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Dances With Films is well underway, but there are plenty of great films yet to make their world premiere!  ”Wink,” a new short film by Monika Petrillo, is one of these exceptional films that comprises an extraordinary line up at this year’s festival.

Melanie (Caitlin Brandes) appears to live the perfect life in her perfectly kept house with a perfectly manicured yard in the perfect little neighborhood.   This is the epitome of suburbia.  Today is her anniversary, but the evening does not work out as planned thanks to her distracted, workaholic  husband.  Not allowing his negligence to get theWINK still (dinner) better of her, she buries her emotions and continues on with her evening.  What happens the next day spices up her life in a most unusual way, but is this something she can tell her husband?  Or will this just be her little secret?

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

“Wink” is a beautiful story filled with an array of emotions while using very little dialogue.  Brandes is exceptional as she portrays this bored housewife looking for and needing a little attention from her not-so-perfect husband (Michael Chandler).  Her eyes, with just a glance or a sudden twinkle, engage you and connect you to her.   Quite interestingly, there is a parallel life being lead by the little goldfish she is caring for…she, like the goldfish, seems trapped and confined.  As she gives this little guy a “change of scenery,” she also finds a way to add a little spice to her day.  And in a blink of an eye, we all share her secret.

The story itself is beautiful and rich, but Petrillo’s attention to each and every detail make this short film quite remarkable.  The set design is impeccable, carefully matching the personality of this young couple.  The colors are equally rich and the piano music playing in the background add a tasteful touch to every scene.  With this dialogue-light film, the body language and the extraneous sounds are used to augment  Melanie’s emotions— from the incessant twirling of a napkin ring to the tapping of a spoon on a tea cup, Melanie’s reactions are familiar and simply sublime.

Petrillo’s screenwriting and editing is so succinct that by the end of the film, you feel as if you are in on Melanie’s secret.  I dare you not to have a smirk on your face as you watch the final scene.  And I guarantee that you will never hear or utter the words, “How was your day?” the same way again.  While Melanie’s day was a very unique one, we are reminded to make each and every day a little special.

Photo Monika Petrillo (2 MB)

“Wink” premieres in L.A. at Dances With Films on Tuesday, June 6 at 5 pm as a part of the Fusion Shorts Program.  For more information and tickets, go to danceswithfilms.com/wink.  Follow “Wink” on Facebook at facebook.com/winkshortfilm

Be sure to check back for an interview with the filmmaker with FF2 Media in the coming days.

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Devin Rice’s new film “Being Black Enough or (How to Kill a Black Man)” is an emotionally and intellectually  confrontational film addressing racism and perception. I had the pleasure of talking with Rice and his co-star/co-producer (and fiance) Jaqueline Corcos about the genesis of the film and how you create a big budget movie for less than $25k!  Their answers are just as enlightening as the film itself.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

“Being Black Enough” is based  upon Rice’s personal experiences of being told he wasn’t black enough.  As a youngster, after hearing this, he recalled feeling saddened by the words, but as he grew up, he generally shrugged it off as he knew there was no malice behind those words.  The character of Cody (Rice)  experiences the same thing as well as many other real life situations replicated in the film, but takes the reaction to a whole new level.   Cody is a young college student who was raised in a predominately white neighborhood.  He begins to question his identity as a Black man and what this truly means by seeking out his cousin Kyle (Bruce Lemon) who lives in the dangerous L.A. neighborhood of Compton.   GiveScreen Shot 2017-05-10 at 11.16.33 AMn all the privileges anyone would need to succeed, Cody tosses this to the wind, emulating his cousin and his gangster friends.    Kyle initially pacifies his little cousin, attempting to show him that this life isn’t for him, but Cody spirals downward quickly, grasping on to any sense of camaraderie and convincing himself that he’s fighting for what he believes is right.  The cost may be more than he bargained for.

“Being Black Enough” begins with a sense of humor as this bright young man listens to Tupac, singing along, and his mom observing unbeknownst to him. He’s embarrassed, as any kid would be.  His conversation with his mom is endearing, but there is a pain behind his words or perhaps an emptiness and he is looking to fill that void.  Cody’s attempts to become “more black” are also quite humorous as he imitates what he sees in mainstream media. Blurring the lines of his reality, Cody begins to sever his ties with one of his best friends—Serah, a white woman (Corcos) who is in the police academy—as well as his family.  As you watch Cody quickly become engulfed in this very dangerous world, you still hold out hope that he can come back from the edge of the cliff.

Talking him off that edge is his wise-beyond-his-years cousin Kyle.  He has seen it all and has experienced it all in his very short life.  His attempts to guide Cody are emotionally poignant and eloquent.  He is educating not only Cody, but the viewer as to what it means to be Black and what it means to be a Black man in this hostile environment.  Gang wScreen Shot 2017-05-10 at 11.05.08 AMarfare is real.  The consequences are real.  And there are no winners.  It’s the truth of what’s happening every day in every city.  Rice shared with me the spark that ignited writing this film—a Youtube video about a young Black man who challenged the police to shoot him after stealing a bottle of liquor.  He said, “This has to be written because this can’t happen [anymore].”

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 11.08.32 AMThe conflicts we see within the community are reminiscent of “West Side Story’s” the Sharks and the Jets.  There are leaders, retaliation, and a love that is forbidden.  Rice readily shared with me that West Side Story was a huge influence on the film.  He also admitted that there’s a 4 hour version of the film that fully utilizes all the parallel story lines found within that amazing musical.  While “Being Black Enough” in its 90 minute version is not a musical, music is a huge component and driving force behind the film.  Rice had originally written this story or a version of it many years ago while in high school when 50 Cent was all the rage.  The story grew to be more complex than the original because “…I really had more life experience…and with the way the music has changed in the last 10 years, rap music has gone in an even stronger direction.”  Tupac’s lyrics ring true to this young character as he embraces his every word.  The film also brings elements of Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” to the forefront as we see racism, lack of future hope, and police perception in this film, but as Rice explained, “We made the film before ‘Chi-Raq.’”

Rice expertly weaves together a complicated story of today’s racial imbalances and perception and then somehow portrays the innocence of love with the utmost of care.  No matter our race, we can empathize with Cody’s need for identity and longing for love.  How he achieves this is another story.  We see him innocently stepping into a war zone and we better understand the circumstances under which these young men are surviving.  They are not living; they are surviving.

Rice and Corcos are exceptionally strong as actors and the supporting cast is equally skilled.  Finding these unknown and unpaid actors speaks volumes to the story’s depth and importance.  Rice and Corcos passionately spoke about finding these exceptional actors as being a “magical” moment.  Corcos said, “Somehow they just came, all the right people.”  I would have to agree that all the right people were drawn to being a part of a film that has a powerful message, one that resonates with many and is applicable to us all.  Rice said, “I wanted people to realize that you can just be yourself.  You don’t have to destroy yourself and lose yourself…just because other people have this idea of what you’re supposed to be.  Don’t stereotype yourself…Expand yourself.  Use your culture to expand who you are and not limit who you are.”  Crocos supported Rice’s statement wholeheartedly and added, “It’s not just about this one race…Just be true to who you are…We really hope this movie can save some lives.”

“Being Black Enough” is shot with absolute precision.  The attention to every detail brings you into the scene so that we are as much a part of the film as Cody.  The range of emotions we feel, captured through the art of cinematography is extraordinary.  We feel the bond between he and his mom as they lie on the grass outside, chatting like friends.  We gasp and almost duck as the bullets come flying from every direction.  And we hold our breath as we see what might possibly happen next. Creating this high calibre of a film for the price tag of $23k seems impossible, but for Rice and Corcos, educating themselves in all areas of filmmaking enabled them to have this highly polished final product.  Rice wore not only the writer and director hats, but also the cinematographer.  Rice and Corcos “…watched all of Kubrick’s best films, Spielberg’s, and Quentin’s.”  Rice continued, “I wanted to see what the greatest movies looked like and I wanted to see a bunch of low budget indie movies like “El Mariachi” and “Clerks” [to see] what kind of mixed techniques from the two…we can use.  Corcos interjected, “Devin [said] we need to make this movie for a crazy low budget, but it needs to look like a huge Hollywood movie.”  It does.  Corcos also said with a huge note of gratitude in her voice, “With locations, I just basically asked people [and] got everything for free” including a cop car!  Crocos attributed the generosity of the community to the powerful message of the film.

The message of this film comes through loud and clear, but without the impressive story-telling skills of Rice, it wouldn’t have been so brilliantly bold and beautiful.  It’s a great story told remarkably well—exactly what a film is supposed to be.  To see this poignantly creative film, go to Dances With Films

 

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As printed in the June 2, 2017 edition of The Daily Journal:

 

“Wonder Woman” has created quite a stir — frankly, because she’s a superhero who happens to be female. And, get ready for even more shocking news: Director Patty Jenkins also is a woman.

 

It seems to some that the axis of the world is wobbling uncontrollably. To add insult to injury, the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, held a “women only” screening of the film, garnering an outcry from overlooked men everywhere. Poor dears. Excluded from a movie screening … in one town … for one night. What’s next? Women comprising 50 percent of Congress?

 

The question remains amid a focus on feminism: Does the new “Wonder Woman” (played by Gal Gadot) live up to all the hype? The answer is yes. It’s an action-packed movie that will entertain (are you ready for this?) both sexes.

To read the rest of the review, click HERE

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TOMORROW, MAYBE

Written and directed by Jace Daniel

Starring:  Robert Blanche, Bethany Jacobs, and Grant Davis

A father-daughter bond and relationship can be an important foundation in a young girl’s development.  Jace Daniel shows us what happens between his two main characters, Lloyd (Robert Blanche) and Iris (Bethany Jacobs) who have anything but an ideal father-daughter relationship in the new film “Tomorrow, Maybe.”  This beautiful depiction of a father’s attempt to redeem himself after spending several years in prison will premiere at Dances With Films on Sunday, June 4th.  

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

tmblancheLloyd is not going to receive the Father of the Year award, there’s no doubt about that.  Going away to prison is the least of his transgressions in the world of fatherhood.  He was rarely a part of his daughter Iris’ life even before that time.  And now, being released from prison, Lloyd wants nothing more than to be forgiven by Iris and to be a part of her life.  Iris, experiencing marital issues of her own, is understandably reluctant to allow Lloyd back into her life, but that bond between the two still hangs on by a thread.  Her husband, Bobby (Grant Davis) is an abusive alcoholic tmbethnywho happens to be a police officer and the antagonistic behaviors challenge Lloyd to not cross any lines yet still protect the one thing he holds dear to him—his daughter.

“Tomorrow, Maybe,” creates a complicated story which typifies many of life’s possible situations.  Lloyd is an ex-con and having paid for his crime, he remains unwelcome in social envtmgrantironments as well as the work force.  He is a changed man, but leaving behind his past is impossible.  He truly wants to be a better father, but when is it too late?  The fallout that occurs when a parent isn’t there is sometimes irreparable. And the psychology behind our choices, first as daughters and then as women, can be greatly influenced by our fathers.  Iris is drawn to Bobby who is struggling with his identity which pushes him further away from Iris and deeper into his alcoholic hole.  This film beautifully weaves together all of these issues into a compelling tale of life, forgiveness, understanding, and redemption.

Bringing these complicated and realistic characters to life requires a talented cast and “Tomorrow, Maybe” resoundingly succeeds.  Blanche fits his character to a “t.”  We are immediately connected to this reformed man with a heart of gold and feel his pain and sorrow through his emotional eyes and body language.  Jacobs shines as his strong and independent daughter who is caught in a difficult situation.  Her struggle is evident and we feel her conflicted emotions regarding her husband and her father.  Davis is extraordinary.  His role has many layers which are revealed ever so slowly with absolute precision.  All of the characters feel real which also gives credit to the writing and directing of Daniel.  On the surface, the film appears simple, but the emotional complexities are boldly evident.  It’s a riveting drama with striking cinematography that captures and accentuates the emotional depth of the film.

For more information about “Tomorrow, Maybe,” go to www.tomorrowmaybethemovie.com

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Written and directed by Christina Eliopoulos

Starring: Joe Cortese and Azhy Robertson

Dementia is not a normal part of aging, yet it affects an ever-growing population of elderly—roughly 47 million people worldwide.  Alzheimer’s Disease is the most recognizable form of dementia, but there are several other types.  What they all have in common is the catastrophic toll it takes on the brain, creating disturbances in perception and rational thinking and most importantly, confusion of time, place, and identification of people.  Understanding this progressive neurological disease from an affected person’s point of view is key in gaining not only knowledge,  but empathy.  Films like “The Father and the Bear,” “The Genius of Marian,” and “The Silver Tsunami” are a few films that touch upon this.  And now, thanks to filmmaker Christina Eliopoulos, we have a wonderfully creative story in “Tonight and Every Night” that takes us inside the mind of “Yianni” (Joe Corese) who wanders off and befriends a little boy he calls “Boss” (Azhy Robertson).

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

tonight-and-every-nightYianni appears to be the host of a popular late night talk show, Johnny Carson style.  He’s witty, charming and has an amazing array of talented guests on his show, from Charlie the Egg Man (Mark Gindick) to Lanetta (Tara Murtha) the waitress.  Yianni is roused from his wandering mind and back into reality when he meets a little boy who, as children tend to do, asks some point-blank questions.  Yianni has a special connection with this little guy and their conversations are telling of what each of them truly needs in their own stages of life.

“Tonight and Every Night” beautifully intertwines Yianni’s reality into the real world, two different places, and touches upon his most emotional memories.   The characters in Yianni’s mind are every bit as vibrant as the surrounding scenery.  It’s gorgeously shot, easily transporting us from the land of make-believe to the wide open expanse of confusion in reality. Eliopoulos’s use of the little boy in this film opens us up to the realization that we all understand a child’s development, but do we understand the degeneration of someone suffering from dementia?  With Corese’s stellar performance, we are able to get a glimpse inside this disease and gain that understanding as our loved ones decline.

The small and talented cast, sometimes performing multiple roles, give us a behavioral mirror into which to look.  Each of us connects with one another and that connection remains strong.  Supporting one another can be difficult at times, but the more we can walk in someone else’s shoes, the easier the load.  ”Tonight and Every Night” gives us a well-fitting pair of shoes to try on.

“Tonight and Every Night” opens the door of dementia and holds our hand to lead us through the journey of understanding.  Rarely does a film create an empathetic viewpoint, but Eliopoulos skillfully does so.  It’s a poignant and meaningful film that is remarkably socially relevant in today’s world.

“Tonight and Every Night” is part of the Shorts 3 program at Dances With Films on Saturday, June 3 at 5 pm.  For ticket information, go to DANCES WITH FILMS TICKETS

For more information about this film go to www.tonightandeverynight.com

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ELIZA SHERMAN’S REVENGE

Written and directed by Gregory Fitzsimmons

Starring: Jackie Geary, Kristen Miller, Kiva Jump, Mageina Tovah, Larry Bates, Jamison Haase, and Mike Rock

Dances With Films, the independent film festival taking place June 1 through 11, is providing viewers with some of the most creative and entertaining films of any festival.  ”Eliza Sherman’s Revenge,” is no exception to this wonderful rule.  With a “tag line” of “forgiveness is overrated,” you know immediately that you are in for a hilarious and perhaps dark adventure.  When a film makes you laugh out loud non-stop while you gasp at some of the events, you know you have a winner.

Eliza Sherman (Jackie Geary), through a bizarre exchange at Coachella with a band member, now possesses a few super human traits.  Feeling wronged and bullied by her former roommates from 10 years ago, she’s about to set the story straight.  She invites the three women and their significant others over for a birthday party for a famous actor—Richard Grieco.  Enticed to meet this man, they all begrudgingly show up.  Their “party” just turned into a nightmare—they must apologize for their past wrong-doings.

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There’s no warm-up in this film.  The opening scene is a launching pad into a no holds barred, fine-tuned comedy.  Rachel Fowler (Kristen Miller) is rehearsing how she will say hello to her long-lost “friend” with absolutely no sincerity in her voice or her eyes.  She is exactly the woman everyone loves to hate.  She’s beautiful, smart, savvy, and as emotionally deep as a puddle in the street in mid-summer.  The disdain in her voice as she greets Eliza at the doorway is palpable and already we are rooting for Eliza to win at whatever the game is going to be.  Bethany Higgins (Kiva Jump)  counterbalances Rachel’s personality with an overwhelmingly high-strung, jumpy, and overprotective “mom” mode.   She and her hubby, Tyler (Larry Bates) couldn’t be more opposite as she counts his predetermined quota of drinks for the night.  And then we have Jodi (Mageina Tovah) and her Tinder-swiped boyfriend, Aaron (Mike Rock) who is set on changing her personality to a clean-living, health nut.  Eliza’s distaste for her guests is evident, but with the promise of Grieco showing up, the guests talk amongst themselves, backstabbing Eliza incessantly while she cooks a “gourmet” dinner.  The mood is set and Eliza strikes—with salsa.  The group wakes up from their drug-induced sleep the next day to find that Eliza has trapped them using a force field and attempts to intimidate them with her lightning-striking fingers.  Apologize for their past transgressions or pay the price.  The truth of the past is revealed as well as their true personalities which quickly bubble to the surface.  There are even a few lessons are to be learned, perhaps the hard way.

Sound confusing?  It’s not.  It’s all remarkably clear and concise with a tight script and perfectly timed execution of lines.  It’s a crazy cast of characters played by  extraordinarily talented actors who have honed their comedic skills with the sharpness of the knife Rachel attempts to stab Eliza with.  The story plays out quickly, darting from topic to topic, taking you on this whirlwind of a ride.  The fast-paced tempo of the dialogue keeps you glued to the screen, not wanting to miss a single hysterical and often-times unexpected quip.  For comedy to work, it’s got to be smart and this is the Einstein of comedies.

There’s not a weak link in the group, but Jackie Geary is the lead as Eliza Sherman and she nails it as the “Carrie” type who is hell-bent on seeking revenge.   Geary uses her articulate and no-nonsense delivery  to lead the group, setting up the situations for the comedy of errors to unfold.  Miller is stellar as as “the worst” of all the former roommates and Bates simply shines as the bullied and controlled spouse.  The unexpected and wonderful surprise standout role is the pizza delivery guy who Craig Ricci Shaynak creates beautifully.  This small but extraordinarily talented cast with deft direction and succinct editing  give us a preeminent dark comedy that will keep you in stitches the entire time.

“Eliza Sherman’s Revenge” is a brilliantly funny film opening on Saturday, June 3 at 9:30 pm.   For ticket information, go to www.danceswithfilm.com/eliza-shermans-revenge/

 

 

 

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“Wonder Woman” has created quite a stir and quite frankly it’s just because she’s a super hero who happens to be female.  And, get ready for even more shocking news, the director is also a woman (Patty Jenkins).  It seems that the very axis of the world is wobbling uncontrollably because of “Wonder Woman.”  To add insult to injury, the Austin, TX Alamo Drafthouse held a “women only” screening of the super hero film which has garnered an outcry from overlooked men everywhere.  Poor dears.  Excluded from a movie screening…in one town…for one night.  The entire situation brings tears to my eyes.  What’s next?  50% of Congress is comprised of women?

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

The question remains, is the new “Wonder Woman,” starring the mesmerizingly gorgeous Gal Gadot and the handsomely charismatic Chris Pine going to live up to all the hype?  The answer is yes.  While this character has been around for quite some time—Wonder Woman is a founding member of the Justice League—and portrayed in comic books, animated shows, and television by Lynda Carter back in the 1970’s, it’s been decades since this or any female has been a lead character in a super hero movie.  And I think we all know how many super hero movies there have been recently!

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This new “Wonder Woman” is an action-packed movie filled with evil characters as well as the requisite love story and misfit hero helpers that will entertain (are you ready for this?) both sexes.  Here’s the one resounding difference:  all the women are strong, intelligent, independent, and fit.  What a role model for young girls!  No damsels in distress.  No emaciated model-types looking gaunt and weak.  It’s pure strength and equality.

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We meet the young Wonder Woman aka Diana  as an adorable, precocious and head-strong little girl (Lilly Aspell) who works her way into your heart.  As she grows, her mother, the Queen of the Amazonians (Connie Nielsen) is hesitant about training her to be a warrior and leader.  There are secrets she does not share until one day, a WWII plane crashes and Diana rescues the pilot, Capt. Steve Trevor (Pine), a spy for the British Army.  The Germans find him and bring catastrophic death to the women.  Diana, bound by her moral commitment to help all, leaves the island and travels with Trevor to London in search of the God of War, Aries, to kill him and bring peace back to the world.

 

“Wonder Woman” starts off strong and keeps this powerful pace going for most of the film.  The story is familiar, as would be expected in all super hero movies, but there are fresh aspects to it that keep you glued to the screen.  The humor interwoven into the film’s fabric create overt as well as subtle moments of laughter—reproductive necessities, shopping for just the right outfit (“Outfit #224), and the inequalities of women’s rights during that time period all create a comedic relief.  There are also quite a few socially relevant statements that still ring true to today’s times if you listen carefully.

 

Casting Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman is nothing short of perfection.  Visually, she is absolutely stunning, yet there is so much more to her performance than just a pretty face.  She has depth and heart—exactly what you would expect from her character.  By her side is the equally talented Pine who embodies the hero with charm and humor and together the two hold viewers spellbound.  Nielsen creates a tough mother and queen character, but  also gives us one of the most touching moments in the film.  As she parts from Diana, her words of wisdom are perhaps words all mothers should utter regarding worthiness.  In fact, the entire cast shines in their respective roles creating this comic book/real life amalgam of a world.

 

Special effects and precision of choreographed fighting play an enormous role in “Wonder Woman,” adding an element of captivating fantasy.   Using slow-motion in a Guy Ritchie-type of fashion paired with unique camera perspectives give “Wonder Woman” that comic book flare.  Where this film fails is the non-stop battle and explosions for the final 30 minutes.  This seems to be typical of ALL super hero movies.  While the end is fitting, a bit of editing could have made this film stand out even more from all the rest.

 

“Wonder Woman” will definitely live up to the hype and DC Comics couldn’t be any happier to have broadened their already large viewer base.  Setting examples of strong, independent, fit women is something to support.  It’s a daring move by Warner Bros. to attempt to feature a female this way.  Maybe the movies can pave the way to see women in a more equal light.  Perhaps we can all be Wonder Women.

 

 

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Writer and director Tyler Savage’s first full-length feature film “Inheritance” is every adoptive adult’s dream and nightmare come true.  Ryan (Chase Joliet) is a hard working carpenter who has a visit from a lawyer explaining that his biological father has passed away and left him a multimillion dollar beach house—completely updated!  He and his girlfriend, Isi (Sara Montez), immediately pack their bags to discover and explore what treasures lie ahead.  Ryan, a rather reserved and brooding young man, is hesitant about celebrating their good fortune.  Perhaps it’s because of his father’s note telling him to sell immediately.  Ryan doesn’t heed his father’s warning and through old photos and “visitors,” Ryan finds his ancestral roots.  Some things are better left dead and buried.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

INHERITANCE-1.still“Inheritance” is a classic supernatural thriller, incorporating all the aspects of horror filmmaking that make you jump.  It’s intense from the beginning—always worrying about what’s around the corner.  The suspense builds at the perfect pace as you are drawn into the mystery set before you.   While Savage masterfully uses these familiar techniques to set you on edge, there is also something extraordinarily different about this film—it makes you think.  Savage leads you down a path with clues to the past as well as the future and you must put this information together to find the truth.

The additional cast of characters including Allie played by the incomparable Ashley Spillers and Bonnie played by  the talented Krisha Fairchild, give viewers a few more vital pieces of information to make us question the relationship between nature and nurture and how much really is within our control.  Little by little, never revealing too much, you put the pieces together only to be blown away at the end.

INHERITANCE.stillSavage does a remarkable job creating an intense supernatural thriller that’s smart.  There is a precise balance with suspense, relief, and shockingly horrific (and gruesome) incidents.  Directing this talented ensemble cast brings the film to a higher level with Joliet portraying the troubled and conflicted young man with uncompromising skill.  We see in his eyes the longing to find answers juxtaposed with his new-found information and how it is affecting his relationship with the sweet, adoring, and pregnant Isi.  Montez’ natural and genuine portrayal of Isi creates a sense of reality not only in her relationship with Ryan, but with the story itself.  She’s in love with this young man who is changing before her eyes.  We feel her internal conflict and understand her decisions completely.  Dale DINHERITANCE.still.7ickey finds a way to shine in the role of the motivated realtor and Krisha Fairchild gives a disturbingly wonderful performance as the nosey and well-informed next door neighbor.  Skillful writing, deft direction, striking cinematography, and a talented cast create an outstanding film in this genre.

“Inheritance” is a step above the typical supernatural horror/thriller films.  Using psychology and intellect to lure viewers into solving the puzzle of Ryan’s life, the film becomes unique and simply spell-binding.  ”Inheritance” opens on Friday, June 2 at 9:30 pm at the TCL Chinese 6.  For ticket information, go to www.danceswithfilms.com/inheritance

 

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Described as “fiercely independent,” Dances With Films (DWF), now in its 20th year, is set to screen 75 world premiere feature films including documentaries, narratives, and shorts beginning June 1-11, 2017.  This festival, always a favorite for fans and filmmakers alike, doesn’t cater to the “celebrity” aspect of filmmaking.  This festival relies “… on the innovation, talent, creativity and sweat equity that revolutionized the entertainment industry. ”  And now, in its 20th year, this is as evident as ever with the calibre of films that will screen over the 11 days at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Los Angeles.

DWF is open to the public with tickets priced at $13 prior to June 1 and $15 after that date.  With so many great films, it’s hard to choose, but after careful examination, I have several recommendations.  But don’t limit yourself to these!  Use them as a guide and be sure to take a few chances—you just might find that hidden gem before a big distribution company does!

The DWF Full Line Up of Films

THE RECOMMENDATIONS:

Narrative Feature Films include 27 uniquely creative films.

There are 27 uniquely creative films, but “D-Love” written by Dave Rogers and directed by Elena Beuca, should be tops on your list.  This real-life husband-wife couple take their own life-changing experience, cast themselves in the lead roles, and create an amazingly emotional and powerful film capturing hope in relationD Love Posterships and our connections with others—no matter how random they seem.  When a film leaves you speechless, with tears rolling down your cheeks, and you find your hand over your heart as you watch the final scene fade to black, you know you have just seen a masterpiece.  Read the review here

If supernatural dramas are more your cup of tea, put “Inheritance” on your list.  (Read the review here)  Tyler Savage writes and directs this dream come true/nightmare of any adult adoptee.  Ryan (Chase Joliet) has just inherited a $2 million beach home from his biological father he thought was long-dead.  This blessing soon is evident to be a curse, but is it too late to fight nature or can nurture win out?  It’s an intense thriller that will make you gasp, jump, and think as you put the pieces of this generational puzzle together.

Another thrilling film is “The Midnighters” which  focuses on the crime genre as Victor (Leon Russom), a 35 year ex-convict and expert safe-cracker and Gregory Sims, his long-lost son are reunited to pull of one last and very profitable bank heist.  Filled with unexpected twists and turns, this cinematically gorgeous film will leave you guessing until the bitter end. Read the review here

This category also has an animated feature “Chance,” depicting the brutality of dog fighting.  Chance, a pit bull puppy, is taken from his happy home and placed into the world of underground dog fighting.  This little guy challenges his own kind to stand up for what’s right and put a stop to this brutal and cruel “sport.”

eliza-sherman

Eliza Sherman’s Revenge

Additional Anticipated Highlights:  “Tomorrow, Maybe,” “Austin Found,” “Being Black Enough,” “Eliza Sherman’s Revenge” ((read review here) “Game Day,” “Tater Tot & Patton,” “Imitation Girl,” “Jimmy the Saint,” “The Man from Earth: Holocene,” and “The Scent of Rain & Lightning”

 

 

 

 

Short Films

DWF offers 59 Short Films!  Ranging anywhere from 6 to 33 minutes, most around 15 minutes, short films can pack a lot of punch into a very short time period.  And many short films can go on to become full-length feature films.

panic-attack

Eileen O’Meara’s PANIC ATTACK

“Panic Attack!” is a vibrantly animated short film depicting a typical morning for one woman.  We get inside her head, listening to the mental rabbit hole that she finds herself falling into as she questions whether or not she turned off the coffee maker.  Where this leads is simply extraordinary, spinning out of control.  And I’m guessing that I’m not the only one that is going to laugh out loud because I could completely relate to what happens!

“Wink” creates another vibrantly colorful world in the routine day of a housewife, bored and lacking attention.  Dialogue-light, this inventive short film puts a spot light on what happens when our emotional needs are not met.  It’s surprisingly playful and simple, yet hits some rather complex tones.

“Tonight and Every Night” brings us into the world of a man with dementia as he interacts with a young boy on a beach who is lost and lonely.  It’s a film that will help us all understand this “fractured mind” and our own humanity.

Additional Anticipated Highlights:  “Miriam’s Balloons,” “All the Marbles,” “The Candidate,” “Supermom,” “Effie,” and “Lemon”

Documentaries

to-the-moon-and-back“To The Moon and Back” is incredibly relevant given today’s political uneasiness with Russia.  As the adoption laws from Russia changed, filmmaker Susan Morgan Cooper depicts the coinciding murder of a Moscow lawyer and the accidental death of an adopted Russian child here in the U.S. as they intersect giving us insight to what happened behind the Iron Curtain.  It’s a heartbreaking and nail-biting documentary allowing you to see the facts and come to your own conclusions.

“Melting Stars” takes us on an aquatic journey to find out why there is an epidemic of starfish deaths.

A young 8 year-old girl named Evlin lives in a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border where boldly stands up to ISIS.  She and others like her are resilient as typified byresistance-is-life her resistance and spirit.  “Resistance Is Life” is sure to be an empowering and enlightening new film.

 

 

 

Downbeat

If music is in your veins, you’re in luck with DWF’s “Downbeat” Section.  Featuring short films as well as full-length features with an underlying musical beat, this category has every genre represented.

alientologists-2 (1)“Alientologists” is a futuristic sci-fi story that promises to give us an introspective chuckle as we meet futuristic space “paleontologists.”  Finding garbage in orbit from the now-defunct Earth, these scientists attempt to make deductions about the creatures that inhabited that planet.

“Don’t Feed the Party Animal” takes us back to the 1950′s with the band Miracles of Modern Science’s music video.  A wallflower wants nothing more than to win the heart of the popular girl across the dance room floor, but how will he overcome his dreaded fears and win her over?

“Red” takes Taylor Swifts’ song of the same name and puts a meaningful and profound story behind it.  Told from a caregiver’s perspective, we delve into the world of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.  This looks to be a sincere and unique story that will capture your heart and your mind.

Midnight

That brings us to the Midnight selection.   This category also gives us a selection of shorts and features—a perfect array.  From “2AM” to “G-4,” and “How2Kill” to “Paul’s Bad Day,” there’s a movie for everyone’s darker side.

Check back for more full reviews of many of these films as well as interviews with the filmmakers!  For a complete schedule and ticket information, go to DancesWithFilms.com/schedule

 

 

 

D Love Poster

When a film leaves you speechless, with tears rolling down your cheeks, and you find your hand over your heart as you watch the final scene fade to black, you know you have just seen a masterpiece.  First-time director Elena Beuca and husband/writer Dave Rogers take their own life-changing experience, cast the lead roles with the actual rIMG_8151smalleal-life characters, and bring us a story filled with heartbreak and hope—hope in the meaning of life and the goodness of others in “D-Love.”

“D-Love” stars Beuca and Rogers as Stefania and Dan Michaels, a couple in the midst of a calm crisis.  Upon returning from a vacation abroad, awaiting finding their car at LAX, the two are approached by  Ditlev Dharmakaya (D-Love), a young free-spirit asking for a lift going east.   It’s apparent from the outset that Stefania and Dan are at odds with one another, their marriage struggling to stay afloat.  Inviting this young “vagabond” to stay with them is not a part of Stefania’s plan, but Dan welcomes him with open arms.  Over the next three days, Dan and StefaJQ4A1538smallnia confront their buried thoughts, feelings, and emotions, as the centered and calm D-Love appears to be the grounded force allowing them to find who they were meant to be.  ”D-Love” is simply beautiful with its powerfully emotional themes that could easily be a part of anyone’s life.  It touches upon the very core of who we are as people and how we evolve in life and relationships.

Stefania is in a thankless job with a boss who is verbally cruel and abusive.  She is the bread-winner, but is resentful of Dan’s inability to pick himself back up after losing both of his parents.  He drinks too much…way too much.  The resentment she harbors toward Dan is palpable.  While Dan’s personality seems to be more of the comedic type, he too seems lost and together, this couple isn’t on the same page.  D-Love’s easy-going, almost spiritual persona counterbalances the two, but there is always a sense of mistrust from Stefania.  All three characters reveal their inner-most secrets, regrets, and hopes, allowing us to not only understand who and where they are in life, but to empathize with them.  While D-Love’s personality may not be typical, there is an admiration for this wise-beyond-his-years young man who seems to have figured out the meaning of life.

What sets “D-Love” apart from so many movies is the unique story-line and the genuineness of the characters’ development.  Using the real-life characters to portray themselves is also quite

IMG_9341small daring, but it works.  Beuca’s performance as Stefania is wonderfully heartfelt, capturing the real emotions of life’s ups and downs until she reaches a tipping point.  Balancing this role with directing could have been a daunting task, but for her, this appears to be as natural as her performance.  Rogers as writer and lead is equally skilled as he portrays a man who deeply cares, but is struggling emotionally.  Humor paired with a complex and delicious cabernet are his tools for coping.  It is the unusual performance by Dharmakaya as D-Love that is simply breathtaking.  His ability to bring a sense of calmness to each scene makes you sit back and truly hear his thought-provoking words.  He’s beautifully unique in every sense of the word.  Together, this small ensemble cast creates one of the most well-balanced and meaningful stories about life and love.

If the powerful and real story isn’t enough to win you over to “D-Love,” then adding the gorgeous cinematography will.  Each and every shot brings you into the moment, visually and emotioJQ4A0983smallnally.  We feel the claustrophobic situations of Stefania’s work situation, the walls closing in on her home as she is unable to find freedom from the impact of her brother’s death, and the soothing and serene open areas, allow you to experience a sense of healing.

“D-Love” is an impressive directorial debut for Beuca.  This gorgeous and rich story is filled with love and heart reminding us about what is truly important in life and the connections we make.

“D-Love” premieres at the film festival Dances With Films on Saturday, June 3rd at 7:15 pm.  For more ticket information, go to DWF TICKETS