Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Apologies

 Just a quick apology to the regular readers of Unseen who may be feeling a lot of de ja vue of late.

Yes I know there have been a lot of reposted reviews over the last few weeks.

I knew there were going to be  some but I didn’t realize just how many there were.  Blame it on a lot of festival films hitting theaters and VOD. Also blame the lack of films that have tickled my fancy. I say this because I have been refusing to take films that didn’t excite me. Lastly blame life which has become very complicated making  seeing anything that doesn’t excite me difficult.

That said  as we move into June look for a lot of new films. There are a five festivals hitting the next three weeks  and we are going to have multiple reviews from all of them.

So bare with us for a little bit because it’s going to get crazy.

Liz Whittemore on Watcher (2022) which opens Friday


The one and only Liz Whittemore from Reel News Daily is back with a look at the Sundance thriller WATCHER. 

 Maika Monroe has solidified herself as a genre darling. If you somehow missed her It Follows or Villains, she’s a captivating performer. In Watcher writer-director, Chloe Okuno introduces us to a young couple’s international move to Bucharest takes a terrifying turn. A string of local murders haunts Julia as she spends her days alone and becomes aware of a neighbor staring at her from his apartment each night. Watcher takes you on a journey of cultural clash, instinct, and terror.

The film echoes the ingrained fear that women endure daily. We constantly live in a heightened state of awareness and anxiety that is exhausting. But it’s not only that aspect; it’s the gaslighting that might be more impactful than anything else and, its ensuing isolation can feel all-consuming. Monroe is in almost every frame. Her mindset will be all too familiar for the female audience. The sense that someone is a bit too close, looking at you a moment too long, and in many cases, we are helpless. What Monroe brings bravery to Julia that allows the viewer to be cautiously optimistic about her safety. Okuno and Zach Ford‘s script gives her a sense of action while maintaining fragility. It’s the moments of courage that we get to root for while simultaneously biting our nails. It’s a beautiful balance. Benjamin Kirk Nielsen‘s cinematography combined with Okuno’s blocking also put the viewer in Julia’s state of peril. Accompanied by a string-heavy score is everything we need it to be. The emotional manipulation in this film is sheer brilliance. While it’s not necessarily a new storyline, it is the bold approach that sets it apart. Watcher will have you maniacally screaming at the screen in terror and frustration. Sundance audiences are in for a ride.

To read more from Liz on Sundance and other films go to Reel News Daily

Monday, May 30, 2022

FORTUNE FAVORS LADY NIKUKO (2022) starts Thursday


With GKids releasing FORTUNE FAVORS... this week here is a repost of my Fantasia review from last year

If you can see FORTUNE FAVORS LADY NIKUKO do so. This gentle loving slice of life is an absolutely beautiful film about life as it is lived. It is wise and warm…. Which makes it a film that most companies releasing animated films outside of Japan may not touch because they simply won’t know how to market it.

Told from the point of view of Kiku the daughter of the title character, the film tells the tale of the pair as they live their lives in a coastal town. Kiku goes to school while her mom works in a local café. Life is a struggle but Nikuko will never allow the world to get her down.

Not much happens, and yet everything does. We watch a woman struggle to find happiness and not let life get her down. We also watch a well read preteen try and navigate being a kid, sorting out  what it means to be a friend, boys and the first throws of puberty.  There are no super battles or wickedly cool spectacular sequences of aliens, just the beauty of real life. And if there is a late in the game bump I didn't mind.

I was moved.

Full confession- one of the things that moved me about the film was the character of Nikuko. She reminded me of my mom in the best sort of way. Despite having lost her some 15 years ago watching the film I found that I was watching her running around trying to turn a bittersweet life into something happier and at the same time bring joy to her kid. Watching Nikuko I was watching my mom when she was reconnecting with her inner kid and being alive and enjoying life. That may not mean anything to you, but if you were lucky enough to have ever met my mom you’d know I was right,

FORTUNE FAVORS LADY NIKUKO is a great film. It is a deeply moving slice of life. It’s a gem that will be treasured by those who realize that animation isn’t always for kids, rather it is a way of telling a story you couldn’t tell any other way.

Highly recommended

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Nightcap 5/29/22- The Brooklyn Film Festival starts this week, Tribeca credentials, random notes and covering fests virtually

 


The Brooklyn Film Festival starts this week. Running from the 3rd to the 12th it is one of New York City's hidden treasures. Its a festival that always has a lot of gems you might never see otherwise. It is a delight from top to bottom.

Unfortunately due to real world complications Unseen is going to have limited coverage. It really stinks, but because of things I can't do more than a couple of titles before the fest.

I am hoping to be able to drop in and do some viewing on line- because in this post covid world the fest is also virtual, which means if you aren't in Brooklyn or near it, you can watch films at home.

For full details on in person and at home options go here: https://www.brooklynfilmfestival.org/
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Unseen Films is officially credentialed for  Tribeca which means we'll have even more stuff then we already have set to go.
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A note to the PR people who have sent us films we will have reviews of anything we have been sent (Ariela and I  are approaching 40 films reviewed before we even add in the films Liz Whittemore is reviewing.) Films are being scheduled as close to the embargo end as possible. However things may appear a bit late. Never worry everything will be reviewed.

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I've been playing catch up with a bunch of recent films so expect reviews between now and the festival.

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This is going to be more of interest to fellow film writers but at the same time some of you may find this interesting:

I'm wondering how much longer we are going to be able to sustain virtual festival coverage. I'm not talking about  a steady diet of screeners (which is how many films are seen now)  rather I'm talking about the big festivals dumping  their whole festival on line for members of the press and saying have at it.  

It has become a thing since covid when that was the only way to see a fest.  But , as we try to go back to normal, some fests are still doing it  and the question is is it helping or hurting the films? 

I ask  because there when you have several dozen films set out before you  you tend to be picky.  This film doesn't work fifteen minutes in move to the next one. If we are in a theater we'd give it longer, especially when you know you can't try several other things instantly.  I say this having done this at a couple of recent festivals only to see the film again at a less crowded festival and realize I made a big mistake, I should have stayed to the end.  And then there is the desire to jump to the end and go back to earlier in the film because you want to see if the film is worth finishing, thus ruining the narrative flow the director intended.

The other problem is that film going is a social event, and being social adds to the enjoyment and processing of a film. Yea, it's nice to be home in your bunny suit watching films for a week at a time, but at the same time the social interaction suffers. Not being able to talk about a film you've just seen alters how a film is received. Seriously you watch five films in a day and write them up alone and then do it with friends and colleagues , pausing to argue over food and drinks and you'll realize your view point is different. Even if you watch films at about the same time and talk on line the fact everyone is time shifted means  some of the people talking are actually thinking of other things, like another movie.

This was never a real problem up until recently because even when I was doing a big fest via screeners more often then not they would give me the films way in advance I had lots of extra time to wander through the titles at my leisure. But now some fests are opening the libraries only for the festival so it's crunch time and pick and choose in a wholly unnatural way.  Doing it now and again, when you know thats the deal going in is okay, but more and more festivals are doing it, and frankly it's not helping the films or filmmakers since we can't give the films our best if we are going to be covering more than a couple of films.

I mean think about it, you're home for a week watching films and because you can stop and start films you're getting up and getting food, taking calls, doing work, going on line, going for walks, watching with friends and family who may want you to replay scenes because they didn't catch something. The carefully designed cinematic experience is gone- more so because the cat keeps hitting the remote and messing up the picture..

Are we as film writers really doing the film justice by not seeing it under optimal conditions?

Frankly anyone writing on  a virtual festival should apologize to the filmmakers because they aren't doing the right thing.

This isn't a film festival experience but a bullshit one. 

Again this is in regard to full festival drops with a limited time frame to see the films.

And it doesn't apply to being a civilian and buying a virtual festival pass, as I will do for the VICA Fine Arts Fest, where you aren't expecting nor expected to see everything, to write on everything  and can graze at your will purely for your enjoyment.

In Brief: DIMENSION 5 (1966)


Bland spy film has Jeffrey Hunter as secret agent working to stop China from bringing a nuke into America with the help of a time travel belt.

This may have played okay at one time but the slow pacing and cheap 1960's attempts at looking scientific knock it down a couple of notches. I have the feeling that I would have loved this if I had stumbled on it while sick in bed at 3AM or sitting with friends riffing it.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Austin Asian American Film Festival announces film lineup for 14th edition (June 23-26)

Tom Huang’s Dealing With Dad is the Opening Night Selection, Kurdwin Ayub’s Sonne is the Closing Night selection, and So Yun Um’s Liquor Store Dreams is the Spotlight choice

Austin, TX (May 25, 2022) – The Austin Asian American Film Festival (June 23-26) announced the film lineup for this year’s 14th edition of the film festival. Taking place June 23-26, AAAFF’s headliner screenings include Tom Huang’s comedy Dealing With Dad, which will open the film festival, So Yun Um’s Liquor Store Dreams, which is the Spotlight selection, and Kurdwin Ayub’s Sonne, which will close the film festival. All screenings will take place at the AFS Cinema (6406 N I-35, Unit 3100).

 AAAFF will screen 11 feature films (6 Narrative, 5 Documentary), and 16 short films as part of their ongoing mission to produce programs that champion Asian and Asian American stories through film, educate about AAPI issues, and build community through partnerships with creatives and other organizations. The in-person/in-theater event will feature several filmmaker appearances and post-screening Q&As, as well as a red carpet gala presentation prior to the Closing Night screening on Saturday, June 25.

Austin Asian American Film Festival Executive Director Hanna Huang, said, “As our biggest program of the year, the film festival is packed with a lineup of the latest emerging independent films along with events for audiences and filmmakers to have conversations about AAPI representation in front of and behind the camera.”

 AAAFF Creative Director Ray Lloyd and Program Director Jenny Nulf, added, “This year’s lineup includes a wide array of genres and themes from a diverse spread of countries and Asian American communities. We’re ecstatic to present our lineup this year and celebrate independent film with our supportive film festival community here in Austin.” 

Opening Night will feature Tom Huang’s festival favorite dysfunctional family comedy Dealing With Dad about an Alpha mom/corporate manager tasked with going home to deal with her overbearing dad, who is now despondent and won’t leave the house. What she and her siblings discover is that their dad is actually, much more pleasant in his depressed state, so they wrestle with the decision to “fix” him or not.

 AAAFF’s Spotlight film will be So Yun Um’s documentary Liquor Store Dreams which draws a line from the ‘92 LA Uprisings to the current-day BLM movement as it looks at two Korean American children of liquor store owners who work to overcome the history and stereotypes that plagued their parents.

 Closing Night will present Kurdwin Ayub’s drama Sonne about three teenage girls from Vienna who deal with the fallout of becoming a viral sensation after a YouTube video of them twerking in hijab and singing a pop song takes off. They each become famous overnight, especially among Kurdish Muslims, which forces them to face their feelings and relationship to the culture as well as making them unexpected targets. The film won Best First Feature at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Additional narrative features include Kit Zauhar’s drama Actual People, about a biracial girl in her final week of college, whose desperation to get a boy to like her leads to escalating anxieties about everything in her life. Victor Villanueva’s Lucid follows a woman who lives a full satisfying life…in her dreams. That is, until a mysterious man she meets in her dreams challenges her to make them more adventurous until she questions if it is worth staying in her dream state or not. Qiu Jiongjiong’s fantasy A New Old Play focuses on a man who was a leading clown-role actor in 20th-century Sichuan opera, as he reluctantly is escorted to the Ghost City. Throughout his trip, earthly scenes from the past creep into the mists of the Netherworld. The film won a Special Jury Prize at Locarno. Faran Moradi’s love story Tehranto pairs two young students with very different upbringings from a divided Iranian community in Toronto as they fall in love against the backdrop of the city.

A trio of feature-length documentaries include Samarth Mahajan’s Borderlands looks at how everyday lives intertwine with borders in the Indian subcontinent via six characters whose lives are defined by personal and political borders. Julie Ha and Eugene Yi’s Free Chol Soo Lee explores the efforts by Asian Americans to free Chol Soo Lee, a Korean immigrant who was wrongly convicted of a gang murder. However, once released, he was ill-equipped to handle the attention and status that his celebrated case brought upon him. Violet Du Feng and Qing Zhao’s Hidden Letters tells the story of two Chinese women trying to balance their lives as independent women in modern China while confronting the traditional identity that defines but also oppresses them. Shanti Thakur’sTerrible Children looks at an Indian family’s struggle and growth generationally after the filmmaker’s Indian father gives her a letter, which he left unopened for 20 years. The letter inspires her to discover her father’s history of trauma and renewal—of family violence, boyhood in a right-wing paramilitary group, Muslim-Hindu violence during Partition, and family banishment for marrying a Danish woman. 

To purchase badges, tickets and for more information More information please go to: www.aaafilmfest.org.

 2022 Austin Asian American Film Festival Official Selections

George Carlin's American Dream


 Two part, almost 4 hour, HBO documentary on the late great comedian is a good but wildly over long examination of the man, his life, his comedy and ind his influence.

A birth to death look at the man this is full of clips from his whole life, going back to his DJ days in the late 1950's up to his death. As a life long Carlin fan some of this was manna from heaven. There are a lot of things here that I had wanted to see or hear for years and I finally got to see them at last.

The film is also a record of a good portion of his comedy bits. All the HBO specials seem to be represented as are TV appearances and other shows. The film is a great overview of the arc of his comedy, though the film probably has too much of it since bits repeat, not always for a good reason.

What I love about the film is the fact it's a love letter to his first wife Brenda. Its absolutely clear that he would have seen unable to do what he did if not for her. It's also clear that his love for her was paramount and that even in the bad times (which the film never shys away from) she was the love of his life. We need a doc or film just exploring that relationship.

While I like the film I don't love it.  As I said above it is wildly over long (this would be great and less repetitive at two a and a half hours) and much too in love with its subject. I also wonder why it never probed certain areas of his comedy/psyche more. The angry man attitude he seemed to have is at odds with several bits, particularly the closing  where he speaks as if he is a loving father. I still don't think they managed to get the balance of the angry Carlin screaming  about all the that is wrong and wanting to watch world burn and the man who got up on stage after 911 and  was shaken when the world started to do just that. I mention this because he always claimed that what we saw on TV and the stage was the real him, which listening to people talk about him and to him in private recordings doesn't seem to be really the case.

In the end I was left feeling sad. I don't know why but instead of triumphant celebration about one of my "fathers" (Carlin's world view shaped me) the film left me feeling sad for him. He felt some how smaller. Yes, it celebrated the work, but some how I was left feeling as if he was just this sad old guy. He had this intellect, this way of making people think and  laugh but it was fueled by righteous anger that went no where.

Forgive me I was kind of hoping that my feelings toward Carlin in the last decade of his life, that he was a sad old man yelling at the kids to get off his lawn (see my piece here) would change. I wanted to find something to hold on to other than the words that have been taken to heart by so many to give up and be cruel to each other. So many people I know quote Carlin's admonishments that we're fucked as an excuse to not do anything and be hurtful. Yes Carlin was right because these people refuse to step up and even try to fix the problem even a little bit. 

In the end my feelings didn't change, in part because Carlin isn't here to address the problem and mostly because the filmmakers didn't address it either.  Ultimately this documentary on a comedy god fails because in the end  the film about the man who challenged everything we think and do, and demanded that we challenge everything in our lives, never challenged anything he said or did.

Friday, May 27, 2022

THERE ARE NO SAINTS (2022)


 The Jesuit, a notorious gang assassin is released from death row when the cop who arrested him flips his story on his death bed to say he planted evidence. Back on the street he wants to make peace with his son and move on. However the cops and the gangs want of part of it and try to kill him. When his ex-wife is killed and his son kidnapped he has to wade back in and try to keep the one person he loves safe.

A great cast and a great director manage to take a really bad script from Paul Schrader into a pretty good action film. Seriously this film has mood to burn, not to mention some kick as action set pieces. How this was written by Schrader eludes me since it seems more like some trying badly to copy Schrader with it's purple dialog that no human being would ever say, the religious over tones and the plot motion that feels completely contrived. It's really bad and if the cast and crew weren't so good this would be a pile of crap.

However the cast is great (though the big names are all in this fleetingly) and the action bone crushing. The fights left me feeling stung. More importantly pretty much all of them have a genuine real world weight that the movies don't usually have. They are so good they put many bigger budget films to shame.

This is a stunning little thriller and if you can forgive the stupid script turns this is going to delight you especially if you are jonseing for a solid action film.

Recommended

Thursday, May 26, 2022

We Feed People (2022) hits Disney + tomorrow


This is the story of chef Jose Andres who began feeding people in need in 2010 when an earthquake hit Haiti. As a result he ended up starting World Central Kitchen which travels the world and wades in to disaster areas and feeds the people in need.  He is a man who takes his company where ever people need to be fed.

And while this is very much the story of Andres this film is also the story of a lot of people doing good. Its the story of World Central Kitchen and the people who go out of their way to make sure people can eat. It is a story of hope and humanity in a world of darkness. In a world of pain they will make you feel good.

I was moved to tears. I was rocked by Andres attitude of we have to help anyway we can- and then his just wading in to do it anyway he can. He went in in the early days with no plan and made it up as he goes. Its the way he runs its business and it has allowed him to make a difference when officialdom won't move fast enough. I love that he takes what he learns and changes as as he goes along and as each situation presents itself. You get a sense that he really wants to help and not feed his ego. This is the way we should all be. We should look to see what is really possible, not what we think is possible.

This is a magnificent film.

I don't know what to say except see this film. One of  2022's most important films

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Bleeding Audio (2020) opens Friday

Portrait of the group The Matches, who were formed as The Locals and busted their asses to make a name for themselves before splitting up and then coming together again years later.

Good portrait of a band I had really not run across before, but which I am now very interested in.

Bleeding Audio is a great little film that checks off a couple of things that I look for in music documentary. The first is it has to be interesting enough that I click into the music. I don’t care what sort of music it is, and I’ve seen docs on lots of music genres and some gave me a way into appreciating the artist and some haven’t. Bleeding Audio just grabs you and pulls you in. It’s the cinematic version of a story one of the band’s managers tells of coming into the end of a set, having no idea who the band was, but they knew they wanted to hear more. I wanted to hear more of the Matches’ music. The other ticky box the film checks off is that the film makes clear that the praise the talking heads heap upon the band is not hype. About half way into the film I was haunted by the statement made earlier in the film that one of the bigger producers couldn’t understand why they weren’t bigger. I mean the music is great, the live shows look like a blast and it’s clear that they love their fans, so what the hell happened? I have no idea.

On the plus side we have this film, which is so awesome it’s going to go along way into creating new fans.

Highly recommended

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

18½ hits theaters nationwide Friday


In 1974 Washington a stenographer assigned to transcribe a meeting discovers that at the end of the tape is a recording of Nixon listening to to the legendary tape with the missing 18 minutes. She contacts a reporter she admires and they end up going to listen to a motel to hear the tape. The trouble is the tape recorder is broken. This sets in motion a chase to get a new recorder and to stay out of the way of the people who maybe tracking them.

This dark comedic thriller feels like it fell through a time warp and landed here. While the film doesn't seem like a film from the 1970's, it feels like it is a document of the 1970's. I was  watching the film and a lot of little things seem like they were ripped from my memories. Watching the film it feels like I was ten again. Actually the only thing that I can see that the film got wrong is no one is smoking.

Another thing that is 1970's about the film is it's political thriller spine. The tale at the center is some thing from the family of thrillers like THE PARALAXVIEW, TWLIGHTS LAST GLEAMING and even ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN.  It should be stated that outside of the 18½ minute gap and the political figures at the center of the tale, none of this is true. Not that it matters, you'll be hooked early. 18½ mixes fiction with history.to create a compelling tale that keeps you watching.

In going throwback writer director Dan Mirvish has fashioned something fresh. No one is making films like this. It feels old school but it has a modern edge. Its a difficult path to walk but Mirvish does it near perfectly. The blending makes the film something we warm to instantly. Its so nice to fall into a film this quickly and feel utterly at home. This is something special.

If there is any bump in the film, it's some of the farcical elements. Some of the turns are a little too silly. Some of the hippie bits and bits with the older couple didn't have to be played as "broadly". The film would have been just fine playing it all completely straight.

Bumps or no 18½ is recommended. Its a wonderful little gem that tells one hell of a story. More importantly its a film that is unlike anything else out there. Its a singular film that is the perfect cure for anyone who is tired of your typical Hollywood fodder.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Since I Been Down (2020) hits VOD tomorrow


Kimonti Carter was sent to prison in 1997 for a drive by shooting that killed an innocent bystander. He thought he was shooting at a car full of the rival gang members. He was wrong and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole because of Washington State's Three Strikes law. Where that might be a good thing in some cases, in Carter's case it's a disaster since Carter seems to have rehabilitated and now educates the other inmates. 

While nominally Carter's story the film is actually something much greater. Carter is only the jumping off point for an examination of how Carter came to be in prison and how society and its racism and need to keep the poor down created a situation that traps millions of  African Americans every year.While the film specifically shows how it happened in Carter's Washington neighborhood it speaks to the larger issue of America as a whole.

Covering as many films as I do I see a number of similar film every year and as a result I can say with certainty that SINCE I BEEN DOWN is one of the best. Insisting on talking to everyone who might have a real insight (there are not many academics here) the film gives us the real story from the mouths of the people who are living through the problems it seeks to correct. Watching the film this was one of the few times where I felt like I was getting wisdom from a life lived and not from a book read.

This is a great film tmakes you think and feel and makes you want  to actually go out and try to solve the problem beyond the twenty minutes after the film ends. 

Highly recommended

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Up To G Cup (2022) HRWFF 2022


UP TO G CUP is a delight .

The film is the story of a Kurdish woman and a Yazidi woman who open up a shop selling women’s under garments in Iraq. It’s a delightful portrait of two woman following their passion while at the same time being a bracing look at a society that puts men in the fore front.  The road to success is not an easy one but the two women are game to try.

What I love about the film is that no matter what  you think the film is going to be it isn’t that.  This is a film that is as surprising as real life. It’s the cinematic equivalent to reading a news story or a guide book about a place and then when you go there you find it is completely different than what you expected. For me this is the result of two decades of watching TV news of Iraq and having it be a certain way in my head because of all the images of war. The reality is of course that it is a place of just regular people.

I was delighted.

Late in the film there is a film are some scenes of some older women in the shop sitting around talking. It’s a wonderful moment because it means that the place has become something. If people come and talk and are engaged, especially older ladies then you’ve created something special.

This film truly is something special. It is a film that reminds us that the images in the media are really just people and that we all share a common humanity.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Rebellion (2022) HRWFF 2022 Tribeca 2022

 


Rebellion is the story of the group Extinction Rebellion(XR) which seeks to make people aware that the we are running out of time in regard to out climate. The film charts the groups battle to make the government of England take the threat seriously. The film charts their acts of civil disobedience and  internal struggle to change from focusing on the climate crisis and instead make it about climate justice.

To be honest Rebellion didn’t really work for me. While the subject is important, I never really connected. While the subject is important there never really was a sense of urgency. We are hanging out with friends having tea instead of being in the middle of the fight to save the planet.

This is a good film but it’s not a great one.

No U Turn (2022) HRWFF 2022



Filmmaker Ike Nnaebue makes his first documentary and retraces his trip from his home in Nigeria across Africa in search of a better life. Along the line he examines the dangers faced my those migrating for a better life as well as the exploring the reasons why someone would give up everything they knew to make a new life in another land.

In age where so many people are migrating in an effort to flee war this look at a different reason to be on the move is eye opening. This is a film that at least half of America needs to see. Living in a country where a good number of the people live in fear that immigrants are coming to get them this film makes it clear why people are so willing to move.

Make no mistake this is a bittersweet tale. Just because people are willing to go it doesn’t mean that they are going to make it. Circumstance, a lack of funds and other factors loom at every turn. Many people end up stuck along their way, unable to to go forward… ot go back either because of no cash or because of shame. Yes some stories seem like a repeat of others but that’s because there are only too many people trying to make a trip that can only end in a limited number of ways.

I really like this film a great deal. Director Nnaebue has made a film of incredible power. Not only is it s great examination of migration but it’s also a hell of a portrait of the people on screen. It’s a hell of a story where we move our seat closer to the screen because we want to hang out with everyone passing before us. My love of the film comes not from from the documenting of a journey, rather its from  Nanaebue’s instance on keeping the people and their humanity front and center. At no point does anyone disappear into the crown and become just a face or a cut out.  The result is a film that moves us.

Recommended.

The New Greatness (2022) HRWFF 2022

 


The New Greatness of the title was an on-line community where young Russians met up to talk about life. They spoke about the usual things in life. When politics started to be discussed with some questions about the Putin being raised someone in the group suggested they meet up to talk in person. This person turned out to be an agent for the Putin government with the result that everyone was arrested and their homes were raided. The kids were locked up and their parents, many previously pro-Putin, turned into activists in an effort to get their kids back.   The film focuses on the family of Anya, one of the people arrested and tossed in jail.

Filmed over a three year period the film is a look behind the curtain of Putin’s Russian. It’s a land ruled by fear and where even those supporting the government are afraid of their own safety. It’s a film that reveals how sometimes even in time of fear some people will take a stand when the life of a loved one is at stake.

How the New Greatness plays for audiences is now is going to be very differently than it would have been before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I say this because watching the film I kept talking to the screen about how much worse things would have been had the events were playing out now. Where Putin and his stormtroopers were cracking down on anyone who refused to tow his party line, now things are much worse with anti-war activists disappearing.

This is a film which will make you angry. More so in light of current world events. I really can’t say more than that because the bullshit level of Putin and his lackies make it hard not to be detached and objective.

I will say the film is very recommended, especially if you want a look into the madness that is burning a hole into Europe

Friday, May 20, 2022

Ernie Stevens on HOLD YOUR FIRE (2022)


Opening today in theaters is the documentary HOLD YOUR FIRE.  The film is the story of the longest hostage stand-off in New York City history. It was a point at which all of the rules for handling those sort of situations changed since the NYPD was forced to alter their (non-existent) methods involving threats of force and to try something subtler.  While I was watching the film earlier this week all I could think was "I wondered what Ernie would think."

For those of you who don’t know Ernie Stevens is a former San Antonio policeman who specialized in crisis resolution. He along with his then partner Joe Smarro were profiled in the HBO documentary ERNIE AND JOE: CRISIS COPS. Ernie has  since retired from the force and he now tours the country  speaking on crisis descalation, as well as being the writer with Nicholas Ruggerio of the best selling Mental health & De-escalation: A guide for law enforcement professionals (Real cops training Book 1) .

I met Ernie when I interviewed  him, Joe and  Jennifer McShane director of ERNIE AND JOE when they were promoting the film.  After the interview Ernie and I fell into a conversation that has been going on for three years now.  Because of Ernie’s background I had to find out if he saw HOLD YOUR FIRE and what he thought of it.

In response he sent me back the short piece that follows.  While it speaks specifically to the film , his words also say volumes about where we are as society and how we view the police and the way they view us. When I read it I was deeply moved, partly because I could relate to what he was saying as someone who works in the criminal justice field, but also because his words speak to all of us.

I want to thank Ernie for letting me share his thoughts on HOLD YOUR  FIRE and on the state of policing.


I watched the documentary and found myself at times angry with the police, denying racism and the disregard for human life. I also felt for the officers that watched a fellow member of the department shot and killed. Senseless crimes can lead to horrible outcomes for everyone involved, no matter what side of the incident you find yourself on. 

I felt a real connection to Dr. Harvey and his approach to human connection through active listening. I still use and teach the model that he spoke about in the film. It is mindblowing how far law enforcement has come but also how far it still has to go. 

Restorative Justice is an issue I strongly believe in and it can be a catalyst for healing. We, as a country, are so divided when it comes to policing in America and what that should look like. Racism is still a huge issue and implicit bias training is a check the box for many departments. 

I have faith in humanity, I have faith that law enforcement is still a noble profession. This film did a really good job describing the different point of views and the mindset of those directly involved in the incident. As a result of the racial tensions and the disconnect with law enforcement, the vicarious trauma spilled over into the community and they began to cause disruption during a tense standoff. This is where procedural justice is so important. The difference between legitimate authority and statutory authority is the chasm that separates this country today. Authority is given to law enforcement by the community, what we do with it is our gift back to them. 

You Resemble Me (2022) HRWFF 2022

 


This a portrait of suicide bomber Hasna Aït Boulahcen, who went from regular girl trying to protect her family to one surviving on the streets to a radicalized young woman who blew herself up in 2015.  

A kind of hypnotic film this is a film that pulls us in and makes us wonder how a young woman can change over time and end her life in a dramatic manner. The films power is in that while it explains, to some degree how the change happens, it also raises any number of questions that don’t have easy answers.  Watching the film at home I was left staring at the screen pondering what I had just seen. It’s the sort of film that you really need to see with someone, or with a theater full of people because when it’s over, it’s a film that  you are going to want to talk about.  Best of all even if you don’t “like” the film you are going to be forced to talk about it. Even if you don’t like it you are still going to have to wrestle with how you feel about what it is showing you.

As you can see I am not being very substantive in discussing the film, and that is intentional. This is not a film I can discuss in a vacuum. This is a film that forces my engagement with another person or people. I need to bounce my thoughts off someone and seeing the film alone at home makes leaves me wanting to ask questions and hash them out rather than simply stating my thoughts.

On a substantive level the film is a beautifully made and acted film. It’s a solid drama that, at least for me, is lost in the vital issues about radicalization and the feelings that bring it on.

Highly recommended. See it with a friend.

New Old Play opens today



Theatrically rooted film  is the life as portrayed on stage, and which mirrors the conventions of stage.

Three hour film is a one of kind trip through history. Playing unlike any film I’ve seen (expect perhaps some of Obyashi’s final films)  this is sensory delight for those film lovers who want something different and theater lovers who miss the magic of theater on the big screen.

A treat and recommended.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Eternal Spring (2022) Human Right Watch Film Festival 2022

 


“In China they will kill a thousand people just to get the right one”

Daxiong, comic illustrator and member of the  Falun Gong , recounts the story of the groups bold hijacking of the official state TV channel to broadcast a message counter to the official Chinese message that members of Falun Gong were dangerous terrorists. Horrific reprisals resulted where the government crushed and killed anyone they thought might have even been remotely part of the plan.

This  tale of a doomed plot to get the truth out is both heartbreaking and suspenseful. If you know anything about the Chinese government feelings toward Falun Gong you know that a lot of people are going to die. The group is their boogieman and they love to destroy its members in the most horrific ways. There have been numerous accounts of the criminal things they have done against the innocent people of the group and this is another. The suspense is there because you have to see how it was all done and how it played out. It’s a real version of the Star Wars Film Rogue One, but sadder, since the broadcast message didn’t change anything.

I was rocked.

What helps make this film work is the amazing animation. Designed by Daxiong, the animation adds so much to the tale. Not only does it allow events to be illustrated, it also results in a definite feel. We are in China at the turn of the millennium and not in the theater where we are seeing the film. Its beautifully done and gives the viewing a tactile quality that a straight live action recreation might not have ever achieved.

While the world is focused on the evils of Putin and Russia with their war in Ukraine, Eternal Spring is a reminder that China is probably worse and that we need to be very careful in our dealing with the Mainland government.

Highly recommended

Midwives (2022) HRWFF 2022


MIDWIVES was one of the great films at Sundance. 

The film is the story of two midwives, one Buddhist and one Muslim, in Myanmar who work together to give their community health care and deliver babies despite the fact that the Myanmar government is trying to ethnically cleanse the country of Muslims. 

It’s a deeply moving film full of humanity that makes it clear that there is no real difference between people other than the labels we stupidly put upon ourselves. This is a film that will make you run a spectrum emotions as you see how the acts of good people can make a difference even as bad people commit crimes. I was moved.

Highly recommended this film deserves more and better words than I can manage- though if these words can get you to see it it will have been enough.

Delikado (2022) Human Rights Watch FIlm Festival 2022


Delikado is  hell of a film. The film is the story  of the people on the island of Palawan in the Philippines who are fighting to keep their rain forest intact. One of the last rain forests in the world that hasn’t been severely compromised by the action of mankind the jungle is coveted by the rich and powerful. Who work to take to control of the land and resources by any means necessary.  Feeding into the madness is the former President Duterte’s criminal war on drugs, a reign of terror in disguise, where official and unofficial hit squads killed or brutalized anyone that they deemed part of the drug trade.

Lush and beautiful landscapes are counterbalanced by the evil that men do as activists and local officials are forced to fight the main government and interlopers. It’s a story which will make you angry.

The film is a portrait of three people Bobby Chen head of the Palawan NGO Network Inc (PNNI) which goes into the jungle to stop the illegal destruction of the rain forest. Efren "Tata" Balladeres, a one time government agent, turned activist and Nieves Rosento, mayor of one of the towns on the island. She is loved by her constituents and wants to keep the jungle intact. However her opponent is backed by the Philippines psychotic President Duterte and has been labeled as being in league with the drug dealers which makes her a target for the hit squads.

Structured like a thriller the film shows us the dangers of protecting the jungle and the land from the forces seeking to exploit the land for the profit of a few.  And there is danger since one of the people we are following dies during the course of the film. While you will watch the film for the suspense, the reality is you should see the film because it will make you understand just how the environment is under attack and how big business and big money doesn’t care who dies so they get money.

This is a great film and highly recommended

Be prepared to get angry.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

FINAL CUT (2022) Cannes 2022


Michel Hazanavicius, The director of THE ARTIST, remakes ONE CUT OF THE DEAD and all I'm left to wonder is why?

I am not going to go into details concerning the plot because the film is a puzzle box that changes in every third. Nominally the film is about the shooting of a zombie film that goes horribly wrong when real zombies attack. What happens after that is the film

If you haven't seen the original then give the film a try because it may work for you. Additionally if you haven't seen the first film stop reading here because after this point I'm going to discuss things that will refer to twists and turns in the film.

Still reading?

Then I assume you know the original and I can discuss this version.

Honestly I didn't care for this film at all for two reasons. The first is a matter of execution and the second is a matter of taste.

Execution wise the film is essentially exactly the original. The film is set in France and everyone has Japanese names. They took the original script and tweaked it slightly (I mean the film runs about 15 minutes longer than the original) and trotted it out as something new  It feels so close  to the original at times I was wondering why I was bothering to watch this version, (When this was announced for Sundance, where it was originally supposed to premiere,  there was no mention of it being a remake and five minutes in I knew I had seen it before).I mean everything carries over.

The one big change that Hazanavicius made was he brought his sense of humor to the proceedings. There is a broadness and silliness to the comedy that you either love or hate. He makes things sillier than they were with the result being that if the humor doesn't click it will seem stupid. I'm not a fan of his humor going back to his earlier films and understand why his films, outside of THE ARTIST, never clicked in the US.

If you saw the original you can skip this version 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Hold Your Fire (2022) opens Friday

 


HOLD YOUR FIRE is a killer documentary.  It is the story of how hostage negotiations came about when the robbery of a sporting good store went horribly wrong and ended up the longest standoff in NYPD history.

The whole things started when four black men  tried to rob a sporting goods store in Brooklyn. They had wanted the guns for protection from the Black Panthers. The robbery was discovered and the police arrived. After a three hour shoot out.  The four men ended up holding 12 people hostages. As the police  followed their typical pattern of trying to bully the people inside to come out (Think Dog Day Afternoon), one of their number, an atypical cop with a psychology degree was allowed  to try something different and by flying by the seat of his pants managed to change how situations were resolved.

Let me cut to the chase, how good is HOLD YOUR FIRE? When it was done I started it over and watched it a second time.

This is an eye opening film on so many levels. As bad as things are now watching the film you quickly realize how bad things used to be. Its clear the NYPD had no clue and it’s incredibly lucky that none of the hostages were killed since the cops were rather trigger happy and they were considering just driving a tank into the store to end it. Watching the film you realize that we have moved toward a better place.

HOLD YOUR FIRE is a killer documentary.  It is the story of how hostage negotiations came about when the robbery of a sporting good store went horribly wrong and ended up the longest standoff in NYPD history.

The whole things started when four black men  tried to rob a sporting goods store in Brooklyn. They had wanted the guns for protection from the Black Panthers. The robbery was discovered and the police arrived. After a three hour shoot out.  The four men ended up holding 12 people hostages. As the police  followed their typical pattern of trying to bully the people inside to come out (Think Dog Day Afternoon), one of their number, an atypical cop with a psychology degree was allowed  to try something different and by flying by the seat of his pants managed to change how situations were resolved.

Let me cut to the chase, how good is HOLD YOUR FIRE? When it was done I started it over and watched it a second time.

This is an eye opening film on so many levels. As bad as things are now watching the film you quickly realize how bad things used to be. Its clear the NYPD had no clue and it’s incredibly lucky that none of the hostages were killed since the cops were rather trigger happy and they were considering just driving a tank into the store to end it. Watching the film you realize that we have moved toward a better place.

The film also beautifully lays out the feelings of the various groups involved. We come to understand why the men decided to rob the store. We understand the point of view of the hostages, the people outside  and even the cops many of which still feel that the robbers should have been put to death because a cop died during the gunfight.

This is a perfect time capsule of the early 1970’s. Watching the film I felt I was back in Brooklyn 50 years ago. There is a tactile feel to it all. I could feel what it was like to be in the city at the time.

What I love is there is complexity to it all. Director Stefan Forbes doesn’t sugar coat things. While he clearly explains what happened, he also leaves things messy. Things aren’t neat. We are not given explanations for how people not interviewed felt.  The result is something much closer to life rather than polished film. It gives the proceedings a weight that haunts us. I also understand how that may not work for people who want documentaries to be neat and clean.

I love this film. I can’t wait to see it yet again.

Highly recommended.The film also beautifully lays out the feelings of the various groups involved. We come to understand why the men decided to rob the store. We understand the point of view of the hostages, the people outside  and even the cops many of which still feel that the robbers should have been put to death because a cop died during the gunfight.

This is a perfect time capsule of the early 1970’s. Watching the film I felt I was back in Brooklyn 50 years ago. There is a tactile feel to it all. I could feel what it was like to be in the city at the time.

What I love is there is complexity to it all. Director --- doesn’t sugar coat things. While he clearly explains what happened, he also leaves things messy. Things aren’t neat. We are not given explanations for how people not interviewed felt.  The result is something much closer to life rather than polished film. It gives the proceedings a weight that haunts us. I also understand how that may not work for people who want documentaries to be neat and clean.

I love this film. I can’t wait to see it yet again.

Highly recommended.

Cane Fire (2020) open Friday

The directors grandfather
Anthony Banua-Simon's CANE FIRE is damn near close to a perfect film. Everything it needs to be a truly great film is there, except for the editing. As much as I like all of the pieces, I really wish someone other than the director had put the pieces together.

CANE FIRE is the story of  how the island of Kauai is portrayed in the movies...and it's the story of director  Banua-Simon's family on the island... and the history of Hawaii... and the history of labor relations and strife... and an effort to find the lost film that had his grandfather in it... and the relationship of the whites to all the ethnic people that lived on or were brought to the island to work... and how tourism and Hollywood warped history... and how no one can really live in Hawaii unless they are really rich....and three or four other thing which I have forgotten but which are covered in detail.

Trust me, it's  all there, beautifully told but done so in a way that pings around exactly like the previous paragraph, except that it keeps looping back through things.  The result is a really informative film that doesn't seem to know what it is about. Actually it knows what it's about it just wants takes long time to get there and it wants to throw in a lot of other stuff along the way. It's kind of like looking at lose pictures instead of one in an album where everything is in the best order possible.

Rarely has any film frustrated me so much.

In reality as much as I am bitching about CANE FIRE being a mess I am forgetting to say that the film on its own terms is good. It isn't nearly as great as it should be but it is good. It raises a lot of questions that need to be looked into. It is a film that forces you to think about what Hollywood and tourism do, as well as consider the battle to earn a decent living.

I like CANE FIRE but I wanted to love it.  To that end I am going to recommend the film at Hot Docs, but with a warning that it does bounce around.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Emergency (2022) hits theaters Friday before it hits Amazon Prime next week

 


An expansion of director Carey Williams' short film, EMERGENCYis the story of two African American college students who plan on making a legendary run of frat parties. Complications ensue, before during dire when going home to change for the run they discover a white girl passed out in their living room. Uncertain what to do, they and their roomate who left the door unlocked, struggle to figure out what to do and keep themselves out of jail.

An uneasy mix of comedy and social drama this is one part a wild and crazy night style comedy mixed with very real social concerns. It makes for a lot of unconfortable laughs as tyical jokes of this style of comedy take on darker tones since the boys know there is a good chance that if they call for help they could end up dead from a "misunderstanding" on the part of the police. Its a clever spinning of things that occasionally clunks in moments like the white homeowners telling the black kids to get out of the neighborhood and stop selling frugs before going to to a house with a black lives matter sign outside. It's not that the moment isn't real, more that its low hanging laughs in a film that wants to be more.

While I like EMERGENCY, I don't love it. I admire what it is trying to do more than I love what it does. I love that spins things to make up think, but it doesn't always succeed, especially in an ending which, while right on target in many ways, doesn't actually hit it because of the tone.

Still, there is enough here to make the film worth seeing.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Nightcap 5/15/22- Human Rights Watch Film Festival Starts this week and other notes.


This week the Human Rights Watch Film Film Festival starts here in New York, Running at Lincoln Center  and the IFC Center as well as on line, the festival is the annual look at films that are highlight social issues across the globe.

Normally I would do a full on proper curtain raiser and give recommendations of which titles to see, but having seen all of the films except THE JANES, I can honestly say they are all good and all worth your time. I will have reviews of everything closer to the screenings

If you want more information or to get tickets go here.
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With Tribeca less than month away I am happy to report that Unseen films has been credentialed and will be in the trenches. Coverage has started being put together with Ariela banging out several reviews already.

I have no idea how much we will be able to cover but it should be a lot since We at Unseen will be sharing coverage with Liz Whittemore and the Reel News Daily crew to cover what we can before collapsing into a heap.

We are still working out details so keep reading to see what we pull together.
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And yea I’m remiss in getting a couple of long promised pieces up. Forget the filmmakers list which is growing by leaps and bounds and is pushing me farther and farther behind, that’s a project that is going to be finished by other hands after I pass on. I still need to do a piece on this years New York International Children’s Film Festival, and another on the Living Dead Museum in Monroeville. My excuse for both is that that pictures are still locked in my camera.

I also have a couple long unfinished piece, one on Tarzan and another on Benjamin Button that may see the light of day soon, or not.

On the other hand my latest talk with Patrick Meaney is close to being done and will post when THE BRINK OF... its festival. in June
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The cost of everything is out of control, but you know that.

As this posts I’m trying to sort out what I’m doing with Tribeca  beyond the press credentials, because I was looking to buy tickets for some events and found out that I just can’t afford them. Yes I would love to hear JR speak but I can’t afford to  pay almost $50 to do so. As for several other events the cost is just a bit too much.

I went to Broadway last weekend with Peter Gutierrez to see Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga in the Scottish play. While we had a great time, the only way we could afford it was by running some manipulation of things and bringing in gift cards. While the show is an event show so more expensive then others is kind of expected, but the real truth is the fact is that even discounted shows are basically out of reach now. I mean the discounts on shows are the ticket prices I used to balk at because they were the too expensive full price.

It feels as though many events, Broadway and concerts are now trying to make up for all the lost revenue from the covid shut down. Add in the rising cost of gas and transportation and hotels and it's rapidly become impossible to do anything but stay home and watch TV- though even the streaming services and cable costs are shooting out of control.

Sadly its has come to the point where I can’t afford do the things I loved to do.

Two Gladiators

When Emperor Marcus Aurelius dies his son Commodus takes the throne. He is such an evil force a senator who knows he has a hidden twin brother runs off to find him and bring him back in the hope that he can seize the throne for good.

Made in the wake of FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE the film is a good little historical drama that moves along at a good clip. Echoing the Oscar winning GLADIATOR the film is much less pretentious and it its way much more fun than the Oscar winning film.

Worth a look.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Bulldog Drummond at Bay

John Lodge is Captain Hugh Drummond in one of a long series of films (its one of thee films from 1937 all with different Drummond's. The other two are the miscast Ray Milland and the perfectly cast John Howard).

Here Drummond and his friends take on a group of foreign spies trying to get their hands on a new plane. One of the baddies is played to perfection by Victory Jory, who really turns in a highly evil performance. This is one of the darkest of any of the Drummond films with the bad guys really doing a number on anyone and everyone who fall into their hands.

This is a solid, if slightly nasty little film that plays very differently than the seven films that followed with John Howard in the lead. Those films, while good little mysteries of their own, were just a tad lighter than this film. Very much worth a look, especially if one looks at how the character changed in one year by watching Ray Milland in Bulldog Drummond Escapes and John Howard in Bulldog Drummond Comes Back.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Brief thoughts on PLEASURE (2021) which opens today


PLEASURE is a look at the adult film industry. The the story of an actress named Bella Cherry who wades into the industry wanting to be the best. However circumstances sends her up and down various pathways that may not lead to places she wants to go.

When I saw this film at Sundance in 2021 I thought  it is was a good film, and wonderfully not like Hollywood's portrayal of the industry. However I was disappointed that the plotting didn't do anything unexpected and you kind of knew where its going because, while there aren't a lot of films about the porn industry, almost of them, short of a porn film, follow the same route with the only question being how banged up is the person at the center going to be in the end.

AT the same time its frank handling of the material and refusal to paint things as purely black or white, despite taking the familiar course, has me still pondering the  film a year later.  

While not for all audiences it's worth a look for those curious.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES is on Netflix now


 I had a blast watching LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES. This is a wonderful portrait of a guy who was in the right place at the right time and not only saw but helped shaped the history of rock and roll and popular music as we know it.  Make no mistake what Torres was doing as a DJ  as well as writer altered what we as readers and listeners thought about the music we were consuming.

I don’t know what to say but this is a perfect example of when you have a great subject you don’t have to dress it up. Yes the film uses typical tricks to gussy up the proceeding by link interviews, videos and stills, but you won’t remember any of that, what you will remember is the man and his stories. Torres is nothing if not a great story teller and we are better for it. Actually what he is a pack rat and the fact that he still has the tapes of all the interviews will blow your mind.  (Someone please digitize all of them before they disappear)

This film is so much fun.

Highly recommended.

Monstrous (2022)


MONSTROUS is a film that’s hard to explain. I say that because this is a film of layers, of turns and of moments that happen and make you realize what you’ve been watching is no the story you thought you were watching. It’s one of those films that causes you to talk to the screen as new details shake your perception of reality.

I have been thinking about this film for several hours now. As I write this about 10 hours have past since I finished the film. I've been turning it over and over in my mind trying to sort out. As I did so I realized that this is the sort of film that my opinion of the film changed. This is really fun ride. However once you get to the end the film changes. It becomes a good film of a different sort, I mention this because this is a film you need to see knowing as little as possible.

Set in 1955 the film has a mother and her son fleeing to a remote house by a lake. They are looking to start over after escaping from an abusive ex. Both mother and son are deeply scarred and lean on each other to get through their days. However things are not as calm  as they would like as there appears to be a dark presence lurking in the lake.

I will not get into any details however I will say that Christina Ricci is dynamite. I know she's been great since she first appeared on the scene, however there is something about this role which takes her to the next level. She gives the sort of a performance that makes you go WOW.

This is a nifty little thriller and its worth a look.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

25th Brooklyn Film Festival Announces Lineup

 


29 World Premieres to be Shown

Indoor Screenings at Windmill Studios and Online Screenings, June 3-12

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, May 11, 2022 - Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF) announces the film lineup for its 25th edition, themed “Unthinkable.” The 2022 edition will feature 29 World Premieres, 21 US bows, 21 east coast debuts, and 36 first-time screenings in NY. In total, BFF will show in competition 143 features and shorts from 34 countries. The full lineup includes 12 narrative features and eight documentary features, highlighted in this release. The festival will also present 40 narrative shorts, 20 documentary shorts, 23 animations, and 21 experimental films. Furthermore, 19 films will play as part of one of the most successful BFF programs, now in its 18th year, KidsFilmFest.

On June 3rd, BFF will open the festival with an in-person, world premiere screening, of the powerful and nuanced coming of age crime drama-thriller, “Signs of Love” written and directed by Clarence Fuller, and produced by David Michaels, starring Hopper Jack Penn (Flag Day), Dylan Penn (Flag Day, Elvis & Nixon), Zoë Bleu, Rosanna Arquette (The L Word, Ratched, Crash), Cree Kawa, and Wass Stevens.

Over the course of the 10-day festival, BFF will present 35 two-hour film programs online via the festival website, and the same 35 programs will be shown in person at Windmill Studios in Greenpoint, with select programs at Union Docs in Williamsburg. The online lineup will be available 24/7 for the entire 10-day festival. The indoor event will feature five programs a day on weekends, and three programs a day on weekdays. Each program is two-hours long. To find out more in-depth how the 25th BFF is going to work, both online and at our indoor venues, check the BFF’s website.

Along with the film screenings, BFF will offer events on social media, such as pre-recorded filmmaker introductions and Q&A sessions on the festival website. The video server will once again be hosted by Cinesend. Through the resources of our sponsors, BFF will assign to the winning filmmakers $50,000 in total prizes (cash, products, and services). BFF’s list of sponsors for 2022 include: WNET’s All Arts, Brooklyn Film Society, Windmill Studios, Cinelease, Herc, Upper Market Gallery, Quebec Government, PRG, Xeno Lights, AbelCine, Be Electric, Sixpoint, Final Draft, MPE, Big Screen Plaza, Broadway Stages, Media Services, Yelp, Lentini Communications, The Pod, Papapietro Perry, Blue Table Post and Noble Jewelry.

The full festival pass for indoor screenings can be purchased in advance, online. All purchased online tickets and passes for BFF indoor programs can be picked up at Windmill Studios once the festival begins. Online, BFF will sell each film category for $10 or $15, and a Full Festival Pass for $35. All passes will be valid 24/7 from June 3-12.

For the first time working with BFF, the 2022 advertising campaign created by MullenLowe New York invites people to keep an open mind and consider thoughts, ideas and nuances that don’t align with their own. If art is raw and unadulterated honesty has become offensive, then the Brooklyn Film Festival has something to offend everyone. The promotional spots can be seen here.

Below is a partial line up of feature films in competition this year. For further info on all the films, passes, and tickets, please visit BFF website.


FEATURE NARRATIVES:

World Premiere of LEON’S FANTASY CUT; Dir: Josh Caras, Jon Valde, United States, 99 min, 2021, Narrative Feature

Two first generation Ukrainian-American brothers, George and Iggy, know they are destined for great things. George is a wannabe business scion festering in a cell phone store. Igal is a small-time, pot dealer and an aspiring rap mogul. They are stuck together in a suffocating studio apartment in South Brooklyn, and are constantly at each other’s throats.


World Premiere of SIGNS OF LOVE (OPENING NIGHT FILM); Dir: Clarence Filler, United States, 96 min, 2021, Narrative Feature

Signs Of Love takes place in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, a tough neighborhood where cultures mix but the law of the streets still rules. Hopper Jack Penn stars as Frankie, a young man from north Philly who dreams of a better life.


World Premiere of STAG; Dir: Alexandra Spieth, United States, 93 min, 2022, Narrative Feature

An urban loner fights for a chance at redemption when she's invited to her estranged BFF's bachelorette party.


World Premiere of WELCOME, VIOLETA!; Dir: Fernando Fraiha, Brazil, Argentina, 107 min, 2021, Narrative Feature

Eager to write her next novel, "Violeta,” Ana joins the "End of the World Residency,” a well-known literary lab in the Andes Mountain Range. There, she meets Holden, a charismatic leader and creator of a method in which artists abandon their own lives to live as their characters.


US Premiere of DREAMLIFE; Dir: Melvin Moti, Netherlands, France, 85 min, 2020, Narrative Feature

In the 1960s, at the height of the Space Race, a 23-year-old French geologist named Michel Siffre went to live in an underground cave for two months. Siffre investigated how the human body deals with extremely long isolation in a confined space, and how our sleep cycle responds to the absence of daylight.


US Premiere of PEDRO BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA; Dir: Laís Bodanzky, Brazil, Portugal, 107 min, 2021, Narrative Feature

It is 1831 and Pedro, the former emperor of Brazil, gathers physical and emotional strengths to face his brother, who usurped his kingdom in Portugal. The film is set on the Atlantic Ocean, aboard an English frigate, in which members of the court, officers, servants and slaves mingle in a babel of languages and social positions.


US Premiere of POUR L’AMOUR; Dir: Andrzej Mańkowski, Poland, 90 min, 2021, Narrative Feature

Marlena struggles with a serious marital crisis due to the alcohol addiction of her husband, Zbigniew. Via the Internet, she meets Bruno, a Senegalese, who brings back Marlena’s self-confidence and sense of womanhood. However, it turns out that the man plans something rather different for her than building a relationship with her.


East Coast Premiere of BALLOON ANIMAL; Dir: Em Johnson, United States, 88 min, 2021, Narrative Feature

A young circus performer, Poppy Valentine, is stuck under the harsh demands of her father and their community's expectations. But while on a quick night out to let loose and have some fun with her friends, she finds herself captivated by small-town America, which then forces her to question everything.


East Coast Premiere of RAGGED HEART; Dir: Evan McNary, United States, 85 min, 2021, Narrative Feature

When his estranged daughter tragically dies, a washed-up musician sets out to complete the last song she wrote, hoping to somehow redeem himself and let her rest in peace.


East Coast Premiere of SHAMBALA; Dir: Artykpai Suyundukov, Kyrgyzstan, 99 min, 2021, Narrative Feature

Based on the novella The White Ship, by Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov, Shambala tells the story of a lonely, impressionable, seven-year-old boy who lives in a protected forest, high in the mountains, with his grandfather, step-grandmother, auntie and uncle.


East Coast Premiere of WAKE UP, LEONARD; Dir: Kat Mills Martin, US , 73 min, 2021, Narrative Feature

Part comedy, part self-help nightmare, Wake Up, Leonard follows one man’s quest for wellness while failing miserably to stay on his vibe. This is the story of a broken-hearted seeker with a tenuous grasp on his mental health, but an admirable faith in the Universe.


NY Premiere of LEARN TO SWIM; Dir: Thyrone Tommy, Canada, 90 min, 2021, Narrative Feature

After a tragic loss, Dezi, a jazz musician, flees in an attempt to rebuild his life, only to find himself haunted by the truth of his past.


FEATURE DOCUMENTARIES:

World Premiere of HOPE: STORIES OF SURVIVAL DOCUMENTARY; Dir: Joseph Pritchard, United States, 60 min, 2021, Documentary Feature

Hope: Stories of Survival is the first full-length documentary that The Salvation Army has produced. Joe Pritchard, the director of this film, has spent over a decade with this organization, directing short films with the support of his amazing team.


World Premiere of THE UNITED STATES OF FASHION DESIGNER ELIE TAHARI; Dir: David Serero, United States, 65 min, 2021, Documentary Feature

Fashion Designer and Mogul Elie Tahari, has been living the American Dream for more than 50 years. He came to New York in 1971 with less than $100 in his pocket, slept on benches in Central Park, and went on to build a billion-dollar fashion empire.


US Premiere of MERRY CHRISTMAS, YIWU; Dir: Mladen Kovacevic, Iva Plemic, China, 94 min, 2020, Documentary Feature

Communist ideals have long lost their value in Yiwu, a city with 600 Christmas factories, in which Christmas as we know it is produced for the entire world.


NY Premiere of BIG OLD GOOFY WORLD - THE STORY OF OH BOY RECORDS; Dir: Joshua Britt, Neilson Neilson Hubbard, United States, 52 min, 2021, Documentary Feature

This is the story of the little record label that could! Founded by the great John Prine and his two managing partners, Al Bunetta and Dan Einstein.


NY Premiere of DROWNING IN SILENCE; Dir: Chezik Tsunoda, United States, 86 min, 2021, Documentary Feature

Drowning in Silence is an intimate and brave directorial debut from Chezik Tsunoda, documenting her quest for answers and personal journey of healing in the midst of a tragedy.


NY Premiere of FREE RENTY: LANIER V. HARVARD; Dir: David Grubin, United States, 95 min, 2021, Documentary Feature

Free Renty tells the story of Tamara Lanier, an African American woman determined to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes of her great-great-great grandfather, an enslaved man named Renty.


NY Premiere of FROM THE HOOD TO THE HOLLER; Dir: Pat McGee, United States, 102 min, 2021, Documentary Feature

Charles Booker rode to the brink of one of the biggest upsets in political history. The documentary follows his campaign across Kentucky, from the most urban to the most rural settings.


GRAIN; Dir: Alex Contell, Tommaso Sacconi, US, Italy, Spain, 81 min, 2021, Documentary Feature

These days, everyone’s shooting analog. Whether it is a fashion house seeking out "new” creative or an amateur perusing eBay, analog film photography has piqued the interest (and search history) of people everywhere.


About BFF

The organizers of the Brooklyn Film Festival have been staging International, competitive film events since 1998. BFF's mission is to provide a public forum in Brooklyn in order to advance public interest in films and the independent production of films; to draw worldwide attention to Brooklyn as a center for cinema and to encourage the rights of all Brooklyn residents to access and experience the power of independent filmmaking; to promote artistic excellence and the creative freedom of artists without censure. BFF, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

For more information about the KidsFilmFest, visit www.KidsFilmFest.org. For inquiries about the event contact: nina@wbff.org. .

BANKSY MOST WANTED (202) Opens Friday

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

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

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

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

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