Monday, January 31, 2022

Freebird (2021) Slamdance 2022

FREEBIRD may end up my favorite film of 2022. It’s early but it’s light years a head of almost everything else I’ve seen this year.

The film is the story of a man with downs syndrome helping his mom and flashing through his whole life. It’s magical beyond words and beautiful in ways you can’t imagine.

It’s a stunner and then some.

I have no idea where it stands for the Oscars and every other damn award but it should win them.

Oh hell yea it’s manipulative but who the hell cares it’s just a magical.

To paraphrase a line in the film- It’s perfect. (Actually blood relative to the opening of UP- not a riff or rip off but a full blooded equal piece of filmmaking)

See it

Snow White Dies At The End (2022) Slamdance 2022

This poster perfectly sums up the film but you won't understand it until you see it

SNOW WHITE DIES AT THE END is the intersecting stories of seven people on the edge of society in a town in Macedonia as told by a fly. Its the story of a doctor trying to keep the son of a dead friend out of trouble. The tale of three buddies who hang out at a video store and a radio host who falls for a young woman who makes clothes for trees.

Wonderfully off kilter and possessing it's own sense of reality (there is a haunted toilet) SNOW WHITE is a film that wanders all over the place and as a result sucks us in. It beautifully gives us an intriguing group of people, some we like, some we don't, and then runs them through their paces in such a way that we can't help but click into and want to follow along.

Going into the film I didn't know what to expect. The write up of the film on the Slamdance website, and which is repeated elsewhere, wasn't really clear with a reference to people farting backwards making me wonder what they were talking about. Clearly it was something coming from the filmmakers and which didn't do the film justice. This is a solid film about characters and their ups and downs.

Is this film going to be for everyone? Probably not. The time shifting story told on the fly by a fly style may not work for everyone. However if you are willing to go with it, and give it a real shot, I think this is going to be a film that you are going to like a great deal, I did.

It is one of the hidden gems of Slamdance and very recommended.

One of the best horror films of 2021 Slapface (2021) is hitting Shudder

Bullied young man makes friends with an ugly witch who kills anyone who hurts him

Jerimiah Kipp hits it out of the part with a horror film that transcends the genre to become something greater. This isn't just about scares, but it becomes a film about the things we do having consequences we never could imagine.

Not really a horror film of jump scares this is a film of situational horror. We know what is going on a head of the characters and it ups the tension. we can see that things are going to g wrong, but there is nothing we can do to stop it. We hurt because we like almost everyone on screen and know they don't deserve to die. Indeed some of the deaths make it clear just how wrong the whole situation is.

This film is a stunner. As I have said before numerous times Jerimiah Kipp is one of the best directors working in the genre. His films are always ones that vibrate your soul because he insists on working with great casts who give us great characters. More importantly he makes films that are more than jump scares so they hang around in out hearts.

Highly recommended, SLAPFACE is one of the best horror films of 2021

Trying to explain why I like We Are Living Things (2022) Slamdance 2022

A workman taking up with a Chinese woman living in the US illegally. She is traveling under someone else's identity. The pair seem to know each other and they both share an obsession with an alien abduction that may or may not have happened.

 WE  ARE LIVING THINGS haunts me. I saw the film a couple of weeks before Slamdance and the film flipped a switch in me. Some how it just clicked with me and I have been haunted by the films look and feel and some of the scenes. I don't know why because in a weird way it doesn't do anything special except tell a compelling story.

Before you jump away understand that the film plays things absolutely straight. This is a drama cum thriller that plays things straight. If I walked into this film unaware of what it was about I wouldn't have known where it  was going, not that I could have really guessed. This is a drama and not a science fiction tale.

I have held off writing about the film because I'm not sure what to really say. My thoughts on the film are not about plot and detils but emotion. The film kicks up certin emotions that I can't really describe. It's hard to write up a review that says "I liked the film because it had a certain feel"  and then not be able to explain it.

Basically what I need you to do is take it on faith that WE ARE LIVING THINGS is worth at least trying. I'm not going to say that you'll fall in love with the film, but I think you will, as with all Slamdance films, find that there is something interesting there. This is basically a film you need to experience more than read about- mostly because my words can't express what I really want to say.


Liz Whittemore FRAMING AGNES (2022) Sundance 2022

After discovering case files from a 1950s gender clinic, a cast of trans actors turn a talk show inside out to confront the legacy of a young trans woman forced to choose between honesty and access.

If you think trans history is something new, Sundance 2022 documentary Framing Agnes is about to blow your mind. Director Chase Joynt, sociologist Kristen Schilt, historian Jules Gill-Peterson, and trans actors Zachary Drucker, Angelica Ross, Silas Howard, Jen Richards, and Max Wolf Valerio all play dual roles. The doc is structured in reenactments of the 2017 discovered files from Dr. Harold Garfinkel’s UCLA gender health study in the 1950s. Christine Jorgensen‘s glamourized story plays as a backdrop for the media. In many ways, trans women find it difficult to avoid. Through the UCLA transcripts, we learn about the varied physical and emotional difficulties they endure daily. The interviews are presented in a 50s era talkshow format, spotlighting the sensationalized platforms of the past all the way to the Katie Couric interview with Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox. This experimental mesh of styles would also present well in a live stage format. It’s an important film that further enlightens us of the plight of the trans community. Framing Agnes melds past and present in a beautiful way. While it’s a personal film for the cast and crew, it will also hit home for a wide range of viewers.

To read more of Liz's writing head over to Reel News Daily

Sunday, January 30, 2022


Walls Cannot Keep Us From Flying
Two young Palestinians   in the West Bank use skateboarding as a way of breaking free of their situation. Skating frees them and teaching others to skate help others have an outlet for their frustrations.

This is a really sweet film that is moving on many levels Recommended.

A young woman finds a flyer on a telephone pole and it leads her down a tunnel of darkness,

This is a solid retro horror that feels as though it was made a couple decades back. I know that may not sound great for some but for those who love retro horror and miss dial up modems.


Deeply moving of a grandfather telling her granddaughter in Hong Kong about how he escaped Communist China by “swimming” to Hong Kong and the connection to the young woman who has to leave Hong Kong in the wake of the Chinese crack down.

This is a great story, beautifully told and with a kicker ending that had me getting misty

One of my favorite films at Slamdance

A Table Is as Good as Nine Lives
Wonderful memory piece about a family remembering the Sunday get togethers as they cook.

This is a huge ball of love and nostalgia. It’s a look at the best side of family life amplified by the love of food. This is a joyful that is going to have a long life.

Telos or Bust
A look at the people living around paranormal hot spot Mount Shasta and how they view the mountain and the folk lore that has sprung up around the place.

I honestly have no idea of these people are on to something or not, but it’s an interesting look at a community I knew very little about (I had heard of strange things by the mountain)

Liz Whittemore on Dual (2022) Sundance 2022

After receiving a terminal diagnosis, Sarah commissions a clone of herself to ease the loss for her friends and family. When she makes a miraculous recovery, her attempt to have her clone decommissioned fails, and leads to a court-mandated duel to the death.

The minute I realized the deadpan nature of most of the cast’s delivery, I exclaimed, “Oh shit, this has to be by Riley Stearns!” In 2019, I saw The Art Of Self-Defense, and the stylized nature of the dialogue has stuck with me ever since. Festivals can be a blur. I usually enjoy going into a screening blind. Either that or I can’t remember a damn thing by the time I’ve consumed 20+ films. Lucky for me, DUAL was my final watch. It was on my dance card immediately because of Gillan and Paul. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who and Westworld, and this plot sounded like a combo of the two worlds. I wasn’t necessarily wrong from a storyline and humor perspective.

There’s a blunt absurdity to it everything in this film. The indifferent nature of this emotionally complex scenario makes it cringe-worthy in the best way possible. There is no filter on anyone. Aaron Paul is Trent, Sarah’s Death Dual coach. He’s so zen and focused you cannot help but smirk every time he speaks. Could I watch him dance every day of the week? You’re damn right. Would I hire his character to teach me to disassociate violence and be a badass? Every time. Karen Gillan plays both original and clone Sarah. They are two distinct but equally fascinating characters. As original Sarah, her dispassionate personality is jarring. Once her training begins, Gillan’s past roles come in handy. As her clone, she gets to play Sarah with a bit more uppity finesse. Besides her tone, Gillan’s physicality made me laugh out loud. The 110% commitment by these actors makes DUAL so damn entertaining. Beyond the sci-fi aspect, it’s the emotional depth and darkness that hits me harder a day after watching. Riley Stearns, you wily bastard. You got me again.

To read more of Liz WHittemore's writing go to her regular home at Reel News Daily

ULTRAINOCENCIA (2022) Slamdance 2022

 Manuel Arija has made a totally crazy absolutely compelling film about the search for god via a machine that will allow us to shift dimensions and the two men who become the subjects making the trip..

I really don’t know what to say about this film except see it. This is one of those magical films that is exactly the sort of thing that only the movies can do. It shows you something wild and crazy and makes you stare at the screen in disbelief and delight as you wonder where this is going.

This is a film full of idea, and humor and characters we fall in love with. Did I fully get everything I was witnessing? Not on the first time through, though that’s what revisits are for.

I know I should be talking about what happens but for me one of the joys of this film was discovering where this was going. From the minute  that our two crazy heroes begin stripping  my eyes and my smile just got bigger and bigger.

This is the best sort of filmmaking- and you need to see it without my telling you anything about what you are going to see- If you love movie- especially off Hollywood films you must see this.

Liz Whittemore on THE CATHEDRAL (2022) Sundance 2022

An only child’s account of an American family’s rise and fall over two decades. 

Fascinatingly stylized look at the memories that compromise our childhood, The Cathedral is a unique entry in the Sundance 2022 NEXT section. Writer-Director Ricky D’Ambrose uses static camera work to capture angles a child might see, either themselves or from physical photographs from an album. Interspersed with news clips and commercials from the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, the sets, and costumes nail the eras. The Cathedral is narrated by an unknown female voice, recalling the family history in a frank, rather emotionless manner. There are jarring moments due to the lack of sensitivity. They speak volumes and, they make you squirm. There’s something about a multigenerational household that can ruffle feathers. The awkward exchanges from grandmother to grandson, the one-sided conversations from volatile phone calls, and those infamous family gatherings are all things we can relate to from our childhoods.

Performances run the gambit between harsh, exuberant, uneventful, and that is what makes them so realistic. Our memories are but a collection of random references. The anxiety we carry as adults may stem from events such as divorce and/ or prolonged exposure to familial toxic masculinity. At least for many in my generation. The Cathedral shows us D’Ambrose’s ability to captivate an audience in the most unexpected ways. I’m eager to see what comes next.

To read more of Liz's writing head over to her regulsr home Reel News Daily

Slamdance 2022 Capsules NEW JACK and HANNAH HAHA

Portrait of wrestler New Jack. This is a portrait of a man whose career has wound down. It’s a gritty and raw film about  a man who is on the fringes of the spotlight, which is now moving away from him.

I really liked this film a great deal. It’s a warts and all look at the wrestling life. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from the cost of doing professional wrestling. Its all well and good to see what is going on when the matches are going on but this film is one of the most clear eyed looks at the sport.

If you are a fan of the sport or if you want to know about the human cost of wrestling see this film.

Absolutely sweet film about a young woman who has her life upset when her controlling brother returns home and imposes his way on everyone around him.

This is some really good time with some really good people.  It’s a film that was not initially on my radar but I decided to try it anyway (hey it’s Slamdance which means everything is worth at least trying) and absolutely delighted.

Finding films like this is the reason that I love to cover Slamdance



Life in around a jazz club in Harlem when the no dancing law is repealed.

This is a slice of life film with lots of people coming and going. It’s also full of great Jazz and is highly recomended

Kristen is a disabled young woman who makes a living walking dogs. She wants to be a writer.

An unexpected gem is full of great characters and wise words.  To be honest I was not planning on watching this film however the other films in the Unstoppable Feature section of Slamdance were so good I had to try the film.  I’m glad I did because this film really knocked my socks off.

What an absolute delight. It is beautifully acted by everyone on screen. They are so perfect together that it seems more like we are watching a bunch of friends rather than a scripted story.


THE CIVIL DEAD (2022) Slamdance 2022

Grumpy photographer  thinks weekend away from his girlfriend will allow him to sit on the couch and watch TV however a friend comes calling asking for his help. The thing is the friend is a ghost

Low key comedy drama  mixes in the supernatural  for a film that hinges on how you react to the two leads. I say this because I was intrigued  by some of the ideas thrown up by the film about ghosts and such, while at the same time I really didn't like either of the characters much. 

To be honest I don't think that the film is bad, more that it is really not my cup of inde filmmaking tea.

Doggy Love (2021) Slamdance 2022

This is the story of two Aslan and Yanni who run an undeground an underground dog shelter in Iran. Its underground because dogs are viewed as dirty.

This is a raw loook at two people struggling to help the animals they love. It's a verite look at the pair and what they do which is very much like being there.

While I really like this film a great deal I kind of wish there was a little bit of an explanation of what the situation is going in. Running a brief 62 minutes I felt like I was just dropped into the middle of everything and left to flounder. While I picked up things as I went I wish I had a bit more information at the star if only so I didn't feel I missed something in the opening minutes


Liz Whittemore on LEONOR WILL NEVER DIE (2022) Sundance 2022

Fiction and reality blur when Leonor, a retired filmmaker, falls into a coma after a television lands on her head, compelling her to become the action hero of her unfinished screenplay.

As a writer, this script is essentially a dream, pun intended. Leading lady, Sheila Francisco is an absolute joy to watch and her energetic narration/script reading is a blast. In her coma, she is living inside her story. The recreations of 80s action films are astounding from the perfectly hokey score to the fight sequences. The visual jumps from these, to real-life, to memories, keeps you on your toes. The semiautobiographical nature of Leonor’s writing makes for a haunting present circumstance. The nonchalance in which her son and ex-husband converse with their lost loved one is bizarre. But that’s only half of the wackiness that ensues. Leonor is weird meta fun. You cannot help but adore the heart behind it.

To read more of Liz's writing go over to Reel News Daily

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Facing Monsters (2022) Slamdance 2022

FACING MONSTERS is a portrait of surfer Kerby Brown

I love really good surfing films. I got hooked at my first Tribeca when I saw a film about river surfing knocked my socks off.  Ever since then I am on the look out for films on surfing, particularly at film festivals, because the visuals usually floor me. 

As good as Kerby's story is, the chief reason to see this film is the visuals. Containing some of the most amazing images I’ve ever seen in any films the frightening power of the sea is revealed. I couldn’t believe that people would willingly take on waves of the sort we see in this film. It absolutely blew my mind and then some.

I love this film a great deal. I loved it so much I regrated not seeing it before I did the Slamdance curtain raiser because I would have loved to have included it in my list of recommendations.

This film is a stunner on so many levels.


Liz Whittemore's brief thoughts on Dark Heart (2022) Sundance 2022

Sweden’s true crime game is above and beyond. The US had already remade series like The Killing and The Bridge. Sundance 2022 audiences can dive headfirst into The Dark Heart. The series is a five-part psychological drama-thriller about how an old family feud clashes with a young, forbidden love story, leading to a tragedy with a deadly outcome, ultimately solved by a private investigator who gets obsessed with the case. The series is based on journalist Joakim Palmkvist’s book “The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator”, which delves into the story about how a mysterious missing person’s case is investigated and solved by a local Missing People-volunteer involved in the searches. Think Broadchurch and Mare of East Town vibes. Small town politics and mystery with enough breadcrumbs and insinuation to keep you guessing. You will not be able to look away.


This is a neat animated film where we, nominally, follow a row of marching ants.

Visually stunning mix of live action and animation that sees delivery services as a video game or phone app. The result is some truly “that is so cool” images that will make you want to hit the rewind button to see it again.

Excellent techno update of Poe’s Masque of the Red Death. It has a tactile and visceral quality that leaves on feeling disturbed. Recommended

The true story of a cow in a small German town separated from its herd by the iron curtain. Magnificently narrated by Chistoph Waltz the film is both funny and incredibly bitter sweet thanks to Waltz’s note perfect narration.

Easily one of my favorite films of Slamdance

Wicked and gory tale of friends visiting friends. A delight

Forget Me Not (2022) Slamdance 2022

Director Olivier Bernier and his wife chart their battle to get their son Emilio included into normal classes. Emilio has Downs Syndrome and the public school system doesn't want to do anything other than degregate him.

Probably the most important film at Slamdance is going to to piss you off. This head on record of what the Berniers have been facing is also designed to act as primer for parents of Downs kids so they know they are both not alone and know what to do. This is a film that needs to find not only its audience but one of sympathetic minds who will help the parents of  Downs Syndrome childen.

I should be flabbergasted that the New York City Schools would behave they way they are but having watched the stories of school during covid play out on the evening news I'm not rally surprised. This film angered me that a big system like NYC can't get it right.

Then again as the film maked clear most school systems can't get it right and unless parents fight for things their kids will flounder. More telling is the warning of what happens when famies shift school systems and the kids end up disappearing when the new school system refuses to take in the new special needs child.

See this film.

Highly recommended

NAVALNY (2022) Sundance 2022


My final film for Sundance was  NAVALNY about the Russian opposition leader whom Putin had poisoned with a nerve toxin that if administered correctly shuts off all of your nerves, killing you in a way that looks like a natural death because it dissipates quickly from the body.  The film is an examination of the poisoning by various places including the excellent Bellingcat coupled with a look at Navalny’s career.

Coming into the film after several days of my friends talking it up, I was initially rather disappointed. The early part of the film was kind of dull and run of the mill. The film wasn’t doing anything bad, rather it was hitting a;; the typical points of a story like this. It wasn’t until the poisoning happened that the film clicked and we were off to the races as the story of trying to find a smoking gun link to Putin  gave a serious shot of adrenaline into the proceedings. Suddenly there was not only a mystery to be solved but also there was real danger to the proceedings because other than a stupid person can see clearly how evil Putin is.

I really liked this film a great deal. It’s a compelling story with a connection to current events (the Russian threatened invasion of Ukraine).  You really get a sense of how bad Putin is for his country and the world.

If I have any reservations is that watching the film it doesn’t always give us a entirely clear eyed picture of Navalny. The filmmakers clealry love him, and theree is no denying he’s at least a seeming better choice than Putin, but there are still questions about his past (links to ultranationalists) and he is a bit too smooth for me to entirely take the word of one film.

Reservations aside the film is highly recommended, if for no other reason than it’s a hell of a story.

Fury (2022) Slamdance 2022


This is portrait of  Polish MMA champion Aleksandra Rola who has overcome difficulties in her life to become a top fighter.

Atypical in its warts and all approach to covering its subject FURY is a breath of fresh air in the sports bio genre. There are rough edges to our subject and her life and the film wonderfully doesn't try to smooth them over with the result we not only feel closer to Aleksandra but we also feel that she is a real person and not a commodity. It should also be pointed out that the film is firmly focused on Aleksandra as a person and not on the gritty details of her winning and losing. I point this out because if you go in and are waiting to see how she moves from match to match you are probably going to be disappointed since this is about the journey of one woman’s soul.

I really liked FURY. I liked its in your face approach. I love that the film takes time to let her father and mother talk to the camera. I love that the film goes to places we don’t normally see in these sort of things and shows us things other films might cut out, say Aleksandra smoking. It give the film and what we are seeing a real weight. As some one who watches a lot of boxing and MMA docs each year it’s nice to see one that is really trying to show us a life and not sell us a fighter.


GoodAfternoon Sweet Dream (2022) Slamdance 2022

Bang Seung Hyeon' GOODAFTERNOON SWEET DREAM is a series of conversations beteen a girl named Ye Won and her friends.

Shot in black and white in a series of single takes the film looks and feels like a Hong Sang Soo film. Its a discussion of the lives and feelings of the characters where everything happens verbally.

And that's all I'm going to say. It's not that the film is good or bad, rather this is not my cup of tea. There is a reason I tend not to review Hong Sang Soo films which is my reaction to them is not the reaction of other audience members. While the film most certainly not bad, the film never connected ith me on a personal level in the same way that Sang Soo's films don't connect to me.

That said, if you are a fan of Hong Sang Soo, you may wish to give GOODAFTERNOON SWEET DREAM a try

Killing the Eunuch KHAN (2021) Slamdance 2022

I'm not going to lie, Killing the Eunuch KHAN is narratively a mess. It has a great deal going on and after the first section I'm not sure it holds together. That said this is one of the most visually arresting films in years. It is a masterclass in the se of space and camera movements. Its such a kick in the pants visually that it is one of the must see films of Slamdance 2022.

I'm not sure what the really is plot is. The promo material says something about a serial killer using his victims to get victims and it also mentions the plot of the first section which is about a father and his two daughtrs who get caught in a bombing during the Iran Iraq War. After that some other things happen but I'm not as clear as tohow it all ties together. What the film really is is an allegory about the horrors of war, of how men in high places are killing us. Its clear that director Abed Abest has somethings to say as the river of blood in the first part of the film colors everything.

I will be forever haunted by the images in this film.Abest has created images that are now burned into my soul including the image of the river of blood filling a bomb crater. The camera movements, the use of color and the use of space all produce a visceral effect that is truly disturbing.

While I am truly in love with the craft of the film and while I can complain that the film may not hold it's narrative together, the film still packs a punch. There is a deeply visceral quality to everything that works behind our eyes in order to leave us deeply disturbed.  When I finished the film I thought I was going to sit down and toss off a few lines about the images and such but as I walked into the kitchen to get a drink I found myself disturbed. There was something about the way the film played out that left me feeling uneasy. Something about it kicked me in the chest.

I need to revisit this film referably on a really big screen where I can't look away.

Killing the Eunuch KHAN is a stunner on it's own terms and is recomended.

Friday, January 28, 2022

The Severing (2022) Slamdance 2022

Mark Pellington's THE SEVERING is a 70 minute gut punch.  A dance film for those that like disturbing things it is a film I wish I had seen on a big screen where it's images wold have been all encompasing and inescapable.

The film is a series of dances usually by a single dancer moving to an electronic soundtrack. Its like watching some one convulse from a nightmare for an hour. There were things where I wondered how they did that only to realize that it was all the twisting body of one woman. I know that ay sound like a no duh statement, but at the same time in an age where everything is computer altered its atypical to see something as troubling as some of these images that isn't computer enhanced.

While I readily admit the film probably a little bit too long I still wouldn't cut a thing even if I knew how you can trim a dance.

Before you go vaulting into this film be aware there is a chance this may not work for you. The style of the dance has been likened to Pina Bausch who I know isn't for everyone. This is people who who want to connect with the darker side and be troubled by things other than blood and guts.

Highly recommended for those who like the experimental, dance or off Hollywood.

Be Right Back (2022) Slamdance 2022


A stranger wanders into a group of people living in an abandoned vacation area deep in the forest. When the food disappears things get weird.

I'm not going to lie, BE RIGHT BACK completely eluded me. While I was intrigued enough by what was going on that I watched the film from start to finish, when I got to the end I honestly had no real idea what I had just witnessed.

The reason for this is that everything is just sort of off a couple of degrees from normal. People do normal things but there are odd twists, say a man staring into a window at a woman playing scabble, unending charades and a weird choice early on with some triumphant music that ends when the stranger goes to the bathroom in the woods.

I suppose I could be reading too much into all of this, but at the same time, maybe not. This film like a puzzle waiting to give up its secrets.

Definitely worth a look for the curious, I expect BE RIGHT BACK to be playing many festivals after this.

Poppy(2022) Slamdance 2022

 Libby Hunsdale is Poppy, a young woman with Downs Syndrome who wants to be a mechanic.

This is hands down of the best films at Slamdance and one one of my favorite films of 2022. Its a glorious celebration of the human spirit. Its a film that will make you feel good for all the right reasons.

The reason this film works is entirely Libby Hunsdale. She is so loveable that you want to reach into the screen and give her a hug. You completely understand how she charms the pants off everyone she meets. This is a star making role of the highest order. She is so good that I hope that casting directors see beyond the Down Syndrome and cast her in other roles. Seriously she will fit into pretty much any sort of role.

I absolutely loved this film. It made me feel good. I made my face ache from smiling non-stop for 97 minutes. That's all you need to know

My sole complaint about the film is that Slamdance has placed it in the Unstoppable section when it really should be just with the regular features. I say this because some people might not see it if they think it's in a special section.

Ultimately all you need to know is this film is a joy and a must see.

Highly recommended

Sylvie of the Sunshine State (2022) Slamdance 2022

Sasha Levinson films her second grade daughter, Sylvie,  during the intial covid lockdown.  We watch as mother and daughter navigate school, work, a fragmented family, an emergency and a wired existence

I am uncertain how to review this film. In many ways I'm way too close to this film to try to be objective. I say that because Sylvie reminds me very much like my niece. As a result watching the film I had the feeling that this was like spending time with my niece when she was that age. 

I suppose that is a rave of sorts since Levinson has made a film that is very much like life. 

The problem for me at least is I don't know if I need to be watching a film that mirrors when I can go and see my niece and get a hg in the process.

That said this is a really good film about a mother and daughter and if you would like to see what it is like to be a single mom in the age of covid this film is very recommended

Iron Family (2022) Slamdance 2022

Jazmine Faries,is a 32-year old young woman with Downs Syndrome who writes and stars in plays that she wrote.

Wonderful portrait of a young woman and her life. This is not a typical this is what life is like for someone with a disability, rather it is the best of all things, a portrait of a kick ass young woman who you just want to know. Its a film that makes a case that we shouldn't be seeing people with disabilities as something other than just regular folk. By simply being and pushing forward Jazmine ends up bringing together all sorts of people. 

The reason that the film works is simply that we just watching Jazmine and her family as if she as just another person. Yea she has Downs, but at the same time she isn't going to let that stop her she is just going to go straight a head doing what she does.

What an absolute delight.


Selahy (My Weapon) (2021) Slamdance 2022


A young deaf Yemeni girl loves to shoot with her video camera and spend tie with her dad. She doesn't unferstand the dangers of war.

Excellent look at the cost of war and how children, and especially those with special need get caught up in the fighting.

Beautifully made on every level, the film's only flaw is that we know that we can sense that there is going to be heartbreak in the end. That said I would love to see a feature expansion of the film if for no other reason than we really don't hear about the cost of war on those with disabilities like being deaf.


Brighton 4th (2021)

With BRIGHTON 4TH opening today here is a repost of my Tribeca review from last year

Kakhi travels from his home in the Republic of Georgia to visit his son in Brighton Beach. He thinks that he is studying medicine, however he soon discovers that he is working as a mover and is thousands of dollars in debt to a gangster. Kakhi then sets about to try and get his son out of trouble.

A small quiet gem is one of the unexpected finds of this year's Tribeca. I went into the film not knowing what it was about and was only watching it because I could. I came out with a gem of a film I can recommend for anyone tired of typical stories. hell it does something I normally hate but  it maks it work perfectly. (No I can't tell you what it is)

What makes this film work are the characters. Everyone is flawed, however everyone is ultimately likable. We generally like everyone and we want to give them a hug when they do something stupid even though we also want to smack the crap out of them. For better or worse these people are probably closer to our real selves than we would like to imagine.

This is a perfect festival film, a great little movie you might have missed if it wasn't for the programmers.

Highly recommended

Slamdance 2022 scifi shorts: BUGS AND SLUGS and SILENT WORLD

This is the story of a human by who falls in love with a troll on an alien planet.

This is a nice, and amusing, story about finding love and one's place in the world. I really don't knw what else to say beyond that other than it is very much worth  look at Slamdance.

One of the best Slamdance films concerns a world where deadly clouds are drifting across England. A deaf man struggles to stay alive since he is unable to hear the warnings.

This is a magnificent film. Not only is it a beautiully made science fiction tale but it beautifully and forcefully illustrates the trouble with being deaf in a hearing world. This film is a mini-masterpiece that I would love to see expanded

Highly recommended

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Imperfect (2021) Slamdance 2022

Imperfect is a winner.This is a magical film that often kicks some serious ass.

The film is the story of a production of the show Chicago using only disabled actors. We follow along as the performers prepare for the performance, deal with life and play to sellout crowds.

The reason Imperfect works is that directors Brian Malone and Regan Linton never take their eyes off the people. This isn’t about the play about the people with the result that the film packs a punch. I say this because watching the performance clips, particularly at the end are full of emotion. Seeing and hearing a smattering of The Cellblock Tango where the murderesses express their rage at the people who did them wrong takes on a different feeling as we equate the actresses lives with the words in the song. It kicked me in the chest as the rage of wronged and margianlized characters crashed into the women portraying them the look on their faces as they sang "he had it coming" banging out the time seemed cathartic

This is a stunner. It’s a great film  not only for people who love the theater but also for those who love great films.


Love Tasting (2021) Slamdance 2022


A couple of weeks and a couple of viewings on I still don’t know what I think of Love Tasting. My over riding thought was WOW. Beyond that reaction has been to just stare at the screen in awe.

Director Dawid Nickel has made a masterpiece that is alive and real with a tactile feel that has left me wondering how this can be a narrative when it feel like a documentary.

The film follows a group of teens over a week before the end of school. We are with them as they hang out, go to church, dance, smoke, pair up and deal with what life throws at them. 

I have no idea where to begin talking about this film.

The cast is across the board fantastic. It never feels like anyone is acting. No matter what is going on they sell it. Even when things become intimate they are totally oblivious to the camera. The best thing I can say is that this group of kids might very well make up the greatest ensemble cast that I have ever run across. I mean I keep watching the film hoping to find some sign of them breaking character but everyone is so invested.

The plot, while occasionally melodramatic, feels real. The first time through I had stop the film to check the Slamdance site to make sure this was a narrative. The way everything spins out feels dead nuts right. The conversations feel right. The interactions feel like what should be happening.

Forgive me for not being more specific but this is a film you need to just ride along with and discover on its own terms. Doing so will make the emotion hit you harder. By the time things were wrapping up I was getting emotional with everyone’s journey and I know not having a clue how it was going to play out made it deeper.

The film is shot in such a way that it feels alive. There is style to burn. I have to appalaud Dawid Nickel for making a film that technically is magical and sucks us in and makes it look flashy while at the same time driving the narrative forward.

I also need to mention the music. The score, which is largely part of the film is perfect. Its perfectly chosen to set the mood and drive things along. One of the times through the film I sat and watched it just to listen to the score.

And yet despite knowing how good the film is I honestly don’t know what I feel about it. I don’t know if I like it. That may sound weird, but I don’t know if I can like a slice of life like this. Additionally while I was moved by the arcs of the characters I still don’t think I like everyone. I’m still wrestling with the film and my feelings despite seeing the film several times from start to finish and in pieces.  That to me is the mark of a great film.

Love tasting is filmmaking at the highest level and is highly recommended

FERROEQUINOLOGY (2022) Slamdance 2022

The conductor sings his songs again
The passengers will please refrain
This train got the disappearing railroad blues

The City of New Orleans  by Steve Goodman

FERROEQUINOLOGY (the term means the study of trains) is a film that is going to suffer from not being seen on a big screen. This is a film full of amazing sights that deserve to be seen as big as possible. 

This is the story of two men who love trains. Andrew Cross who chases freight trains across Nevada. McNair Evans rides Amtrack trains and documents the trips and the people taking them as he criss crosses America.

One part love story of train and one part love story of people FERROEQUINOLOGY is a special film. Its a beautiful film both visually, it was shot in gorgeous black and white, and emotionally. You get lost in the images and in the stories of the men and the people they meet. It's a wonderful trip into another place and in a sense another time.

I fell into FERROEQUINOLOGY. I sat there and drifted off and cleared my mind. I've done this several times now since I was sent the film before Christmas so I've had time to return to the film and just be. As long-time readers of Unseen Films know any time I return to a film and mention it in the review the film is something special.

FERROEQUINOLOGY is special and a very recommended film at Slamdance

Underdog (2021) Slamdance 2022

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

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

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

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

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


This is an exploration of Agnes a trandgender woman from the 1960s, who participated in gender studies. Its a mix of fact and fiction aiming to put Agnes and what she means to the trans community and the world into context and current .  And I'm going to leave things there. Not because the film is bad, rather because the film doesn't speak to me. I know I am not its intended audience and as such there is nothing for me to say except, its very good.

A woman moves to Romania with her husband. She feels she's being watched. There is is a serial killer running through the city. Are they related? Doesn't anyone have curtains? Okay thriller never generates much suspense because we have been here before and it feels very staged. Yes the final couple of minutes have a couple of "oh crap" turns but its too little too late. 

A love letter to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez that charts the course of their lives. Full of clips and stories it will delight fans. And the ending will kick the hell out of fan and non-fan alike. I'm leaving it there because people with more love for the duo will have better things to say than I ever could.

This look at the objectivication of women in cinema is an illustrated lecture by the film's director Nina Menkes based upon her book Sex and Power: The Visual Language of Cinema. I am not going to say more than I saw it and if the subject interests you please see it. I'm leaving it there because my issues with the film will no doubt be misconstrude as issues with the subject matter and I am not going to get into any battles.

The relationship of two women is upset when one of the friends confesses that she likes women.This sets off repurcussions that play out in all their  lives. This sweet comedy is enjoyable for what  it is which is an over written comedy that never feels real.  I enjoyed the hell out of it but ten minutes out I kinf of had it slip from my mind, hence this capsule


Awesome beyond the words I have in the  middle of a festival look at the music scene in NYC  around 2000. Its a stunner. See it (and read Liz Whittemore's review here)