told that WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME was a great show. Friends who saw it on and off Broadway raved about it. Now a filmed version of the play which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize is hitting Amazon and I am left scratching my head.

The play is playwright Heidi Schreck story of how she funded her college education by speaking on the American Constitution.  She then contrasts her feelings when she was 15 with her feelings now, when how she sees the world has changed. The play ponders the state of the world, the inequalities in America and how women are nowhere near as equal as we would like.

I honestly don’t know how I feel about this presentation.  This is very much a filmed stage play with Schreck annunciating for the back rows as opposed to speaking to a TV audience. Her gestures are larger than they would be if this were a true TV presentation. The big theatrics kind of worked against me truly connecting to what probably a great live show.

Don’t get me wrong Scheck‘s exploration of the state of America and how it is really controlled by older white males is full of food for thought. As the show makes clear something has to be done to make things more equal- something that we see in this post Covid world. It’s a show full of painful truths like one third of women are sexually assaulted and one in five is raped.Schreck‘s discussion of that is crushing, but it is a truth that needs to be heard.

I’m sorry if I haven’t been truly helpful in discussing the show itself, frankly you should probably look of reviews of the theatrical performances. I have chosen to talk about how the it is clear to me, as some one who has seen hundreds of shows, that the  straight forward shifting of mediums may have worked against it. I’m doing it because all I could think of was this would have been better in a theater.

On the other hand with all of us stuck inside due to Covid perhaps we should pretend we are having a night at the theater

J .R. "Bob" Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius (2019) starts Friday

 

I should probably come clean and say that I have been an outlier of the Church of the SubGenius for decades. While I have not been a dues paying card carrying member I have bought the books and drunk the Kool-Aid while looking for Slack in my own way. I say this at the start so that you may better gauge my absolute delight at this joyous little film.

The film is a portrait of the legendary Church of the Subgenius, the half put on, half serious organization that seeks to help people find Slack through the teachings of the great Bob Dobbs. Told by the people behind the church as well as followers, fans and people who were there when things went down the film is a breezy, often extremely funny film about an organization and way of thinking that has quietly influenced the world over the last 40 plus years. (That last line is true since the Church has had fans from across the pop culture spectrum who have integrated church teaching in their art- as the film reveals). The Church which talks of how the conspiracy of normalcy is out to control us is a haven for non-conformists, who frequently and good naturedly, rebel against the Church (as someone says if there wasn’t a schism is the church the church would create one)

I absolutely love this film which no doubt will become a sacred relic to the Church of the SubGenius. It parts the curtain on an organization I have been a fan of ever since I ran across them in the late 70’s or early 80’s. I watched with a big grin on my face the whole time…

…on the other hand I’m going to be very curious how this is going to play to the non-converted. How is this going to play to people who know nothing about the Church? I’m not sure. From a financial stand point I think it matters but ultimately, I think the film is going to be like the Church teachings, either you get it or you don’t. If you get it then the film is for you. If you don’t then it’s your loss.

One of the great films of the year. J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius is highly recommended.

Monday, October 12, 2020

THE MILWAUKEE FILM FEST STARTS THURSDAY

The always awesome Milwaukee Film Festival starts Thursday. 

Okay, I know long time readers are wondering how I can say it's a great festival when I don't do a lot of coverage-well I don't do coverage because they are a festival that collects the best films that play everywhere in the year between festivals.  I don't do a ton of coverage because  I've already ready seen the many of films so all that is left is to give you a list of the films and say go see something. 

Seriously The Milwaukee Film Festival is one of the best in the world. It opens the door to people across the American Mid-West to films that might have only played in the big cities. However this year with it being virtual eole everywhere can see all the great films. And trust me they are running some great films.

In order to help you pick out the films you might want to see I'm going to give you a list of the films I've seen and let you go pick something.  

A BETTER YOU

AKASHNGA THE BRAVE ONES

CODED BIAS

DINNER IN AMERICA

DOWN A DARK STAIRWELL

EMA

EPICENTRO

H IS FOR HAPPINESS

KAPAEMAHU

MAESTRO

MARONA'S FANTASTIC TALE

MY BROTHERS KEEPER

OLIVER SACHS HIS OWN LIFE

PERSONHOOD

SOFTIE

SON OF THE WHITE MARE

STAGE THE CULINARY INTERNSHIP

STOP MAKING SENSE

TAHARA

TAPES

THE DONUT KING

LAST FERRY FROM GRASS ISLAND (And an interview with the director)

TOBACCONIST

TOTO

TWILIGHTS KISS

WELCOME TO A BRIGHT WHITE LIMBO

LAPSIS

CAPOTE TAPES

Now go to the festival website and buy some tickets and see something. Trust me it will do you goo.