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.
TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM offers an artful and intimate meditation on the life and works of the acclaimed novelist. From her childhood in the steel town of Lorain, Ohio to ‘70s-era book tours with Muhammad Ali, from the front lines with Angela Davis to her own riverfront writing room, Toni Morrison leads an assembly of her peers, critics and colleagues on an exploration of race, America, history and the human condition as seen through the prism of her own literature. Woven together with a rich collection of art, history, literature and personality, the film includes discussions about her many critically acclaimed works, including novels “The Bluest Eye,” “Sula” and “Song of Solomon,” her role as an editor of iconic African-American literature and her time teaching at Princeton University. In addition to Ms. Morrison, the film features interviews with HiltonAls, Angela Davis, Fran Lebowitz, Walter Mosley, Sonia Sanchez and Oprah Winfrey, who turned Morrison’s novel “Beloved” into a feature film. Using Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ elegant portrait-style interviews, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am includes original music by Kathryn Bostic, a specially created opening sequence by artist Mickalene Thomas, and evocative works by other contemporary African-American artists including Kara Walker, Rashid Johnson and Kerry James Marshall.Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders joins us for a conversation on gaining the trust and confidence of a literary icon.
“[An] inspiring doc. An eloquent nonfiction biopic that travels creatively through the past, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ film is enlivened both by its own storytelling dexterity and by the participation of its subject, who at 87 years old remains as warm, vibrant and insightful as ever… [She] comes across as a vivacious and intellectually formidable presence deserving of the titanic praise heaped upon by her.” – Nick Schager, Variety
“[A] visually beautiful documentary… Morrison, now 87, narrates her life in a tone that is determined, self-assured and sly… The clarity of her vision as she talks about race may be the most trenchant and potent aspect of the film… Morrison and her novels are treasures.” – Caryn James, The Hollywood Reporter
“What’s most interesting about The Pieces I Am is not just Morrison’s explanations and reflections of her work but her steadfast determination while editing, writing and raising two children on her own, to never indulge the white gaze… A comprehensive examination of Morrison, the perseverance of Black women and how we understand ourselves as a people.” – Aramide Tinubu, Shadow and Act
Avant-garde Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov (The Student) returns to the big-screen with a tribute to the early years of Russian rock with LETO. Leningrad, in the summer, early eighties. Smuggling LP’s by Lou Reed and David Bowie, the underground rock scene is boiling ahead of Perestroika. LETO tells the tale of Viktor Tsoi (Theo U) and the Kino group, about his relationship with Mike Naumenko (Roma the Beast), his wife Natalya (Irina Starshenbaum) and many who were in the vanguard of the rock movement Leningrad in 1981. This is a story about Leningrad of the 80s, about love, searching and high hopes – about a mood that will stay with us forever. LETO is full of music that the characters live and breathe: the Kino group, Mike Naumenko, the cult tracks of that time. Mike and his beautiful wife Natasha meet with young Viktor Tsoï. Together with friends, they will change the trajectory of rock n’roll music in the Soviet Union. Co-writers Mikhail Idov and Lili Idova join us to talk about theworking with avant-garde Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov, celebrating a time of artistic freedom and indelible impression that these artists had on the people who connected to their enthusiasm.
“Weaving a glancing love triangle into a poignant observation on the waxing and waning of creativity, Serebrennikov revels in radiant black-and-white scenes of urban grit.” – Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times
“Far from an angry political screed, it feels both removed from its fraught larger context and shrewdly, poignantly attuned to it.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
“Leto is a gorgeous, endlessly charming romance drama that’s part jukebox musical and part anthropological document. With revolution on the periphery, Leto is a superb picture.” – Joshua Brunsting, The CriterionCast
“There is a sprawling sense of time and place to Leto, which blows out the running to over two hours, yet there is not a frame of the film one would want to see excised.” – Simon Foster, Screen-Space
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.
Underground filmmaker Barbara Rubin’s 1964 art-porn masterpiece “Christmas on Earth”, made when she was only 18 years old, shattered creative and sexist boundaries and shocked NYC’s experimental film scene. Working with Jonas Mekas at the Filmmaker’s Coop, Rubin was instrumental in creating NYC’s thriving underground film community and a rare female voice in a world of powerful men. A rebellious Zelig of the Sixties, she introduced Andy Warhol to the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan to the Kabbalah. But beyond shaping the spirit of the Sixties, Barbara was seeking the deeper meaning of life. After retiring to a farm with Allen Ginsberg, she shocked everyone by becoming a Hasidic Jew. How and why did one of the 1960’s freest spirits submit to a religious life? For years, 94-year-old filmmaker Jonas Mekas has saved all of Barbara’s letters and cherished her memory. Working with Mekas’ footage and rare clips from the Andy Warhol archives, the film takes us inside the world and mind of Barbara Rubin; a woman who truly believed that film could change the world and then vanished into obscurity. Director Chuck Smith joins us for a conversation on the life and times of a gifted artistic protégé and the impact she had on the people who loved her.
“Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground,” an informative and overdue documentary… – Sheri Linden The Hollywood Reporter
“This bold, enthusiastic documentary details the unsung yet important role played by its subject in the 1960s artistic counterculture.” – Nick Schager Variety
“An evocative portrait of a vibrant and mysterious artist.It’s a riveting tale of an extraordinary, seemingly uncontrollable force, a supremely talented woman dealing with mental illness, a central figure in an artistic movement who was gone too soon.” – This Week in New York
…pound for pound, minute for minute, there are few biographical documentaries more impressive than this.” – Joshua Brunsting Criterioncast
In Richard Miron’s surprising and empathetic FOR THE BIRDS, we follow an unusual woman named Kathy who lives with 200 pet chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. What starts as a story seemingly about Kathy’s battle with local animal advocacy groups slowly transforms into an intimate drama about her relationship with her husband Gary, and the toll the birds have taken on their marriage and her well-being. Filmed over the course of five years, this sensitive tale of one woman’s world breaking down—poignant and absorbing in equal measure—is ultimately one of hope about the possibility of regaining one’s life. Director Richard Miron stops by to talk about winning the Murphy’s confidence and trust, following his filmmaker’s instinct to stay with a story with more than its share of twists and turns and crafting a compassionate portrait of beautifully flawed people.
A motorcycle cop, Officer Frank Shankwitz, is still haunted by the traumatic separation from his father when he was a boy. After surviving a near-fatal accident and being framed for police brutality, his whole world falls apart. Unexpectedly, he finds hope in the shape of a terminally ill boy, who reunites him with his father after 28 years. To honor the boy, he creates the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The cast of Wish Man includes Kirby Bliss Blanton (“Project X,”), Robert Pine (“CHiPs,” “Independence Day”), Danny Trejo(“Machete,” “Con Air”), Bruce Davison (“X-Men,” X”-Men 2,” “Longtime Companion”), Frank Whaley (“Pulp Fiction,” “Field of Dreams,” “The Doors”), Tom Sizemore (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Heat”), Dale Dickey (“Winter’s Bone,” “Hell or High Water,”), Larry Wilcox (“CHiPs,” “Lassie”), Fay Masterson (“Eyes Wide Shut,” “The Quick and the Dead,”), and Steven Michael Quezada (“Breaking Bad,””).The story of Frank Shankwitz is brought to life by director Theo Davies and the performance of Australian actor Andrew Steel as Frank Stankwitz.
The documentary FREE TRIP to EGYPT is the brainchild of Canadian-Egyptian entrepreneur Tarek Mounib to build a bridge of mutual understanding and friendship with the very people who fear him. Traveling across the United States to find Americans concerned about an Islamic threat, he makes them an intriguing offer – a free trip to Egypt. With initial reactions ranging from suspicion to hostility, Tarek Mounib embarks on a mission. Traveling from sunny California to a Trump Rally in Kentucky, from a small town in the heart of Georgia, to Union Square in NYC, they cobble together a diverse group of people – including a school teacher, police officer, Marine Corps veteran, single mom, preacher and beauty pageant queen. All have preconceptions and misgivings, but are open and courageous enough to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Arriving in Cairo, the Americans spend 10 days paired with locals just as diverse as them – and possibly with just as many misconceptions. What happens when a retired teacher and her husband are united with a young Egyptian revolutionary? Or when a Christian missionary and a born-again, former Miss Kentucky are housed with an orthodox Muslim family where the mother wears a burqa? Or when a police officer faces off with a radical, left-leaning journalist? The answers are provocative, surprising, funny, magical, emotional, revealing, enlightening and ultimately life-changing, in other words, all things human. When people look beyond their ethnicity, political affiliations, religious beliefs, economic status and connect at a human level, it¹s a transformative and universal message for everyone to come together and join the global #PledgeToListen initiative, a social media revolution of acceptance. Director Ingrid Serban and Producer Tarek Mounib talk about the challenges and rewards of working on the revelatory and heartwarming FREE TRIP to EGYPT.
Q&A immediately following 7:10 PM Screening withCreator/Producer Tarek Mounib and Director Ingrid Serban
“Gently observing how many of our fellow Americans are full of fear while trying, in its tiny way, to do something about that, Ingrid Serban’s Free Trip to Egypt offers just that to a handful of travelers.”– John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter
ECHO IN THE CANYON celebrates the explosion of popular music that came out of LA’s Laurel Canyon in the mid-60s as folk went electric and The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and The Mamas and the Papas gave birth to the California Sound. It was a moment (1965 to 1967) when bands came to LA to emulate The Beatles and Laurel Canyon emerged as a hotbed of creativity and collaboration for a new generation of musicians who would soon put an indelible stamp on the history of American popular music. Featuring Jakob Dylan, the film explores the beginnings of the Laurel Canyon music scene. Dylan uncovers never-before-heard personal details behind the bands and their songs and how that music continues to inspire today. Echo In The Canyon contains candid conversations and performances with Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Michelle Phillips, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Roger McGuinn and Jackson Browne as well as contemporary musicians they influenced such as Tom Petty (in his last film interview), Beck, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Regina Spektor, and Norah Jones.ECHO IN THE CANYON is directed by former music journalist, record producer and label executive Andrew Slater. Andrew Slater joins us to talk about connecting the lasting impact of the “Canyon’s” rock royalty with their modern day torchbearers and his enlistment of Jakob Dylan to be a tour guide and music director.
“I have a feeling Echo in the Canyon will be watched for decades into the future as the essential document of a very specific time and place that changed music forever.” – Andy Howell, Film Threat
“Rich with revealing observations and engaging anecdotes, Slater’s documentary skirts the nostalgia trap by engagingly connecting with an impressive lineup of contemporary singer-songwriters…” Justin Lowe, Hollywood Reporter
“A richly evocative and entertainingly anecdotal overview of the 1960s Laurel Canyon music scene and its influence on contemporary artists.” – Joe Leydon, Variety
“Echo In the Canyon has the timeless appeal of a tasty riff. It’s the sunny equivalent of a tourist bus trip past the homes of famous rock stars, and director Andrew Slater carefully avoids the dark alleys.” – Noah Gittell, Washington City Paper
Written and directed by Storm Saulter (“Better Mus’ Come”), SPRINTER follows Akeem Sharp (newcomer Dale Elliott), nicknamed the Rasta Rocket for his once-in-a-generation speed, who is set to be Jamaica’s next big track-and-field sensation. Akeem hopes his rise in athletics will take him to the U.S. to reunite him with his mother, who has supported the family while living as an illegal resident for over a decade. But Akeem’s rising star is weighed down by turmoil at home: a volatile father, and an unruly older brother who insinuates himself into Akeem’s career as a means of escaping – or perhaps enhancing – his scam artist hustle. The film also stars Kadeem Wilson (Ghett’ A Life), Dennis Titus (The Mighty Quinn), Shantol Jackson (Yardie), Bryshere Y. Gray (Empire), with Lorraine Toussaint (Selma, Orange is The New Black), and David Alan Grier (In Living Color) with songs by Grammy Award winning artist NE-YO and Jamaican dancehall performer Shenseea. Director and co-writer Storm Saulter (Robert A Maylor) joins us to talk about creating a beautiful film rooted in a heartfelt drama about a Jamaican family struggling with separation and the jolt of sudden success.
“A beautiful and triumphant film. What the film also importantly illustrates is the struggle so many immigrants’ families feel when mothers or fathers are forced to separate from their children in order to find a better life in another country so they can send money back home.” – The Knockturnal
“Saulter displays a great eye with his thoughtfully shot drama that captures life in Jamaica in a way that is rarely seen on screen.” – The Los Angeles Times
“One of those rare films that will grow by the positive word-of-mouth. Every single frame is beautiful to look at and under director Saulter’s expert eye, he makes Jamaica look like a paradise lost which matches the intensity of the story. Powerful. A must see.” – Los Angeles Sentinel
** 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.
BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK is a psychological thriller about a part time summer employee, Wendy, (Karina Fontes) at a mountainous state park, takes on a rough trail assignment at the end of the season, trying to prove to her friends that she’s capable enough to do the job. When she takes a wrong turn and ends up deep in the backcountry, she stumbles upon what might be a potential crime scene. Stuck with no communication after losing her radio and with orders to guard the site, Wendy must fight the urge to run and do the harder job of staying put — spending the night deep in the wilderness, facing down her worst fears and proving to everyone – including herself – that she’s made of stronger stuff than they think she is. Director and writer Roxanne Benjamin made her directorial debut in the anthology SOUTHBOUND, which world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. She was last in the director’s chair for “Don’t Fall”, part of Magnolia Pictures’ all-women-helmed horror anthology XX, which premiered at Sundance in the Midnight section last year. Director Roxanne Benjamin stops by to talk about her slow-burn thriller and the challenges of a wilderness shoot.
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
Fueled by an incendiary performance by Elisabeth Moss,HER SMELLfollows Becky Something (Moss) is a ’90s punk rock superstar who once filled arenas with her grungy all-female trio Something She. Now she plays smaller venues while grappling with motherhood, exhausted band mates, nervous record company executives, and a new generation of rising talent eager to usurp her stardom. When Becky’s chaos and excesses derail a recording session and national tour, she finds herself shunned, isolated and alone. Forced to get sober, temper her demons, and reckon with the past, she retreats from the spotlight and tries to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success. Anchored by a towering, unflinching performance from Golden Globe and Emmy winner Moss, and supported by a stellar ensemble cast, HER SMELL examines the grit, grace and gravitas of an unforgettable fictional rock star crashing down to earth into the harsh realities of mid-life. With his deeply humane sixth feature, writer- director Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip, Golden Exits) pumps up the volume and shines a light on the terrifying moment when superstardom wanes — and quiet becomes the new loud. Alex Ross Perry joins us for a lively conversation on the film’s fascinating shooting schedule, collaborating with cinematographer Sean Price Williams and working with a remarkable cast of actors.
“Elisabeth Moss turns in a five-alarm blaze of a performance as a frontwoman who makes Courtney Love look like Mother Teresa.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“Moss varies the volume and the tempo of her performance, calling forth cascades of profane invention and rills of whispery poetry, but she always stays in the same key, the key of Becky.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times
“Formally audacious and ferociously intelligent, Her Smell is Perry’s greatest achievement yet, a wild saga of prestige and madness that is ultimately rooted in the female bonds keeping women sane.” – Natalia Winkelman, The Daily Beast
“Over and above the furious-and ultimately painfully tender-drama, Perry achieves something of a new, grand version of his own cinematic music.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker
In a media environment dominated by increasingly concentrated corporate interests, eight distribution companies who have long championed the best in independent features, documentaries, and social issue films, have joined forces to help launch a new subscription streaming service, OVID.tv. Starting today, OVID.tv offers more than 350 quality documentaries and art-house films from the collections of its founding content partners: Bullfrog Films, The dGenerate Films Collection, Distrib Films US, First Run Features, Grasshopper Film, Icarus Films, KimStim, and Women Make Movies. Most of the films on OVID.tv are not available on any other streaming platform, and OVID.tvwill be adding even more films every two weeks–14 fiction feature films and one 10-part documentary series are already scheduled for release. Despite the odds and with little capital, Icarus Films, Docuseek, and our partners have decided that the time has come to step forward and build a new, independent space, dedicated to the films that we believe in and care about, and that we believe you care about, and value as well. OVID.tv co-founder Jonathan Miller joins us to talk about an affordable option for film lovers looking for the highest quality cinema experience presented by people who share your passion.
“A cornucopia of international movies and documentaries… recent ones as well as classics. It’s far better for recent movies than FilmStruck ever was, and its spectrum of new movies is far more substantial than that of Netflix, wider-ranging than that of Amazon.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker, March 22, 2019
Never before released in the US, Franco Rosso’s incendiary BABYLON had its world premiere at Cannes in 1980 but was deemed “too controversial, and likely to incite racial tension” (Vivien Goldman, Time Out) by the New York Film Festival that same year. Raw and smoldering, it follows a young reggae DJ (Brinsley Forde, frontman of landmark British group Aswad) in Thatcher-era Brixton as he pursues his musical ambitions, while battling fiercely against the racism and xenophobia of employers, neighbors, police, and the National Front. Written by Martin Stellman (QUADROPHENIA) and shot by two-time Oscar® winner Chris Menges (THE KILLING FIELDS) with beautiful, smoky cinematography that’s been compared to TAXI DRIVER, BABYLON is fearless and unsentimental, yet tempered by the hazy bliss of the dancehall set to a blistering reggae, dub, and lovers rock soundtrack featuring Aswad, Johnny Clarke, and others, anchored by Dennis Bovell’s (The Slits) atmospheric score. BABYLON is the product of outsiders: director Rosso (1941-2016) immigrated from Italy as a child, Stellman is the son of Viennese Jewish immigrants, producer Gavrik Losey is the son of blacklisted Hollywood director Joseph Losey, and composer Bovell immigrated from Barbados, and was falsely imprisoned for running a sound system—the script was partly based on his experiences. Beyond the significance of being the only feature film about London’s sound system scene, BABYLON unflinchingly observes the place of marginalized people in a society resistant—to the point of violence—to multiculturalism. Writer Martin Stellman joins us to talk about the impact that Babylon had on the Caribbean diaspora living in London, the neo-realism style of the film and winding path that Babylon has taken over the last 40 years.
“A STORY WITH LITERALLY EPIC STAKES. It’s no surprise why the film may resonate now—its themes of finding community through art and trying to exist in a society that doesn’t want you are unfortunately both timeless and extremely current.” – Jaya Saxena, GQ
“REMARKABLE. Never lets go for a moment.” – Derek Malcolm, The Guardian
“FEARLESS. Loud and musical and cheerful and funny, and also tragic.” – David Robinson, The Times“EXPLODES IN THE GUT with a powerful mix of pain and pleasure. Like the reggae music that pulses through it, Babylon is RICH, ROUGH and REAL. And like the street life of the young black Londoners it portrays, it’s THREATENING, TOUCHING, VIOLENT and FUNNY.”– Simon Perry, Variety
“FIVE STARS. One of the greatest British films.” – MOJO
The 17th edition of the fest begins on Thursday, April 11th with an opening night tribute to legendary Indian Actress TABU, who is regarded as one of the most talented Indian actors of her generation, having been honored with two National Film Awards, six Filmfare Awards and notably, the Padma Shri from the Government of India in 2011. In addition to opening with a tribute and moderated discussion with TABU, the festival’s opening night gala event will also include a screening of her latest film ANDHADHUN, a feature directed by IFFLA alum Sriram Raghavan (Johnny Gaddaar).
Some other highlights from this year’s lineup include:
– A moderated panel featuring successful South Asian professionals working across various fields in the television industry. The panel boasts a lineup that includes actor/comedian Nik Dodani (Murphy Brown, Netflix’s Atypical), director Meera Menon (The Walking Dead, GLOW, The Magicians), writer Fawzia Mirza (CBS’ upcoming The Red Line), writer Chitra Sampath (Good Behavior, Southland), writer and co-creator of Fox’s The Resident Roshan Sethi, and actor Dhruv Uday Singh (Freeform’s Good Trouble, CBS pilot Pandas of New York).
-The screening of a trio of Sundance and Slamdance favorites that includes Ronny Sen’s unforgettable feature debut CAT STICKS, the exhilarating and imaginative real-life journey of TAKING THE HORSE TO EAT JALEBIS from theatre-turned-film director Anamika Haksar, and PHOTOGRAPH from The Lunchbox director Ritesh Batra.
-Director Megha Ramaswamy’s THE ODDS would close out the festival on April 14. THE ODDS is a coming-of-age tale about two teens who skip school on an important exam day and go on a fantastical journey through Mumbai. THE ODDS features supporting turns from Abhay Deol (Dev D) and Priyanka Bose (Lion) and special appearance by Monica Dogra, all of whom are expected to attend the Gala along with Ramaswamy and co-leads Yashaswini Dayama and Karanvir Malhotra.
Director of Programming Mike Dougherty stops by to talk the 2019 edition of IFFLA, the future of Indian cinema and the increasing acceptance among mainstream American film lovers.
THE BOY BAND CON: THE LOU PEARLMAN STORY is a documentary feature that tells the story of famed boy band impresario Lou Pearlman. The film tracks his life from his childhood in Queens, New York through discovering mega-bands *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, and chronicles his later life, including his perpetration of one of the largest Ponzi schemes in American history. This is the first time this story has ever been told from the perspective of the people involved: from the boy band members themselves, and the Ponzi scheme investors to Lou’s childhood friends. Interview subjects include artists Lance Bass, JC Chasez, and Chris Kirkpatrick (*NSYNC); AJ McLean (Backstreet Boys); and Aaron Carter and Ashley Parker Angel (O-Town). Director, editor and cinematographer Aaron Kunkel (Charlie and the Ghost, The Moment) joins us to talk about an all-too-familiar tale of deception perpetrated by a trusted, likable and conflicted con artist.
“The Boy Band Con, The Lou Pearlman Story is a film wrought with both truth and lies, and Lance and I, and the whole team at Pilgrim, really took to heart uncovering what was real story amongst all the rumors, half-truths and full-blown falsehoods. Lou wove a tangled web. As Johnny Wright, the former manager of Backstreet and *NSYNC says, Lou was like a tabloid: there’s 10 percent of truth to what he says, and the rest is Lou taking it where he wants. We’re living in a time when truth and lies seem to blur together more and more and I wanted to examine the differences between them, while also exploring why they’re becoming – and in a lot of ways may always have been – difficult to tell apart.” – Director Aaron Kunkel
“It may be an all-too-familiar refrain – trusted music manager rips off his clients – but “The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story” sets it in the broader, more intriguing context of the age-old pursuit of those twin trappings, fame and fortune.” – Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times
“Told in jaw-dropping fashion, the The Lou Pearlman Story follows the famed musical talent scout…to the Harvey Weinstein/Bernie Madoff figure he would ultimately become.” – Robert Daniels, ThatShelf.com
“As Kunkel structures the doc, it’s like “Here’s this guy who nobody completely understands, now let’s go back in time and … nobody understood him then, either.” I prefer that to cheap and specious psychoanalyzing.” – Dan Feinberg, Hollywood Reporter
“The Boy Band Con’s most remarkable feat is showing how Pearlman’s two crowning achievements were merely cogs in the vast machinery of his deception.” – Bryan Rolli, The Daily Dot
In BILLBOARD Casey Lindeweiler (John Robinson) inherits WTYT 960 from his legendary radioman father only to discover that it’s on the brink of financial collapse. To right the sinking ship, Casey pulls out the oldest trick in radio, the wacky contest. His grand plan is to host a billboard sitting contest where four people will live on a catwalk in front of a billboard for the chance of winning a mobile home and “nine-sixty thousand” dollars. Unprepared for the spotlight, Casey rises to the challenge of running a business but is faced with relentless attacks from his competition (Eric Roberts), the local authorities, the media, and mother nature herself. Casey struggles to keep his father’s legacy alive while fighting to stay independent.BILLBOARD is inspired by an actual billboard-sitting contest Zelker recalls from his youth. BILLBOARD, which stars: John Robinson (Elephant, Lords of Dogtown). Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse, The Princess Diaries), Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, Grey’s Anatomy), Leo Fitzpatrick (Kids, Bully), DarleneCates (What’s Eating Gilbert Grapes, Picket Fences), and Oakes Fegley (Pete’s Dragon, This is Where I Leave You). A long-time pioneer in what has been called “transmedia” entertainment, Zelker is committed to changing the face of film. The “Billboard cine•experience,” tells variations of its story in different ways per medium, which is something unique and not yet fully embraced by the mainstream movie industry. Zelker exploresmultiple sides of the narrative and is unafraid to push traditional boundary lines between truth and fiction; all while enabling audiences to become a part of the story. The innovative filmmaker Zeke Zelker joins us to talk about his approach to creating an entire cinematic eco-system and why it is so important for filmmakers to seek out new ways of engaging an audience.
DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE tells the tale of two policemen, one an old-timer, Ridgemen, (Mel Gibson), the other his volatile younger partner, Anthony, (Vince Vaughn), who find themselves suspended when a video of their strong-arm tactics become the media’s cause du jour. Low on cash and with no other options, these two embittered soldiers descend into the criminal underworld to gain their just due, but instead find far more than they wanted awaiting them in the shadows. What bad things will good men do for their families? In the hardboiled world of DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE, who lives, who dies, and who gets rich is a fate written in bullets. Director S. Craig Zahler stops to talk about his stylishly brutal, modern day film noir and his determination to tell this story on his own terms.
“S. Craig Zahler’s latest film is a true master stroke in filmmaking. It is elegantly slow, contained, precise and notably beautifully framed throughout.” – Ben Ralph, Discussing Film
“Anchored by three brilliant central performances, Dragged Across Concrete is an interesting, unpredictable movie that presents two plots that feel like we’ve seen them before and then zigs when we expect it to zag.” – Sean Fallon, Film Inquiry
“S. Craig Zahler is a singular voice in cinema, one who is willing to take pulp concepts and craft them into unflinchingly violent features.” – Niall Browne, Movies in Focus
“Few filmmakers come to mind who could orchestrate these slow-burning set pieces with such precision; it’s like watching a chess game in which everyone thinks they’re a king but most of them are pawns” – Michael Nordine, IndieWire
The story of the United California Bank Robbery is one of the greatest stories never told. Back in 1972, the leader of a small group of safecrackers from Youngstown, Ohio got a tip from Jimmy Hoffa: President Nixon was hiding up to $30 million in dirty campaign funds in a bank in Laguna Niguel. Propelled by their hatred for Nixon, the gang travelled to California to rip off the President of The United States. “Finding Steve McQueen” is an unbelievable true story about one of the most daring bank jobs of all time. But at its heart it’s a story about identity. Who we are versus who we want to be — and what happens when those worlds collide. FINDING STEVE MCQUEEN features Travis Fimmel (“Vikings,” Warcraft: The Beginning, The Experiment), Rachael Taylor (Transformers, “Jessica Jones”, Shutter,) William Fichtner (“Mom,” Black Hawk Down, Crash, Armageddon) and Forest Whitaker (Black Panther, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Last King of Scotland). The film is directed by Mark Steven Johnson (Ghost Rider, Daredevil and Grumpy Old Men) is the true story behind “Finding Steve McQueen” one of those fascinating footnotes in American History that deserves to be told. And with a crooked president in the White House and a scandal looming…it’s a story that has never been more relevant. Director Mark Steven Johnson (Grumpy Old Men) stops by to talk about his beguiling stranger-than-fiction tale of politically motivated larceny and the love of a true Hollywood icon.
“[Director Mark Steven Johnson takes] what would have been a rather bland heist story and mix it with a mediocre love story to create an enjoyable final product. It’s an example of getting the most out of the material at hand.” – Rick Bentley, Tribune News Service
“Veteran director Johnson knows to prioritize his characters instead of his own cleverness, while Enzo’s motivating anger about bad men like Nixon reaching the highest levels of power without being punished for their crimes has a resonance today.” – Sherilyn Connelly, SF Weekly
“A slickly made piece of entertainment that’s a good time out at the movies.” – Walter Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle