2014 FILM REVIEWS & AWARD WINNERS

Love at First Sight

Thumbnail - Love at First Sight (100 Res)April 27, 2014 – 7pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Amor A Primera Vista (Love At First Sight) (Short, 14m) – by Mark Playne – (London, UK and Villa Joyosa, Spain)

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Film Review By Eddy Lovaglio – festival director of Parma International Music Film Festival 2013, Italy

“Love at First Sight” won the award for best short film at the first edition of the “Parma International Music Film Festival” on September 28th, 2013, in Parma (Italy).

The jury considered this short film of great quality in all his aspects: beautiful photography, images and framings taken with great professionalism and competence; a perfect editing in sync with the soundtrack, not easy for a short film of this genre (the scene in which the protagonist takes on the keys of the typewriter is in perfect sync with the music theme); the protagonist is very good and has threatened to win also the award for “best actor”; the story is absolutely captivating and funny.

This short film has definitively all the ingredients to establish itself as a quality production, studied in detail and shot with competence.

“Parma International Music Film Festival” have received various good short films and for the jury was not easy to award the prize, and this means that “Love at first sight” has the kind of extra that allowed it to win this award compared to the other productions, although very good and quality short films.

The projection enjoyed great success with the public for the shine of the protagonist and the story, but also for the delicacy and sensibility of feelings in this short film.

Therefore, certainly a well-deserved award.

 

Dream Interrupted

Dream Interrupted 1 (1)April 24, 2014 – 6:00pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Dream Interrupted (Documentary, 40m) – by Mahmood Karimi-Hakak – (Niskayuna, NY)

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“Dream Interrupted is one man’s, one production’s, story — but it is also the story of many if not all of us.  How artists struggle against censorship and stupidity: how great poetry transcends this or that particular time and place — and yet, and yet it is also enmeshed in a time and place… Shakespeare is “relevant” when his works are produced; and just as relevant when the censor stops the production… The story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Tehran is both a nightmare and a tale of perseverance.  In Dream Interrupted, we witness courage and poetry.  And the entirely human unstoppable urge to make art.”  - Richard Schechner

“Just as Shostakovich’s way of living as an artist within a world gone mad under a vicious and repressive political order is reflected in his opera Our Lady of Mitensk, so was the fate of Mahmood Karimi-Hakak’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Different time and different place than Iran of 1999, but there are similarities…  This film is compelling and harrowing, absolutely riveting.” - Warren Roberts

“The Iranians in this film are compassionate artists, struggling to recapture the honesty that they achieved onstage which is not possible in their daily lives…  This film is a reminder, across the divide of politics and culture, of the unifying power of the arts.” - Ralph Blasting

 

Tasha and Friends

tasha and friends thumbApril 27, 2014 – 3pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Tasha and Friends (14m) – by Greg Kovacs – (Ancaster, On, CAN)

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Film Review By HorrorTalk‘s Ilan Sheady

Hit children’s show Tasha and Friends finishes filming its newest season and as everybody else prepares for some well deserved time off, disgruntled show hostess Tasha steels her on-screen puppet sidekicks as a malicious act of sabotage. What Tasha wasn’t expecting was the puppets coming to life and violently throwing the proverbial spanner in the works.

There’s two ways of looking at this short. It can be about a children’s entertainer that has to overcome her demons OR it can be about a team of puppets trying to stop their show from being cancelled by any means necessary. I’m going to assume it’s the former as the latter is an actual storyline to a muppets movie but with blood, violence, foul language and ejaculation thrown in, which, to be fair, sounds better than the storyline to any of the more recent muppet movies.

Written and directed by Greg Kovacs you could spend hours dissecting some of the implications of this 14 minute short. Having a children’s character called Spew that ejaculates from his head and has a catchphrase that involves ‘doing it again and again and again’ can mess you up waaaay before the character ever turns evil and you could conclude that its ego that is the true monster of the film, but I’m confident that the short is to be taken at face value. It’s presenter vs puppets in a brutal fight to the death.

Mimicking a decade of eighties horror films, the storyline is deliberately tongue in cheek. Science and logic has no place here as the monsters are brought to life by lightning striking a (indoor?) washing machine, one liners are used hammily and in abundance and the gore is generously effective and comical. A huge amount of praise has to be given to puppeteer Campbell MacKinlay who also provides the voice to Bobby. His vocal talent is absolutely perfect as a psychotic children’s toy and the fact that his performance overshadows that of Stephanie Christiaens’ (Tasha) is rather appropriate. This shouldn’t be considered a critisism of Stephanie though as she has the ability to play a coldhearted diva that you can actually cheer for thanks to some great comic timing and Peter Jackson’sBrain Dead-style bloodbaths.

The star of the show for me however is Jingles; the puppet that thinks she can sneak up on somebody even though she’s coated in sleigh bells. Thanks to some great editing and visual gags the scene is easily the most enjoyable, even though there’s something deeply unsettling about seeing a children’s character being held underwater until it stops struggling.

If I have one major criticism, I’d say that there could have been a little more effort on the show’s backdrop which is effectively a giant bed sheet. With it being the first thing you see it’s hard not to expect an extremely cheap and shoddy production. This lowering of expectations may work in Tasha and Friends‘ favour, however I strongly feel that if the backdrop was simply a flat blue wall the show would be more a parody of Sesame Street than an unfeasibly low budget joke.

Tasha and Friends is a perfect example of a film being ‘what it says on the tin’. If you are the kind of person who hears there is a short film where sock puppets go evil then you will not be disappointed, but if you like your plots and acting a bit more sophisticated then there’s better ways to spend 14 minutes. Should writer/director Greg Kovacs ever decide to make a feature length version of Tasha and Friends (which I wholeheartedly support the idea of) it would not be out of place among titles like Puppet Master, Critters and Ghoulies and once you’ve seen it you’ll forever be comparing children’s TV shows wondering who would win if they suddenly went bloodthirsty. For what it’s worth my money is on Bear from The Big Blue House. That thing can smell fear the second you walk through his front door.

 

5 Ways 2 Die

5 Ways 2 Die 2)May 2, 2014 – 9pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

5 Ways 2 Die (Short, 15m) – by Daina Papadaki – (Nicosia, Cyprus)

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Film Review By Jennifer Cooper

One of the quirkiest films I have at Jennifer’s Bodies – An Official Women in Horror Recognition Month Event this year, and that is showing on Saturday 22nd February is Daina Papadaki‘s 5 Τρόποι να Πεθάνεις / 5 Ways 2 Die. If you’re a Hitchcock fan, I’m just gonna say The Trouble with Harry. Not that it’s anything like it. It just’s just that wonderful tone, a tone that we don’t too often see very much anymore either. Which is why I instantly fell in love with it.  If you an sucker me in, in the first 30 seconds or so of a film, and I stay that way till the end…you are most definitely onto something. And this film comes from Cyprus, a country with literally ZERO film industry whatsoever!! So the fact that this is not only from a country with nothing whatsoever in the way of film…AND the fact that it’s from a female director, it just makes it so much cooler!!

To come out with something this good as well…this chick has skills!!

 

Dystopia Street

Dystopia thumb1April 30, 2014 – 9:30pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Dystopia Street (11m) – by David Cave – (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

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“Dystopia Street plays like a homage to David Lynch in the morbid darkness and non-sequential logic of its vision and also in its referencing of the mobility symbolized in the titles of two of Lynch’s greatest works: Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive” - Radmilla Djurica – Alternative Film & Video Festival

“Blurring the line between reality, fantasy, and nightmare, Dystopia St. is a warped vision reminiscent of Silent Hill, yet remains original” - Horror Cult Films

“If David Lynch did Dark City…intriguing” - Steve Green – Festival of Fantastic Films

“An intriguing short film with surprising twists and turns” - Razor Reel Fantastic Film Festival

“Dystopia St. by David Cave was just mind boggling. In this well-shot horror, Cave pays homage to so many horror films that fans will recognize. This film draws the audience in, messing with your mind and building up the tension. I almost jumped out of my seat at one point! The film stayed with me all the way home and I have to admit it was rather disconcerting – which is what you want from any good horror film” - Victoria Watson – Whitley Bay Film Festival

 

The Rising Light

RISING LIGHT 300 THUMBNAILApril 29, 2014 – 8pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

The Rising Light (Feature, 65m) – by Ansel Faraj – (Los Angeles, Ca)

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Film Review By  David-Elijah Nahmod 

Ansel Faraj is one of the most prolific independent filmmakers this writer has seen. Sandwiched in between the DVD release of his “DARK SHADOWS reunion film” DOCTOR MABUSE and the theatrical release of DOCTOR MABUSE: ETIOPOMAR, comes THE RISING LIGHT. Described as a “science fiction road movie,” Faraj has chosen to release the film on YouTube, where it’s now available for viewing.

A number of DOCTOR MABUSE cast members came on board for THE RISING LIGHT, including DARK SHADOWS legend Kathryn Leigh Scott. She plays Aya, an otherworldly spiritual guide to protagonist Daniel (Nathan Wilson), an alien who’s come to Earth on an urgent mission.  This is Scott’s second film with Faraj. She notes his growth as an artist: “He’s turning to edgier and even grander themes. He learns from himself, an autodidact who chooses his own course. It’s exciting to see his work develop. He’s not afraid to tackle large scale projects despite technical and budgetary limitations.”

And who might Aya be? “Aya is a warrior and a wise elder assigned to mentor Daniel, whom she has come to look upon as a son,” says Scott. “While proud that he’s been chosen to accomplish a difficult, dangerous assignment, she’s concerned about his safety. In the end, she begs to save his life with her own, as any mother would.”

And so Daniel arrives on Earth. His mission is, at first, somewhat vague. He accepts a ride from Alex (Derek Mobraaten), and the two begin a bizarre journey. “The way I approached playing Daniel was like an innocent child seeing the world for the first time,” said actor Nathan Wilson. “Not knowing about the complexities of man and how mankind works. He is very trusting and can be very easily persuaded like a child would be. Not knowing about his true powers which lay just below the surface.”

“THE RISING LIGHT is not at all like DOCTOR MABUSE,” said Faraj. “It’s a very different, more experimental film.  A throwback to late ‘60s, early ‘70s road movies like EASY RIDER and TWO LANE BLACKTOP. We were locked in a studio in DOCTOR MABUSE, with just blue screen all around, but with this film, we were out on location 90% of the time. It’s more real in that sense. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have some pretty weird imagery. It still fits my mold of ‘movies are not about realism’. There has to be some level of fantasy in them.”

Shot at various locales around Southern California, including the iconic Griffith Park Observatory, THE RISING LIGHT retains the surreal visual style of DOCTOR MABUSE. Several scenes shared by Scott and Wilson become hypnotic, as they appear to be floating in space as they speak to each other. As in his earlier work, Faraj created these backdrops via computer and though his low budget might not have granted the young auteur access to big studio equipment, the final cut looks as good as anything we might see in the multiplex. A score which borrows heavily from Gustav Holt’s classical masterpiece “The Planets” will help to convince viewers that they’ve joined Daniel on his journey, as Aya watches over him from the skies above.

“I wanted to explore the idea of failure,” Faraj says. “One is presented with a task, and one has to do their best to try and accomplish it, all while risking possible failure. The characters all skirt failure in the film. And if they do fail, there are dire consequences to be paid. Failure is on a great cosmic level.”

There was a bittersweet sadness to the completion of THE RISING LIGHT. Shortly after the film wrapped, cast member Linden Chiles, a noted character actor whose many credits included the 4 O’Clock episode of the original TWILIGHT ZONE, died unexpectedly at age 80. Chiles, who also worked with Alfred Hitchcock, was set to reprise his Doctor Mabuse role in the upcoming sequel.

“I’m hoping to do right by him,” Faraj says. “He gave a tremendous performance in the film. He always knew his lines. He knew what he was going to do, he had his stuff worked out. The man taught me so much about filmmaking, and about life in general. When he died, it was a huge blow to my life. It was very hard to edit the film. He really loved the story of the film and was really looking forward to seeing the finished product.”

“I feel so lucky to have worked with Linden on his last film,” said Nathan Wilson. “He was so giving and such an amazing actor, which in THE RISING LIGHT really shines through. In the end I was happy to be able to call him a friend. He will never be forgotten.”

 

The Cut

the cut 2 thumb 300April 27, 2014 – 7pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

The Cut (Documentary, 43m) – by Beryl Magoko – (Kuria/ Kenya)

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Film Review By Bidisha

An excellent film called The Cut by Beryl Magoko – not to be confused with the equally impressive recent British documentary The Cruel Cut – received its UK premiere at the 2013 London Feminist Film Festival and was awarded the Best Feature prize there a couple of weeks ago. Filmed in Uganda and Kenya, The Cut is a careful and intelligent documentary which enables diverse members of the featured small, rural communities where FGM is practised to speak about its meaning and history, while maintaining a clear but unpressing authorial sympathy towards the girls who undergo it. Despite comprising interviews and talking heads as well as some close documentary observation, ultimately the body language and silent reactions of the young women speak the loudest. The Cut has already won Best East African Film at the Kenya International Film Festival as well as many other plaudits.

The Cut establishes female genital mutilation as a social practice with a history so longstanding that even its apologists cannot explain it adequately. Both those who oppose and those who defend it mention the pressure girls are under to have it done.
Watching some of the older male apologists for FGM is a chilling experience. They display an odd, chippy defensiveness at being challenged and their comments are shot through with contempt for the (as they insinuate) wilfulness and irrational bloody-mindedness of women. One man says, “If a girl wants she will be circumcised. She runs away and goes for circumcision.” What we see in the film, instead, is the establishment of a haven for countless girls who have gone there to avoid being cut. Despite the existence of this refuge some parents, of both sexes, take the girls away against their will to be cut.“They make a small mark on the knee,” says one man dismissively. I do not think he is lying outright, although he is speaking with heavy euphemism; I think he genuinely does not quite know exactly what is involved. As the film goes on to show, FGM is a female-perpetrated community act in the moment, although as a cultural practice it is endorsed by both sexes and it is ultimately approved, instigated and organised by men with social power. As one woman warns, “the sons of council elders inherit the right to organise circumcision.” Despite FGM being presented by detractors and apologists alike as something done to women by other women, often those women who are closest to them, its survival as a tradition can only be ended officially by council sons of council fathers, not mothers, wives or daughters.
Another man in the early minutes of the film insists,  “We don’t force them, nobody forces them.” But force is not always physical and momentary. Peer pressure, the weight of long tradition, the heat of expectation, the actions of the majority and the social cost of resisting the practice constitute different types force in themselves – forces which are sometimes harder to resist than the application of physical power. One adult woman explains how an uncircumcised girl will be ostracised and describes being shouted at, verbally abused, mistreated and cold-shouldered at her school, where 98% of the girls had been circumcised. The girls are caught between forces which are at once oppressive of their own instincts and free will and yet socially inclusive, communally approved, deemed to bring order and harmony to all. Another woman says carefully, “a good child has to obey the parents.” Her personal pain and regret are subsumed into a wider vision of what would please the people beyond herself.
One of the many subtle arguments The Cut makes is that female genital mutilation is related to poverty and education. One man says that when a girl has been cut “she can get married, give birth and handle a family,” even though it is obvious that the girls in the film are still virtually children. The under-education (in terms of both social values and academic status) of the parents creates a cycle in which the under-education, physical brutalisation, sexual and labour exploitation and social disempowerment of girls is perpetuated. The cutting of a girl is presented as a sign of her initiation into womanhood and therefore her readiness to marry and procreate. Anti-FGM speakers in the film rail against “illiterate parents” who do not see the value of education for a girl; they circumcise and marry off daughters who might have wanted to continue with their studies.
However, The Cut also conveys how strong the anti-FGM movement is, with leadership coming from both sexes. Indeed the defensiveness and vehemence of the apologists, virtually all of whom are of an older generation, shows that the drive to end the practice is gaining ground. We see groups of very little girls chanting and holding up signs reading, “Don’t circumcise me! Don’t hurt me!” and “When you circumcise a girl, you destroy her life.” Male preachers urge, “Leave this outdated cultural practice.” Handsome men of marrying age have a pretty persuasive line that makes me smile: they say that FGM excises “the sweetest and most delightful part of a woman.” I always thought that my most delightful parts were my brain and my heart, but there you go. Another man says he doesn’t want to marry a woman who has undergone  FGM because “I want her to be sexually satisfied.” Another man tells a crowd, “You can tell the difference between [happy] wives who have not had it done, and [unhappy] wives who have.”
The Cut is expertly structured, with a sense of foreboding that increases with every testimony. The women who have been cut, some of them looking barely ten years old, seem bashful, not angry, when expressing their pain and disgust.  “It was very painful. I will never forget,” says one, her eyes sliding as she remembers. Another represses a shudder as she describes the way she was mutilated: “They would use [the razor] to cut everything [around the genital area].”
The Cut’s masterstroke – to use exactly the wrong word – is the access Beryl Magoko has gained to the circumcision rituals themselves. These happen for both sexes. The boys are circumcised in one area and we see them surrounded by countless male friends, neighbours and relatives, whooping, hopping, singing and celebrating. Then we see them standing with their willies hanging out, all looking like skinny kids. Each one clenches his jaw and keeps his chin up, lips firm, eyeing the boys on either side, full of determination not to show any pain. Despite that, quite clearly, it hurts a hell of a lot. When the circumcision is done the boys look dazed and miserable, oblivious to the partying around them. They’re escorted back home by all their friends, bleary eyed and unsteady, silent, as though all they want to do is lie down in a darkened room.
The girls are in a different area. Just like the boys, they are surrounded by their same-sex relatives and supporters. The atmosphere is wonderful, full of celebration, connection and encouragement. I can well understand the sense of rejection and chagrin, even confusion and blame, that a community would feel and then bring vengefully to bear on a girl who refused to undergo FGM. And I could well understand the conflicted feelings of any girl who does not want to be cut yet who is naturally drawn – as anyone would be – to a celebratory event in which everyone participates and supports each other. This is not about girls being too weak to say no, but about the strength of a culture in persuading, muffling, denying or overriding that no. Additionally, The Cut makes it painfully clear that the girls who submit to FGM do not do so because they are passive but because they are innocent. The reality of what exactly will be done to them is concealed from them until it’s too late.
At the FGM ceremony there is an atmosphere of frenzy, an undercurrent of brisk determination to see it through despite anyone’s hesitation or aversion and a core of dark zeal, as at any rite where blood is to be shed. Amidst the celebrations of the brightly dressed older women around them – a celebration in whose rhythms and music I can’t help but hear the refrain cycle-of-abusecycle-of-abuse – the girls themselves are subdued. They become increasingly and instinctively nervous as they are jostled to stand in a line and then pushed down to sit on the ground, then lie back when their time comes. We see money changing hands as women buy pairs of surgical gloves from a vendor.
The innocence of the girls is such that one casually helps her mother get a fresh surgical blade out of its sterile packet. The girls are forced back and told to relax with their legs bent and naturally apart. Fear spreads from girl to girl to girl. The older women grow carping, bossy and a little physically rough, relishing their one moment of power. They bully the girls and egg each other on. One of them holds the razor and cuts a girl. It’s unwatchable.
Afterwards, there is silence. The girls look sick, queasy with pain. Their faces are rubbery with shock and, for some, tears pour thickly down their cheeks. Their eyes are dead. The girls are unable to sit up. They are clearly, obviously, visibly traumatised, in shock. A sizzle of glee passes through the older women who throng, dance, gather. They look triumphant, like bullies who’ve gained a point.
A health worker filmed in her clinic says, “after FGM you can have death from bleeding out. You can catch an infection. There can be a cross-infection.”
A male apologist insists, “girls don’t bleed and are not cut painfully.” His comment is not just motivated by an arrogant dismissal of female pain but – as echoed by many of the speakers – a suspicion of health workers. Multiple commentators hint that “the negative effects come from doctors” who they say are misleading people about the risks of FGM despite having to deal with the consequences when things go wrong. There is, overall, a resistance to the kind of change that the clinic symbolises: a national, standardised and networked healthcare system relying on medicalised, non-naturopathic treatments. Something very simple lies at the heart of all this: resistance to change and fear of the loss of defining and unifying rites. “It may end gradually. We can’t stop abruptly. We say it’s an initiation and we believe it’s good for us,” says one man. Another person repeats fervently, “It will not end” because “culture doesn’t end. Ever.”
The girls are escorted home. Their faces have been daubed in talcum powder to mark them as ‘initiated’. With colourful hats and parasols held over their heads they look like little ghost emperors. The pressure of the bodies around them and the willpower of the crowd seem to be the only things holding them up. The people are singing, dancing and jogging alongside the girls.
It’s a terrible journey back. The girls pass in and out of consciousness, crying, staggering, fainting, sweating and collapsing, barely able to walk. Their eyeballs roll, their necks go floppy. Blood runs down their legs. They are shaken firmly, scolded and harangued. There is no tenderness whatsoever. Never before has it been so clear that FGM – the entire day, not just the moment of cutting – is not about celebrating the start of womanhood but about forcing female obedience, beginning a trauma which makes girls mentally vulnerable and therefore susceptible to further control and abuse, women bullying girls and the deliberate debilitation and weakening of strong, healthy female flesh. FGM is a socially sanctioned brutalisation process justified as a rite so ancient that nobody can remember its purpose, thereby leaving it usefully open to conventional patriarchal justifications.

A woman describes the “excruciating pain” of female genital mutilation.
Another woman says, “I regretted having gone there – but it was too late.” It was done.
We see the girls being taken home, glassy eyed. They are so traumatised physically and mentally that they’re unable to speak. They are encouraged to lie down. They can barely manoeuvre themselves. We see one mother trying to get her daughter to eat a biscuit. The daughter is unresponsive. She is too weak to chew.
In the aftermath there are countless physical problems, in addition to the mental trauma. It is difficult to urinate and it can take up to three weeks to walk properly. One woman says she “can’t even bathe alone. You need to be held.” Much older women describe how they “staggered” and “couldn’t sleep or walk for ten days with the pain.”
The wound must be left to heal in a certain way. If a girl sleeps with her legs closed the wound is forcibly re-opened.
“It’s so painful that I can’t even explain,” says a woman.
“It is like taking a hot nail and putting it on the wound,” says another woman.
A health worker explains the biologically necessity of the clitoris, which helps the vagina to stretch during childbirth. But FGM can remove the clitoris, leaving scar tissue: “Scar tissue doesn’t expand, which leads to tears, which obstruct labour. This leads to tears upwards and also down to the anus in childbirth. So a woman can develop a third degree tear – vagina to anus.” It’s not the word ‘tear’ that gets me about that quote, it’s the phrase ‘third degree’. Because I’m guessing there aren’t a whole load of degrees to get though and third is pretty much the worst. From this, a woman can develop a fistula, which means that she passes faeces through the vagina, the barrier separating the vagina and anus having been ripped.
Another health worker adds, “I feel [FGM] should stop. It’s just humiliating. If they want to do it let them do it on adults who can sign their own consent form.” For the villagers shown in The Cut, the power to end FGM officially and decisively is in the hands of the new generation of men, the sons of the council elders.
A woman who underwent female genital mutilation says, “If I could stop it, it would have ended.”

 

Cat Scratch

cat scratch posterApril 27, 2014 – 7pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Cat Scratch (16m) – by Christian de Rezendes – (Rhode Island & Massachusetts)

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Film Review By ReelTalk’s Betty Jo Tucker

Cat Scratch, a short comedy thriller, offers 16 minutes of pure fun. Expertly lensed, edited and directed by Christian de Rezendes (Memories for Sale), this little gem of a film still has me chuckling days after watching it. In fact, it’s difficult to write a review because I keep stopping to laugh as I remember how completely paranoid the main character becomes after being scratched by a neighbor’s cat.

Everything works here. Co-writers Jenn Dlugos and Andrea G. Henry created a very amusing screenplay; the human – plus one feline — actors make it all seem real; and even the camera angles add to the movie’s humorous tale.

It’s a simple story about Jeff (Jeremy Banks), an insurance salesman, who’s looking forward to a typical day at the office. But as the old saying goes, “Man plans; God laughs.” On the way to work, Jeff encounters Miguel, the neighbor’s cat, who scratches him. And so begins Jeff’s descent into a dark world filled with fear. He believes Miguel could be rabid, which would mean the cat has given him rabies. He also thinks his own time on this earth might last only nine more days. The movie then shows viewers what happens between Jeff and Miguel during each of those days. And it’s not a pretty sight — but a very funny one indeed.

Banks (Getting Out of Rhode Island) seems purrfect (the Devil made me write that) in this seriocomic role. He never hams it up, but with each of his gestures and facial expressions, we know what he’s thinking and feeling. Frederick Fairbanks and Maria Ciampa (Boston Psychiatric) add to the fun as Miguel’s unusual “owners.” Plus, Grant Maloy Smith’s (Bad Hair Day) original score helps set the tone for all the hijinks.

Happily, Rufus the Cat, who plays Miguel, also deserves recognition for a memorable turn here, even though it might not be much of a stretch for the crafty feline.

Although short films usually don’t have sequels, I would love to see one for Cat Scratch – or maybe a full-length movie!

 

Accession

Accession thumb 100April 29, 2014 – 6 pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Accession (F, 80m) – by Michael J. Rix – (Johannesburg, South Africa)

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Film Review By Huffington Post‘s Karin Badt

The most shockingly violent film in the Competition at the Tokyo International Festival this year was also the most stunningly poetic, with an exquisite use of sound that rivets the spectator to the screen. Michael Rix’s Accession, set in an unnamed township in the director’s native South Africa, features a down-and-out protagonist, John, who wanders through town in moody contemplation, thinking he has contracted AIDS. The camera basically follows his footsteps as the man silently trudges through the streets, brooding on his plight. We hear cars, birds, and voices: a constant stream of noise that makes us feel right there with John, identifying emotionally with a man who has — it turns out — no concern for anyone but himself. “To sleep with a virgin will make the disease go away,” pipes up one friend cheerfully, and John proceeds to seek and rape any virgin in his path, including one who goes beyond the limit of under-age.

“I feel the issue has to be out there,” Michael Rix shared with us in the Roppongi Hills cinema complex. “This is absolutely an issue in South Africa. The rape of minors is so common that the news doesn’t even pick it up anymore. It happens all the time. It is ignored. Unfortunately that is the way it is. It has never been on film before. It is the reason I struggled so hard to get it funded.’

He noted that to prepare for his film, he “spent a lot of time with people in these townships, doing research, like for a documentary.”

Yet the film does not have a documentary feel, but has the breathtaking effect of an auteur art film, reminiscent of Tarkovsky or Pasolini. The close-ups of John’s troubled eyes below his cap, the constant buzz of sound, the experimental shift from color to black-and-white after a horrific climax: Each moment creates cinematic immediacy and spectator pleasure, despite the horrors depicted.

Rix took care to emphasize that his aesthetics and use of sound were not, however, an homage to these auteur directors. “I think sound is the best way to engage the audience into the story, in an immediate way,” the director told us sincerely, showing his commitment to the message of his film.

The film ends with a long shot on a burning white cloth, crinkling in the fire, while smoke rises and thunder roars in the distance. There is (plot-spoiler!) “justice” at the end of this morally unsettling film: but it is a settling of accounts that, as the smoke rises, underscores the impotency of the South African legal system — and the continuing problem of extreme violence.

“My film ends this way because that is, unfortunately, the way it is in South Africa,” said the director. “These episodes generally end in vigilantism before the authorities even hear about it.”

 

Truth or Dare

truth or dare 300DPIMay 2, 2014 – 10pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Truth Or Dare (Feature, 84m) – by Jessica Cameron – (Los Angeles, CA)

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Film Review By Examiner.com‘s Oscar Benjamin

The notion that fans failing to distinguish the difference between “reality” as depicted in films and that of the established reality the surrounds us all has been explored in prior films. Past films such as Peeping Tom, The Fanand the little seen, Tony Manero have delved into the subject with varying degrees of success, but leave it to celebrated and much beloved actress and now director, Jessica Cameron to raise the stakes by unleashing her directorial debut entitled, Truth or Dare.

Truth or Dare tells the tale of a group of college age friends who aspire to be internet(and possibly-reality television) stars through their show centered around the theme of the popular game called Truth or Dare. The friends have basically added an extra and very violent twist to the game by introducing the dangerous element that death may actually occur at any given moment as they record their activities in the game. Their latest escapade is the opening of the movie which shockingly depicts the “death” of Tony Lockhart as portrayed by Brandon Van Vliet. It is their breakthrough moment that the group has been working towards which gains attention from the media and is a turning point for their self proclaimed number one fan, Derik B. Smith as portrayed by Ryan Kiser.

Truth or Dare can be seen as a horror film and be enjoyed on that level which is no small task because of the sheer amount of films in the genre that have been made and fail to accomplish that goal. The true enjoyment that can be obtained and that will resonate with many is Jessica Cameron’s indicting examination of the horror of personality. Actor, Ryan Kiser’s Derik Smith becomes the ultimate unwanted invasive fan who is obsessed with the object of his affection-the crew and stars of the internet show, Truth or Dare. Cameron utilizes Smith as a symbol of double edged sword of celebrity and influence it holds over unhinged personalities such as Derik Smith. Jessica Cameron correctly deduces that it is not the content or presentation of said and sometimes dubious shows such as her film’s fictional creation, but the real issue lies within certain individuals who often fail to diagnose the void that lies in themselves. Smith becomes an amalgamation of real life indicted fame seekers such as Mark David Chapman and Rodney Alcala whose sense of hypocritical morality is often a hoary excuse for wanton violence. It is a tour de force performance by Ryan Kiser that also forces the audience viewing the film to question the often startling and difficult question of their complicity when they watch reality programs and one in which director, Cameron doesn’t cushion throughout her film.

Truth or Dare was funded by an initial investor and generous donations that fans gave to Jessica Cameron during an Indie Go-Go campaign that was successfully completed. The results are amazingly displayed on screen throughout the running time of the film. One of the amazing aspects of the film is the sumptuous cinematography by Chase Jonathan Azimi whose opening scene alone filmed in the Salton Sea area of California clearly establishes the film as one that drenches the screen with bold saturation of color that transfixes the viewer and forces them to continue viewing even during scenes of disturbing cruelty.

The one area of the film that will cause many of the viewers to blanch away from the screen and it also an aspect that Jessica Cameronis shrewdly and playfully utilizing in her campaign to get the film noticed. It is true that Truth or Dare is violent and the results of the violence are emblazoned on the screen, but it is this columnist’s assertion that showing such scenes is absolutely necessary to showing the effects of such despicable behavior. Cameron’s compassion lies with the victims despite many of the shocking and surprising surprises that are discovered by confessions of often deplorable behavior traits that they have displayed previously in their lives. This columnist has concluded that at the root of truly great horror films is the celebration of life and the catharsis that many experience watching such a film is the reaffirmation of life itself. Throughout the depictions of the truly horrific activities that are shown in the film, Cameron clearly never loses sight of the survival mechanism built into us all and that instinct is a cause to celebrate.

It is obvious that Jessica Cameron was diligently paying attention throughout her career as an actress directed by a wide variety of talented directors. Her amazing directorial debut is monumental. She has command of film language and pacing that hides any lack of experience she may have had before mounting this project. Her choice of brief shock cuts and judicious use of cringe worthy sound effects further contribute to her film which catapults viewers into the mind of a violent and delusional lost soul who is beyond grace and salvation. Is is hard to watch? Yes! It should be noted that when examining horror on this level-it is to be expected that it will be a difficult experience. Cameron should also be commended for coaxing remarkably realistic performances from her ensemble crew led by Jessica herself. Cameron also nearly steals the film with her performance of Jennifer Collins who is increasingly more complicated as the film progresses in her actions and choices. It is a bravado performance that is at once brave and challenging to the audience with decisions they need to make with her character.

Truth or Dare may cause many to exit before the film comes to a conclusion and that surely will add to the continuing legendary status the film is already beginning to enjoy. For those of us who decide to stick with the horrors that unfold throughout the movie, there is a rich reward given to us by seeing and hearing a new director confidently and boldly shout to the world that she is here to stay and that can be no doubt that she will have such wonders to continue to show us in the near future!

 

Horse for Sale

HorseForSale_lg smApril 27, 2014 – 1pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Horse for Sale (short, 15m) by Katarzyna Kochany (Canada)

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Buffalo Niagara Film Festival continues to attract international artists. Canadian filmmaker Katarzyna Kochany returns for the third time with a film based on her story HORSE FOR SALE that was a semi-finalist script in 2007.

When asked why she keeps coming back to Buffalo, Ms Kochany says, “Buffalo Niagara Film Festival is an ambitious event that showcases interesting stories. There are accomplished industry guests, yet the festival remains friendly and accessible. I respect the vision of the festival founder Bill Cowell and his team, especially their commitment to revitalize the community with creative and economic impact. Toronto became a movie town because of passionate individuals who demonstrated this kind of commitment. It’s exciting to see Buffalo emerging on the movie map.”

“This year, there are five terrific venues in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Tonawanda and North Tonawanda. I am pleased to screen HORSE FOR SALE for this audience.”

With heart and a kick of action, HORSE FOR SALE is the kind of movie the whole family can enjoy together. “It is a great family movie,” Coalition for Quality Children’s Media KIDS FIRST! wrote in a glowing review. The Dove Foundation awarded the film a Family Approved Seal, calling it a “unique short story.”

HORSE FOR SALE is about two farm girls whose family is so broke that they have to sell their beloved horse. There is a happy ending but not before we meet a moped-riding country mailman, a funny bickering old married couple, and two sisters who love each other even when they fight. You can see the preview trailer at vimeo.com/dustbunnies.

Ms Kochany says, “This new 2014 release is a completely re-edited version of a 2008 movie with the same name. Audience feedback can be very helpful in making a great movie, and it made HORSE FOR SALE better.”

The original played at a number of events, including International Family Film Festival in Hollywood. The new version is off to a great start; screenings include: ReelHeART in Canada, High Desert Film Festival in Nevada and Big Island Film Festival in Hawaii. Just a few weeks ago the film won Best International Award at Neo Relix Film Festival in Texas.

Ms Kochany says, “It was a long road from a script in 2006 to the honor of endorsements from The Dove Foundation and KIDS FIRST! in 2014.”

Looking back, Ms Kochany believes the journey was a lesson in waiting on God’s timing. “In those eight years I got to be a part of some amazing projects and learned from remarkable people who had nothing to do with movies. It softened my heart and taught me humility, the kind you don’t learn in the film industry.”

“Whatever success HORSE FOR SALE earns, I have to give credit where credit is due. God will put you where you are supposed to be. Sometimes you won’t like it one bit. Sometimes you will be part of a miracle.”

After training with directors on TV series Doc and Sue Thomas F.B. Eye, Ms Kochany’s own projects earned 30 award endorsements and over 100 official selections in Africa, Canada, USA, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece and Italy.

Ms Kochany has a special place in her heart for country stories.

HORSE FOR SALE screens on Sunday, April 27 at 1 pm at The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center in Buffalo. Tickets for the film are now available.

 

Seasons of the Heart

Seasons Of the Heart-POSTER sm

May 2, 2014 – 7pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Seasons Of The Heart (F, 106m) – by Angelo LoGalbo –

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Film Review  By Malcolm Matthews

INTRODUCTION

Based on a true story, Angelo LoGalbo’s first foray into film, Seasons of the Heart, captures those relationship rites of passage we have all experienced but have mostly forgotten. With the city of Buffalo as its setting and its soul, Seasons of the Heart follows Miranda and Michael as they attempt to navigate familiar but frightening relationship terrain and an accompanying minefield of school, home, friends, and family.

PLOT  - Seasons opens with a typical husband and wife squabble about broken patio doors and finding time for exercise while raising their soon-to-be sixteen year old, Miranda (Katie Ball). At school, Michael (Angelo LoGalbo who also directs), a young man with a heart of gold and a posse of goofball friends, seeks relationship advice from his teacher and mentor Mr. Nietopski  who tells him, “It’s not the one you can see yourself living with, it’s the one you cannot see yourself living without.” Summoning his courage, Michael asks his long-time crush Amy Holiday (Jennifer Davie) to the prom, and to his delight, she agrees. Dismissive and completely self-centered, Amy calls Michael at the last minute to tell him that she’s gotten back together with her boyfriend, so she won’t be going with Michael after all.  Two years later, having been dumped an hour before the prom by the love of his life who turns out not to be the image of perfection he thought she’d be, Michael enters college with his sights set on a career in sports broadcasting and his heart set on not being burned again. A chance hallway encounter with Miranda starts both characters on a journey through the seasons of nature and of the heart. It’s a journey each has been on alone but this time, if things work out, they’ll have each other. Miranda and Michael find themselves bonding over their shared passion for their careers and their equally passionate dedication to finding true love. From holding hands in the halls, snow ball fights in the park, and playful dates at all of Western New York’s most iconic hot spots, the young lovers form a bond that they are sure will be strong enough to get them through whatever life has to offer. Flash forward three years when Michael and Miranda, newly engaged, are sure that the final piece of the puzzle is firmly in place. But as is often the case, that’s when things start to fall apart. Michael lands his dream job with ESN sports network in New York City. Miranda, though isn’t ready to give up her career and her family. “Living your dream,” she tells Michael, “means me giving up mine.” At an impasse, he goes his way, and she goes hers. Love, it seems, can overcome everything…except life. Three years after that, Michael, unfulfilled by celebrity and success, returns to Buffalo and arranges a visit with Miranda who is in the process of escaping an abusive relationship with  a man named Brad  (Scott Michaels) whom she married in a time of depression and desperation after her break up with Michael. Smarter now and more experienced, the older and wiser Miranda and Michael seem prepared to accept at last that each is the one that the other cannot live without.

CAST/PERFORMANCES - Highlight performances for Seasons of the Heart include Bob Adams (Russell Jaffe) the hen-pecked husband and the avuncular, wise-cracking teacher Mr. Nietopski (Ken O’Brien) who teaches without lecturing and rants without losing control.  Filming takes place at locations throughout the region, including Chef’s Restaurant (with a cameo appearance by Lou Billittier Jr.), Canisius College, Century Grill, Salvatore’s Italian Gardens, Anderson’s Frozen Custard, Pizza Plant, Eastern Hills Mall, the Chippewa District; Elmwood Village and Allentown, Maryvale and St. Francis High Schools, Fantasy Island, Niagara Falls, Buffalo harbor, Leonardi’s Pizzeria, Blu Martini, Club Infinity and Russell’s Steaks, Chops & More (with a special cameo appearance by Russell Salvatore).  The performers are mostly amateurs but without being amateurish. LoGalbo’s story rings true because it’s our story too. It is a charming effort with the refreshing feel of a high school play where the actors don’t relay a message as much as the characters they embody are the message. A veteran musician and songwriter who was discovered by the Goo Goo Dolls and has appeared on American Idol, LoGalbo punctuates Seasons of the Heart with a soundtrack featuring his own party-rock band “Toy Box Heroes” and featuring the infectiously romantic theme song “You Are Mine” written by LoGalbo himself and sung with tender sincerity by Jennifer Davie. The piano theme weaves a melodic thread through the ups and downs in the characters’ romantic lives and helps to hold the movie and the couple together. The soundtrack also features LoGalbo’s hit “We the Dogz,” which was on rotation for the Cleveland Browns home games and which was also featured in Dan Monroe’s movie The House of Horrors. LoGalbo brings it all together – actors, music, and setting – to give us a story of what is true instead of simply what we wish were true.

ANALYSIS - There are plenty of movies about high school romances, but Seasons of the Heart brings us into the compelling college and early career years in between adolescence and full-blown adulthood. The movie is a fitting metaphor for a city that has experienced climactic rises and falls. Historically, Buffalo has been a hub of commerce and a city of millionaires, a city with limitless potential. But the so-called City of Light has dimmed with age. Today, we fan the flame, breathing our own life and hope into what we pray won’t be the last flicker of life for the city we love.  Anyone who has ever had a romance with all of its pleasures and pitfalls knows what it is to be a Buffalonian.  Peppered with images and references to everything from Duff’s and Anderson’s to Canisius College and “Cheektavegas,” Seasons is seasoned itself with an array of local flavor. As cyclical as the seasons, LoGalbo takes us from the frigid winters through the gray transitions, into the sunny summers, and back again. Each time, he finds a parallel in the world of romance, and each time he reveals some truth that we feel like we should have known all along. Buffalo is a city of variety and unpredictability. It is a place of change, growth, loss and growth again. Miranda and Michael won’t run out of love any more than Buffalo will run out of seasons. Buffalo is the ideal setting for this movie because it is all heart. It’s an underdog town that won’t give up no matter what the odds against it. In other words, a lot like love. Buffalo is famous for a plenty of things: Chicken wings. Long, frigid winters. Close-but-no-cigar Super Bowl runs. But LoGalbo shows us the city’s beating heart that keeps us going and always coming back.

 

Steel Earth

STEELEARTHRocklandCountyTimesMonday, April 28, 2014 – 6:15pm @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Buffalo, NY –  Steel Earth (Documentary, 22m) – by Jason Michael Paris – (Rockland County, New York)

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Mosaic 33

June Dare-Vanessa OreApril 26, 2014 – 5pm – @ The Market Arcade Film & Arts Center

Mosaic 33 (25m) – by Brad Hord – (Shelby NC)

Film review for Mosaic 33 - http://www.roguecinema.com/article4014.html

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