Film Review: NO SIGNAL (Spain) Experimental Documentary

Played at the November 2016 Best of Short Documentary FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERNO SIGNAL, 1min., Spain, Documentary
Directed by Alaa Chnana

From all the acts of the present, the one can affect the past as well as the future is the war.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

No Signal  a riveting, stylized look at the crisis of war in Syria, is a study in interpretation. It it s a film that highlights the very raw, very gritty ravages of war against, and the highlight reel of pain engraved upon the memories of the people it affects.

 

The open, expressionless faces of Syrian refugees of young, old, large and small are superimposed on lightning-fast intercuts of media images of war and destruction. The effect of this stylized work is powerful and thought-provoking, begging the audience to question if we are looking at a human beings’ memories, or if we are looking at the war through the media that is used to describe their lives.

 

Ultimately, No Signal expresses the idea that we are really only ever scratching the surface of what is affected by war and political conflict. So often the rapid fire images we are bombarded with through the media dehumanize the suffering faced by real people every day.

No Signal brings us back to this humanity, by showing us these media images against the backdrop of human beings we do not know- yet we certainly recognize.

Technically speaking, the editing of No Signal must be highly commended. The sheer volume of media images that are used are superbly intercut and seamlessly tailored together. No Signal has a simple approach to storytelling that is effective and powerful, and for that, it is a film worth seeing.

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Film Review: TIME (Hong Kong) Documentary

Played at the November 2016 Best of Short Documentary FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERTIME, 3min., Hong Kong, Docuementary
Directed by Tak Chun Patrick Cheung

In 1951 the Hong Kong clock tower was built in the district of Tsim Sha Tsui. After all this time overlooking the Victoria Harbour for 100 years, no one has realised until now that a mysterious power from the clock will change the course of time.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

Time is a three-minute visual masterpiece, a stunning flurry of life, light and impeccable sound that follows one full day and night in the busy metropolis of Hong Kong. Following the image of the Iconic Hong Kong Clock Tower, TIME takes us through the cities, the roads, the boardwalks, the citysquares, the ferries wheels and the billboards of a city that never slows down.

 

Compellingly shot, flawlessly composed and brilliantly dynamic in every angle and dimension, TIME will leave you undeniably spellbound. The music entices you, the visual unity is engaging and the spectacle engulfs you in another world.

 

What is perhaps most compelling about TIME, from a cinematic and philosophical point of view, is how much modern Hong Kong mirrors any other high-profile metropolis. New York, Bejing, Paris, San Francisco, Toronto, Rome- could equally rival the brilliant days and vibrant nightlife. In this way TIME does something magical- it shows you a different world that is remarkably relatable. It takes you to another place, and still manages to make you think of home. A gripping, visually engaging, brilliant piece of cinema that takes us around the world and back again while never having to leave our seat.

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Film Review: GAYROUTH (France/Lebanon) Documentary

Played at the November 2016 Best of Short Documentary FEEDBACK Film Festival.

GAYROUTH 31min., France/Lebanon, Documentary
Directed by Charbel Raad

To be gay in Beirut, one of the most open minded capitals in the Middle East, which is sinking in the era of repressions, is not as easy as it looks. This documentary tells an exceptional and an uncommon story of two lives.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

Sharp, poignant, heartbreaking and unexpectedly funny, Gayruth follows the raw, gritty stories to two homosexual men and their separate lives while living Lebanon, where homosexuality is still widely frowned upon. Hiding their lifestyles and identities from their families (and to some degree the film crew) it reminds us what a very grave risk our subjects take exposing themselves to film.

 

Gayrouth takes a journey through the uneasy realities of a homosexual lifestyle in Beirut, focusing on the struggles to carve out peace for ones’ self in a sea of disapproval from both the personal and public spectrum. Gayrouth must be commended on all the areas it covers in the short time it has to make its’ statements. It touches on the disconnect and even breakdown of family ties for those who are hiding their sexuality.  It explores the ostracisation of one from their community. Most tragically, it showcases the personal story of one man’s emotional and psychological breakdown after his isolation turns him to a life a anonymous sex, and his struggle to pull himself out of the abusive cycle.  

 

And yet, lingering in all these deep, intense and heavy emotional moments- are islands of laughter, beats of humor, images of happiness- the moments when one of our heros’ is with his partner. We see, through the closed doors of a life lived hidden away- the love that makes the sacrifice.

 

Gayrouth is an emotionally hard-hitting film, which takes a real look at the struggles and risks of what it means to be “out” in an unwelcoming place. However it also shows hope and happiness. It shows love that preserves. It shows lives worthy of loving without fear. For these reason, watch Gayrouth.

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Film Review: THE NINTH OVEN (Mexico). Documentary

Played at the November 2016 Best of Short Documentary FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERTHE NINTH OVEN, 10min., Mexico, Documentary
Directed by Erika Oregel

A boy of 14 years is living his last years childhood before having 15 years; years in which is legal to work in Mexico. He has been working illegaly since 9 years old to work and get a living with his grandmother.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

The Ninth Oven, a short, stunning piece hailing from Mexico, follows a young boy and his journey through the illegal work he does to help support his family. Our hero, a spirited teenager, has juggled school, studying and working as a brick maker since the age of nine. Illegal though it is to be employed so young, our protagonists approaches his situation with admirable maturity.

The Ninth Oven has an unassuming charm about it. It’s approach to the realities of life in the rural area are looked at through the eyes of our young male lead. As such, the larger political and economic issues connected to child labour are subtle- a microscopic view of a larger social issue. Through the lense of the hero nothing seems abnormal. His bright and effervescent optimism is a constant source of pride to his family and loved ones. His dedication to his family, his work and his future easily tug the heartstrings of any audience. The Ninth Oven takes a look at child labor from the perspective of the laborer who does not see their work as a cross to bear- but a challenge they must rise to. It is impossible not to like our hero, as he explains he does not desire a life of wealth or affluence- he only wants to have enough to be happy. A nobel and astute goal for someone so young.

 

Brightly shot, The Ninth Oven is a beautifully woven story that makes us imagine what it is like to live in other parts of the world and that adulthood is rarely a matter of chronological age.

 

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Film Review: HOCKEY NIGHT (Canada 1984)

hockey_night.jpgDirector: Paul Shapiro
Writers: Jack Blum, Paul Shapiro
Stars: Megan Follows, Rick Moranis, Gail Youngs

Review by Gilbert Seah

 
While watching HOCKEY NIGHT, which has a limited release during the Christmas week at the Roncesvalles Cinema in Toronto, I was amazed at how accurate the film captured the 80’s look from clothes, to look to atmosphere to everything.

Upon researching the film, I soon realized that HOCKEY NIGHT is a 1984 TV film. Silly me! It has been given a full 4K restoration and a special engagement run.

The film is a small budget film with mainly newcomers except for a few heavyweights like Rick Moranis (SCTV) in a serious role and Maury Chaykin (WHALE MUSIC) who lend their acting talents. The film also made Megan Follows a household name. It is a proud Canadian film, not afraid of being Canadian with familiar street and town names like Queen Street, Oshawa, North Bay thrown into the dialogue. After all, hockey is Canada’s national sport. Though a teen movie, there are no teens cussing. This is a good-hearted family film that the whole family can enjoy – particularly at Christmas.

The film begins with two stories, one centred around hockey hopeful Spear Kozak (Yannick Bisson) and the other around Cathy Yarrow (Megan Follows), newcomer to his small town, Parry Sound. For the unaware, Parry Sound is located 160 km (99 mi) south of Sudbury and 225 km (140 mi) north of Toronto. It is the seat of Parry Sound District, a popular cottage country region for Southern Ontario residents. It is also the birthplace of hockey legend, Bobby Orr, who is given a small homage in the film. It does not take a genius to guess that Spear and Cathy will form a young romantic couple. Cathy is bored to death in the town and according to her, ”fun hasn’t been invented yet in the town. ” And where there is no girl’s hockey team? Cathy was champ in her team in the Toronto. The answer now is simple: strap on her goalie pads and try out for the boy’s all-star team.

Local broadcaster Bum Johnston (Maury Chaykin) does not think a girl’s place is in a hockey arena. Chaykin injects a few quite funny moments as the prejudiced announcer at the games, giving his 2 cent worthless input. Lumber magnate Bill Moss (Henry Ramer), the team’s sponsor removes Cathy from the team with disastrous results. But Cathy stands firm between the pipes, helping the team win games while winning herself loyal allies in star player Spear and coach Willie Liepert (Moranis).

Hockey Night is a story of adolescent relationships, the struggles of small-town politics and of triumph over the expectations and pressures of the adult world. It is not a big action film with action or special effects, which is the reason this is a TV movie. The hockey matches on the ice are well shot. And like the two young hockey players. the film has its charm. This charm creates a winning film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLts9uo3Vto
 

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Film Review: RESET (Reléve) (France 2015)

reset.jpgDirected by Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai

Star: Benjamin Millepied

Review by Gilbert Seah

As interesting as RESET is a film about ballet, a non dance audience would likely take a while to get accustomed to the subject of this documentary.

RESET is a film on ballet – as seen through the eyes of the Paris National Opera’s new director Benjamin Millepeid. Millespied is the choreographer of the Oscar winning opera BLACK SWAN that starred his wife, Natalie Portman. Millepied was a famed choreographer and former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, both of which won him the prestigious Paris Opera position.

The film tracks the opening (premiere) night counting down the 39 days till day 1 of rehearsals. Millepied prepares to unveil his first ballet on the 25th of September 2015. From the very first rehearsal up until opening night, directors Demaizière and Teurlai immersed themselves in the world of the Paris Opera, right at the heart of its artistic creation – a musical score, penned by his friend Niko Muhly, inspired Millepied’s creative process. The camera follows Millepied as he imagines and arranges his choreographies in front of the studio mirror.

This act of creating finally unfolds within one of the most beautiful locations in the world: the Palais Garnier. Except for the limitation of time to get everything in place, the film has little drama or suspense. Everything appears to be working very well, except for Millepied who always appears to be un-trackable. But what the film lacks in drama, it provides more in terms of splendour of ballet. Even for ballet non-aficionados, RESET should still fascinate and inspire.

Millepied chooses the actual shots of the Millepied’s premiere (called Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward) as the climax of the film. A wise decision as the sequence shows the performance of the dancers performing at their best after weeks of hard training. Millepied is shown to be extremely happy and proud of what he sees on stage. Not so wise, however, is the directors’ decision to juxtapose the actual performances of a few of the dancers with their rehearsals. This do not show much and serves as a distraction tot he continuity of their actual dance.

RESET also reveals Millepied’s character and how he has influenced the Paris Ballet. He wanted changes to old school ballet, even casting for the first time a mixed race dancer as lead dancer. RESET also shows that besides having to choreograph, Millepied had to overlook almost very aspect of the show from costumes, lighting, sets, hair and publicity.

The film ends with the titles informing the audience, during the closing credits, that Millepied resigned 4 months after the premiere of his show. No reason is given, but one can only guess the reason from the film – likely that his quest for changes in ballet was not acceptable to his employers.

RESET has a limited run in Toronto from now through January 6 at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, as well it opening in Vancouver at Vancity Theatre, starting Sunday January 1 and screens through Sunday January 15.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ouBldcZUzw

 

 

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Film Review: Ghostland: The View of the Ju’Hoansi (2016)

ghostland.jpgDirector: Simon Stadler
Writers: Catenia Lermer, Simon Stadler

Review by Gilbert Seah

Most filmgoers should remember a small little South African comedy that made it really big in 1980 called THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY written and directed by Jamie Uys. Financed only from local sources, it is the most commercially successful release in the history of South Africa’s film industry. Now after more than 35 years, comes a similar film, a documentary called GHOSTLAND about the same Ju/‘Hoansi bushmen who are “living well off the land” in the Kalahari Desert.

In THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY, a glass Coca-Cola bottle is thrown out of an airplane and falls to Earth unbroken. Initially, Xi’s people suppose this strange artifact is another “present” from the gods and find many uses for it. But in the documentary GHOSTLAND, director Simon Standler takes a more serious (though still humorous) look at the tribe. He shows that life in the vast Kalahari desert has drastically changed for one of the most ancient cultures on our planet. He takes a selected few of the Ju/’Hoansi people, travelling with members of this culture as they become tourists in the “modern” world around them, first in Namibia, and then in Germany and Italy.

When the film begins, titles inform the audience that Government regulations have banned hunting and thus forced the Ju/’Hoansi to abandon nomadism and live in a fixed location, making them dependent on “gifts” from the government and adventurous tourists. They used to kill and eat animals like giraffes and deer that wander into their village. Stadler shows the customs and culture of the tribe before taking them on a tour outside their closed village. So, they venture into the “modern” world, first at home in Namibia, and then -through an invitation to speak at a school – in Europe.

The Ju/’Hoansi are filmed in huge shopping malls in Germany or in trains or elevators for the first time. (Fortunately, they are given modern clothes to wear, or there will lots of screaming German women.) Stadler records their reactions, often of great awe, in their language, with English subtitles. But they still long for their home, as they were born and have grown accustomed to living in the bush.

There is nothing really wrong in filming their amusing reactions to modernization and city living, but it is another thing to have an entire documentary on the subject. It is just as interesting to watch the Germans fascinated by the rituals of the Ju/’Hoansi. But one can tell that each side is being over polite not to offend anyone.

The film offers no real new lessons in life that one has not seen in one form or another. So watching the Ju/’Hoansi’s reactions soon becomes repetitious with the display of modernization already too familiar to most audiences who live in large metropolitan cities.

The film did win the 2016 SXSW SXGlobal Audience Award, and has frequently been referred to as a real-life version of The Gods Must Be Crazy. The film opens theatrically in Toronto for a one-week run on Christmas Day 2016 at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. The film might prove an unconventional yet still heartwarming holiday option.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/188730709

 

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Holiday Writing Festival deadlines. Save 30% to 40% off the regular submissions.

WILDsound Festival

Just wanted to let you know about the upcoming Holiday Writing Festival deadlines. Save 30% to 40% off the regular submissions.

Garner FULL FEEDBACK from the industry on your screenplay or novel. Get your full screenplay or best scene performed. Get a transcript of your novel performed.

In 2016 alone, the Writing Festival performed 18 winning feature screenplays. 19 winning TV pilots. 13 TV specs from existing shows. 31 1st scene screenplays. 101 short screenplays. 54 best scene readings. 12 fan fiction screenplays. 4 stageplays. 66 short stories. 34 novel transcript readings. Overall, we performed 354 original stories from 348 writers.

Over 100 hours of material all performed by professional actors. Watch all of the winning readings here: http://www.wildsoundfestival.com/

An amazing year! And we plan on doing more in 2017! So please submit your stories and screenplays to the festival.

Deadline: FEATURE and SHORT Screenplay Festival –
http://www.wildsound.ca/screenplaycontest.html

Deadline: TV…

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Watch all of the December 2016 Winning Writing Festival Readings & Film Festival Videos

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Watch December 2016 Winning Readings and Films

ACTORHIGHLIGHTS LA FEEDBACK Film Festival – Day 1
Best of the Dec. 7, 2016 Fest.
ACTORHIGHLIGHTS LA FEEDBACK Film Festival – Day 2
Best of the Dec. 8, 2016 Fest.
ACTORFEATURE Screenplay – TRIAL & ERIN
December 2016 Reading
Written by Larry Shulruff
ACTORTV PILOT – MIDLIFE CRISIS
December 2016 Reading
Written by Erica Barfield Peterson
ACTORTV SPEC of the show RICK & MORTY
December 2016 Reading
Written by Matthew Feldman
ACTORSHORT Screenplay – BLOOD DRIVE
December 2016 Reading
Written by Myka J. Friscia
ACTORFAN FICTION Spec – HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
December 2016 Reading
Written by Eugene Ramos
ACTOR1st SCENE Screenplay – UNSPOKEN
December 2016 Reading
Written by Ambert Epling
ACTOR1st SCENE Screenplay – YOU’VE CHANGED
December 2016 Reading
Written by Sam Sexton
ACTOR1st SCENE Screenplay – SHE DRIVES ME CRAZY
December 2016 Reading
Written by Elisha Barnes
ACTOR1st SCENE Screenplay…

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Holiday Novel Festival Special (1st ch., Full, Reading) – Save 40% off the regular submission

WILDsound Festival

HOLIDAY SPECIAL DEADLINE Dec. 31st – 1st CHAPTER/FULL NOVEL Festival Contest – SAVE $15 to $70
http://www.wildsound.ca/book_contest.html

Get your story performed at the Writing Festival. FULL FEEDBACK on all entries.

WATCH the Recent Winning Short Story/1st Chapter Readings:
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WATCH RECENT NOVEL PERFORMANCE READINGS:

ACTORNOVEL Transcript Reading – GUARDING SHAKESPEARE
December 2016 Reading
Written by Quintin Peterson
ACTORNOVEL Transcript Reading – A CHANCE FOR LIFE
December 2016 Reading
Written by Laura Anne Ewald
ACTORNOVEL Transcript Reading – HUSBANDS MAY COME AND GO BUT FRIENDS ARE FOREVER
December 2016 Reading
Written by Judith Marshall
ACTORNOVEL Transcript Reading – ZOMBIE TURKEYS
December 2016 Reading
Written by Andy Zach
ACTORNovel Transcript – BECOMING HERO
November 2016 Reading
Written by Jen Finelli
ACTORNovel Transcript – GUARDIAN
November 2016 Reading
Written by Marc W Johnson
ACTORNovel Transcript – HAIR DAY AT FRIDA’S
November 2016 Reading
Written by Rachel Sutton
ACTORNOVEL READING…

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