Wednesday, April 26, 2017

SIDE A SIDE B (2017) New York Indian Film Festival 2017

Sudhish Kamath's SIDE A SIDE B is something special. A kind of mix tape romance it's a film that shouldn't work as well as it does but instead it pulls it all together to be something deeply affecting. While I'm weirdly surprised that the film works as well as it does I really shouldn't be since Kamath's film X did the impossible and took a film with 11 directors and made it work as if it were one film with one vision.

SIDE A SIDE B is the story of Aiban "Joel" Gogoi and his girlfriend Shivranjani Singh. They are traveling 44 hours by train so that she can take a new job in a big city. Coming from a small town she has never been out on her own and wants to see if she can make it on her own. He fears she will leave and never return. She insists that the time apart will be good since they have been together for years despite being only 21.

The film unfolds as a series of moments from the trip. Each moment is recorded in a long take with multiple angles covered via a natural looking split screen. Each involves a song(s) that the couple sing to each other. The songs reflect some portion of their relationship. We are there as false fronts are put up, true feelings are revealed and the future is discovered in bursts that at times come perilously close to eavesdropping.

I am at a loss for words. This is one of those rare films where I don't want to attempt to review it, I simply want to press a copy into everyone's hand and say see this it is something special. This is a really wonderful film that gets it right pretty much everywhere along the way.

The biggest plus for the film is the music. The songs are absolutely lovely and perfectly capture the moment in the story or some feeling one of the pair is trying to convey but cannot express in unsung words. My first thought half way through the first song was that I would love a copy of the score because I love it so much. (Actually the film could be released as a CD since the film's run time is less than the amount of music of a fully packed CD.)

What makes this special is that the songs are organic to the situation, the songs are performed as they would be if these were real people passing time. They start and stop, lyrics are changed and they talk over each other as they sing. We are with them as they muck about with their music.

Because we are with the two lovers in the train compartment during their trip we really get to know them. Credit director Sudhish Kamath for never really leaving their side since the fact that we see them  as their emotions rise and fall and frequently change on a dime the two become much more than mere movie characters- we get a better sense of them as human beings beyond what we might have had the film chosen to move them about in a bunch of artificially set sequences. Occasionally we do leave the train when we see flashes of their time before or the couple of moments when the tale flashes forward a year to reveal what happened.

I like that Kamath has set some flash backs as quasi-music videos that play  next to or in place of sequences in the train. While the sequences are not always realistic they do counterpoint everything as a kind of memory. (An please-if you can you'll want to see this on the big screen since the use of multiple images will be more impressive than on a TV)

Actors Shivranjani Singh and Rahul Rajkhowa give towering performances. While on some level we know they are not a real couple, they manage to make their character's emotional center more real than most people I know. What transpires between them, the ups and downs is note perfect at least as far as I have experienced. The pair are so good I found myself talking to the screen to say how much the film was on target..

To be honest writing this film up after a single go through is rather difficult. I don't mean that in a bad way, rather simply to point out that Kamath has structured this so deliberately as a film, as a music video and as a mix tape that lovers used to give each other that I simply didn't catch it all. There is a glorious complexity here that makes this way more than your typical romantic drama. The more I think about the film the bigger it grows in my memory. This is an amazing film that seems very simple but the more you look at it you discover hidden details and layers not there on the first time through.I need to actually see this film a couple dozen more times to really be able to really write about it. This film is a masterpiece and needs major consideration and not something that is tossed off to make a deadline.

You must see this film.(And for those of you in the US who don't like subtitles 99% of the film is in English). SIDE A SIDE B is great film and its wonderful construction, glorious songs and masterful performances  mark Sudhish Kamath as a filmmaker who needs to be doing more. He is making films that confound and delight and do things that amaze

And stay past the end credits because there is a wonderful jam afterward

SIDE A SIDE B World Premieres Monda night at the New York Indian Film Festival. For tickets and more information go here

Ariela sings about Rock and Roll (2017) Tribeca 2017

Wow. That is what I said when Rock’n’Roll ended.

Rock’n’Roll stars Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard who are a couple in real life. They play themselves in the film. Canet is on the set of a film in which he plays a father. His co-star, is a young attractive girl who plays his daughter. She mentions that hes not "rock ‘n’ roll", that she and her friends don't fantasize about him, that he's not cool. When he hear this, his ego is bruised and he soon becomes obsessed with wanting to be younger. He wants to be cool, he wants to be "rock n roll", he doesn't want to play fathers in movies, he wants young actor roles. He goes through a mid-life crisis of sorts..he starts dressing younger (leather jacket, tight jeans, wallet chain) and going out to clubs, getting drunk and doing drugs. He really wants to fit in and be the cool guy. This doesn't go over well. Some of the parts were hilarious, but others I wasn't sure whether I should laugh or cry! You definitely feel bad for him(or at least I did).

I loved the dialogues between Canet and Cotillard. Cotillard had many hilarious lines and even her facial expressions often made the audience laugh. She's so cute and just overall great.

I don't want to ruin the film, because I definitely think it's one to see. I liked the first part more than the second. The second was almost a bit too ridiculous and over the top(especially the end). However, after talking to a friend about it, I thought maybe it wasn't all that extreme or ridiculous. I am sure many people in the spotlight feel the same way he does and do many of the things he did. I definitely think the film explores the vanity that people have in Hollywood.

This film was a combination of wacky, funny, sad, and weird.

Take Me (2017) Tribeca 2017

A Netflix release TAKE ME is going to find a long life as film you don't have to pay per head to see. This isn't to imply that the film is bad only that this will play best on TV. The problem with a film like TAKE ME is that once things are set up there is only a few ways it can go. The fact that the outcomes are limited can be helped by the comedy being rip roaring and non stop funny. Unfortunately, while entertaining TAKE ME never achieves the heights it's shooting for.

The plot of the film has Ray running a service that for a fee will kidnap you and hold you hostage. Some people want to be scared into losing weight. Others want a thrill. When Ray get a call from Alicia asking for a whole weekend adventure he's not sure he should take it. But the promise of big money makes him take the job. The trouble is once the ball starts rolling things seem to go sideways and Ray begins to wonder if he is being set up.

Odd ball black comedy is full of humor but is sparing with the laughs. This is a film you smile with not laugh at. That's not a bad thing except that the lack of full on chuckles gives us time to ponder where this is all going. That's not a wholly good thing since we are left with is this set up or not choice and little else- with the result we've written the rest of the film a third of the way in.

I didn't really laugh at all during the film but I found that when it was over I wanted to see it again, largely so I'd know if knowing where it was gong would change how I felt. My over all concern was that the thought of people paying to see this in a movie theater was kind of asking too much of an audience since the film is too small for a big screen.

That said as something to see on Netflix this film is something that is worth trying.

Tribeca ’17: The Escape (short)

Science fiction writer Robert Sheckley was never quite a household name, but he had good success with movie sales. The diverse films based on his work include The 10th Victim starring Ursula Andress, Freejack, and Disney’s Condorman. Over a decade after Sheckley’s death, Paul Franklin adds another entry to the Sheckley filmography, adapting his story “The Store of the Worlds” as the short film The Escape, which screens as part of the Shorts: Your Heart’s Desire program at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Kellan is a dodgy back-alley scientist who has a tempting offer for miserable, life-tossed souls like Lambert. For a fee, he can temporarily transport them to one of the infinite alternate realities, where they can experience the life they truly crave. In addition to the high financial cost, the process also takes ten years off a customer’s life, so Lambert will have to think about it.

We subsequently learn Lambert is a white-collar family man, with a slightly bossy wife, a teen daughter, and a young son. He is under stress both at home and his downsizing office, but his pompous boss genuinely seems to like him. However, his desire for escape will make perfect sense in light of the big climatic reveal.

Unlike the campy 10th Victim and cartoony Condorman, The Escape is actually a sentimental sf fable, more in the spirit of Twilight Zone episodes like “A Stop at Willoughby” and “Kick the Can,” but it does have the occasion for some grand spectacle down the stretch. Indeed, The Escape is likely to attract attention, because it is the directorial debut of Franklin, who supervised special effects on several Christopher Nolan films, including the Dark Knight trilogy. Fans should not be disappointed, but they might be slightly surprised by his sensitive character-driven approach.

He also assembles a pretty impressive cast for a short, including an appropriately gaunt looking Julian Sands as Lambert, who really delivers the existential angst when the time comes. Olivia Williams plays off the mopey Lambert rather nicely as his forceful but loving wife, while Art Malik (from Jewel in the Crown and dozens of other British shows) anchors it all with authority as Kellan.

Experienced genre viewers might guess the big twist, but Franklin's execution packs a powerful punch. It is quality production that just feels like it will come around again during award season, particularly since he has that Nolan connection. Regardless, it is worth seeing just as a smart science fiction film in its own right. Highly recommended, The Escape screens again today (4/26), and Saturday (4/29), during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

The Montclair Film Festival Starts Friday

The Montclair Film Festival was started by Thom Powers because he thought his home town should have a film festival of its own. You can understand that feeling since Powers has been the programmer of festivals across the globe so it’s only fitting that he bring the goodies he’s found home.

I was introduced to the festival by Mr C and Chocko who every year make the trip and wade into the cinematic goodness. I have yet to actually attend the festival, its not for lack of desire but the fact that comes close on the heels of Tribeca every year with the result that I’m too beat to make the trip. This year things are worse because the festival over laps the final weekend of Tribeca so I am truly rooted in New York.

However just because I’m personally not going to the festival that doesn’t mean I can’t make recommendations as to what you should see. Below are the films we’ve covered at Unseen that are worth your time. Some were at the recent Tribeca, some were at Mr. Powers’ DOC NYC and somewhere at other festivals. The reviews should be enough to get you started in finding something you like. However I want to add that since this is festival that Mr Powers is associated with then the choices are probably going to please you across the board. (and apologies if  for not providing links but I haven't written up many of them because they are at Tribeca)

For tickets and more information go here:

Our Recommended Titles:


Hot Docs starts Thursday

Hot Docs is one of the best documentary film festivals in the world. It is a place where any and all documentary filmmakers aspire to screene their films. Its reputation is so good that when a film is said to have screened there it instantly gets most film writers attention.

This week the annual orgy of true life films begins in Thursday. While I am not going, I am still in the trenches of Tribeca, I have seen a good number of the films. So in order to help you pick something to see I’m a list of films that we've seen that you should see.(Apologies for not posting links but Tribeca reviews have yet to be written)

For tickets and more information on Hot Docs go here.

Hot Docs films to consider:
Being BatMan
Blurred Lines
Bobbi Jene
City of Ghosts
The Departure
For Ahkeem
Hell On Earth
House of Z
Joshua :Teenager VS Superpower
Last Animals
River Below
Strad Style
Whitney Can I be Me

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

In Pictures: Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane talk to Michael Strahan about DEAR BASKETBALL

I will have a full report soon on the talk Kobe and Glen Keane had with Michael Strahan but until then - and because I took a lot of pictures I thought I'd share some.

Tribeca Day 6 - rain and movies

Despite the LIRR I had a good day at the movies. Some of these need longer reviews- and they are coming but for now here are some capsules reviews

Walking out of the HOUSE OF Z half way into the film I had a chat with the PR person handling the film. What were my thoughts?  This is a great to look at film portrait of Zac Posen, hot shot designer who had a meteoric rise and and fall. It was a film that played like gangbusters to the rest of the fashion savvy audience but for me, who knows nothing about fashion enjoyed the images but I couldn't connect. There were things I simply didn't understand. It wasn't for me, On the other hand I know that if I liked fashion I'd eat this up. If you like fashion this is a must see.

Must see documentary on the back log of rape kits across the country.  This is a film that will piss you off big time. The most frightening thing is that as a result of the unclogging of the back log there was the discovery of almost 1000 serial rapists hurting women across the country. I'll have a ful review coming, but before that put this on your must see list.

The first of the Tribeca Midnight films that really feels like a midnight film. An FBI agent is sent to try and find a missing women and her son. The quest leads to the town of Devil's Gate and a weird boarded up house where the home owner has a weird thing in the basement. A schlocky popcorn film, this is worth a shot if you like this sort of thing- which I do. A full review is coming.

Two brothers who escaped a ufo death cult revisit those they ran out on. Odd cult film is going to thrill some and piss others off. The word from friends of Unseen was not positive. Everyone had problems with the third act which makes things almost incomprehensible- and leads to a denouncement that isn't really about scares but something else. I kind of liked it, as did JB, but I know why many people don't. This film needs a full review.

The one thing you can be sure of at Tribeca is the fact the ESPN films will rock. This year the selction of shorts  were made up of: The Amazing Adventures of Wally and the Worm, Bump & Spike, The Counterfeiter, Revolution in the Ring and Run Mama Run. The selections are all quite good but none really stood out. I think that's more a testament to fine programming rather than there being anything wrong with the films themselves. Definitely worth seeing

The Wedding Plan (2017) Tribeca 2017

Don’t go into The Wedding Plan thinking it is a conventional romantic comedy. Yes there is romance. Ys there is comedy. But the way the film twists and turns, and the weight of the story make the film something much more.

Michal has finally found a man she can marry. Finally she will be a al that she hopes for herself. However with less than a month to go her fiancé announces he doesn’t love her and walks out of her life. Michal then does what any woman would do and keeps the hall booked and trusts that god will find her a husband in the next 22 days.

On the face of it The Wedding Plan is an engaging “romance” that is full of all sorts of great characters you’d love to hang with. It’s a film about trying to find the one who is truly the right one. On that level the film is really good and very entertaining. On the most basic level the film will entertain and cause you to audibly react, as happened to several people at the critics screening, as the film wends through the final third.

Not so obvious until you see the film is how much the film is not a simple rom com but instead is a spiritual quest to do what god wants. This is a film that is very much tied into Judaism, or at least some sects. True love isn’t necessarily the way to go, as can be seen by Michal’s use of matchmakers and waiting for god to connect her to Mr Right. This is a film that is playing as a mediation on what is a good relationship, what is a good woman and what are we supposed to do in life. The final image of the film which is not what we expect (at least if this were a Hollywood film) is coupled with a song that makes the denouncement more than a marriage but something greater.

To be completely honest I did not get a lot of the details in the film. While I have Jewish friends and relatives, their belief and culture is not as deep as those in this film. I was not exposed to Sabbath dinner songs for example so implications of what some songs truly mean was lost one me. While one of the other writers at the screening schooled several of us after the film on some of the finer details. While this didn’t change my love for the film, it deepened by understanding and made the film seem to me more a spiritual quest of one woman to find her connection to god, much like a pilgrim might use when he travels to the Holy Land or a Buddhist might find when he or she does a series of temples.

However I think that most people who see this are not going to see this as philosophical journey. Rather they are going to see it as a ‘rom com”. On the most basic level the film is a charming and funny film. There are numerous big laughs and running gags through the film that can’t help but delight. For example one of Michal’s friends is dating a convert to Judaism from Japan brought giggles every time it was mentioned. While the course of the romance at the center is bound to result in much discussion- a bunch of us stood on the street after the film and hashed out who exactly Michal should have ended up with- the film will ultimately please all audiences.

The dual nature of the film is best summed up in one of the final lines of the film. When Michal is asked the meaning of the wedding going forward now that the groom has been found she replies that it is the end of the world as they know it. It’s a funny line delivered for maximum comic effect but there are deeper implications- it truly is the end because by getting married and accepting the groom she bends to God’s will- a god she now knows exists. Its a moment where we laugh and think. Its this ability to have its cake and eat it too that makes this film one of the best films at Tribeca and highly recommended.


THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P JOHNSON is complex film. Nominally the story of Miss Johnson, her life and death, the film actually casts it's film wider and takes in the story of Johnson's compatriot Sylvia Rivera as well as the struggle for transgender rights and respect even within the LGBT community.

The story of  Miss Johnson is framed by the investigation of Victoria Cruz from the New York City Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project. Cruz knows that most crimes against transgender women go unsolved or unpunished and she would like to determine what happened to Johnson who was one of the driving forces of the Gay and Trans Rights movement. Cruz is very much aware that looking into a death 25 years after the fact is going to be difficult but she hopes that someone or some piece of information will come to light.

Based on the write up in the Tribeca press material I thought I was going to be a true crime murder mystery focusing wholly on Miss Johnson. I didn't expect a film that laid bare the history of not only the history of Gay Rights but also the history of Trans Rights. What I thought was going to be a straight forward tale became a rich layered story that is going to require several more viewings in order to truly fully process everything that the film as telling us. Quite simply there is a lot of history in this story that most people are simply not going to be aware of.

I am not certain what to say about the film other than this film demands to be seen. This is a heady and frequently moving mix  this is a film which needs to be seen about a battle that is still being fought. If you need further proof of the struggle still being fought consider that as the film was premiering at Tribeca Chay Reed was killed in Miami.

A must see

Natasha (2015)

16 year old mark is growing up in a Russian expat community in Toronto. He goes along as any teenager would. When his uncle enters an arranged marriage with a woman from Moscow she bring her 14 year old daughter Natasha with her. Mark is given the task of showing Natasha around and a bond quickly forms between them. However Natasha has secrets in her past that could destroy their relationship.

Based on a book of short stories by director David Bezmozgis NATASHA is a rambling coming of age film that perhaps is a bit too dour for it's own good. A film with lots of silences and secrets the film has the feel of an overly earnest short story brought to the big screen. While not a bad film it is awfully mannered and very much the sort of thing that wants to be about something even if it means that things don't fully connect to the  audience.

While on some level the dual English Russian language may make the film realistic there is an uncertainty in some of the performances depending upon which language they are speaking in.

The real problem with the film is that writer director Bezmozgis is focused too much on the thrust of the tale and not on the details. Yes he has the cast switching between English and Russian as people would in real life but he forgets to give anyone anything that isn't meaningful to say. Every utterance plays into the plot somehow.

Worse in moving the characters around he has wiped out all sense of details of real life. We do not see anything that anyone does that gives s a sense of these people are real people. In a short story you can talk around the lack of detail but here every set is spartan, There are no tell tale signs of a life off screen. Everyone only exists for their single moments.

I never connected. Worse I never cared.

While technically not a bad film it never engages enough to care about the characters and what happens to them. Personally I would rather read the stories the film is based on since I'm guessing it will be more alive than this film.

NATASHA opens in Theaters 4/28

Ariela explains what happened- Literally, Right Before Aaron (2017) Tribeca 2017

Allison(Colbie Smulders)and Adam(Justin Long) were together 8 years before they split up. Now less than 2 years later, Allison calls Adam and invites him to her wedding. He decides to go. Why? Who knows. He is still completely in love with her and the film shows him remembering times they had together throughout the film. He looks at photos of them together, he cries. But still goes to her dinner party, and then the wedding. His friend, played by John Cho, sets him up with the super quirky Kristen Schall, to take her as his date to the wedding.

It was refreshing in a way to see a guy who's broken hearted, because most movies seem to focus on the woman. The pain that Adam is in is so obvious. I kept wanting to yell "why are you doing this to yourself?!" It seemed so masochistic. I felt so sad for him and he was holding it together fairly well, I kept wondering, when is he going to break?

The film was good, it was sad more than anything(though I didn't actually cry). It's definitely not a must see. Another one to watch when it comes out on Netflix.

Ariela on FOR AHKEEM (2017) Tribeca 2017

For Akheem is a documentary about 17 year old African American Daje who lives with her mother in not the best area of St. Louis where people around her age are getting killed regularly and she worries about being next. (She mentions a bullet wound in her stomach at one point but we don't know the circumstances to how she got it.) She gets kicked out of school and has to go to an alternative school. for kids who frequently get into fights and have problems. Her mom wants to see her graduate and encourages her to do well, telling her there's a whole other world out there that she's not even aware of and she can be whomever she wants to be. Teachers and staff in school are also encouraging and try to help her. She has a boyfriend who doesn't go to school or work and spends his time smoking pot and also worrying about being the next victim to being killed. She is having a hard time doing the "right" thing, struggling to get a diploma and even winds up getting pregnant. Missouri has the highest rate in the country of African American students being kicked out of school.

The story is a sad one, and not that unique to what we hear and see in the news. The documentary takes place around the time of the Ferguson trial. I felt myself at times feeling hopeful for Daje and other times feeling pessimistic. I found the documentary a bit slow/long, but I liked it overall.

THE 2017 HARLEM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL announces schedule for its 12th edition (May 4-7)

Opening Night Afro-Punk Sci-Fi Cinema with Live Dance and Musical Performances features the World Premiere of Daniel Peddle’s GARDEN OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON

Closing Night features the North American Premiere of Angela Robinson Witherspoon’s CURTSY, MISTER

Additional World Premieres include; Jacques Zanetti’s DAY AFTER DAY, Robert Clem’s HOW THEY GOT OVER, Stephen Dest’s I AM SHAKESPEARE (THE HENRY GREEN STORY), and Jason Swain’s SAVE ME FROM LOVE

New York, NY (April 24, 2017) – The 2017 Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) today announced the official selections for the 12th edition of the film festival taking place on May 4-7 at MIST Harlem (41 West 116th Street). Opening with the world premiere of Daniel Peddle’s inspirational documentary, GARDEN OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON, and closing with Angela Robinson Witherspoon’s tale of survival on the streets of New York City, CURTSY, MISTER, the four-day film festival will showcase 90 films from more than 30 countries, on subjects ranging from immigration, sex, race, romance, music, art, fashion, combating HIV/AIDS, surviving breast cancer, homelessness, gentrification, celebrating dance, and much more - including 6 world premieres, 2 North American Premieres, and 2 U.S. premieres.

“This year’s lineup is typically diverse, both in content and the filmmakers responsible for the films, bookended by personal profiles that hit close to home both because of their redemptive themes and because they get to the heart of what is the best in humanity,” said Harlem International Film Festival Program Director Nasri Zacharia, “In our 12th year, the festival will once again provide a forum for wonderful storytelling and exciting moments on the big screen created by talent all around the world.”

Opening Night, on Thursday, May 4, will mark the debut of Daniel Peddle’ GARDEN OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON, which profiles Burley Luvell Benford III, an elderly African-American veteran who occupies an abandoned piece of government property by the beach in Kauai, Hawaii. After being discharged from the Marines, Benford became one of the first employees of IBM and neighbor to Timothy Leary. A single acid trip changed his life over-night. Ditching his “suit”, he moved to San Francisco where he fell in with the Beat Poets and witnessed the birth of The Grateful Dead. Legendary music promoter Bill Graham hired him to be a bodyguard for his artists and he spent the better part of a decade jet-setting and hobnobbing with stars. Looking for another dramatic change of lifestyle, he repaired a schooner and sailed it all the way to Hawaii. Three divorces and four children later, we find Luvell homeless, living out of his pick-up truck on the beach. A man whose incredible life story may have been lost to time is rediscovered in this final chapter of his life. Preceding the screening of GARDEN OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON will be the U.S. Premiere of Anneta Lauffer’s short film, AFRO PUNK GIRL, and Eileen Byrne’s short film IRIDESCENCE.

Closing Night, on Sunday, May 7, will feature the North American premiere of Angela Robinson Witherspoon’s CURTSY, MISTER. The documentary tells the story of Ronnie Grant. Raised in the projects on 61st and West End Ave., in New York City, but eventually managing to move to the much nicer co-ops on 64th Street, right behind Lincoln Center, Grant’s life was changed forever after an aunt began dressing him up as a little girl. This led to a life of androgyny as well as an early molestation by a friend’s father. However, Grant never thinks of himself as a victim as he looks back at his life. He tells recounts very personal story with honesty, dignity and a large dose of humor. The film is preceded by Joschka Laukeninks’s short film BACKSTORY.

Highlights among the Harlem International Film festival’s other world premieres include: Jacques Zanetti’s DAY AFTER DAY, another New York-centric film, focusing on the push and pull within the relationships of two diverse couples in the city; Robert Clem’s documentary, HOW THEY GOT OVER, which combines vintage footage of the television series, “TV Gospel Time” with interviews with members of spiritual music legends, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Soul Stirrers, Dixie Hummingbirds and other groups; Stephen Dest’s film, I AM SHAKESPEARE (THE HENRY GREEN STORY) which follows the inspiring story of survival of 19-year old Henry Green, who was brutally shot and left for dead just shortly after his inspiring performance in William Shakespeare's ‘Romeo & Juliet”; and Jason Swain’s romantic comedy, SAVE ME FROM LOVE, about a woman at wits end with her fiancé, that is pushed by her friends to begin dating again.

Additional festival highlights include; the New York premiere of Coreon Du’s BANGAOLOGIA – THE SCIENCE OF STYLE, about the African continent’s influence on style from the runways of the world to the meccas of visual art; James Marquand’s drama, BEAUTIFUL DEVILS, which is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's Othello set within the music scene of East London; the East Coast premiere of Sean Durant’s drama/doc hybrid, GINA’S JOURNEY, based on the Afterword of the book, Life of William Grimes the Runaway Slave, written by Regina Mason, in which her path is retraced as she visits historical locations and key points of interest along her 15-year path of discovery; the New York premiere of Johan Eriksson’s HODA’S STORY about a young woman’s remarkable comeback from a gunshot wound-induced coma amidst the endless strife in the Gaza Strip; and QUALITY PROBLEMS, about a couple coping with a sudden breast cancer diagnosis while they face the challenges presented by a father with Alzheimer’s and an approaching birthday party for their 8-year old.

The Harlem International Film Festival will also feature virtual reality (VR) installations, special live musical performances, the festival’s annual Screenplay Showdown, and…table tennis matches.

Free-to-the-public industry panels and exhibitions will include:

Join film distributors Isil Bagdadi and Michael Sergio from CAVU Pictures, along with other industry experts as they reveal the secrets on how to secure distribution for your film in today’s crowded marketplace. Learn how to build a battle plan that will launch your film onto the big screen and then across multiple distribution platforms.

Film festival passes and tickets go on-sale soon. To purchase tickets and for more information on the Harlem International Film Festival go to

Feature Films Presentations

Afro-Punk Sci-Fi Cinema
Director: Daniel Peddle
Country: USA, Running Time: 87min
GARDEN OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON is an intimate, moving and transformative portrait of Burley Luvell Benford III, an elderly African-American veteran who occupies an abandoned piece of government property by the beach in Kauai, Hawaii. We witness his off-the-grid existence while learning about his fascinating life-story. Unforgettably charming, Burley Luvell Benford III upends our presumptions and challenges our worldview while earning his place in our hearts.
Preceded by
Director: Annetta Lauffer
Country: USA, Running Time: 16min
AFRO PUNK GIRL is a dystopian sci-fi drama set in a near future Britain, where Christmases are hot, nights are filled with violent muggings and the militia government enforces the “Happiness Agenda” upon it's citizens.
Ditrector: Eileen Byrne
Countries: Germany/Luxemborg
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, élodie turned her suffering and fears into a creative fight against the disease and the debilitating effects of the treatments used. Her latest work, IRIDESCENCE, is the personal story of her fight with cancer and the way she found to deal with the disease in a creative and hopeful manner. It's also a way of giving back and handing on the positive vibes that she's received from friends, family and strangers during the course of her disease.

CURTSY, MISTER North American Premiere
Director: Angela Robinson Witherspoon
Country: USA, Running Time: 60min
A very human story of survival. Ronnie Grant is raised in the projects on 61st and West End Ave., in New York City, but eventually manages to move to the much nicer co-ops on 64th Street, right behind Lincoln Center. His favorite aunt, Glo, decides he would be cute dressed up as a little girl. This leads to a life of androgyny and an early molestation by a friend’s father. Ronnie never thinks of himself as a victim. He tells his very personal story with honesty, dignity and a large dose of humor.
Preceded by
Director: Joschka Laukeninks
Country: Germany, Running Time: 8min
As a young child our protagonist is left by his mother and has to live with his violent father. He fights his way through adolescence and falls in love with the woman of his dreams and just as everything seems to be finally working out for him, a sudden event changes the course of his life forever. A story about how everything we love, everything we learn, everything we build, everything we fear, will one day be gone.

Ariela on Aardvark (2017) Tribeca 2017

I was really hoping to like Aardvark as I really like Jenny Slate and the film sounded like one I would be interested in, however I was disappointed.

The film is about three people; Jenny Slate (Emily), who is a therapist, Zachary Quinto, (Josh) her patient, and Jon Hamm, his brother(Craig). Josh who we very quickly see is troubled, starts seeing Emily to get help. He tells her he has a famous actor brother named Craig, who is in town, but has no way of contacting him. He says he hasn't seen him in 15 years.

We soon find out he has schizophrenia. Everyone is Craig to Josh, a homeless woman, a police offer. He says every time he sees Craig he is a different character and tells him its his best work. Josh also mentions to Emily that he was diagnosed with a disease years ago, but we never find out what that disease is. Is it his schizophrenia? We don't know if this is what he means.

One day actor Craig appears at Emily's house to ask if she is treating his brother. He is glad that she is, and the two of them very quickly wind up sleeping together. In the meantime, Josh meets a really cute girl and they start spending time together. This part of this film was very sweet and I thought this might be a turning point for Josh. But at one point I started to wonder, is she real? We never find out. Why haven't the brothers seen each other in so many years? We never find out. Craig doesn't want to see Josh, he says he pays his bills and he tells Emily that he's very disturbed. Is that why he hasn't seen him in so long? Again, we don't find out. I kept wanting and hoping for more from this film, more about the brothers, more about Josh's troubles, but never got it. This film premise seemed hopeful, but instead was pretty bland and not memorable.

Another one I would say to skip.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Before I do longer reviews (of some) of the Day 4 and 5 movies here are some capsules

I am slightly under the weather- I rushed home early tonight instead of going to THE LAST POKER GAME World Premiere to try and rest up. I am better but I am still not 100%.  The practical upshot is I am behind writing up a whole bunch of stuff. 11 events even with Ariela's and JB's help is too far behind. SO in order to take some of the pressure off myself I'm going to give you capsules and word on the longer pieces that are coming.


WASTED- The less I think about it the less I like it look at the waste of food in the world. Its flashy, an beautiful to look at but they don't really get too deep into things.

ANIMATED SHORTS CURATED BY WHOOPI G- The films all look good but half of the films are disposable. SUMMER CAMP ISLAND while wonderfully surreal an funny doesn't end, it stops. Clearly CArtoon Network has  bigger plans for it. ODD IS AN EGG, about a boy with an egg shell head is charming but just misses being great, SECOND TO NONE is a funny black as night comedy about a brother trying to kill his sibling. It good but until the denouncement you know where its going. The gem here is DEAR BASKETBALL which had me in tears all 3 times I saw it (it was the subject of the Glen Keane Kobe Bryant Talk.

THE LAST ANIMALS- Is a very good  doc on the death of rhinos and elephants. While preachy and uneven in spots its one of the best docs on the subject of saving animals transceding most similar films. (Ariela is going to do a full review soon).

LITERALLY BEFORE AARON - funny but often painful to watch film of a guy going to his ex's wedding.Its painful to the point of just being sad about what he does to himself (Ariela will have a review shortly)

AWAKE: A DREAM FOR STANDING ROCK- first two parts(films really) of this look at what happened at Standing Rock are just awful-  the dreamy first film cleared much of the audience. The second is unfocused- However the third part is quite good as is the film's coda both of which should be seen simply as shorts. A a feature its a painful slog to get to the the good stuff. (No further review is coming)

The Kobe Bryant/ Glen Keane talk - was excellent- and all they really talked about was the short DEAR BASKETBALL which they ran twice - and as a result it made me cry 3 times in one day (A full report and a pictures post are coming)

ROCK AND ROLL - very funny farce that is damn close to tragedy... and is really strange. This story of the lengths one man will go to prove he is "rock and roll" has some great performances and some big laughs but the second half split audiences which has some people people really hating  the second part despite laughing loudly. (Ariella will be reviewing this)


FRANK SERPICO is a very good look at Serpico and his life as told by the man. It was great to have him walking through his old haunts. This is going to play better if you don't know his whole story. Not quite the best of the fest one programmer told me but really good.

GET ME ROGER STONE- is a good look at the political fixer in the words of himself and others. A solid film for two thirds of its running time it kin of sputters in the final run to the end because Stone seems to have run ot of secrets or interesting things to say an do. (A longer review is coming)

ACORN AND THE FIRESTORM- is good look at the national community group that was brought down by You Tube videos that allegedly showed wrong doing. A good look at the organization and it's fall from grace that should have been great. Blame it on weak editing which doesn't tell the story compellingly enough. The downfall story seems much to jumbled to allow the film to soar.

BOMBSHELL-Excellent biography of Hedy Lamar and her need to invent. A great American Masters documentary that will bring her the fame she deserves. One of the best of the fest (A longer review is coming)

DOG YEARS- A good moving film of a once great star who is given a life time achievement award from a film festival and is sent spiraling back through his life. Burt Reynolds gives one hell of a performance. Heading in unexpected (and expected) directions the film is it's own unique thing and despite not wanting to the film will probably bring a tear to your eye. I have a great deal to say about the film, so a review is coming, but for right now know its a good film with great moments but not the best of the fest some friends had labeled it.

Look for the longer reviews soon.

(I should point out that Ariella will have a review  of PERMISSION and AARDVARK soon.)

Ariela's serves The Dinner (2017) Tribeca 2017

The Dinner is the story of a congressman who's running for governor (played by Richard Gere) who invites his brother (Steve Coogan), who has a history of mental illness, to dinner, along with both of their wives. (Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall)

After a very lengthy time with scenes switching from the past, showing the congressman with a previous wife, and Coogan dealing with his wife's cancer, and the present, the dinner itself, which kept being interrupted with calls the congressman had to take. We finally, after forever, find out that the congressman wanted to have the dinner to discuss a crime that both their sons committed. The parents have to figure out what their actions will be.

The premise of this film is good. However, I felt there was way too much that was unnecessary. Steve Coogan is/was a history teacher and there is a very long scene about Gettysburg(which he was obsessed with). I think I dozed off at one point. There is also some narration of the film by Coogan's character which I found odd.

An hour into the movie and we find out about the crime which was disturbing, and they have their conversation, which consists of very differing views. In the end, it is a film about morals. Prior, to this point, I found the film so dull. I wanted to yell "talk about it already!" The ending is left open-ended which left me frustrated.

 Definitely one to skip.

The Last Poker Game (2017) Tribeca 2017

Martin Landau stars with Paul Sorvino and Maria Dizzia in a charming eyes opened look at the perils and joys of growing old.

Landau plays Dr Mandelbaum, a retired heart surgeon. When his wife's Alzheimer's advances to the point where he can't handle her on his own he moves them both into a nursing home. Things don't look all that bright, the home's director says flat out that he hates old people, but Mandelbaum's luck changes when he he meets a roguish man named Phil played by Paul Sorvino. Sorvino has lead a more than full life and isn't going anywhere without  a fight. Add to the mix a young caring nurse played by Maria Dizzia and you have a sweet little film.

Unjustly buried at  the Tribeca Film Festival THE LAST POKER GAME, is an absolute charmer. I'm guessing the films charming warm feel confused the programmers who liked it enough to schedule it but had no idea how to schedule it or how to program it. In all honesty the film remains an enigma to many in the press corps who had no idea the film was at the festival. "You're covering what film?" they asked.  When I told them they still had no idea. Honestly they missed something special

Written and directed by neurologist first time director, Dr. Howard Weiner the film is remarkable for a couple of reasons. First the film shows the sure hand of a director who has been making films for a long time.  Comparable and in many ways better than the sea of  small independent films that run across my view each year it's hard to believe that Weiner hadn't done this before. The camera set ups, the  editing and the creation of a sense of place are all first rate.

The other thing that is amazing is the script which takes a real and clear eyed view of growing old. I love the frank talk and atypical twists of the plot.  While I would not be fool hardy enough to say that Weiner has written a perfect script, there are a few moments that seem like they were a bit too melodramatic and or a tad contrived, there is enough here that is unlike any other American film. I love the waves of emotion Landau and his wife share- no other filmmaker would have been able to craft such real moments unless they were extremely talented.

I want to see what Weiner has coming up next for us.

I have to mention the cast. The whole cast is full of great people but the three leads are exceptional. Landau, Sorvino and Dizzia have turned in wonderful performances. While I have seen Sorvino and Dizzia recently, Landau seemed to have disappeared.  It's a great thing that he's resurfaced in this film. Not only does he turn in his usual high caliber he seems to have upped his game, no doubt egged on by Sorvino who seems to match him note for note.

THE LAST POKER GAME is a gem of a film and worth your time when it resurfaces now that its Tribeca screening is done.

Newton (2017) Tribeca 2017

Newton is a film that America kinds of needs now. Never mind that the film comes from India, the tale about the importance of voting and doing the right thing is the sort of thing that will give you a kind of hope in these dark days in America.

The plot of the film has Newton, an election volunteer heading into a remote section of India to oversee voting. Where is is going is dangerous. Maoist rebels have pulled a candidate out of a car and shot him. They are threatening to disrupt the election if their demands are not met. Traveling in to the fray comes Newton, a young man who takes his charge very seriously. Newton is going to discharge his duties come hell or high water so he is not going to listen to the rebels or the police who seem not to want him to do what he was sent to do.

Amusing dark comedy is going to be taken very differently by those of us in America who are rattled by the way the election process of the last cycle played out. What should have been a humorous look at the way we need to follow principles with things as important as an election now has shadings that would not have been there a year ago. The humor now occasionally catches in the throat.

I really liked this film a great deal. A wonderfully acted film this is a tale that can’t help but bring a smile to your face even as things turn several shades of dark.


November (2017) Tribeca 2017

After the first press screening for Tribeca my friends who attended it described it as both the best film at the festival and the worst- at the same time. Having seen the film myself I completely understand why they said that. A film of singular vision it has sequences that will make you sit wide eyed and slack jaw at the beauty and raw power of them, while at other times the film just boggles the mind making you wonder what they were thinking. Either way the film is a masterpiece and grand piece of cinematic art.

The film is set in a time when Christianity and pagan beliefs intermingle. The dead come home on All Saints Day for a meal, the Devil can your soul in exchange for magic, and people do turn into werewolves. Everyone steals from everyone else. As everyone tries to get by with as little effort as possible a girl named Liina falls hopelessly in love with a boy named Hans and pines for him so much she turns into a werewolf.

I’m only touching on the plot of the film. There is great deal going on the film but not a lot of it lays together in any sort of narrative arc. This is a film which has its mind more on the ideas it is playing with. Do we need a soul? What is the nature of being alive? Is the purpose of life to work? The thin narrative is used to string together a series of scenes that kind of explore these ideas and others.

Visually arresting the black and white photography will take your breath away. Squalor has never looked this good. This is a film where the images instantly transports you into another time and place. It’s a film that reminded me of the monochrome work of Andre Tarkovsky, Bela Tarr, Jim Jarmusch or Aleksei German. And not only visually narratively the film echoes some of the best work of these but other directors as well. Everything seems other worldly. The monochrome sheen creates pure a place that by passes our conscious mind and goes straight into the center where our dreams live.

Sequences play out as waking dreams the opening bit where one of the kratts steals a cow and flies it back to its master is one of the most amazing things you’ll see all year. Even though you’ll know how it was done you’ll still marvel at how real it plays. All the scenes with the kratts are some of the best in the film. The kratts are creatures made from farm tools that are given life by the devil in exchange by the devil (think something from a Jan Svankmajer or Quay Brothers film). They have to work or they will die- though giving them an impossible task can result in unfortunate results.

If you’ll notice I’m only speaking of the film in pieces and that is because in many ways the film does not hang together. As amazing as the film is in its parts, it never quite hangs together some sequences are just strange, others ramble on with no clear point and others don’t quite work. Things don’t always link up and we have to connect a good number of dots. The result moments where our spirits soar are occasionally followed by ones where we are moving through mayonnaise. It’s extremely frustrating and makes you want to scream at the screen.

And yet despite the films problems I would argue the film is must see.

The moments that work, the visuals and many of the thematic elements keep the film from completely crashing and burning. As several of my fellow writers told me when they saw the film a month ago said-this is among the best and the worst films you’ll see all year at the same time. This is a film that is truly a singular vision and the work of a completely and utterly mad director. Love it or hate it when you are done seeing NOVEMBER you will know you have seen a film.

If you want to see something special, if you want to see a film that is unlike anything else and which will make your mouth hang open in wonder even as it bumping around then you must see NOVEMBER which is one of the best films and one of the worst films at Tribeca