Film Review: A DOG’S PURPOSE (USA 2017) ***

a_dogs_purpose.jpgDirector: Lasse Hallström
Writers: W. Bruce Cameron (screenplay), Cathryn Michon (screenplay)
Stars: Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton

Review by Gilbert Seah

A DOG’S PURPOSE begins with the birth of a puppy. The question: “What is the purpose of life?” is asked in the voiceover. But the answer comes front he canine point of view. The puppy lives its life and dies. (The first life is really short.) It is reincarnated several times starting as a puppy leading different lives as different breeds with different owners. But the main important one is the one as Bailey (all the dogs voiced by Josh Gad) who has a loving relationship with Ethan (K.J. Apa). But the dog remembers all its past lives.

With so many reincarnations come many stories. Director Hallstrom moves his film fast, so that there is hardly a dull moment. There are 4 separate stories with 4 different owners and reincarnations. The stories are all told from the dog’s point of view. The script tries to be funny, but the result is only polite laughter judging from the promo screening audience.

The ultimate question arises from the film’s title is what a dog’s purpose is. The obvious answer is to be man best friend. But the answer (not to be released in this review) provided by the film is even more specific.

The cast has only one well known name, that of star Dennis Quaid who appears towards the end of the film, though he has an important role. The best performances are from the canine actors, credit going to the trainers of course. It is always a wonder to see how these dog players perform so well – for example running where they are supposed to go, under fences into water, jumping through loops and saving helpless human beings and licking them constantly.

The film, typical from Swede director Hallstrom (MY LIFE AS A DOG, CHOCOLAT, WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE? THE CIDER HOUSE RULES) is undeniably mawkish, milking sentiment whenever possible. It is advisable to bring plenty of Kleenex. My guest who loves dogs who I brought to the promo screening, bawled his eye out.

A few words obviously need be said about the film’s controversy. On January 18, 2017, a video surfaced on TMZ showing footage taken from the set of the film, which shows a German Shepherd named Hercules being dragged and dipped into rushing water while visibly resisting. Worst, the following clip shows the dog being submerged in the water at the other end of the tank. As a result, many is expected to boycott the film. So far, Universal Pictures has cancelled the film’s scheduled January 19 Los Angeles premiere and the representative from the Humane Association watching for the cruelty and harm to animals has been suspended. One will see during the weekend at the box-office (expected gross is $20 million) if the adage ‘all publicity is good publicity’ is still valid.

A DOG’S PURPOSE is not the best of Hallstrom’s films, but he manages a successful job. The film is an entertaining family film that caters to all dog lovers. It is pitiful that bad press arose from the TMZ videos, but the filmmakers, I am sure had the best intentions in mind for man’s best friend.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jLOOCADTGs

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Interview with director Paul Verhoeven (promoting Golden Globe winning film “ELLE”

Festival Reviews

elle.jpgAs of this writing, “ELLE” was the winner of 2 Golden Globe Awards (Best Actress, Best Foreign Film), and the lead actress Isabelle Huppert was just nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. A must see film from a legendary director.

Paul Verhoeven is a director from my childhood. My friends and I used to love watching “Robocop” during out monthly slumber parties. Then “Total Recall” entered our world right at the time we all started getting interested in the supernatural and girls simultaneously. By the time “Basic Instinct” came along, I was a young teenager and let’s just say the movie made a deep impression on me. As I grew from a boy to a young adult, Verhoeven’s film grew with me.

So I have to say that I was a bit nervous meeting him in the staged interview hotel room at TIFF 2016. I had 15 minutes and…

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Interview with director Paul Verhoeven (promoting Golden Globe winning film “ELLE”

elle.jpgAs of this writing, “ELLE” was the winner of 2 Golden Globe Awards (Best Actress, Best Foreign Film), and the lead actress Isabelle Huppert was just nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. A must see film from a legendary director.

Paul Verhoeven is a director from my childhood. My friends and I used to love watching “Robocop” during out monthly slumber parties. Then “Total Recall” entered our world right at the time we all started getting interested in the supernatural and girls simultaneously. By the time “Basic Instinct” came along, I was a young teenager and let’s just say the movie made a deep impression on me. As I grew from a boy to a young adult, Verhoeven’s film grew with me.

So I have to say that I was a bit nervous meeting him in the staged interview hotel room at TIFF 2016. I had 15 minutes and when Paul walked in you could tell I was going to be around his 50th interview in the last few days and the hotel room backdrop is a very familiar site to him.

For my first question, I wanted to ask him something that was interesting and/or intriguing to him and perhaps a question he was never asked before, or at least not asked while he was promoting “ELLE”.

Matthew Toffolo: What movie have you watched the most times in your life?

Paul sat there motionless for more than a few seconds with his head looking at the ground. I thought I blew it right from the beginning. Then.

Paul Verhoeven: I’m thinking. I’m thinking.

Lawrence of Arabia. North by Northwest. Belle de Jour. Vertigo. Those are the films I keep going back to.

He smiled at me. I smiled at him. Then it was time to do the interview and let him move to the next one.

MT: You seem to balance your films between your European life and your Hollywood life. ELLE seems to strike a nice mixture of both. Was that your initial intention?

PV: Well in Europe, you have more power as a director. In Hollywood, you have more excess and money. Of course you like to have both, but that’s not the case. So yes, we were attempting to make a Hollywood type of film with ELLE using the European format.

MT: I heard your initial intention was to make this an English language film?

PV: Well it’s a French novel. The producer of ELLE, Saïd Ben Saïd, thought it could be an American movie. We went to an American screenwriter and wrote it as an USA movie, based in America. Then we found out that we couldn’t get the right funding. But the real problem was that we couldn’t find an American actress. None of them wanted to do it. From the A list down. They all turned the project down.

MT: Why do you think so many actresses turned down the film?

PV: It’s a different kind of movie. If this was a straight up “revenge” film, then I’m sure many would want the role. But this isn’t a revenge movie. It’s someone more. This is a film about a woman who refuses to be a victim. In fact, even after she discovers who the rapist is, she moves over that.

MT: Was Isabelle Huppert your first choice to play the lead when you decided to……?

PV: No. She was my first choice. She read the book and wanted to do the role. After the “American adventure” was over and I told the producer that we should make this movie in France, he immediately picked up the phone and called Isabelle and she accepted right away. So it was really her to chose me.

MT: There is no straight up genre in this film?

PV: No, there isn’t. This is a film about the discovery of this woman. Who she is. The book is a study of character and that’s the movie we wanted to make. All of her relationships in this movie, from her lover, best friend, her father, her rapist – the construction is about her and what’s around her. If I made this a straight up thriller, then it would deny what this story is all about.

MT: When did you novel read the novel?

PV: It was sent to me by the producer who asked if I wanted to make this into a film. I read it right away and told him “yes”.

MT: How long was it from the time you read the novel to the completed product?

PV: I read it at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015 and we started shooting a year later. The only obstacle was our initial intention to turn this into an English film. That was the only delay. Until I decided it was supposed to be made in French, we got the production rolling in a matter of months.

MT: In the novel she’s a literary agent. In the film, she’s a video game developer. Why the change?

PV: I was trying to find a profession that was more visual. My daughter came up with that. I was talking to my family at the dinner table talking about the film and my youngest daughter, who is a painter, suggested this which of course lead to the themes of the film.

The publicist entered the room and said it was time to go. I really could have chatted with Paul for another hour – but what can you do.

“ELLE” is an exceptional film. One of the best of 2016. I hope you go see it!

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Film Review: The Comedian. Starring Robert DeNiro

the_comedian.jpgDirector: Taylor Hackford
Writers: Art Linson (screenplay), Jeffrey Ross (screenplay)
Stars: Robert De Niro, Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE COMEDIAN is, as the title implies about the story of insult comedian Jackie (Robert De Niro) who once found fame as Eddie in the TV sitcom Eddie’s Home. Jackie is now surviving on low-paying gigs in New York City but his audience wants to remember the Eddie routines that Jackie hates to be remembered for.

The trouble starts when Jackie assaults a heckler at one of his performances resulting in him being sentenced to community service at a homeless food shelter. But Jackie meets a fellow community service server, Harmony (Leslie Mann) who he has a relationship with.

Director Taylor Hackord (AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, RAY, THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE) treats his star and the material with respect. It shows. THE COMEDIAN turns out to be a likeable, respectable film despite some very lewd humour.

As in movies about stand-up comedians that pays homage to stand-up comedians go, the film contains worthy cameos provided by the likes of Charles Grodin, Jimmie Walker and Oscar Winner Cloris Leachman. Danny DeVito and harvey Kietel also deliver memorable performances. The comic routines on film are also well written and funny – garnishing laugh-out loud laughs. The best of these is the banter carrying on between the Jewish lesbian comic on hand and De Niro.

De Niro, no stranger to comedy being in comedies like MEET THE PARENTS and THE FAMILY, proves in this film that he can also do stand-up and insult stand-up at that. He is winning in his performance and though unlikely to win him another Academy Award, it is a performance that invokes both sympathy and laughter. De Niro looks good (with his hair probably dyed) and fit, and believable as the late 60 year old that can still become a father.

Where the film (both script and direction) succeeds is the difficult yet successful blending of vulgarity and sincerity. This is witnessed for example, in the one wedding scene when Jackie’s performance both delights his niece and infuriates her mother, Flo (Patti LuPone).

The film is a drama comedy with more laughs than anything else. As one late critic said, a funny film will allow a multitude of faults to be overlooked. The script is smart enough not to include any messages or uncomfortable sex scenes, to include the effects of modern technology (like viral youTube videos) and hilarious stand-up routines in the film.
The best film about a comedian remains Martin Scorsese’s satirical THE KING OF COMEDY that happens also to star a younger Robert De Niro as a stalker of a famous comedian played by Jerry Lewis. THE COMEDIAN is a light drama, played for laughs rather than insight or satire. The film succeeds in its lesser aimed goal.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALlj3RRF9h8

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Full Review: TONI ERDMANN (Germany/Austria/Romania 2016) Best Film of the Year

toni_erdmann.jpgDirector: Maren Ade
Writer: Maren Ade (screenplay)
Stars: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn

Review by Gilbert Seah

Chosen as the BEST FILM of 2016 by Sight and Sound’s international critics poll, this much talked about Cannes hit is everything an excellent film can be. It is an entertaining hilarious comedy with the darker theme of life. TONI ERDMANN delivers a message on life, as subtly revealed through this-matched relationship between a practical jokester father and his over-serious corporate daughter who has forgotten how to laugh.

Germans are renowned for their obsession with organization, punctuality (they are known to alway arrive at scheduled meetings early) and rules. People have also mentioned that the lack of humour in Germans is partly due to the structure of their language. I would like to think then that writer/director Maren Ade (this is her third feature, after FOREST FOR THE TREES and EVERYONE ELSE) understands this and has a made a film based on these beliefs as her biggest joke on the German people.

Winfried (Peter Simonischek) is a retired piano teacher, a divorcee who delights in persistent pranks and impersonations that alienate (and occasionally alarm) everyone in his German suburb. He has not been much for staying in touch with his daughter, Ines (Sandra Hüller), a high-ranking management consultant in Bucharest who is as controlled and rigid as her father is impish. Ines also possesses finely tuned radar for the nuances of social interaction — a trait that serves her well in the corporate world but only intensifies her discomfort when Winfried pays a surprise visit. Whenever Ines is meeting her clients or friends, father always shows up unexpectedly with his ruffled hair and fake teeth, often pretending to be a character called TONY ERDMANN.

The film’s prized sequence has father and Ines showing up together unexpectedly at a family party. Father suddenly announces that they will perform a song. He plays the piano while she breaks out delivering Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All”, sung not perfectly but from the heart. This is an intimate scene between father and daughter, the song sung by actress Huller herself. The words are true to what the film is all about, which makes this perhaps the best scene in a film this year. This segment got that rare standing ovation mid-way during its screening at Cannes. It is followed by another key one, in which Ines’s guests show up to an unannounced ‘naked conference’ supposedly for work team building.
Ade’s film looks so effortless that its success and effect is alarming – but in a good way. The occasional jittery framing reminds the audience that Ade is using hand held camera and mostly that an excellent film can be created without the use of special equipment, special camera or special effects.

Ade must be congratulated for her finely devised comedic set-ups, just as surprising as the unexpected times the father shows up on her daughter. She displays a prefect gift for timing and a keen eye on the surroundings.
TONI ERDMANN s a comedy on life that everyone can relate to. This is the main reason the film is so endearing. It is hilarious with so many laugh-out loud moments and also an observant piece on what corporate society has become. I have watched the film a second time – a true test of a good film if it can stand a second viewing, and I must say the second viewing was more rewarding than the first. It is so good to laugh about life and relationships. The Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA) which I am a member of, has awarded the film the Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actress and best Director Awards.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imRcz9atLfo

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Film Review: WHERE THE UNIVERSE SINGS – THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF LAWREN HARRIS

 This is the story of Canadian painter and artist, Lawren Stewart Harris, CC (October 23, 1885 – January 29, 1970). After a brief introduction to the paintings, Harris background is outlined. One of his most famous works, “Mountain Forms” recently sold for over $11.2 million. Harris was born in Brantford, Ontario, and is best known as a member of the Group of Seven who pioneered a distinctly Canadian painting style in the early twentieth century. A. Y. Jackson has been quoted as saying that Harris provided the stimulus for the Group of Seven.

The voiceover is often in the first person (voiced by Canadian actor Colm Feore) of Harris as he describes his views and his paintings. Shot in chronological order, which helps the audience understand the shift in his work, the audience sees Harris’s works become more abstract and simplified, especially his stark landscapes of the Canadian north and Arctic. His initial paintings showed the city, the poor parts of Toronto where he moved and lived for a while. Harris is also a humble man, not signing nor dating his work, so that his paintings can be judged for what they are – without prejudice.

While the painting are on display, directors Raymont and Lang constantly remind the audience (sometimes too often) of the Harris’ purpose he envisioned for his paintings. Harris wants his admirers to embark on a spiritual journey to settle on a different plain of consciousness that hopefully is inspired by the paintings.

The film also includes interviews by experts the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Andrew Hunter,
the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Ian Thom, curator and former Globe art critic Sarah Milroy, biographer Peter Larisey, author Dennis Reid, curator Roald Nasgaard, collector Ash Prakash, author Lisa Christensen of Heffel’s and Harris’s grandchildren Stew Sheppard and Toni Chowne. Actor/comedian Steve Martin (in serious mode) also has a surprise appearance here having his say.

It is odd that two thirds through the film. Raymont decides to insert the segment on Harris’s life. He goes on to tell of his unsatisfactory marriage to Trixie as well as his romance with another painter, Beth supposedly his soulmate. Raymont uses the segment to explain Harris’ transition to abstract art.

An additional bonus of the documentary is the archive film footage shot by Harris himself. As he travelled through the Arctic and across Canada, his shots on film are magnificent. Even Toronto with its streetcars and old automobiles look stunning. It is odd that his painting hardly contained people. But people are plentiful in his footage.

The film also features over 130 paintings, dozens of previously un-seen photos and 8mm family films, plus works by those who influenced him, including Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gaugin, Kandinsky, Emily Carr and Georgia OKeeffe.

Director Raymont (Emmy winner Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire) does his subject justice. He is fortunately to be able to show Harris archive films which really helps the audience understand the artist.

Like Harris’s paintings, Raymont’s documentary is occasionally therapeutic and inspiring.

Please note that this is the 1 hour 30 minute version, not the 60 minute version previously shown on TV.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/192636801

where_the_universe_sings.jpg

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Film Review: GOLD (USA 2016) ***

gold.jpgDirector: Stephen Gaghan
Writers: Patrick Massett, John Zinman
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard

Review by Gilbert Seah

GOLD has been advertised as an American crime adventure film. But the film is not that much an adventure film, feeling more like a biopic of Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), an unlucky businessman who discovers and finds gold, but loses it all including his long-suffering girlfriend, Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard). GOLD is in reality, based on the Bre-X scandal. It is indicated at the start of the film that the film is inspired by true events. So, the Wells character is likely made up.

It appears that the entire story of GOLD can be determined from the trailer. But it is not so. Though the story has a twist, director Gaghan, who directs based on a script by himself, Patrick Massett and John Zinman cannot decide what kind of film (satirical or sincere) it wants to be. It is also part romance, crime, a bit of adventure but feels like a biopic of a totally obnoxious (though fictitious) person that the audience is supposed to root for.

The film turns towards sincerity in the segment where Kay angrily warns Kenny of the business wolves. The satire is mainly found in Kenny’s character – for example in the scene with him hugging geologist Michael in his underwear like two gay lovers.

Oscar winner, Matthew McConaughey (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB) looks absolutely horrendous in the movie – intentionally and he flaunts it. He has put on so many pounds that his gut shows. Besides smoking half the time, Kenny spawns a receding hairline, looking half bald with bad skin. It makes matters worse that the guy the audience is supposed to root for is not only obnoxious but ugly.

The film is set in Indonesia where the gold prospecting is being done. Locations in Thailand are used to substitute for Indonesia, for obvious reasons that Thailand is more stable for filming. As far as westerners go, most cannot tell the difference. The film makes sure that the locals in the film including the character of the geologist Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez) speak Malay and not Thai.

Of the performances, veteran Stacy Keach as big-shot, Clive Coleman stands out. Others supporting actors like Howard, Ramirez, Bruce Greenwood deliver standard uninspired performances. McConaughey is McConaughey, who can deliver an extremely annoying over-acted performance, as observable in the film’s first 10 minutes. But hand it to him, at least his over-acting keeps the film from being boring.

The film begins with Kay and Kenny talking about gold prospects. The script quickly jumps 7 years into the story with Kenny growing bald and fat. The script also calls for the story to bounce to and from from the States to Indonesia. Director Gaghan also, for no reason, resolves to split screen for a few minutes of the movie and then never goes back to it.

The most interesting segments of GOLD are not the location shots in Thailand. They are the ones involving the business wheeling-dealing – often with Kenny being taken for a rough ride. The best of these is the business conference in which a strategic partner is sought with an impossible conversation.

Does GOLD succeed in telling an entertaining story? The answer is up to the audience to decide but as in the words of Kelly when he first discovers gold: “the ride has begun!”

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdLXPv5NsA4

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Film Review: AKRON (USA 2016) ***

akron.jpgDirectors: Sasha King, Brian O’Donnell
Writers: Brian O’Donnell, Brian O’Donnell
Stars: Matthew Frias, Joseph Melendez, Edmund Donovan

Review by Gilbert Seah

After the gay lifestyle gained acceptance around the world, gay films appear to have exhausted all possible subjects. Issues such as coming out, sex change, gay marriage, teen love, transgender identity, gay bashing, prejudice, gay rights have all been covered in one gay film after another. Filmmakers with gay themed films have to resort to used subjects with a new twist or a new look to succeed. AKRON, a teen mid-western gay love story does just that.

“You don’t choose who you fall in love with?” Benny challenges his father during a confrontation in one of the film’s key scenes. It is a valid question and one that does not have a single answer. The film poses one big magic question: “Can love conquer all?” And the film, as in many love stories, has an obstacle to the romance. In this case it is a very huge obstacle.

This obstacle is observed in the film’s first scene, which appears at first to have no connection to the rest of the movie. When the connection is made, it generates a powerhouse effect.

A young boy, Christopher is at the supermarket with his mother. In the parking lot, the mother accidentally runs over and kills a boy. It turns out that the boy’s younger brother is Benny, who meets and falls in love with Christopher later on, the coincidence first unknown to both. When the truth emerges, the romance is challenged, first by Christopher and Benny individually, and then by Benny’s well-meaning parents. Sometimes, a secret might best be kept, but this is the movies.
The film is undoubtedly a tear-jerker. There are no scenes that are milked for sentiment, but the effect of the story is a powerful one.

The film clearly reminds one of first love, teen love and innocent love at that – whether gay or straight. The film could very well be a straight love story between a boy and girl, with not much difference in effect.

AKRON works as a film (ignore the 4.2 rating on imdb) for various reasons. For one, it is a sincere story of first love. One can always remember the first time one has fallen in love and thus, one can relate to the characters. The chemistry of the two leads are almost perfect. The two teens playing the leads are also excellent, particularly Matthew Frias, who looks like a younger version of Andrew Garfield.
The two actors portraying the teens are almost too perfect in terms of muscled bodies. The love makng is very erotic aided by the fact that they have almost perfect chiseled bodies and handsome faces. As the film is a teen romance, it is appropriate that no hardcore sex scene is presented – only ones with kissing and foreplay, thought these are erotic enough.

Though this well-made, sincere film should get a theatrical release, it goes straight to video. AKRON will be released February 7, 2016 on DVD and VOD via Wolfe Video. But AKRON is well worth a viewing. Warning, make sure you have lots of Kleenex. But it is good to have a good cry once in a while. At last these will be happy tears.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9p831bjy74

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Read the FULL LIST of Oscar Nominees (89th Academy Awards – 2017)

2017 Academy Awards Nominees

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)

La La Land

La La Land

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”

Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Trolls

Trolls

“Can’t Stop the Feeling”

Justin Timberlake, Max Martin,Shellback

Jim: The James Foley Story

Jim: The James Foley Story

“The Empty Chair”

J. Ralph, Sting

Moana

Moana

“How Far I’ll Go”

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Interview with Festival Director Jerzain Ortega (Author’s International Film Festival)

The FIC AUTOR (Author’s International Film Festival) was  founded in 2016 by filmmaker Jerzain Ortega. The festival is interested in unique and artistic films that exceed the limits of traditional storytelling. Feature and Short Films that reflect the director’s personal creative vision, and a style that is distinct enough to shine through the collective process. The first edition of the FIC AUTOR will take place from November 10 to 17, 2017 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México. FIC AUTOR will present the very best films from around the world, and honor our first guest, Cannes Caméra d’Or award winner Michael Rowe.

Go to the website at: http://www.ficautor.com/

 Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Jerzain Ortega: FIC AUTOR makes a very fair selection; we don’t select films
because they have celebrities or a well-known director. Our selection is based on which films are THE BEST, but don’t get me wrong, if a film like “Whiplash” was submitted to the FIC AUTOR, I would accept it, no doubt, because that film is a piece of art, so we are not anti-celebrity, but we are very objective and we won’t be dazzled over a famous face. Also, the filmmaker can feel confident that the jury watched his/her film entirely, because we send the comments from the
jury for free. And we give beautiful rings and trophies made of silver, and we will try our best to sell the films to Mexican distributors.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

JO: A fantastic selection of the best films from around the globe, highly artistic, yet entertaining; a close connection between and with the artists, because everything happens in the same venue; a nice award ceremony open to the public where we will award the best filmmakers of the moment and our first honored guest, Michael Rowe, who will also present his film “Early Winter” and will have a Q&A segment with the
audience.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

JO: Directors must have a style that stands out from the others and the stories must be close to original. The market is full of the same crap, thanks to Hollywood. The audience knows exactly how the guy is going to lose and win back his girlfriend in a comedic love story; they know who is going to die first in a horror movie, or when to expect a lazy jump
scare, etc. A good filmmaker, an author, chews all of those clichés and spits them in the sink, way far from his delicious gourmet dish.

MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

JO: No, I don’t. Film Festivals are business, sounds bad, but they are. And they all earn money from fee submissions and tickets and sponsors and government grants, so most of them, many of them, choose films with a nice cast so they can connect with the audience, sell tickets, have sponsors, increase the tourism –or allow politicians to take their pictures with the stars-, and of course, fabricate the dream almost every filmmaker has, win something and be at the same level of these “great, well-known filmmakers.” But this is bullshit. Every honest filmmaker knows deep inside them, that their dream, our dream, is to have one more night with the audience, in the dark, listening to the laughter, the connection with the characters we create and at the end, hear the applause and feel like an undercover cop hearing the comments on the way out of the theatre. And if you don’t believe me, check the list of the winners of the past editions of the 50 best film festivals, yes you will find a few good ones, but most of them, are public relations, or advertising, or copy-paste selections from other festivals.

MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

JO: I write a personal email to each filmmaker that submits to the festival. Sometimes this email turns into 10 emails of conversation, most of the filmmakers write me back telling me that it’s very rare to receive a personal letter from a festival director, or that this is the first time a festival treats them like a person. THIS MOTIVATES ME. We built a film festival that treats filmmakers like people and not like
numbers, a festival that is transparent and has its feet on the ground. This is a business, yes, but our business is to celebrate and encourage the emerging and real authors that are out there, to continue making great films. We want to build a festival that every filmmaker in the world can feel proud to participate in.

MT: How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

JO: The response from the filmmakers has been amazing, we have more than 500 submissions and we expect to have many more. And most of these submissions are an amazing quality.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

JO: Here, in Guadalajara, Mexico, but with more sponsors and stronger relationships with distributors so we can help and give more to the FIC AUTOR submitters.

MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

JO: This one is hard… ROCKY and THE BOURNE IDENTITY, but when I see either of these, I can’t stop; I have to watch the rest of the films from the franchise.

MT: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

JO: The passion that flows through the hands of the artists of each of the film departments, who understand and share the unique vision of a talented writer-director.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

JO: Guadalajara has a strong independent filmmaking community that is growing and producing more and more films each year of our own merits. We don’t have too much support; most of the local government budget for cinema goes to filmmakers from Mexico City, so it is unfair, but we are warriors and we don’t sit with our arms crossed. We figure it out and we
continue producing films.

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Jerzain Ortega began his film career as a makeup artist in Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto.” Following this, he studied cinema at Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos INDIe, and worked on a second film as chief makeup artist in Alejandro Ramirez’ “Todos Hemos Pecado.” Later, he financed his first independent film by his own means, “Journal d’un inadapté;” a film made almost entirely by him (one man crew in almost every scene.) He is now producing his second feature film, “Telephone,” a film that will be shot with only one assistant as well. He is also the founder of FIC AUTOR (Author’s International Film Festival.)

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.