Interview with Executive Director Lisa Veliz (Environmental Film Festival at Yale)

Brazilian trash workers, killer whales, and food waste all share one thing in common–they’ve been featured in the largest student-run environmental film festival in the world. Mark your calendars—the 8th annual Environmental Film Festival at Yale (EFFY) is taking place from April 1-9, 2016 in New Haven, Connecticut. This festival draws audiences of over 1,700 each year and several films that have been screened at EFFY in years past have since won Oscars, Emmys, and are now shown on Netflix. This festival was founded by a group of graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and it has grown to include the greater Yale and New Haven communities while maintaining inclusivity through FREE admission for all.

Interview with Lisa Veliz: 

Matthew Toffolo: What is the festival attempting to accomplish for filmmakers and the attendees? 

Lisa Veliz: The goal of EFFY is to shed light on environmental issues through the medium of film. We work diligently to make this festival inclusive for all through free admission and diverse in terms of content throughout the festival.

MT: How many countries represented the festival last year and in 2016? 

LV: This year we have received submissions from over 26 countries, and we are currently in the process of reviewing films for final selection. Last year, we had films from more than 30 countries.

MT: How did the festival get started? 

LV: The festival was founded 8 years ago, by a small group of graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. It started with a few films over 2 days and it has grown to encompass close to 20 total student, feature, and short films over 9 days.

MT: Where do you see the festival in 5 years? 

LV: My 5-year vision for EFFY is to take a front seat at the table with the premier environmental film festivals worldwide, and to leverage the network of both student-run festivals as well as environmental initiatives to ultimately reach larger audiences than ever before.

MT: How is the film scene at Yale University?

LV: I’m very new to the film scene, so I’m not sure I can speak to the film scene on campus at-large.

MT: How many films do you anticipate showcasing at your 2016 Film Festival?

LV: We’ll be showcasing 22 films (features, shorts, and student films)

MT: Can you give us a sneak peak of what to expect for the 2016 Festival?

LV: We’ll be integrating virtual reality experiences, a special Youth Film Summit, and a few Sundance films!

MT: What are your feelings on certain high ranking US politicians who feel that there isn’t any environmental issues happening around the world?

LV: I don’t understand why we’re still debating the severity and legitimacy of the environmental crisis we face today. We don’t need more proof of extreme weather conditions and mass species extinction to understand that we are at a turning point in the history of this planet. These issues affect business, the economy, public health, and–most of all–our children. I think climate-denying politicians will surely be in for a rude awakening.

MT: When did you join the festival? Is it always a student run affair and handed off to a new group every 3-5 years? 

LV: I stepped up as ED in June 2015, and it’s been an interesting process to think about the succession plan, because our Master’s programs are typically only two years long–it makes succession planning very challenging. We’re working on making EFFY more integrated into the fabric of the university and particularly at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

MT: If I am attending the festival in New Haven, what else should I see? Landmarks etc..? And what restaurant(s) do I need to go to?    

LV: I’d recommend hiking up to East Rock, dining at Caseus or Da Legna, and going for drinks/pool at Bar. These are my New Haven favorites!

___

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Short Film Movie Review: THE FAUCET (4min, USA, Comedy)

THE FAUCET played to rave reviews at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016.

  MOVIE POSTER

THE FAUCET, 4min, USA, Comedy

Directed by Samip Raval & Danny Klimetz

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

How many times have we tried to wash our hands on touch-less faucets, or tried to dry them on automatic driers, only to look like idiots as we stupidly wave our hands in front of an unresponsive sensor? We put a man on the moon, but we still can’t invent dependable motion sensors somehow. Yet thankfully these situations lead to hilarious plotlines, such as that in Samit Raval and Danny Klimetz’ film The Faucet.

The only minor critique I would have for this short is that, for such a predictable outcome, the film lasts a little longer than you would normally expect. Regardless, Raval and Klimetz still manage to somehow extend the element of comedy by using a few clever curveballs throughout the film. These unexpected mini-twists almost turn the technology itself into a character that is simply out to get our poor, hygiene-conscious, protagonist.

If you enjoy being frustrated, or you have some sort of a gripe with new technology, then you will very likely enjoy The Faucet. I do not all into any of these categories myself, but I was certainly able to appreciate the humour in this film. After all, lets face it, who doesn’t enjoy a good comedy? Particularly one that so many of us can relate to.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the short film

Short Film Movie Review: LIKE IN THE MOVIES (5min, Italy, Documentary)

LIKE IN THE MOVIES played to rave reviews at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016.

  MOVIE POSTER

LIKE IN THE MOVIES, 5min, Italy, Documentary

Directed by Francesco Faralli

Following his cinephile passion, Daniele Bonarini (from the Association “Il Cenacolo Francescano”), realizes digital feature films shot with the enthusiastic support of friends and volunteers using disabled persons as actors.

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

This is the second of Francesco Faralli’s films that I’ve seen, and the second with Tiziano Barbini’s participation, and I can’t help but smile every time. There is something truly wonderful in the work that Faralli does by making films with the disabled. He creates true masterpieces, and, in pretending, provides us with a deep look into who these people really are.

There is a split second where you’re watching Faralli’s films where I noticed myself laughing at a disabled person, a concept that I had always imagined appauling. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to not laugh while watching Faralli’s work. Him and his actors create wonderfully heartwarming stories that demonstrate just what the disabled are truly capable of, and I can truly say it’s a hell of a lot more than I can do.

Tiziano Barbini is one Faralli’s most popular leading men, and together the pair have won several awards in film festivals world wide. Tiziano, at least in Faralli’s films, is a very positive, loving, and emotional person, who seems to experience every detail of the world with the intensity most of us reserve for more extreme achievements. He truly exemplifies the concept of living life to the fullest, and appreciating every moment, smiling at the smallest of details, and pointing out beauty everywhere he goes.

Perhaps it’s just because I’m a sentimental ball of mush, but I could watch Faralli’s films a million times and never get bored of them. Tiziano stole my heart in the very first of his documentaries that I watched, and without ever even meeting him, I know he’ll always be able to bring a smile to my face. I don’t know if everyone would enjoy this film as much as I did. The audience at Wild Sound certainly seemed to give it a very positive reception. In any case I urge you to look in to some of Faralli’s work. What he is doing both for the independent film industry and for the disabled community in Italy is amazing, and it deserves more attention from all of us.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the short film

Short Film Movie Review: LOVE AT FIRST LIGHT (1min, Ireland, Comedy)

LOVE AT FIRST LIGHT played to rave reviews at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016.

  MOVIE POSTER

LOVE AT FIRST LIGHT, 1min, Ireland, Comedy

Directed by Caroline Grace-Cassidy

A mixup occurs the morning after a one night stand.

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

More of a punch-line than a short film, Love At First Light is one of the better short comedies I’ve seen in a while. Trust the Irish to keep things simple, and to the point, even in the most awkward and racy situations.

It’s hard to talk about a 1 minute film without revealing most of its plot line, but I’m sure many of us have been there. If not we know more than enough stories from our friends who have been there. That one night stand that got away, that we could never stop thinking about. Thankfully none of the characters in this film will ever have to struggle with these doubts.

This is actually a great short film to watch on Valentine’s day, whether you’re single or in a relationship. All of us can appreciate the silly transience of our emotions, particularly when they come with they relate to the strong, passionate sentiments of love. We’ve all had that partner, or crush, that we think we could never live without, until we do and we’re ok. We’ve all had that moment where we’ve had just a little too much to drink and all of a sudden we become the most deeply feeling and loving human beings on the planet.

…No? Just me then? In any case, Caroline Grace-Cassidy’s film is incredibly relateable, hilarious, and clever. Grace-Cassidy manages to pack quite a powerful mix of emotions and comedy, within an incredibly short film, showcasing a very strong talent for story-telling. Lovers of stand-up will love this short film that could easily be a segway into one of Seinfeld’s shows. Whether your significant other is a box of chocolates, a furry companion, or a two legged semi-hairless being, give this film a watch with them. You’re likely to have a good laugh regardless of your situation.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the short film

Short Film Movie Review: OH MY OH AGAMI (4min, Egypt, Documentary/Poetry)

OH MY OH AGAMI played to rave reviews  at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016. 

OH MY OH AGAMI, 4min, Egypt, Documentary/Poetry
Directed by Hani R. Eskander

A visual poem depicting a life of an Agami resident who reminisces his childhood amidst the ongoing destruction and illegal construction.

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

I’m often skeptical of poetic cinema, in the same way that I’m often skeptical of overly “artsy” cinema. Although I have found many that I have enjoyed and appreciated, I’m all too aware that these films can often go one of two ways. Oh My Oh Agami is definitely one of the winners.

Despite not being able to understand what was being said in the film without the assistance of the subtitles, I could certainly appreciate the lovely intonations and rhyming sounds I was able to pick up. One of the great advantages of poetic cinema is that it opens up the meanings and rythmns of poetry in different languages, in a way that the written form cannot. It opens access to a whole world of literature that would otherwise be completely locked to those who do not speak the language.

What’s more Oh My Oh Agami opens up a world and concept that are almost completely foreign to North Americans, and others in the developed world. To most of us, the concept of illegal building seems almost impossible. How could anyone ever build an entire building without the city or government legally allowing them to do it? It’s difficult for us to grasp how some countries and governments can have so few resources that they are not able to enforce the law in any way, or where they are so easily bribed for want of accountability.

Hani R Eskander’s film immerses us in Egyptian culture through everything from its imagery, to its phonetic beauty, to its harsh realities. He both satiates and entices our wanderlust by bringing us into his world, and teaching us more about his day to day life. Through his poetic words and imagery, Eskander captures the true meaning of the concept of “show don’t tell,” playing into his audience’s curiosity.

Oh My Oh Agami is truly a beautiful film, and a powerful statement against illegal building in Egypt. If nothing else it’s worth a watch purely for the eye-opening experience it provides. This film is for the philanthropist, the traveller, and the environmentalist in all of us. It is a truly gorgeously made short film that deserves our attention, even if only for four short minutes.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Festival of the Short Film:

Short Film Movie Review: THE MEGA PLUSH (4min, USA, Animation/Action)

THE MEGA PLUSH was the winner of Best Film at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016. 

  MOVIE POSTERTHE MEGA PLUSH, 4min, USA, Animation/Action
Directed by Matt Burniston

Set in the shadows of a gritty underworld, a war is brewing. The Mega Plush, a group of four plush toy vigilantes, are struggling against the uprising of the SOC (Society of Chimps) army. Good vs evil. Bear vs sock monkey. The question is “who has the stuffing to survive?”

http://www.themegaplush.com/

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

Badass gangsters, a suspenseful chase scene, cute plush stuffed animals, what’s not to like? Matt Burnison has definitely hit gold mine territory in my book. After so many predictable Marvel films coming out its beyond refreshing to see an original action hero story coming from independent cinema, once again reminding me what Hollywood could achieve if it listened to new voices.

Perhaps the best part of Burnison’s short is that he kind of leaves you guessing who the bad guys and the good guys are. Though there seemed to be some sort of concensus in the audience that the monkeys were the ‘goodies’, the look of his compatriots in the final scene make me beg to differ. Nevertheless, this ambiguity was a comforting change to the traditional “good vs bad” dichotomy that we’re all too accustomed to these days. We all know that in real life things aren’t quite so simple, and I appreciate that Burnison didn’t force his own bias on his audience.

In any case no philosophical discussion of the originilaity of The Mega Plush could do the film itself justice. The sountrack, lighting, compositing, story-telling and directing of the film were all top quality. In fact I was incredibly surprised when, during mediation, I noticed two people who shook their heads at every positive comment, and seemed to really dislike the film. Of course every film will have supporters and so called “haters”, but I couldn’t help but feel surprised that any one would dislike this film.

I suppose I have made my bias for this film a litl emore than obvious. I’m sure there will be those of you out there who won’t enjoy this short, as there are many people out there who don’t enjoy many popular films. When you’re investing 2 hours of your time for a Hollywood blockbuster that everyone is raving about, but you just don’t happen to like, I completely understand that you might be annoyed. But if you have a free four minutes to spare, check out Burnison’s website for The Mega Plush project, best case scenario; you just watched a great short film. Worst case… well I doubt that will even happen.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Festival of the Short Film:

 

 

Interview with Director/Production Designer David Hackl (SAW Franchise)

Matthew Toffolo's Summary

David Hackl was the production designer and second unit director for Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV, as well as for Repo! The Genetic Opera. He then went on to direct Saw V to critical and financial success. Recently, he directed multiple episodes of the TV series “Real Detective”.

I was fortunate to sit down with David to talk about his career and what’s next:

Matthew Toffolo: You have worked in the Art Department and Directed over 25 films, is there a film or two that you’re most proud of?

David Hackl: I’m very proud of the Saw franchise and feel grateful to have had the opportunity to work on it. It a piece of cinema history now. I also have a real fondness for Outlander as it was one of the most epic projects that I’ve done. I had to research it like crazy and learn everything about…

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Short Film Movie Review: YO SOY PEDRO (10min, France, Sci-Fi/Comedy)

YO SOY PEDRO was the winner of Best Musical Score at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016. 

  MOVIE POSTERYO SOY PEDRO, 10min, France, Sci-Fi/Comedy
Directed by Jordan Inconstant

1977. Mackenzie and Banks are two Americans cops who encounter an alien that has just crashed. The police take him for a film actor and decide to bring it back to Hollywood studios. 

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

Yo Soy Pedro is one of the most unique films I have seen in a while, and it took me a little discussion with other audience members in order to truly appreciate it in all its glory. I guess that just serves as all the more proof of how misunderstood the science fiction genre can be. Nevertheless once I got a better handle on it, I realized how great of an example this film was that science fiction doesn’t need complex story-lines or super expensive production values to create quality entertainment.

Jordan Inconstant’s short film could not embody the director’s own name more. A Hollywood based film, spoken almost entirely in French, with extremely obvious, not-so-special effects Yo Soy Pedro manages to embrace two different genres while still making a political statement. Tired of watching numerous films based in different countries where everyone speaks English, Inconstant decided to create one in the United States, where everyone speaks French. Moreover, he adds to his critique of Holywood cinema by very poorly dubbing the only supposedly Spanish speaking actor in the film. In fact, despite my fluency with the language I could barely tell it was even Spanish that he was speaking – thank goodness for subtitles.

It’s impossible not to appreciate the cleverness of Inconstant’s creation, through everything from his plotline, to his production values, to his intricate use of language. Inconstant proves that he is able to laugh at himself, and at the film industry as a whole, while still embracing it with all its flaws. He not only seizes at Hollywood’s cheesiest cliches, he subverts them so cleverly that you could watch his film repeatedly and discover a new facet each time.

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to declare this film is for everyone, but it certainly has a strong appeal to a well-informed cinemaphile. In fact, for fans of Tim Burton, I have to admit some aspects of this film reminded me quite a bit of Ed Wood.Anyone who’s seen Burton’s infamous flop will quickly understand why Yo Soy Pedro might incite equally mixed reactions. If you’re a fan of clever, self-reflexive Hollywood comedy, give Inconstant’s film a shot. If he doesn’t have you on the floor laughing, he’ll at the very least be able to force our an involuntary smile from you.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Festival of the Short Film:

Short Film Movie Review: DISAPPEARED (5min, Canada, Fantasy/Romance)

DISAPPEARED played to rave reviews at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016. 

DISAPPEARED, 5min, Canada, Fantasy/Romance
Directed by Jon Silverberg

On the day he plans to propose to his girlfriend, a lowly shipping clerk finds a fountain pen that cause objects to vanish. He embraces the strange phenomenon as a novelty, until it threatens to impede his romantic plans, and very existence.

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

This film definitely played on one of my biggest fears, and despite its light-hearted nature I couldn’t help but feel a heavy knot in my gut after watching this. I have mentioned repeatedly in my reviews how much I am a fan of horror, but perhaps the very fact that Disappeared isn’t a horror film is what got my nerves jumping. Fortunately I seem to be the only person in the audience with a phobia for disappearances, as everyone else seems to have simply enjoyed it for what it was, even more so for its open-endedness.

While Jon Silverbeg’s introductory performance could have been a little more convincing, this minor flaw is quickly forgotten as the rest of the story draws us in. There’s even a certain catharsis in the very idea of a magical “erasing” pen that can make all our troubles go away. You can’t help but root for Silverberg’s character as you watch him magic all his problems away just so he can make it to dinner and propose to his girlfriend.

The best thing about this short was most certainly the ending… in a good way. It is both surprising, and vague enough to let you create your own satisfying version, and even leave you longing for a sequel. One audience members cleverly pointed out that it would have been interesting to encounter the other people or objects that the magical pen had been used on. In fact nothing says Jon Silverberg’s character wouldn’t encounter exactly that just moments later. The film ends so abruptly it leaves all that room precisely for you to interpret and decide where his life goes to from here.

It’s easy to deduce from here that this film is certainly one for the more creatively minded. Nevertheless, caution should be taken for those with a phobia of disappearing loved ones, like me. I guess that also makes this perfect for lovers of mystery. It’s always nice to appreciate good home-grown cinema, and Disappeared is definitely a good example of the capacity of the Canadian imagination.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Festival of the Short Film:

Short Film Movie Review: ARTIFICIAL (20min, Spain, Sci-Fi/Thriller)

ARTIFICIAL was the winner of Best Cinematography at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016. 

ARTIFICIAL, 20min, Spain, Sci-Fi/Thriller
Directed by Luis Espinosa

A man goes to a job interview. What he doesn’t know is that he has already been selected. CORPSA offers to pay him 80,000 Euros if he agrees to be cloned. But more than just a lot of money depends on his decision.

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

I’ve always found Science Fiction to be a tricky genre in the film industry. People seem to either love it or hate it most of the time. I’ve never been sure if that’s because of how expensive it is to produce a good sci-fi film, or because people have a hard time wrapping their heads around them, but the genre often provokes a lot of mixed reviews. That’s the only explanation I could find for the audience’s reaction to Artificial. During moderation people seemed a bit at a loss for what to say about their experience, whereas I wasn’t sure how anyone could have helped but fall in love with it.

Harkening back to a recent Indie sci-fi favourite, Ex-Machina, David P. Sanudo manages to simplify Alex Garland’s original concept and cause an even bigger impact. By condensing the films’ twists and turns into a smaller time span, Sanudo, the mastermind behind Artificial, keeps the audience constantly on their toes. 20 minutes pass by in an instant as you constantly try to figure out what’s actually happening and then get slammed with more shocking information just as you think you’ve figured it all out.

Connoisseurs of Spanish cinema will easily recognize Aitor Mazo and be disappointed to hear this was his final performance. Suffice to say hiswork in this short film was no less impressive than those of his blockbusters. It’s heartwarming to know the famous star passed away after such a great contribution to independent cinema, but it’s always sad to lose such a valuable component to the International film scene.

Fans of Spanish cinema and science fiction alike will appreciate this film for its simplicity in the face of such complex, and deeply philosophical concepts. Sanudo’s use of the ever familiar job interview setting also appeals to a less tech obsessed audience and provides an interesting fantasy relief to a commonly nerve-racking situation. With a thought provoking storyline, excellent performances and amazing production quality, Artificial certainly deserves every award it has won. Hats off to David Sanudo and his team for such an impressive final tribute to one of Spain’s cinema greats.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Festival of the Short Film: