Wednesday, July 26, 2017

M.F.A. (2017) Fantasia 2017

Noelle is an introverted Fine Arts Student who keeps pretty much to herself. Invited to a party she is raped by a guy she had been infatuated in. Getting nowhere in reporting the crime, the camps officials want to play the blame game, she takes matters into her own hands and begins hunting the predators herself.

Painful unpleasant film is not for all audiences. This is a film that ends badly for everyone. That statement includes the audience who left twisting in their seats through most of the film either through it's use of violence or the way the film throws up real questions about how we treat victims of sexual assault.

And the violence will get a rise out of you. The rape of Noelle is one of the most brutal and ugly things put on screen. You will look away, and even then it will haunt you for a long time afterward. Credit director Natalia Leite and writer Leah Mckendrick for giving us an act that we can't forget. Even now hours after seeing the film that one sequence is like a bludgeon to my brain.

As an emotional scream about sexual violence this film is top notch.It is a damning indictment of a society that allows women to be abused with limited support and a system that often blames the victim.

But at the same time the film wobbles at times. The problem is that the change of tone as Noelle becomes an avenger doesn't always integrate completely with the seriousness of the other half of the film. It muddies the water and doesn't make it clear what exactly it wants us to feel.

Regardless it is film that is nigh impossible to shake.  Recommended for those who think they can handle it's assault on the audience.

MFA plays tonight and tomorrow at Fantasia. For more information and tickets go here.

The House of the Disappeared (2017) Fantasia 2017

Hearing weird noises a woman goes to the basement to find her husband dead and her young son sucked into a dark void. After going to jail for the murders she returns to her former home to try and find out what happened.

Okay supernatural mystery is nothing we haven’t seen before (even allowing the fact its a remake). While always entertaining it never truly thrills the way it should.

Blame the films technical quirks which require our heroine to wear a long gray wig that looks like a long gray wig and editing that seems to have everything happening a half step slower than the production of chills require.

While not a bad film this is more something to watch on a couch on a slow night instead of paying good money at a film festival.

Women Texas Film Festival 2017 - Full Schedule Announcement

The Women Texas Film Festival presented by Studio Movie Grill
announces selections for 2nd edition of the film festival 

(August 16-20)

Savannah Bloch’s Award-Winning AND THEN THERE WAS EVE 
is Opening Night Selection 

Brooke and Doug Purdy’s QUALITY PROBLEMS is
the Closing Night Selection

AND THEN THERE WAS EVE 2  QualityProblems_1.1.9  

Dallas, TX (July 25, 2017) – The Women Texas Film Festival presented by Studio Movie Grill today announced the official selections for the second year of the critically-acclaimed Dallas-based film festival which focuses solely on the work of female filmmakers. Screening exclusively at Studio Movie Grill’s Northwest Highway location in Dallas (10110 Technology Blvd.) on August 16-20, WTxFF has chosen Savannah Bloch’s award-winning, AND THEN THERE WAS EVE as their Opening Night selection, with Brooke and Doug Purdy’s festival favorite, QUALITY PROBLEMS, taking the Closing Night slot. This year’s edition of WTxFF will showcase 8 feature-length films, 38 short films, and 3 VR projects screening.

WTxFF Founder and Artistic Director Justina Walford, said, “Following the success of last year’s WTxFF, our challenge this year was to grow in the areas where our hopes and ambitions led us, without jeopardizing the things that worked so well in our debut. Of course, that starts with the films, so while we added a dozen or so, including a few that have made a mark at other noteworthy fests, we were very careful to hold fast to our programming vision that people responded so well to during our launch. As the only full-fledged film festival in Texas focusing solely on the work of women behind the camera, the heart of WTxFF is shining a light on women pulling the strings and at the helm of visual storytelling. Once again, we look forward to putting the women responsible for these stories on a pedestal here in Dallas."

Newly installed WTxFF Executive Director Vanessa Cook added, “As a presenting sponsor, Studio Movie Grill will enhance the viewing and dining experience for our patrons in their state-of-the-art theaters. Their belief in Women Texas Film Festival speaks volumes and will contribute to the success of our mission moving forward. I’m in love with our lineup this year and thrilled that many filmmakers will be in attendance! We have the essential elements in place for a fantastic film festival." She continued, “The Dallas Film Society, Women in Film-Dallas, Dallas Comedy House, Dallas Comedy Festival, and Texas Frightmare Weekend are co-presenting several of our films, and the Dallas Film Commission and Selig Polyscope Company have returned as sponsors. The support of these incredible organizations is a huge boost for WTxFF and female filmmakers."

The Opening Night selection is immediate evidence of WTxFF balancing it’s acclaimed programming acumen with the ability, in just its second year, to attract award-winning films from larger fests to Dallas. Winner of the LA Muse Award for Best Fiction Film at the LA Film Festival, Bloch’s AND THEN THERE WAS EVE is a rare psychological thriller/romance hybrid about a photographer, who wakes one morning to find her apartment ransacked and her husband gone. Without anything to offer the police to help find him or investigate, she turns to his colleague Eve, a jazz musician with a flirtatious charm and disarming grace. Eve helps the woman confront her husband’s longtime struggle with depression and to, over time, accept his absence. While getting to know this woman through such unusual circumstances, Alyssa is surprised to find herself falling in love again. AND THEN THERE WAS EVE will screen on Wednesday, August 16, with Bloch expected to attend the screening.

Brooke and Doug Purdy’s QUALITY PROBLEMS will serve as the Closing Night selection on Saturday, August 19, co-presented by the Dallas Comedy House and the Dallas Comedy Festival. The film has been a popular performer on the film festival circuit thus far in 2016 with appearances at notable regional fests like Cinequest, Bentonville, Harlem, and a scheduled appearance at Woods Hole before screening in Texas for the first time at WTxFF. The husband and wife team co-directed, co-produced, and co-starred in the entertaining film, which skillfully manages to balance both grass-roots humor with “life in crisis” events as the couple deals with a breast cancer reoccurrence diagnosis at the same time her father’s ability to deal with his Alzheimer’s condition deteriorates, and perhaps, most alarmingly – their 8-year-old daughter’s birthday party is fast-approaching. The film also stars a host of recognizable names and faces in cameo appearances, including Chris Mulkey, Robbie Rist, and Mo Gaffney, among others. Brooke Purdy and co-writer/producer Colette Freedman are expected to attend.


Another highlight in the 2017 WTxFF lineup is Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak’s sexually charged drama, MAYA DARDEL. Co-presented with the Dallas Film Society, the film, which screened earlier this year at SXSW, features Lena Olin as the title character, who issues a challenge to male writers to visit her in an effort to compete to be executors of her estate. A Samuel Goldwyn Films release, MAYA DARDEL also stars Rosanna Arquette. Other highly anticipated features include Cati Gonzalez’s EKAJ, and the Brazilian duo of Monica Demes’s LILITH’S AWAKENING, and Luciana Canton’s PUBLIC INTIMACY. EKAJ is a love story between two young male drifters, a naive teenager and a sarcastic hustler. The film has been described as a cross between the infamous KIDS and MIDNIGHT COWBOY. LILITH’S AWAKENING, which is co-presented with Texas Frightmare Weekend, is a psychological horror art film that tells the story of Lucy, a sexually repressed woman trapped in a loveless marriage and a dead-end job at her father’s service station in a small Iowa town. Until the appearance of a female vampire in her dreams and her world changes everything. PUBLIC INTIMACY deals with sexuality and love on public and private levels via four stories touching on profound themes, like homophobia, prostitution, transsexuality and madness.

i-am-evidence-rape-kit-backlog-project-1920  ITS CRIMINAL Nell Photo by Gavin Huang  

A pair of feature-length documentary selections demonstrate WTxFF’s desire to not just zero in on filmmaking skill, but also to explore subjects and issues that women in this country face. Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir’s I AM EVIDENCE, which is produced by Mariska Hargitay and includes the Emmy-award winning actress’s appearance in the film, looks at the alarming backlog of unprocessed rape kits and the enduring issues and trauma that survivors must deal with due to their cases hanging in perpetual limbo. Signe Taylor’s IT’S CRIMINAL: A TALE OF TWO AMERICAS (which will be co-presented with Women in Film – Dallas) explores the plight of incarcerated women and the economic and social divide it highlights and exacerbates through a program where inmates connect with Dartmouth College students.

The shorts programs include themes of “Liquid Lunch,” “Comedy,” (which is also co-presented by Dallas Comedy House and the Dallas Comedy Festival), “Dark Minds, Dark Worlds” (also co-presented by Texas Frightmare Weekend), “Strong Female Characters,” and “Wonder Women.” Like last year, the shorts programs skew toward darker and edgier material highlighting “WTF” moments, with the added emphasis this year of emphasizing strong, dynamic female characters put in the forefront of the storytelling.

The Women Texas Film Festival will also, once again, offer virtual reality (VR) programming, free to any festival attendee, in the lobby of the Studio Movie Grill’s Northwest Highway location. The three female-created projects include; Kelsey Sante’s FAMILY PORTRAIT, which puts the viewer inside a family’s home as they deal with the repeated cycle of tragedy caused by drug addiction; Susana Gibb’s HOMELESSNESS 360, which explores the immediacy of the homeless lifestyle in Dallas through a 360 degree viewing experience; and for a lighter VR experience - Maggie F. Levin’s VAIN: THIS PARTY SUCKS, which places the viewer in the middle of a warehouse rave as it is being attacked by a bunch of hungry vampires.

Film festival passes and tickets are on-sale now. Trailblazer VIP passes are $95 and allow access to all films, parties, and events, Film passes are $75, and Student passes (including access to all WTxFF parties and events) are $50. Individual Tickets are $10. For more information on the Women Texas Film festival go to To purchase VIP passes, the special Shorts Programs package, or tickets to individual screenings go to:


PUBLIC INTIMACY 12 Talita Contipelli 2  LILITH's_AWAKENING-sophia_woodward


The 2017 Women Texas Film Festival official selections:

Director: Savannah Bloch
Country: USA, Running Time: 97min
Alyssa, a successful photographer, wakes one morning to find her apartment ransacked and her husband mysteriously missing. Left without even a photograph to offer the police, she turns to his colleague Eve, a talented jazz pianist with a flirtatious charm and disarming grace. Eve helps her confront her husband’s longtime struggle with depression and to, over time, accept his absence. While getting to know this woman through such unusual circumstances, Alyssa is surprised to find herself falling in love again.

Directors: Brooke Purdy, Doug Purdy
Country: USA, Running Time: 106min
Bailey and Drew are a 40-something couple much like other couples: They have two kids, two jobs, one dad with Alzheimer’s and one boob with cancer. Toss in planning a birthday party for an 8-year old, and the only thing you can do is laugh.

Director: Cati Gonzalez
Country: USA, Running Time: 80min
A love story between two drifters, a naive teenager and a sarcastic hustler. EKAJ is a film packed with real life drama and raw sense of humor. The film capture’s a runaway journey to New York City. After a few rude awakenings, Ekaj (Jake Mestre) meets Mecca (Badd Idea) who takes him under his care. Mecca is a foul mouthed character who has AIDS and multiple problems of his own. He is high all day but still manages to be the only voice of reason in Ekaj’s hopeless world. They cruise the city together looking for money and places to stay. The core of the movie is Ekaj, who thinks he will become the lover of a rich man and be taken care of for life but ends up finding his dreams quickly shattered. Although he makes some money as a prostitute, he finds he is disposable, replaceable and lacking what it takes to survive in the city. Mecca shows him how to endure and not lose hope. As the film progresses, their relationship develops into true friendship and love as they lean on each other for survival.

Directors: Trish Adlesic, Geeta Gandbhir
Country: USA, Running Time: 87min
I AM EVIDENCE exposes the shocking number of untested rape kits in the United States today. Despite the power of DNA to solve and prevent crimes, hundreds of thousands of kits containing potentially crucial DNA evidence languish untested in police evidence storage rooms across the country. Behind each of these kits lies an individual’s unresolved sexual assault case. Produced by Mariska Hargitay, I AM EVIDENCE follows stories of survivors who have waited years for their kits to be tested, as well as the law enforcement officials who are leading the charge to work through the backlog and pursue long-awaited justice in these cases. The film reveals the high cost of the lingering lassitude surrounding rape investigations in this country, and the positive effects of treating survivors with the respect they deserve and an opportunity for justice.

Director: Signe Taylor
Country: USA, Running Time: 78min
IT'S CRIMINAL: A TALE OF TWO AMERICAS is a powerful critique of the economic and social inequities that divide the United States. Featuring incarcerated woman working with Dartmouth College students, the film shows that empathy is a powerful force in bridging the divide.

Director: Monica Demes
Country: Brazil, Running Time: 80min
LILITH’S AWAKENING is a psychological horror art film that tells the story of Lucy, a sexually repressed woman trapped in a loveless marriage and a dead-end job at her father’s service station in a small Iowa town. The highlight of her existence comes at night, when she dreams of a mysterious and beautiful woman who haunts the woods outside her modest home. One night, a mechanic who works for her father forces himself on Lucy, awakening in her an uncontrollable dark force. When he makes her promise to meet him later at his hideaway in the woods, it may be the girl of her dreams – not his – who shows up for the fateful rendezvous.

Director: Zachary Cotler, Magdalena Zyzak
Country: USA, Running Time: 104min
The film depicts the final weeks leading to the ambiguous disappearance of Maya Dardel, an internationally respected poet and novelist, who lived until 2016 in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Maya announces on National Public Radio that she intends to end her life and that young male writers may compete to become the executor of her estate. They are challenged intellectually, emotionally, erotically, until one of them begins to fathom Maya's end game. The film stars Lena Olin and Rosanna Arquette.

Director: Luciana Canton
Country: Brazil, Running Time: 71min
PUBLIC INTIMACY is a movie about how we deal with sexuality and love on public and private levels. The four stories within the film deal with urgent and profound themes, like homophobia, prostitution, transsexuality and madness. PUBLIC INTIMACY proposes a cinema that is focused on its characters. They struggle to become who they really are.



(TRT: 43min)

Director: Jennifer Ford
Country: USA, Running Time: 2:09min
A study in objectification of the male form on film

Director: Emily Miller
Country: USA, Running Time: 1:15min
The product of a beard, a banana costume, and some bored teenagers in the summer.

Director: Brenda Lien
Country: Germany, Running Time: 4min
Whilst we remain safe and sound, watching the highest grossing cat fail compilation - all that is kept out of sight gets back to us in this consumerist nightmare. On a global playground, without bounds, the cat’s body is devoured, exploited and controlled - its fear of pain being stronger than its longing for freedom. Objects are fetishized and subjects made into things that are quantifiable and ready for use. They are the natural resources of a luxury they will never know. We are here because you were there – and waste is dumped in the ocean. In the end, bodies reveal the causes and effects of power, pleasure and hate.

Director: Emily Miller
Country: USA, Running Time: 5:40min
A young woman tries to create a piece of art.

Director: Aimee Morgan
Country: USA, Running Time: 7:54min
A darkly comic horror film about an annual cherry pie contest in a small town where one - or more - of the contestants is a murderer

Director: Saylor Ley
Country: USA, Running Time: 2:20min
A love story with creepy masks and dancing.

Director: Kirsten Lepore
Country: USA, Running Time: 3min
The story is about 50 shapes of you drawn by a cute nutty human being that stares directly into your soul.

Director: Beatrice Bellino
Country: USA, Running Time: 4:20min
A story of objects, shadows of possibility, processing that, and letting go. A burlesque fantasy of objects buries a memory of childhood trauma until it can no longer remain hidden.

Director: Rudy Cervantez
Country: USA, Running Time: :30min
A baby is fed his favorite dish.
(Producers: Rudy Cervantez, Nicole Pence, Director of Photography: Director of Photography: Nicole Pence)

Director: Marinah Janello
Country: USA, Running Time: 11:30min
An eccentric artist navigates self-expression through his experiences living and growing up in the South.

(TRT: 91min)

Director: Atheena Frizzell
Country: USA, Running Time: 4:09min
A teenage girl must figure out a way to keep a secret from her devout family.

Directors: Caitlin Koller, Lachlan Smith
Country: Australia, Running Time: 10:30min
Amateur witchcraft conjures up bloody consequences

Director: Desiree Nash
Country: USA, Running Time: 8:52min
Dee gets dumped while sitting on the toilet. Mostly based on a true story.

Director: L. Elizabeth Powers
Country: USA, Running Time: 14:57min
In 1976, a 12-year-old girl tries to unravel the mysteries of sex ed.

Director: Rachel Wilson
Country: USA, Running Time: 21:15min
Nat and Kat - the world’s worst drug dealers - are cut off by their parents right at the cusp of their experimental band’s rise to internet infamy. They’re thousands of dollars in debt for their bad business investment - a huge brick of skunk weed. On top of all that, they are being fined $25,000 by the US government (a real thing!) for their use of real eagle feathers in their radically offensive culturally appropriative music video, shot by a fake shaman in a fake sweat lodge in Joshua Tree. When the rent is due on their luxury loft in DTLA, they must take in roommates to be able to stay: Gideon, an aspiring musician/comedian from Illinois, and Chloe, a successful Instagram model/philanthropist. Will they pay their rent and save their band and their pet hedgehog Kiki?

Director: Sarah Adams, Maggie Reith Austin
Country: USA, Running Time: 8:30min
On her way to a life-changing meeting, Claire takes a moment of meditation in the quiet solitude of the service elevator. Her focus is interrupted when she is abruptly joined by a manic stranger. Claire struggles to regain her calm, finding peace in the knowledge that elevator rides don't last an eternity. Then, between floors, the elevator stops. The next few minutes feel like eternity as Claire unexpectedly finds herself at a crossroad. She did not plan for this.

Director: Leelila Strogov
Country: USA, Running Time: 10min
Nora only wants two things for her 72nd birthday: the demise of her patronizing retirement home orderly and some reefer. A Columbia College Chicago senior thesis film created by an all female team (director, editor, production designer, producer, and director of photography). This film about women by women features music from the female punk rock group, The Coathangers.

Director: Ching Wang
Country: USA, Running Time: 12:06min
The ideal world of a compulsive alienated young man shatter as a spontaneous woman shakes up his everyday routine. A sparkling adventure between Bob, Alex, and Kiddo.

(TRT: 75min)

Director: Christine Chen
Country: USA, Running Time: 14:41min
A lonely boy hides from his troubled life in his secret hideout, until the day he befriends the girl next door.

Director: Pablo Asento
Country: Japan, Running Time: 8:57min
The film tells about a part of a famous urban legend, which is believed to be based on true events. A strange character walking around the empty streets was terrifying locals in 70s-80s of the last century. Rumors of alleged sightings began spreading around the Nagasaki prefecture, then spread throughout Japan and caused panic in many towns.
(Producers: Pablo Absento, Satoru Fukuyama)

Director: Rodolfo Cervantez
Country: USA, Running Time: 10:40min
A woman bullied by a clique of bake sale mean girls takes action.
(Producer: Sierra Robinson, Producer and Cinematographer: Nicole Pence)

Director: R.D. Womack II
Country: USA, Running Time: 12min
This tongue in cheek dark comedy follows Mimi, a former prostitute and heroin addict who is down on her luck. While working at her job in a strip club, Mimi overhears a conversation that can change her life forever.
(Producer/Screenwriter/Cast: Ashley Atwood)

Director: Cameo Wood
Country: USA, Running Time: 12min
Against all odds, Sophia Baker just scored her dream interview at the world-famous Semaphore Animation Studios -- who’d have thought a fan edit of one of their hit films could land her a shot at a job? But when she meets arch, mysterious executive Anne Palladon, she soon learns all is not as she expects behind the curtain. Every instinct Sophia has ever had about art in filmmaking is about to be challenged. Based on Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Award-winning author Ken Liu’s short story of the same name, Real Artists asks a poignant question: In a dystopian near-future where big data, AI and natural language processing learn and create quickly and at massive scale, what role can a single artist play? Is Sophia a creative rebel who can make a difference? Or is the situation more serious than that?

Director: Alycya Magaña
Country: USA, Running Time: 9:30min
Ana, a broken, young woman, must choose between living in the past or finally overcoming it.

Director: Emilie Biason
Country: Brazil, Running Time: 7min
Isabella is an 18-year-old girl who collects knives waiting for an intervention of destiny to use them. The Intervention occurs when her grandmother, watching a TV show, recognizes the bride of the son of Denis, the man who abandoned her at the altar. Suddenly, two armed boys arrive in the house, and she finds a reason to use the knives.

(TRT: 79min)

Director: Chase Norman
Country: USA, Running Time: 14:34min
A shy, overweight young woman leaves the safety of her home for an unwelcoming high school classroom.

Directors: Adam Goldhammer, Katie McMillan
Country: Canada, Running Time: 10:48min
A young woman struggling to come to terms with a traumatic sexual experience finds herself in competition with her roommate over the same man. Over the course of one night, a startling discovery forces her to confront her past and re-evaluate her relationships. EASY GIRL is a reflection on patriarchy, rape culture and female relationships, that seeks to challenge representations of “cattiness” as a natural or inevitable relationship between women.

Director: Andrew Carslaw
Country: UK, Running Time: 10:08min
EMMI is a powerful drama about a teenager living in a tower block who has a dark secret. One evening she crosses paths with Sarah the kindly but nervous resident living in the flat below. The events which follow later in the night will change both of their lives forever.
(Producer/Screenwriter: Susan Stead)

Director: Nelicia Low
Country: Singapore, Running Time: 15min
When her husband cannot give her the love she desires, the lonely and insecure Hui will do anything to feel loved.

Director: Angelika Bräuml
Country: Austria, Running Time: 16min
The encounter between a devoted fan and his big idol, a popular professional athlete, is changing both lives. Whilst the course will be set for a perfidious act in this drama, the question, who is using who for his own ends, is spotlighted more and more.

Director: Siena Pinney
Country: USA, Running Time: 12:54min
A young woman takes a pill that changes the course of her life. Dreams and memories blend into reality as she faces herself and her relationship in a new light.

(TRT: 90min)

Director: Jessica Adler
Country: USA, Running Time: 10:03min
With the help of her best friend, Christine redefines her perception of strength and what it means to be herself.

Directors: Genevieve Kertesz
Country: Australia, Running Time: 14:15min
Mitch is a man who lives a controlled life with a self imposed strict set of rules and boundaries. One night he is dragged against his wishes into a fantasy strip club called “Daydream". He sees himself above the debauchery and depravity displayed by his work colleagues but then struggles to cope with his own hypocrisy and desires when he becomes obsessed with an exotic dancer named Scarlett.

Director: Maja Aro
Country: Canada, Running Time: 20:14min
Upon finding her beloved Grams dead, Scarlet must unravel truths about Grams torrid past in order to carry on her legacy.

Director: Allison Unger
Country: USA, Running Time: 8:40min
An accomplished law student must endure her graduation party as she struggles to hide her obsessive compulsions that threaten to expose her.

Director: L. Gabriel Gonda
Country: USA, Running Time: 16:59min
During the First World War an unflinching young woman determined to defy traditional roles, travels west to pursue a job working the rails.

Director: Jaime Wilken
Country: South Korea, Running Time: 11:48min
MAMA KIM is a short film based on the life of a 77-year-old Korean woman who owns one of the oldest standing bars in Seoul. Mama is a tough, funny and charismatic woman who has lived through the Korean War and has dealt with insurmountable hardships. However, her silver lining has been her husband and the happiness he has brought her. The film briefly takes you through Mama Kim’s ups and downs and eventually highlights the unique coping mechanisms humans develop and adhere to.

Director: Tesia Joy Walker
Country: USA, Running Time: 7:39min
SEARCH PARTY is a short film about a lower middle class mother living in the projects, hosting a surprise party that is interrupted by an uninvited guest—the police. The police are on a manhunt looking for an unidentified suspect in the area, but she fights hard to keep them from ruining her son’s special day.


Director: Kelsey Sante
Country: USA, Running Time: 4:53min
A family falls victim to the vicious cycle of addiction in a children's drawing brought to life. This virtual reality experience depicts history repeating itself through the lens of a young child. Featuring the live art of GSN SkinWars winner Natalie Fletcher and the choreography of Los Angeles dance duo The Psylence. FAMILY PORTRAIT is a collaboration between young filmmaker Kelsey Sante and We Are Famous.

Director: Susana Gibb
Country: USA, Running Time: 6min
In 360 seconds and 360 degrees, homelessness is explored in Dallas, TX.

Director: Maggie F. Levin
Country: USA, Running Time:
A warehouse rave makes a colorful snack for a coven of hungry vampires.

The Women Texas Film Festival (WTxFF) promotes established and emerging female storytellers in film, TV, and VR, celebrating the grit and range of women's voices. WTxFF screens qualified films that have women in at least one key creative role: Writer, Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Editor, Composer. The WTxFF also organizes a host of activities for the festival and year-round focused on the craft and artistry of filmmaking, including moderated Q&As with filmmakers, panel discussions, networking events, and a gala night with filmmaker red carpet. For more information about Women Texas Film Festival, visit

Gotta Light?, A Film Series Inspired by Episode 8 of Twin Peaks: The Return, Begins September 1

A Film Series Inspired by Episode 8 of Twin Peaks: The Return 
Works by Kubrick, Brakhage, Pat O'Neill, Bruce Conner, Robert Aldrich, and more!
David Lynch is that rare artist who unites traditions, often apart or at odds with what is thought to be traditional narrative and avant-garde film. Lynch’s fine arts background, attending art school in Philadelphia as an aspiring painter, spurred him into filmmaking by a desire to see his paintings move, and his first efforts were distinctly in the experimental vein. As proven by Twin Peaks: The Return, the same spirit remains alive in Lynch—for proof, look no further than Episode 8, a tangled, visceral multi-megaton blast of invention that brought together personal cosmology and postwar history in a single bravura performance. While The Return continues to unfold, Metrograph selected a program of Lynch’s more far out productions, alongside a collection of films—many non-narrative—that complement or inform his work.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick/1968/149 mins/35mm)
A mind-bending, epoch-hopping opus that set the bar for philosophical, historical, and cinematic ambition. Without Kubrick’s masterpiece, it’s impossible to imagine the grand design of Twin Peaks: The Return, situating their human-scale stories within a framework as large as the universe itself. A campus circuit phenomenon which motivated multiple viewings, and considered best enjoyed with chemical assistance (“The Ultimate Trip”), 2001 laid the foundation for the soon-to-be-named Midnight Movie, which Eraserhead would come to define.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch/1992/135 mins/DCP)
Scorned on initial release, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is widely pointed to as the dark, beating heart of Lynch’s art. Set in the week before the events depicted in the original television series, this prequel follows the doomed Laura Palmer, the familiar denizens of Twin Peaks, Washington, and a beefed-up cast that includes David Bowie, Harry Dean Stanton, and Heather Graham. Both an expansion and a distillation of the series, which burrows into its core of implacable sadness and pain.

Eraserhead (David Lynch/1977/89 mins/35mm)
The ne plus ultra of midnight movies, at once enormously influential and inimitable. A pompadoured Jack Nance plays henpecked Henry, a miserable, furtive figure traversing a clangorous industrial landscape whose nights are made interminable by the incessant squalling of his mutant baby. Funny, frightening, and unforgettable, Lynch’s years-in-the-making first feature is like a volcanic eruption of dormant creative energy. “Not a movie I would drop acid for, although I would consider it a revolutionary act if someone dropped a reel of it into the middle of Star Wars.” - J. Hoberman

Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky/1979/163 mins/DCP)
When reference is made in Twin Peaks: The Return to “The Zone,” it seems an awful lot like a homage to Tarkovsky’s stunning, haunted sepia-toned sci-fi masterpiece, in which a scientist and a writer living in a broken-down totalitarian dystopia recruit the help of a “Stalker”—a kind of post-apocalyptic Sherpa—to guide them on a voyage of self-discovery, passing through the bleak, otherworldly Zone, hoping to discover therein a haven that will fulfill their secret desires.

Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich/1955/106 mins/DCP)
Lynch most overtly paid his respects to Aldrich’s va-va-voom hard-boiled doomsday noir with the burning beach bungalow of Lost Highway, but its influence can also be found in Twin Peaks: The Return, another mystery on the trail of “The great whatsit” firmly situated under the cloud of nuclear paranoia. With Ralph Meeker playing Mickey Spillane’s he-man gumshoe Mike Hammer as an unprincipled thug, rampaging through Los Angeles on the trail of a device that threatens Armageddon. Restored version with original ending preferred by Aldrich.

Radio Bikini (Robert Stone/1988/60 mins/DCP)
Through archival footage (much of it never before seen by civilians), fragments of an incomplete government propaganda film, and the testimony of firsthand witnesses, Stone’s Oscar-nominated documentary tells the story of Operation Crossroads, the first nuclear weapons test by the United States, conducted at Bikini Atoll in the summer of 1946—an event which would lend its name to a women’s two-piece swimsuit, and incontestably secure us in the Atomic Age.

Shorts Program #1
Serene Velocity (Ernie Gehr/1970/23 mins/16mm)
Water and Power (Pat O’Neill/1967/57 mins/35mm)
Garden of Earthly Delights (Stan Brakhage/1981/3 mins/16mm)
Infinite Doors (Takeshi Murata/2010/2 mins/DCP)
Cosmic Ray (Bruce Conner/1962/4 mins/16mm)
As Lynch revels in doorways to other dimensions, this program is linked, literally, by passageways and entrances—the game show prize reveals of Murata’s Infinite Doors; the burrow through tortured vegetation in Brakhage’s The Garden of Earthly Delights; the diagetic ruptures of Conner’s Cosmic Ray; the strange traversing of the basement corridor of SUNY Binghamton in Gehr’s Serene Velocity; or the complex optical prints that make up O’Neill’s Water and Power, which charts the rise of the Los Angeles metropolis from the barren desert wastes.

Shorts Program 2
History (Ernie Gehr/1970/25 mins/16mm)
Trouble in the Image (Pat O’Neill/1996/38 mins/35mm)
World Shadow (Stan Brakhage/1972/3 mins/16mm)
Pink Dot (Takeshi Murata/2007/5 mins/DCP)
Mothlight (Stan Brakhage/1963/4 mins/16mm)
A sense of secret history runs through Lynch’s work, and this collection prods the scars of a turbulent past through images of tumult and chaos. Brakhage’s decoupages roil and rumble; Gehr’s History works without a camera lens, exposing film through black cheesecloth, achieving simmering visuals; O’Neill uses found footage and an optical printer to discover Trouble in the Image; while Murata digitally manipulates Rambo: First Blood (1982) into a hypnotic abstraction.

Shorts Program 3
Untitled (Silver) (Takeshi Murata/2007/11 mins/DCP)
Krypton Is Doomed (Ken Jacobs/2005/34 mins/DCP)
Epileptic Seizure Comparison (Paul Sharits/1976/30 mins/16mm)
Owl Gets in Your Eyes (Chris Marker/1994/1 min/DCP)
Breakaway (Bruce Conner/1996/5 mins/35mm)
A headlong plunge into the woods—both the mystery and majesty of nature, and the thickets of a frame choked in overgrowth. The owls are not what they seem for Marker; Murata uses digital processing to create a forest of black-and-white from Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960); Jacobs matches audio from the first Superman radio broadcast to visuals from one of his “Nervous Magic Lantern” performances; Sharits attempts to mimic the conditions of epilepsy through convulsive light and sound; and Conner singlehandedly invents the music video in Breakaway (Starring Toni Basil!)

Shorts Program 4
Outer Space (Peter Tscherkassky/1999/10 mins/35mm)
Bi-Temporal Vision of the Sea (Ken Jacobs/1994/20 mins/DCP)
Arnulf Rainer (Peter Kubelka/1960/7 mins/35mm)
Mongoloid (Bruce Conner/1978/4 mins/16mm)
Crossroads (Bruce Conner/1976/36 mins/35mm)
The mythology of Twin Peaks now stretches all the way back to Los Alamos, and this assembly of films explore, overtly or otherwise, the terrible beauty of the Atomic Age and hostile, even apocalyptic landscapes. Conner devolves with Devo and gazes upon blossoming mushroom clouds at humanity’s Crossroads; Tscherkassky’s Outer Space designs a seething, hostile environment from a Barbara Hershey movie; Jacobs sets sail on a strobing Bi-Temporal Vision of the Sea; a two-tone film that looks positively colorful next to Kubelka’s stark, suttering Arnulf Rainer

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Steve's take on Fabricated City (2017) New York Asian Film Festival 2017 Fantasia 2017

One of the best films at both of this year's NYAFF and Fantasia FABRICATED CITY is a rip roaring action film of the highest order.

The film is the story of a video gamer who is suddenly arrest for the rape and murder of a high school girl. Framed, convicted and thrown into jail he has to find a way to escape and then find the real person who did it and the reason for his being set up.

FABRICATED CITY is full of an unending chain of white knuckle set pieces. While normally the plot in a film like this could run the danger of being overwhelmed by the motion, that doesn't happen here thanks to a great cast who create and sell you on their characters. We believe because we not only like the action but we love the characters.

Adding a level to the film is the wicked social commentary and satire that runs through the film. Questions of violence,the government, corruption, patriarchy, and the place of women run through the film. One of the gang helping our hero is a woman who is light years a head of all the men, that is not a typical place for a woman to be. Its a heady mix of themes on display,most of which you'd mix unless you paused for a second to see them.

Mostly you'll remember the killer set pieces. From the opening, not to be topped mega assault in the video game on through the fights, chases and armed standoffs FABRICATED CITY is one of the best action films in several years. a beautiful blending of story character and motion this is one film you can't afford to miss.

Highly recommended

FABRICATED CITY has played NYAFF and will play the 29th at Fantasia. FOr tickets and more information go here

Monday, July 24, 2017

Turn it Around:The Story of East Bay Punk (2017)

TURN IT AROUND overwhelmed me. Its nearly three hour long recounting of the punk scene in the East Bay near San Francisco is so chock full of information I thought my brain was going to explode. A film that touches the head, the heart and the ear the film nicely lays out the movement that gave us Green Day and other bands.

Striving to tell us everything there is to know about the East Bay punk scene Turn It Around gives us the whole story from the 1970s when the music of the Ramones shook up everyone’s idea of what music could be. The film then tears through decades of history to bring us to the present day. It is a film full of music and images from the time as we hear the stories from those who survived the march of time and listen to the music of bands who shaped the music we listen to today despite only lasting, in many cases for a very brief time.

This is a film that beautifully lays out the punk movement in Northern California. It’s a film that kept me up until 2 am watching it’s tale spin out as crazy stories were being told and some glorious music was playing. For those who are interested this is a super film that will fill in all sorts of holes in your education.

But as good as it is it is not without problems.

The first problem is the films length is a tad unwieldy. Clocking in at two hours and thirty seven minutes the film makes a game try to tell you everything that you wanted to know about the punk scene in one sitting. It’s a one stop shop approach is commendable but as we close in to two hours it becomes almost too much without a break. In a weird way had this gone a tad longer this could have been a great PBS 2 night event.

The next issue is the film doesn’t completely give us a context for what we are seeing. There is a lot of discussion of the places of the East Bay but there isn’t enough of an attempt to explain it to people who have never been there. Yes they roughly give us city or neighborhood locations but actual club venues not so muc. Additionally people and events are mentioned as if they would mean something, but it always isn't clear who they are what things were. The lack of context makes this a tough film to recommend to anyone who doesn’t know the East Bay.

The probably my biggest problem is the scene is made to seem as though it is happening in a vacuum. There is only fleeting mentions of outside influences or the outside world. Where did the drive to make this music come from? What were they listening to before? The Ramones are named checked but other than a reference to the European punk scene, the only reference is to punk fashion. What were these kids listening to? We don’t know. As far as we know the music spontaneously appeared in the ears of the musicians.

Reservations aside this is a killer film. I am nit picking becase this film is so damn close to being perfect I'm annoyed it isn't. In all honesty despite making notes about my uncertainty with parts, as soon as the film was done (and even before) I was emailing and texting my friends to tell them they had to either see TURN IT AROUND and/or if possible cover it. There is something about the emotion and wealth of information contained within it that trumps any quibbles that I have.

Recommended for anyone with interest in punk or the history of rock and roll.

TURN IT AROUND opens Friday in theaters

Facebook: @eastbaypunxmovie
Twitter: @ebpunxmovie
Instagram: @eastbaypunk

In Brief: Ron Goossens, Low-Budget Stuntman (2017) Fantasia 2017

This the story of shit faced drunk Ron Goosens who parleys a spectacular failure car stunt into a job as a stunt man.

This is 75 minutes of bad behavior with some really terrible people. While it’s a very funny film, it’s also the sort of thing that will make you want to take a bath when it’s done. Don’t get me wrong I laughed my ass off at times but I hated myself for doing it. These are some really unpleasant people.

Recommended despite my better judgement.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

(not quite a) Nightcap 7/23/17 Festivals and the weeks to come

Not that you've missed my weekly rant sessions but things have been a foot the last few weeks so there has been time to work out any Nightcaps. Between NYAFF, Japan Cuts and Fantasia all criss crossing -- and over lapping last weekend-- there has been very little time to do anything.

For the two of you playing the home game here is how things shake out-at least for the moment:

All of our New York Asian Film Fest coverage is finally complete with the post from Jared and the Eric Tsang interview. Thank you to the Subway Cinema crew for letting me ride along.

I think we maybe pretty much done with our Japan Cuts coverage, though I still may scare up one or two more reviews. Thank you to the Japan Society for everything.

Our Fantasia coverage continues and will be running through the end of the fest August 2nd and maybe past it.

Next week starts the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema. I've got a curtain raiser and a bunch of reviews set and a few more to go.

Over the net few weeks look for some new releases- especially since I've been so festivaled out I have largely ignored the current releases.

Beyond that I don't know.

The stunning Carrie Ng was radiant (and silly) at her New York Asian FIlm Festival appearances here's proof

Jared King continues his reporting with some stunning pictures of Carrie Ng at the New York Asian Film Festival

Carrie Ng and ZOMBIOLOGY director Alan Lo center

Alan Lo and Carrie Ng

Carrie Ng and Jared show off one of his newly signed posters

In a silly moment Carrie Ng makes a face while signing

Fantasia ’17: Broken Sword Hero

King Taksin defeated the constant waves of Burmese invaders, unified his country as the Thonburi Kingdom, and promoted trade with the European powers. Of course, he did not do it alone. Initially, the bullied Joi does not look like he will be much help to anyone, particularly himself. However, destiny has different plans in Bin Bunluerit’s Broken Sword Hero, which screens during the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Unless you really know your Thai history, forget about the sword and focus on the hero. That will be Joi—eventually. It would seem like fate dealt him a tough break, considering the regional governor’s entitled son Cherd is his chief tormentor. When he finally fights back hard enough to draw blood, Joi resigns himself to a life of exile. Living by his wits, he becomes a talented Muay Thai fighter. Unfortunately, that will not be enough to defeat a true master. At least he learns an important early lesson: humility. From then on, Thongdee (as the white-teethed, betelnut abstainer is now known) will study any discipline, under any master with a unique specialty.

Along the way, Thongdee makes some real friends and serves his successive masters faithfully. Periodically, he will face off against his old nemesis Cherd and his corrupt uncle. Although Thongdee is still an outlaw, his good deeds and multi-disciplinary martial arts skills start to attract the attention of a mysterious mustachioed observer.

Bunluerit must be a heck of a persuasive director, because he convinced former Miss Teen Thailand Sornsin Maneewan to portray Thongdee’s potential love interest Ramyong with betelnut-stained teeth. Chutirada Junthit was doubly lucky to play Mauylek, an itinerant Chinese opera performer and marital artist, because she was spared the betelnut and had the chance to show off her own action chops in some of the action sequences.

Of course, the film is clearly intended to launch Muay Thai champion Sombat “Buakaw” Banchamek as the next Tony Jaa. There is no question he has the skills and the super-chiseled physique. Granted, his screen presence will not exactly blow you through the back wall of the theater, but he has greater emotional range than Van Damme and Schwarzenegger displayed early in their careers (or arguably even in their latest films). Still, he is not another Tony Jaa yet, but it isn’t for a lack of effort. He brings tremendous physicality to the action scenes, which should earn him good will from fans right from the start.

If you are looking for bare-chested, fist-pumping, sword-shattering action, Bunluerit and Buakaw deliver over and over again. Again, it is important to remember this is an origins story, so don’t get hung up waiting for a sword to break. Instead, just let the spectacle of flying elbows and knees wash over you. Highly recommended for martial arts fans, especially those who appreciate the Southeast Asian historical elements, Broken Sword Hero screens today (7/23) at this year’s Fantasia.

In This Corner Of the World (2016) Japan Cuts 2017

It is not a lie to say that In This Corner Of The World has some of the most shattering sequences I’ve seen. Period. Full Stop. There are two moments in the second half left me feeling as if I had been beaten by a large club. They are something on the order of the crushing effect of Grave of Fireflies. I use the analogy not because both films are animated but because of the power.

At the same time In This Corner… never manages to pull it all together to make it a film as great as the moments.

The story is of Suzu who we meet as a child in the early 1930’s we watch as she goes to school, paints and draws and has a wonderful life. As time moves on she marries and war comes. The film details life on the home front as the war comes home and eventually her hometown of Hiroshima is leveled.

A truly gorgeous film, the film looks like the watercolor painting Suzu paints, the film is clearly of the work of Sunao Katabuchi, whose Mai Mai Miracle was also a thing of beauty. Say what you will of the visual splendor of Studio Ghibli Katabuchi visual style is their equal. This is a film that delights the eye and then some.

As a series of sequences the film is amazing. The individual pieces which highlight life in Japan during the war years is great. From an American perspective the film is not the same completely dreary portrait of the war. It is not your typical look at life on the Homefront and it’s portrait does a great deal to restore the notion of there was a life being lived and not being depicted in films, both Japanese and American.

There are numerous sequences that stand out with two war ones being among the finest I’ve seen in any film. One concerns the tragedy of an unexploded bomb that left me staring blankly. The other is one in the aftermath of the bombing which broke my heart with its sadness.

As great as the sequences are I’m not sure that Katabuchi ever completely ties everything together the way they should be. While we get a sense of the passage of time in some sequences, in others we have to fumble. It doesn’t help that Suze and some characters didn’t seem to change all that much visually. The need to cover a spread of 15 years doesn’t always allow us enough time to connect to the now before moving on. I’m going to guess that the movement through time works better in the source manga where one was not limited by a strict 2 hour run time.

The other thing that kind of bothered me as that as good at the film is at showing is a side of the we never see it does hit some of the typical war time moment. The most obvious being the atomic bomb. While I knew it would be in the plot because of the setting, I was hoping that it would take a different tact. As harrowing as the one sequence in the city is (it’s a heartbreaker) I was disappointed that the film didn’t keep it distant. (It seems to be there to simply show we will overcome and feels artificial.)

Junk Head (2017) Fantasia 2017

Takahide Hori's masterpiece JUNK HEAD is unlike anything you've ever seen before-unless you saw the short the film spring from. A futuristic post apocalyptic stop motion feast it will simply make you go wow repeatedly as you realize that this was done by hand.

Set thousands of years in the future when man has kind of become immortal and expedition is sent to the bowels of the city (earth?) where the clones and man made servants were sent to dwell after they had revolted. They want to see what is happening down there.

I really have no idea what to tell you this film is like.Echoing things like Fraggle Rock, Ralph Bakshi's WIZARDS, MAD MAX, and a dozen or more other things the film spins out in all sorts of ways. WHile I could tell you more of what its like it belies the truth which is the fact the film is truly it's own things. Hori has, like his creations, bits of other films for his own use. JUNK HEAD is not any of the films I mentioned but its own wondrous film.

I was entranced just watching the various riffs and background details whiz by.

This is pure cinema magic of the highest order.

If you love unique visions or are an animation junkie you must see this.

JUNK HEAD screens today and tomorrow at Fantasia. For more information and tickets go here

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Pictures from Eric Tsang's Lifetime Achievement Award at The New York Asian FIlm Festival 2017

In addition to helping ot with the Eric Tsang interview good friend Jared King covered the red carpet and awards ceremony when the New York Asian Film Festival gave him their Lifetime Achievement Award.

Eric Tsang
Wong CHun, director of MAD WORLD says a few words about Eric
Eric Tsang with Award in hand poses for th cameras

Eric takes a moment to sign for a fan (and our reporter Jared)
At the pre-screening party Jared talks to Wong Chun  about MAD WORLD and Eric Tsang

SUMMER LIGHTS (2017) Japan Cuts 2017

Jean-Gabriel Périot's film has a long time Japanese ex-pat filmmaker returning to Japan to make a film on the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. After being shaken by the testimony of a survivor (the first quarter of the film is her simply telling her story) the filmmaker goes for a walk in the memorial ark where he falls into a conversation with a young woman. The pair travel to the coast and to the filmmakers home.

I'm really mixed on this film. While  enjoyable on a most basic level the film doesn't really do anything beyond that. The testimony that opens the film is moving to be certain, but the remaining hour of the film is more polemic than drama. Its the two people discussing life in a manner that never feels real. It plays out as any similar films do but without the usual romance (say the BEFORE films).

I suspect the real problem is that the film never feels real from the instant it starts. How could a man making a film on the bombing seem to be so clueless about it. His reaction to the testimony seems to be as if he were a man from Mars hearing the stories for the first time. One would think he would know something about it. He reacts so that he can act as an audience surrogate, except odds are the audience is going to be well aware of the story. What follows from there is a conversation that while pleasant and enjoyable feels constructed. Periot is clearly steering us toward something with a firm hand. Sure we don't mind being lead but at the same time we know something is coming...

My one reaction when it was done was, "well that was well done but kind of pointless...doesn't he realize we've been here before?" Apparently not. And it's not bad I just wanted more from the film.(Though admittedly the first 20 minutes is so riveting its almost impossible to top)

Worth a look if you are so inclined.