I’ve worked for a film commission, for a film society, and for a film festival, so I have seen my fair share of independent films. Typically indies fall into two categories: the undiscovered gems, and the oh-my-god-your-poor-family-mortgaged-their-house-for-this variety. Thankfully, Jason Momoa’s Road to Paloma falls into the first category with spectacular visuals, an emotional storyline, and subtle, realistic performances from the cast.
The Phoenix Film Festival has become my favorite way to spend three or four days away from home. That even beats out Disneyland, which I went to for the first time this year. This year’s Phoenix Film Festival did it again with a ton of great movies, parties and seminars. There wasn’t enough time for me to take it all in so I dedicated most of my time to watching movies and eating Harkins concessions. This year I saw 16 feature films and a few shorts. I’m going to rank them from my most favorite to my least favorite; I’ll give you a short synopsis of the film and then tell you what I did or didn’t like about the film. Continue reading →
Andrew Bird is described as an American musician, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He has a bachelor’s degree in violin performance and has made tons of music in the genres of folk, jazz, swing and blues. He’s been on albums with multiple bands but failed to get viable commercial success. He was later asked to open for a band in his hometown, but his band mates were unable to make it to the opening. So he did what any levelheaded person might do and played the gig solo. It went extremely well for the young musician! Because of the success of his solo show Bird went on to gain success by wrapping himself in his music with a solo career. Continue reading →
Cinqué Lee, despite the unique name he has, is probably someone who has a body of work more recognizable to you than his name. Lee, brother of acclaimed director Spike Lee, has worked in the film industry since the late 80’s wearing a wide variety of hats. From director to producer to actor and even wardrobe, the man has done it all.
Lee’s most notable works include co-writing the screenplay for Crooklyn and acting roles in Mystery Train and Coffee & Cigarettes, both films from director Jim Jarmusch. Lee’s most recent film is a sci-fi fantasy piece entitled Window On Your Present. The film was actually Lee’s first, being shot in the late 80’s and just released on DVD from BrinkDVD. Continue reading →
Window On Your Present is the new film from writer/director Cinqué Lee. By new I must clarify newly released on DVD by BrinkDVD, as the actual film itself was the first from Lee which he shot in 1988.
The fantasy film follows Europa, played by Maria Pineres, as she makes her way through a crumbling world stripped of color; imagine Snake Pliskin’s New York in black and white. In this world both color and love are things of the past. In this lackluster world with nothing to live for, people often resort to suicide.
This is an interesting and different take on a post-apocalyptic universe than we typically see in modern cinema. Two lovers meet and discover something special exists beyond the treacherous world they know. Continue reading →
The Phoenix Film Festival returns to the desert for the 11th straight year from March 31-April 7, 2011 at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theatre.
The Phoenix Film Festival has rapidly been growing over the past decade, quickly becoming a favorite of many filmmakers. In past years the festival has showcased films from all over the world from Do It For Uncle Manny in 2002 to (500) Days of Summer in 2009to Cyrus and Middle Men headlining last year. Continue reading →
Who would have thought there was a seedy underbelly in the world of insurance salesmen? The new comedy Cedar Rapids, starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock Jr., takes a small town guy and throws him into the wild world of an insurance convention in the “big city” of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Continue reading →
There’s already talk of Natalie Portman getting a Oscar nomination for her performance in Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller The Black Swan and with good reason, she’s amazing in it. Continue reading →
Films that deal with mental illness often take one of two paths: they go for light hearted comedy, joking about inappropriate outbursts or hallucinations, or they take the tragic route and focus on the ways mental illness can destroy families or shatter the lives of its victims. It’s Kind of a Funny Story combines these two tracks for an interesting story about friendship, love and coping with the pressures of life. Continue reading →
Last night marked my first trip down to the Starz FilmCenter for DocNight, a monthly documentary series presented by the Denver Film Society. This month’s film wasManda Bala, a truly outstanding documentary that weaves together several story lines to paint a gritty and rich portrait of corruption in Brazil.
The film, directed by Jason Kohn (who also appeared in-person for Q&A at last night’s event) was the product of over five years of hard work and emphasized the concept of the documentary as a form of cinematic storytelling. Kohn explained that his goal with Manda Bala was not to make an informational, political message movie, but instead to showcase his subject matter using the most cinematic methods. Those methods included creating an overarching metaphor using cannibal frogs and creating characters of his unique interview subjects.
The “cast” included several members of the Sao Palo police and anti-corruption task force as well as victims and perpetrators of various crimes. We meet police officers who tally up their gunshot wounds like they were fantasy football wins, an ultra-paranoid member of Sao Palo’s upper class who boasts about his bullet-proof Porche and goes only by the spy-like moniker of Mr. M, the owner of a frog farm that seems to be at the center of a large-scale political controversy, and even a kidnapping victim who describes the way Alfred Hitchcock movies played a role in her imprisonment.
One of the most fascinating characters is a plastic surgeon who specializes in creating artificial ears, a growing industry in a region where kidnappers frequently send the appendages to victims’ families to demand higher ransoms. Though he is a truly skilled surgeon, he seems to have an almost unreal God complex and truly believes that the lord works through him during the procedures.
We also meet other entrepreneurs, such as the staff of a school that teaches classes on how to drive your bullet proof car to avoid getting kidnapped and a company that manufactures microchips that can be implanted in the body and used to track a person’s location. This focus on the growing industries that have sprouted because of crime was a fascinating twist to the usual perspective.
In what are certainly the most surprising interviews, Kohn was able to speak with both a kidnapper who paints himself to be a Robin Hood type hero and Jader Barbalho, the corrupt politician who is the villain in the cinematic story of the film. The film weaves these two men together to create an engaging landscape and describe just how far crime really stretches in the country.
Films like Manda Bala open doors to all sorts of political discussion as well as conversations about documentary as a means of storytelling. Thankfully, with Kohn and Denver Post film critic Lisa Kennedy at the screening, there was lots of time to chat about the artistic and social merits of the film.
While this was my first DocNight experience, I enjoyed it so much that I can say with certainty that it will definitely not be my last.
View the trailer for Manda Bala here:
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