PHOENIX OREGON is the story of two friends, a graphic novelist and a chef, seizing an unlikely opportunity to reinvent their lives, quit their jobs to restore an old bowling alley and serve the “world’s greatest pizza.” Phoenix, Oregon stars James Le Gros (Drugstore Cowboy, Living in Oblivion), Lisa Edelstein (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, House), Jesse Borrego (Fame, Blood In Blood Out), Reynaldo Gallegos (Triple Frontier, American Sniper), Diedrich Bader (Napoleon Dynamite, Office Space, Veep), and Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Pineapple Express, True Romance). PHOENIX OREGON takes a comedic look at the existential crisis many face when trying to find meaning and relevancy at midlife. Despite controlling bosses, dead-end jobs, and broken relationships, the two leads must awaken hibernating courage and resilience in order to take new risks and keep dreams alive. Director and writer Gary Lundgren (Calvin Marshall, Redwood Highway, Black Road) stops by to talk his own midlife angst and inspiration for this disarming gem of a film, working with a stellar cast and his love for the Pacific Northwest.
Premiering at the Pasadena International Film Festival HONESTY WEEKEND begins when John and Ada’s therapist challenges them to be completely honest with each other for an entire weekend, a young married couple attempts to execute this advice over two days with good friends at a country house. At first amused by the couple’s newfound honesty, soon everyone is infected with the “honesty virus”. Secrets spill and desires flare to life. And when husband John’s sexy lesbian friend Delaney arrives to stir the pot, the whole thing heats up until it boils over. At the heart of this relationship comedy is a young marriage in trouble, but look deeper and you’ll see the angsty discomfort of early thirty-somethings struggling to embrace intimacy and true adulthood. In this grounded, smart, funny film writer-director Leslie Thomas exercises her distinct comedic voice and a wry understanding of our poignant and ridiculous human blind spots. HONESTY WEEKEND stars Adam Bartley (This Is Us), Sabina Gadecki (L.A.’s Finest), Dioni Michelle Collins (General Hospital), Pete Ploszek (Captain Marvel), Evan Watkins (College Humor Originals), Allan Wasserman (Big),and Susan Walters (The Vampire Diaries). Director and writer Leslie Thomas joins is for an engaging conversation on a compressed shooting schedule, holding out for the right cast of actors, as well as the challenges and rewards of being a first time director.
About the filmmaker: LESLIE THOMAS produced the 2018 Emmy-winning documentary feature KEVYN AUCOIN Beauty & The Beast In Me (now on Netflix). She is the showrunner of ratings record breakers HALLOWEEN, HOLIDAY & KIDS BAKING CHAMPIONSHIPS on Food Network. She’s a playwright and a California native who studied Film & TV at Loyola Marymount University. Honesty Weekend is her first feature.
Rose, a sweet, lonely driving instructor in rural Ireland, is gifted with supernatural abilities. Rose has a love/hate relationship with her ‘talents’ & tries to ignore the constant spirit related requests from locals – to exorcise possessed rubbish bins or haunted gravel. But! Christian Winter, a washed up, one-hit-wonder rock star, has made a pact with the devil for a return to greatness! He puts a spell on a local teenager- making her levitate. Her terrified father, Martin Martin, asks Rose to help save his daughter. Rose has to overcome the fear of her supernatural gift & work with Martin to save the girl, get the guy and be home in time for a light snack…maybe a yogurt or something… Co-directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman join us for a conversation on the making of their oddly endearing, winning comedy about everyday apparitions, Rose, Martin Martin and Christian and reconnecting with their Talents.
“A near-perfect balance of outrageousness and subtlety. It’s a special film with a large imagination.” – Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com
“A fun, heart-warming and genuinely funny film, prepare for belly laughs and warm fuzzy feelings. Buoyed by great comedic, chameleon-like performances, and a rich fictional world, Extra Ordinary is extraordinarily charming.” – Kat Hughes, THN
“Extra Ordinary, writing-directing duo Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s feature film debut, is a remarkable achievement – a wholly unique cinematic experience that is grounded with a lot of heart.” – Sarah McIntyre, RTÉ (Ireland)
“A cracking debut feature from Irish writer-directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian
For small-town bar owner Hank (Jeremy Gardner), his 10-year relationship with Abby (Brea Grant) has been storybook-quality. Abby, however, wants more: marriage, to be exact, which Hank doesn’t seem ready to initiate anytime soon. As a result, she leaves him without so much as a note or any subsequent communication. Hank is crushed. Even worse, Abby’s departure seemingly triggers the arrival of an unseen monster that claws at Hank’s front door at night. As the nocturnal threat intensifies, Hank must figure out how to not only save his relationship, but also himself. Co-director Christian Stella (Jeremy Gardner) stops by to talk about the multi-layered film that is After Midnight (Something Else) and his creative cinematography that gives the film its lyrical power.
“Something Else promises monsters but delivers more demons of the human experience variety, as this sweet and sincere creature feature is far more romantically heartfelt than expected.” – Matt Donato, We Got This Covered
“Sublime and emotional, Something Else is one hell of a love story, a nightmarish monster movie, and an overall fantastical experience.” – Michelle Swope, Dread Central
“There’s an honesty in Something Else that makes this man against (his) monsters story one that’ll give you deep meaning, beautiful cinematography, and just the right amount of wtf.” – Kristy Strouse, Film Inquiry
“Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella’s winsome tale of thirtysomething angst, romance and existential terror, is beautifully written and played.” – Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film
WALK RUN CHA-CHAhas been nominated for Documentary Short Subject at the 92nd Academy Awards®. Directed by Laura Nix, the film follows Paul and Millie Cao, who lost their youth to the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Forty years later, they have become successful professionals in Southern California-and are rediscovering themselves on the dance floor. WALK RUN CHA CHA is now streaming on New York Times Op-Docs.
About the Filmmaker: Director Laura Nix Laura Nix is an award-winning fiction and nonfiction filmmaker based in Los Angeles. WALK RUN CHA-CHA is adapted from a feature-length documentary in progress. It was produced by Concordia Studio for The New York Times Op-Docs and premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Laura’s work also includesother work includes her feature documentary INVENTING TOMORROW, about teenagers from around the globe tackling environmental issues through science, THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING, a comedy about activism and climate change, the documentary THE LIGHT IN HER EYES, about a Syrian Qur’an school for women and she was a writer on the Emmy-nominated documentary CALIFORNIA STATE OF MIND: THE LEGACY OF PAT BROWN. In 2001, Nix co-founded the production company Automat Pictures, where she produced and/or directed over 100 presentations, including the feature documentary WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT: THE STORY OF HEDWIG, which played in over a dozen film festivals in the U.S. and worldwide. Previously she was a member of Oscar-winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s production company Telling Pictures, where she was Associate Producer on THE CELLULOID CLOSET.
“Laura Nix’s WALK RUN CHA-CHA is a moving, poignant portrait of two aging refugees who have endured a great deal, and who now face one of life’s biggest challenges: figuring out how to stay in love. Through them, Nix also evokes the textures, tastes, and sounds of Vietnamese refugee life, and mixes them in with everything that is good about the United States. Ultimately, WALK RUN CHA-CHA is an optimistic film about both love and hope—the hope that our country will continue to believe in welcoming strangers from other lands, who in the end are not that strange at all.”– Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer
It all began when a group of cheerful, subversive filmmakers weren’t accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. Unwilling to take “no” for an answer, they instead started their own event – Slamdance: Anarchy in Utah. 26 years later, Slamdance has become a year-round organization fostering the development of unique and innovative filmmakers. The organization now consists of the Film Festival, Screenplay Competition and Slamdance Studios. It has also created Slamdance On The Road, a traveling theatrical showcase that brings popular Slamdance films to audiences that otherwise would not have the opportunity to see them. Dan Mirvish, Jon Fitzgerald, Shane Kuhn and Peter Baxter are the founding forefathers who, along with co-conspirator Paul Rachman, fought for truly independent filmmakers by giving them a voice in 1995 at the very first Slamdance Film Festival. Since then, the festival takes place every January in the breathtakingly stunning, snow-capped mountains of Park City, Utah at the exact same time as the Sundance Film Festival, to provide a more authentic representation of independent filmmaking. Up-and-coming writers, directors and producers, alongside seasoned veterans and film lovers, converge for the weeklong celebration of independent cinema, realizing that Slamdance is a great place to find those next, great, visionary films. Slamdance lives and bleeds by its mantra By Filmmakers For Filmmakers. No other film festival in the world is entirely run and organized by the creative force that can only be found in filmmakers. Slamdance adamantly supports self-governance amongst independents, and exists to deliver what filmmakers go to festivals for – a chance to show their work and a platform to launch their careers. The festival has earned a solid reputation for premiering films by first-time writers and directors working within the creative confines of limited budgets. Co-founder and President Peter Baxter joins us to talk about this year’s Slamdance, the groundbreaking films and the innovative new distribution and digital initiatives being launched by Slamdance.
LIMERENCEcleverly tips the scales on Hollywood’s approach to a romantic comedy. Women get to see themselves in female lead Rosemary—as complex, independent and real, breaking the stereotypes society has fed us. Rosemary (Tammy Minoff),an aspiring painter and free spirit, moves to Venice where she hooks up with Tom (Matthew Del Negro), a local gallery director. Their intense chemistry quickly and unexpectedly evolves into a serious relationship. This passionate romance is juxtaposed with Tom’s best friends, May (Jennifer Lafleur)and Donald (Evan Arnold), dealing with the monotony of their long marriage and the possibility of starting a family. Complicating everything is Leo, Rosemary’s oft inappropriate yet earnest best friend from high school Leo (Billy Aaron Brown). All their feelings about the nature of love will put their relationship choices to the test and the answers aren’t always black and white. LIMERENCE world premiered at the Other Venice Film Festival, winning Best Audience Award, before going on to win Best Feature at the SOHO International Film Festival. LIMERENCE will make its global VOD/Digital & DVD release across platforms everywhere on January 7th, 2020 through Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company. Director, producer, writer and lead actor Tammy Minoff joins us for a conversation on her honest and engaging look into romance, love, expectations and walking your own path.
What happened to Carolyn Harper? Part suburban nightmare, part neon-soaked teenage fever dream, this tantalizing mystery traces the wave of fear and distrust that spreads across a small Midwestern town in the wake of a high school girl’s mysterious disappearance. As the loneliness and darkness lurking beneath the veneer of everyday life gradually comes to light, a collective awakening seems to overcome the town’s teenage girls—gathering in force until it can no longer be contained. Unfolding in a hallucinatory haze of lushly surreal images, Knives and Skin is a one-of-a-kind coming-of-age noir that haunts like a half-remembered dream. Director / writer Jennifer Reeder joins us for a lively conversation on her heady melange of a film that bends multiple genres to its razor sharp will.
Director’s Statement:I tell stories about unruly women and the landscapes they transform. This is a story by a woman that proposes girlhood as a place of transcendence and transgression. I am committed to this voice and to producing unexpected narratives. I write scripts from actual experience and observation and my films are specific in mood and perspective. I am influenced by Ohio, where I grew up—all that sky and flatness. And even more so by the Midwestern people and their kind of everyday destructiveness and determination to cope. This awkward emotionality is evident in my films as scenes unfold like sticky flypaper and characters make one small mistake after another. –Jennifer Reeder
“An effervescent suburban noir rich with tragedy, rough around the edges, but sharp like the dagger when it counts.” – Matt Donato, Dread Central
“The film’s approach to narrative structure is both messy and strangely confident and alluring, poising Knives and Skin as a bold and complicated cross-genre anomaly, much like the women Reeder lovingly depicts.” – Chloe Leeson, Screen Queens
“At times fraught with anxiety, haunting in quiet horror, blackly comedic, and aching with with sorrow and love, Knives and Skin is many things and also defies easy categorization, as it puts forth a perspective that is multiple and complicated.” – Shelagh Rowan-Legg, ScreenAnarchy
Toss It is the story of smart-skeptical Emily and obsessive-compulsive-flirt Finn – (latter-day Rosalind Russel and Cary Grant types) who can witty-banter-for-days and seem a perfect match — then everything gets tossed. Finn wonders why he’s so fucked up, and Emily wonders why she’s so drawn to him. Toss Itexplores women as the real power players because women, by and large, run and nurture the fundamental unit of society: family. And via this particular family, Toss It looks at Natalie blindly following what she thinks is woman’s role, Marie seems to know nothing but by the end attains some wisdom by actively exploring female options, Adele has wisdom but in retrospect re-evaluates women’s culpability in fostering dominant men, and Emily discovers the age-old Socrates’ maxim ‘I know that I know nothing’ applies to herself – pushing her to learn what really matters. While Emily evolves, Finn seeks to discover ‘why he’s so fucked up’ – and finally, together, they toss everything they know, in this entertaining film that opens a dialogue for the audience to continue long after it ends. Director Producer / Writer / Lead Actor Michele Remsen joins us to talk about her witty and endearing “anti-romatic-comedy” and the story behind her passion project.
Filmmaker’s Statement –Toss It began as a one-act play for my LA theater company’s annual show, My Bitter Valentine, that evolved accidentally into a full play, which I then turned into a film script. I jokingly thought it was an exploration of why men are so screwed up, but as I crafted the characters, the story turned into an examination of what or who made them so screwed up and, by extension, of society at large. How people are shaped by traditions, lore, myths. And only the brave or desperate or seekers kick against convention to find some kind of truth that’s their own. Life is often defined by big events, but it’s really in the back hallways that the real-deal goes down. So I peeled back the curtain on cornerstones of Western Civilization to try to figure out a few characters, and stumbled onto things I didn’t know. Much like Finn and Emily: he thinks he can spin everything and she thinks she knows everything, until everything gets tossed — it’s then both discover what they don’t know — as I did as I made this film: I begged, borrowed and crowd-sourced enough to get it in the can, and, as I pushed this production through, as producer / director / writer / actor, with a cast and crew who worked for fumes because they loved the project, by the end of an intense 12-day shoot we felt like family – which I think is what most people want: a tribe to which they belong. It’s lonely to navigate the world alone, but sharing what we discover makes it cozier, funnier and a little more joyful. – Michele Remsen
The thought-provoking and intriguing new documentary IN BRIGHT AXIOM introduces us into the world of the House of Latitude. A place where absolute discretion is demanded in exchange for entry into a mysterious social experiment in the form of an elaborate immersive experience. Drawing a community of curiosity seekers, this secret society becomes a way of life for some, putting increasing pressure on the organizers to maintain this sophisticated and fantastical parallel world. From the minds who inspired AMC’s upcoming series Dispatches From Elsewhere,IN BRIGHT AXIOM weaves an intriguing cautionary tale about the unforeseen consequences of embracing the unknown. Followers of Meow Wolf, Sleep No More, Ingress and other immersive & augmented reality entertainment should take note. IN BRIGHT AXIOM also features never-before-seen discourse from the mesmerizing hip-hop polymath, RAMMELLZEE and original music by Justin Robbins, with additional songs from Isan, Tickles, and ü-Ziq. Director Spencer McCall has spent the last ten years orchestrating socio-reengineering and public hoax-prank performance art pieces. An avid fan of the Yes Men, McCall began by participating in Improv Everywhere inspired events, “plant” based roles in The Go Game, and location-based performances with Atmos-theater. In 2009, he became a co-creator of the Jejune Institute; a citywide alternate reality game in San Francisco that lasted three years and “inducted” over 10,000 unknowing participants. McCall took his experience working with Jejune and turned it into an award-winning documentary The Institute.The Institute is currently being remade into a series on a major television network. McCall also contributed to follow-up experience The Latitude Society; a faux secret society with an underground experiential labyrinth beneath San Francisco. Director Spencer McCall and House of Latitude founder and In Bright Axiom subject, Jeff Hull, join us for a fascinating conversation on the ebb and flow, as well as, the inherent contradiction that facilitated the unraveling of this remarkable enterprise.
COLD BROOK follows two men who live in a small college town in upstate New York. They are best friends who work the night shift as museum guards and handymen. Their lives are simple and mostly satisfying, until they are confronted with a supernatural situation. The men are then faced with a dilemma that puts their jobs, marriages, and their futures on the line.COLD BROOK is the directorial debut of William Fichtner (Armageddon, Black Hawk Down, Mom), who co-wrote the film alongside Cain DeVore. Fichtner also stars in Kim Coates (The Client, Black Hawk Down, Sons of Anarchy), Harold Perrineau(Romeo + Juliet, 28 Weeks Later, Sons of Anarchy) Robin Weigart (Concussion, Deadwood) and Mary Lynn Rajskub (Safety Not Guaranteed, The Kings of Summer, Sunshine Cleaning). Director William Fichtner joins us to talk about making a heartwarming, genre bending film in his upstate New York hometown surrounded by many of his closest friends.
“Cold Brook is an adult fairy tale that embraces its broad interpretations to remind its leading men about what truly matters most.” – Jared Mobarak, The Film Stage
“… Cold Brook succeeds in part by its fantastic cast, but mostly by its focus on simplicity. There’re no grand fights or superfluous moments, just a tale of love that transcends time and mortal existence.” – Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness
“Are You Ready To Be Different: Part ghost tale, part Bartleby while at the same time a captivating slavery reparations fable, the film flirts with the supernatural even with its heart planted firmly in sobering class and race issues historically and now.” – Prairie Miller, WBAI Radio
RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS tells the story of media firebrand Molly Ivins, six feet of Texas trouble who took on the Good Old Boy corruption wherever she found it. Her razor sharp wit left both sides of the aisle laughing, and craving ink in her columns. She knew the Bill of Rights was in peril, and said “Polarizing people is a good way to win an election and a good way to wreck a country.” Molly’s words have proved prescient. Now it’s up to us to raise hell! Director Janice Engel (Ted Hawkins Amazing Grace, Jackson Browne: Going Home, Addicted and What We Carry) joins us for a lively conversation on a journalist who did not shy away from confronting and shaming the most powerful institutions, political interests and the people who protected them from her righteous anger and lacerating wit.
About Molly Ivins: Molly Ivins was a nationally-syndicated political columnist and author, who remained cheerful despite the state of politics in this country and her own physical trials. She emphasized the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never had to write fiction. Ivins was from Houston, Texas, graduated from Smith College in 1966, then from Columbia University’s School of Journalism with a Masters in 1967. Ivins won many awards too numerous to list for her writing, courage, and truth telling. Her freelance work appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, Mother Jones, Esquire, Harper’s, Atlantic, and Playboy. She was also known for her essays on National Public Radio as well as media appearances around the world. Ivins wrote seven books, several of which were best-sellers including; BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush’s America with Lou Dubose in 2003 and WHO LET THE DOGS IN? Incredible Political Animals I Have Known in 2004. Molly was President of the Board of the Texas Democracy Foundation publisher of the venerable Texas Observer, which was her spiritual home and love. She found her voice at the Observer and helped sustain them and lead countless other young writers in seeking out the “good” stories and bring them to the public.
“The best way to get the sons of bitches is to make people laugh at them.” – Molly Ivins
“It’s a rare documentary indeed that so expertly captures the singular essence of its subject, and [Molly] Ivins is restored to vivid and vital life, if not in the flesh than in the mind and spirit.” – Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
Building on the promise of his hallucinogenic debut GO DOWN DEATH, filmmaker Aaron Schimberg delivers another brilliantly oddball, acerbically funny foray into gonzo surrealism. In a deft tragicomic performance, Jess Weixler (TEETH) plays Mabel, a movie star “slumming it” in an outré art-horror film being shot in a semi-abandoned hospital. Cast opposite her is Rosenthal (UNDER THE SKIN’ s Adam Pearson), a gentle-natured young man with a severe facial deformity. As their relationship evolves both on and offscreen, Schimberg raises provocative questions about cinematic notions of beauty, representation, and exploitation. Tod Browning crossed with Robert Altman crossed with David Lynch only begins to describe something this startlingly original and deeply felt. Director Aaron Schimberg joins us to talk about his hurly-burly, cosmically clever tale of misdirection, expectations and human connection.
Director’s Statement:As a filmmaker with a facial difference, I have never seen my experience accurately represented on screen. This film – the first, as far as I know, made by and starring disfigured people – is my humble attempt to remedy that. When disfigured characters are seen at all in films (usually played by handsome actors with disfiguring latex), they are trotted out to play monsters or objects of pity, made into vessels for the symbolic expression of cruelty, sin, villainy and other ills. “Bitter defectives,” as a character in my film says. Even when they’re portrayed sympathetically, they function only to impart inspirational lessons to the able-bodied people who encounter them. CHAINED FOR LIFE is my response to the way people with disfigurements have been portrayed in films (for instance, in FREAKS, THE ELEPHANT MAN, WONDER) throughout cinema’s history. It asks whether the sum of these portrayals has adversely affected the way we are regarded in real life. I consider it a comedy, but if you think it’s a tragedy, I wouldn’t argue with you. – Aaron Schimberg
“Critic’s Pick! An inventive hall of mirrors… that keeps finding ways to upend its characters’ — and viewers’ — perspectives. Odd, darkly funny and — when it means to be — a little frightening.” – Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
“Extraordinary. A cinematic revolution.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“Humane and transgressive, an American indie of unusually big ideas and aesthetic ambition.” – Nellie Killian, Film Comment
“Bizarre and beautiful. Leaves us on thrillingly shifty ground.” – Keith Uhlich, The Hollywood Reporter
“Mesmerizing. A remarkable mind trip of a movie sure to leave audiences reeling.” – Kate Erbland, Indiewire
“Razor-sharp. Mesmerizingly close to the sensation of a waking dream.” – Calum Marsh, Village Voice
“An intoxicating whirlwind of ideas, spectacularly moving and entertaining. Chained for Life could be a defining film about representation for any group that Hollywood marginalizes.” – Andrew Todd, Birth.Movies.Death
GIVE ME LIBERTY is based on his personal experience as a medical transport driver and an immigrant, director Kirill Mikhanovsky, with writer Alice Austen, create a raw feature film about the comedy andheartbreak of people in the underprivileged communities living in a struggling American city. Medical transport driver Vic (newcomer Chis Galust) is running late, but it’s not his fault. Roads are closed for a protest, and no one else can shuttle his Russian grandfather and his emigre friends to a funeral. The new route uproots his scheduled clients, particularly Tracy (Lauren “Lolo” Spencer in a breakout performance), a vibrant young woman with ALS. As the day goes from hectic to off-the-rails, their collective ride becomes a hilarious, compassionate and intersectional portrait of American dreams and disenchantment. The characters in GIVE ME LIBERTY are drawn from the people of Milwaukee – they’re magnificently diverse and their struggle to survive is desperate, contradictory, funny and moving. Director Kirill Mahanovsky joins us for a spirited conversation on working with a cast of mostly non-professional actors, drawing upon his own work history for the story behind the film and the importance of making Give Me Liberty in his adopted hometown of Milwaukee.
About the filmmaker:Russian-born Kirill Mikhanovsky grew up in Moscow where his early passion for cinema compelled him to skip school and go to the movie theatre across the street from his home where, often as the only person in the house, he watched countless films. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Mikhanovsky immigrated to Milwaukee, where he had a series of odd jobs, including driving medical transport for people with disabilities, and began making films. After graduating from NYU Film School, Mikhanovsky went on to make films in the US, Brazil, Russia, and South America. A Sundance Alum, his first feature SONHOS DE PEIXEwon the Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival.
“Completely, delightfully unpredictable from scene to scene, ‘Give Me Liberty’ draws you in with its moving performances and blasts of broad comedy.” – Manohla Dargis, THE NEW YORK TIMES
“A wonderfully anarchic dark comedy, which deftly welds its frenetically farcical structure to a humanistic portrait of marginalized communities thrown together.” – David Rooney, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
“Lyrical and touching. It’s a journey worth taking.” – Tim Grierson, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL
“Establishes writer-director Kirill Mikhanovsky as a major talent.” – Eric Kohn, INDIEWIRE
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON is an adventure story set in the world of a modern Mark Twain that begins when Zak (Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, runs away from a nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and attending the wrestling school of The Salt Water Redneck. Through circumstances beyond their control Tyler (LaBeouf), a small time outlaw on the run, becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally. Together they wind through deltas, elude capture, drink whisky, find God, catch fish, and convince Eleanor (Johnson), a kind nursing home employee with a story of her own, to join them on their journey. THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON stars Shia LaBeouf,Dakota Johnson, Thomas Haden Church, Bruce Dern, John Hawkes and newcomer, Zack Gottsagen, premiered back in March at SXSW and was a huge critical success, with a current score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also won over fans, taking home the Audience Award for Narrative Spotlight. Co-directors and co-writers Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson stop by to talk about there experiences and the stacks of miracles that brought this heart-warming tale of friendship and reaching for your dreams.
“LaBeouf brings the soul to “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” while Gottsagen brings the spirit. He has an undeniably charming screen presence, and the actor takes to this starring role with gusto.” – Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times
“A heartwarming, tender and funny adventure grounded in humanism. Refreshingly witty and unconventional. It’s one of the summer’s best surprises.” – Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru
“What’s clear is that a lot of development time, movie resources, and A-List actors all came together to make a masterpiece of a film centering on one person…Zack Gottsagen.” – Alan Ng, Film Threat
“‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ is a sweet, warm story about dreams and the family you choose. Zack Gottsagen is pure comedy. Shia LaBeof is giving me sexy, scruffy with substance and the pairing of these two on screen is perfection.” – Carla Renata, The Curvy Film Critic
The BlackStar Film Festival (BlackStar) returns August 1-4, 2019 with a stellar slate of black, brown and indigenous films from around the globe. The BlackStar Film Festival is an annual celebration of the visual and storytelling traditions of the African diaspora and of global communities of color, showcasing films by black, brown and indigenous people from around the world. Continuing its legacy of discovery and excellence, audiences can expect must-see film premieres, poignant artist discussions, and discover new cinematic favorites from this year’s class of emerging filmmakers. Founded in 2012 by Maori Karmael Holmes, BlackStar has become the hottest event on the film festival calendar. With a program unlike any other, BlackStar is the destination to discover new artists voices from Black and global indigenous filmmakers. Artists including Terence Nance (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty; HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness), and Matthew A. Cherry (9 RIdes; ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier), and Nijla Baseema Mu’min (Jinn) have shared their work at the festival and from BlackStar cultivated a fanbase that has grown with their careers.
This year’s festival features sneak preview of Hip-Hop: The Songs That Shook America, a new documentary series directed by directed Erik Parker and One9.
From Executive Producers Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Shawn Gee, and Alex Gibney,Fear No Gumbo, a documentary feature directed by Kimberly Rivers Roberts, about the 13 years since the deadly Category 5 Hurricane Katrina that made landfall on Florida and Louisiana and the corruption and systemic racism that still victimizes the residents that returned after Katrina.
A new documentary from Emmy Award-winning director andMacarthur “genius” fellow Stanley Nelson (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution). Boss which explores over 150 years of African American entrepreneurship, from bondage to billion dollar moguls.
Academy Award-winningdirector, Roger Ross Williams (Music By Prudence, God Loves Uganda) will be on-hand for the debut of his latest documentary The Apollo chronicling the unique history and contemporary legacy of New York City’s landmark Apollo Theater.
Panels and Awards:
BlackStar will present the Luminary Award to Marcia Smith, President of Firelight Media.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Do The Right Thing, filmmakerSpike Lee and activist Tarana Burke will discuss the possibilities of using radical storytelling to center social justice and foster narrative change.
After he’s attacked on the street at night by a roving motorcycle gang, timid bookkeeper Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) joins a neighborhood karate studio to learn how to protect himself. Under the watchful eye of a charismatic instructor, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), and hardcore brown belt Anna (Imogen Poots), Casey gains a newfound sense of confidence for the first time in his life. But when he attends Sensei’s mysterious night classes, he discovers a sinister world of fraternity, brutality and hyper-masculinity, presenting a journey that places him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor. Audacious and offbeat, The Art of Self-Defense is an original dark comedy that takes toxic masculinity to absurd extremes. Director Riley Stearns joins us for a lively conversation on this wildly inventive, surreal black comedy.
“The Art of Self-Defense manages to clarify the filmmaker’s intriguing vision by stuffing it into a remarkably unnerving character study.” – Eric Kohn, indieWire
“”The Art of Self-Defense” may be presented as an absurdist satire, but like the best American comedies… it doubles as a keen critique of our national character.” – Peter Debruge, Variety
“’Fight Club’ by way of Yorgos Lanthimos, Riley Stearns’ screed on “might is right” toxic masculinity is a giggly black comedy that cowers down a twisty-turny rabbit hole.” – Matt Oakes, Silver Screen Riot
Directed byAcademy Award nominated actor Greg Kinnear (As Good as It Gets, Little Miss Sunshine, The Matador) with an outstanding cast that includes; Emily Mortimer (Mary Poppins Returns), Luke Wilson (Bottle Rocket, Meadowland), Bradley Whitford (Get Out, West Wing), Jay Duplass (Beatriz at Dinner, Landline), Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, The Descendants), and Kurt Fuller (Midnight in Paris, Auto Focus). PHIL is the story of a depressed dentist whose life is falling apart. Phil is shocked when one of his patients, Michael Fisk (Bradley Whitford),a man who seemed to have the perfect life, kills himself. Determined to find out what would drive a man who had everything to end his life, Phil pretends to be a handyman and integrates himself in to the dead man’s life, befriending his wife (Emily Mortimer) and daughter. How long can Phil keep up this double life when he is determined to end his normal one? Director and lead actor Greg Kinnear joins us to talk about the challenges and rewards of a first-time director, finding the humanity in a story of personal tragedy and working with an incredibly talented group of artists.
Routinely dismissed by film critics as a lesser genre artistically, romantic comedies aren’t simply traditionally beloved, but also a true art form which has produced some of the most classic and enduring films we know today. These films should receive the recognition they deserve along with an experience to bring together a community of film fans that flock to them. To remedy that perception, there is ROMCOM FEST. Rom Com Fest is founded by Miraya Berke, female entrepreneur – founder of Pop Productions event boutique studio and co-founder of Dessert Goals, the popular dessert festival in New York and Los Angeles. With a background in events and partnership and a personal love of romantic comedies, she is passionate about the romantic comedy genre and its legitimization in the eyes of film fans, filmmakers, and critics, in addition to the pure enjoyment of the films themselves. The first ever Rom Com Fest will take place June 20-23 in Los Angeles at Downtown Independent. In addition to a mix of new and classic rom com film screenings, we will host engaging activities and events to connect the community of rom com lovers. Highlights include a 20th anniversary screening of 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, A special screening of the classic NEVER BEEN KISSED (curated by actress Rachel Bloom), the west coast premiere of actor Joe Cross’ directorial debut SUMMER NIGHT, a late night CBD screening of HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK, and more. Festival founder and director Miraya Berke joins us to talk about her love of film and her desire to create a unique filmgoing experience.
** Spotlight on the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Visual Communications, the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts center, announced its outstanding program of films and events for the upcoming 35th edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) running MAY 2 – MAY 10, 2018. The all encompassing annual film celebration is presented across Los Angeles in West Hollywood, Downtown LA, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, and Hollywood. Visual Communications proudly celebrates the Film Festival’s 34 years as Southern California’s largest and most prestigious film festival of its kind. LAAPFF launches the celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month through this year’s slate of over 100 films from both Asian Pacific American and Asian international artists. For over three decades, the Festival has presented nearly 5,000 films by Asian Pacific American and Asian International talent. This year’s festival will feature over 130 short films during the nine day fest from May 2 – May 10. These cinema gems from around the globe featuring stories about love, family, heartbreak, friendships, and self acceptance are all part of the exciting line up. The Festival opens May 2nd with the World Premiere of YELLOW ROSE directed by Diane Paragas and starring Broadway legend Lea Salonga and emerging star Eva Noblezada. Two acclaimed festival favorites will screen as the Centerpiece Films at the Festival; GO BACK TO CHINA directed by Emily Ting and MS. PURPLE directed by Justin Chon. The closing night film is the world premiere of EMPTY BY DESIGN directed by Andrea A. Walter premiering on Friday, May 10. LAAPFF Executive Director Francis Cullado of Visual Communications stops by to talk about the ever expanding interest in Asian filmmakers and the trailblazing artistry being done by them.
In the new film GO BACK TO CHINA we meet Sasha Li (Anna Akana). To say that Sasha is spoiled would be an understatement. She’s entitled and self centered. But unlike many of her peers, she doesn’t have to struggle financially. Her father, (Richard Ng) a toy tycoon in China, has given her a million dollar trust fund. But instead of investing in her future, she has blown through half of it already on designer duds and bottle services. When she calls her father to complain, she finds out that he has blocked all her accounts and is cutting her off. She’s given an ultimatum. She can either go back to China and work for the family business, or she’s cut off forever.Teddy Li, the patriarch of the family, is not exactly father of the year. Divorced three times (all due to infidelity) and father of four. But with Sasha’s arrival, they all have to figure out a way to co-exist as a family for the first time.Once Sasha starts working at the factory, she also gets a much needed dose of reality check. When she makes a huge mistake that threatens the workers’ livelihood, it’s on Sasha to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice, in order to do the right thing. GO BACK TO CHINAis a heartfelt and bittersweet family portrait that offers an honest look at the human cost of things that are made in China. Director Emily Ting (Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong) joins us to talk about her fish-out-of-water dramedy, and a talented cast of artists.
“A funny, light, and heartfelt situation comedy…thanks in part to its likable lead whose adventures to find herself don’t involve meeting a man of her dreams but rather landing a dream job after learning the value of hard work.” – John Fink, The Film Stage
“Smartly written, funny and wonderfully acted blend of comedy and drama. Its themes of family conflict, the clash of cultures and finding your true calling are framed within a likable, entertaining narrative which will surely find its audience.” – Rouven Linnarz, Asian Movie Pulse
“Anna Akana and Lynn Chen manufacture joy in ‘Go Back to China.’ [It] is funny enough to draw in an audience and smart enough to teach them something while they’re there.” – Brooke Sjoberg, The Daily Texan
“Emily Ting is a needed voice in cinema because she displays life in a way that you won’t see anywhere else. It’s real, raw, and relevant” – Carla Renata, The Curvy Film Critic
For the last 20 years the Newport Beach Film Festival has brought the best of classic and contemporary filmmaking from around the world to Orange County. Under the direction of CEO and Co-founder Gregg Schwenk and the festival’s staff have been committed to entertaining and enlightening the public with a first-class international film program as well as providing a forum for cultural understanding and enriching educational opportunities, the Festival focuses on showcasing a diverse collection of both studio and independent films. The Festival supports the creation and advancement of innovative and artistic cinematic works from both emerging and seasoned filmmakers and proudly embraces the passion, vision and independent spirit of these talented artists. With the integration of the local community and educational institutions, the Festival stimulates an interest in the study and appreciation of film and encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to participate. The Community Outreach Program was created with the idea that film offers new perspectives and possibilities for a changing world. Each year, the Festival partners with over 40 non-profit organizations and pairs each philanthropic organization with a film that aligns with their mission. The Festival gives non-profit organizations a forum to voice their message to large audiences and spread awareness of their organization and mission through the medium of film. Areas of focus include the arts, health and human services, the environment, education, children’s causes, seniors’ and veterans’ programs, and alumni clubs. CEO and Co-founder Gregg Schwenk joins us to talk about a remarkable festival line-up of comedies, dramas, short films, action sports, classics, documentaries, musicals and foreign film excellence.
Writer/director Sam Friedlander’s (“Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant”), second feature film is the comedic gem Babysplitters. Jeff and Sarah are struggling to come to an agreement about having a baby. Jeff wants to be a father eventually, but is afraid to lock himself into his current job situation. Meanwhile Sarah, nearing 35, feels her biological clock ticking and is impatient to start trying. Their mutual friends Don and Taylor have the opposite problem. Don has a successful business and is ready to be a dad. But Taylor, an aspiring dancer, is worried that the toll on her body and career will be too much. When the two couples hatch a plan to share one baby between them, it seems like they may have found the perfect compromise — until things spiral out of control. Winner of the Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema at Santa Barbara Film Festival, Babysplitters is screening at the 2019 Newport Beach Film Festival. Director and writer Sam Friedlander joins us to talk about his wry, playful take on young couple willing to go to any length in hope of starting a new family.
WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY tells the story of the mid-19th century poet, Emily Dickinson writing prolifically, baking gingerbread, and enjoying a passionate, lifelong romantic relationship with another woman, her friend and sister-in-law Susan…yes this is the iconic American poet, popularly thought to have been a recluse. Beloved comic and Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon leads in this humorous yet bold reappraisal of Dickinson, informed by her private letters. While seeking publication of some of the 1,775 poems written during her lifetime, Emily (Shannon) finds herself facing a troupe of male literary gatekeepers too confused by her genius to take her work seriously. Instead her work attracts the attention of an ambitious woman editor, who also sees Emily as a convenient cover for her own role in buttoned-up Amherst’s most bizarre love triangle. Meticulously researched with the support of the Guggenheim foundation, this dramatic comedy generously intertwines Dickinson’ actual letters and poems into the texture of the film, used with permission from Harvard University Press. A timely critique of how women’s history is rewritten, WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY remains vibrant, irreverent and tender–a perhaps closer depiction of Emily Dickinson’s real life than anything seen before. Director Madeleine Olnek (The Foxy Merkins, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same) stops by to talk about her “wildly” inventive and poignant reset of the often maligned American literary giant.
“Wild Nights With Emily may be Olnek’s most political film to date, one that could forever change the narrative of the world’s most famous woman poet.” – Jude Dry, IndieWire
“Like the remarkable poet at its center, Wild Nights with Emily is playful, clever, and alive.” – Kristy Puchko, Pajiba
“This is an irreverent film, but its lightness is meaningful. With each silly flourish, Olnek offers joy and companionship to a figure whose history was more conveniently presented to generations of readers as solitary.” – Two Bugbee, New York Times
“Olnek has crafted a lovely, heart-warming piece which reminds us of the importance of revisiting and challenging historical narratives and leaves one in both fits of laughter and in need of a few moments of contemplation.” – Hannah Ryan, Much Ado About Cinema