Film Review: THE LOCKPICKER (Canada 2016) ***

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The Lockpicker Poster
A teenage thief tries to leave town to escape the violence that threatens him and he people he loves.

Director:

Randall Okita

Writer:

Randall Okita

 

THE LOCKPICKER is the low budget multi-award winning feature debut of director Randall Okita, arriving at big screens in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary for special screenings this week.  

THE LOCKPICKER was shot in actual Toronto classrooms over a span of two school years with a cast of non-professional teenagers in key roles.   This intimate coming-of-age drama follows high school student Hashi (unknown and newcomer Keigian Umi Tang) as he struggles to maintain a state of calm in the wake of the sudden suicide of his friend.  When people close to him are victimized by violence, he is forced to choose between fighting back and becoming what he fears, or leaving behind everyone and everything he knows.

Tang inhabits his role as the restless student with relative ease.  This is not an actor’s but director’s film.  There are no extensive monologues or other acting demands required of Tang.  Much of the character’s personality is established by the director.  For example when Hashi steals money from the jackets hug outside the classrooms, he only takes the small notes and not the larger twenties.  The director intends to show Hashi as a thief but with some conscience.  He takes only what he needs for the moment.  Hashi is displayed as the normal teenager at school, easily distracted with hardly a thought of his future.  Hashi  smokes weed, crashes parties and badgers adults to buy him liquor.  He is distracted enough not to complete the assignments necessary for him to quality for a sailing outing,  He goes around constantly distracted with a head set on.  Hashi is a fairly good-looking and fit kid who works occasionally at a shoe store.  Director Okita does not have Hashi commit acts that determine his character to be a likeable or unlikeable one.

As a first feature, THE LOCKPICKER looks sufficiently fresh.  It appears that Okita experiments quite a it with lighting, cinematography and camera placement.  The film is also variedly shot with steady cam and hand-held camera.  His eye for natural landscape and surrounding architecture is alas apparent when Hashi travels around the icy winter by transit or waiting at a bus stop  with the transit map in the background.  The Toronto winter is revealed to be a cold one with dirty snow and litter blowing across the snow and ice.  The film contains a comfortable mix of staged and free flowing improvised parts.

In Toronto, THE LOCKPICKER will be screened with a special Question and Answer a with Okita discussing the film’s powerful themes and its deeply personal connection on June 22 at 6:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox.The film won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Picture in the Discovery Section.

It should be noted that Okita was the recipient of the Toronto Film Critics Association’s (of which the writer is a member and involved) Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award with a cash prize of $50,000, which made the production of The Lockpicker possible.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/181642231

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Film Review: THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY (UK 2018) ***

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Poster
Trailer

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a movie starring Lily James, Glen Powell, and Matthew Goode. A writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island in the aftermath of World War II, when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war.

Director:

Mike Newell

Writers:

Kevin Hood (screenplay by), Thomas Bezucha (screenplay) |3 more credits »

The film’s trailer and film’s beginning establish the origin of the name of a book club in the Island of Guernsey.  It all began in 1941 during the World War II when a group of four English people, two men and two women, are walking at night-time in German occupied Guernsey.  They are stopped by Germans for breaching curfew.  When asked for their reason, one of the women notices a book in the pocket of one of the Germans and says that they were at a book group. Collectively they improvise the book group’s name: the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and avoid arrest when one of the men throws up on the soldiers’ boots.

This film is the second film (the other being BEAST set on Jersey Island) to open this month that has a setting on a United Kingdom associated island in the sea between Britain and France.  It is beneficial to know a bit that Guernsey like Jersey Island in order to better appreciate the film.  Guernsey is is not part of the United Kingdom though the populace share a lot in common with the British including the currency of pound sterling  The island is self governing though protected by Britain’s Military.   The island’s landscape is stunning, especially the beaches and rocky cliffs, much like Wales, west of Britain.   The film is shot in England and at Ealing Studios and not on Guernsey though the film would definitely aid the Guernsey Tourism Board in efforts to promote visits to the island.

The film has a strong female slant, understandably being based on the 2008 novel of the same name by two female writers Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, with a female protagonist at the heart of the story.  All the males have secondary importance in the story, serving the purpose of the females.  One could suitably classify this WWII historical drama as a chick flick.

The story, set in 1946 on Guernsey Island, concerns an author Juliet Ashton (Lily James) invited to the island to address the local book club.  She learns of the story of  Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Finlay) who has a daughter with a German soldier during the German Occupation of the island.  The message of the film is show how books can affect human lives.

Lily James (Kate Winslet was originally slotted) delivers a sufficiently fine performance while her co-star Dutch Game of Thrones actor, Michiel Huisman was chosen for her main love interest likely for his resemblance to Alan Bates who has a similar scruffy look in FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD.  Matthew Goode has another gay role as Juliet’s publisher while British TV actress Penelope Wilton steals the show as Amelia Maugery.

One would naturally expect a whimsical female fantasy from the FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL director director Mike Newell.  The film succeeds with regards to this respect.  Commercial filmgoers would be more likely entertained by this film than the serious film critic who would be quick to shrug at the beleaguered dialogue and identify the plentiful clichés.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTDNGv61-Dk

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Film Review: PAPER YEAR (Canada 2017)

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Paper Year Poster
Young newlyweds encounter a series of challenges during the first year of their marriage.

Director:

Rebecca Addelman

 

Two newly married young lovers with no money face life’s challenges.

The film’s premise sounds like many a newlywed’s demise. Which means that either the story might tend to be very relevant or too boring to many.

PAPER YEAR opens with an old romantic tune (“Young Love” by Sonny James) played on the soundtrack as the lovers run around kissing.  It is revealed that there are just married.  Dan (Avan Jogia) and Franny (Eve Hewson) are happy but poor.

However, the marriage is a paper one – one that has taken place in court but without a full wedding reception.  Franny does not truly believe that a real wedding (if there is no big ceremony) has taken place though the couple is legally married.  Hence, the title of the film – PAPER YEAR.

As it goes, Franny gets a job on some production company of some silly sports reality show called “Goosed” where she meets the boss Gavin (Brooks Gray) and Noah (Hamish Linklater), the head writer, who both try to make the moves on her.  Franny has the sexual hots for Noah.  When Franny’s friend advises Franny to remember that Noah is ‘not special’, the audience immediately knows that Franny is gong to be unfaithful to her husband with Noah.  Dan is no angel either.  When alone. he watches porn or goes on on-line chatting sites.

The cast is made up of unknowns with only Andie MacDowell as the only recognizable name playing Franny’s mother Joanne.  The unfamiliar cast give the film a fresh look, at least, where the audience do not have any preconceived notions of past characters.  The supporting cast like Gray and Linklater have got some minor roles on TV and little films.

The question that obviously comes to mind is the purpose of the film?  The fact that despite all the problems the couple could face (in-laws, kids, money, friends), it is infidelity that is chosen as the couple’s main life challenge after marriage.  Franny finally gives in to her temptations to her attraction for her co-worker Noah after a dinner party gone awry.  This occurs around two-thirds into the film, so that the film just meanders initially.  Then now wonders where the film will be leading after the problem arises.

PAPER YEAR is one of those Canadian films that pretends to be American with references to cities like Nye York and Arcadia, even though it does not come across very convincing.  It would have worked better if the film remain fully Canadian despite having a smaller target audience.  

Written and directed by a female, Rebecca Adelson. the film takes the female point of view though making the female also the one at fault or the one causing the rift in the couple’s relationship.  It is Franny that gets into Dan’s diary and she that cheats on Dan.  The female is the main breadwinner, with the steady job while the man is just a dog walker.  The film also takes a pessimistic view of life.

PAPER YEAR moves at a leisurely pace with not much but little happenings, making the film light entertaining drama with a few light touches of comedy.  The twist ending (not to be revealed in this review) is what is supposed to make this film special.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6hZxo4jXhs

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Film Review: THE CLEANERS (Germany 2018) ***

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The Cleaners Poster
A look at the shadowy underworld of the Internet where questionable content is removed.

 

THE CLEANERS, the new doc that premiered to sold-out performances at this year;s Hot Docs brings the audience into the hidden third world shadow industry of digital cleaning, where the internet rids itself of what it doesn’t like.

The new documentary THE CLEANERS unashamedly touts the all importance of ‘cleaners’ at the very start of the film.  Words (titles) on screen emphasize the millions of tweets, posts on youtube and the millions of people connected on social media going to say how much the internet would be a mess without THE CLEANERS. The Cleaners delete images, videos and texts that violate the rules of social media. his is none from, (surprise! surprise!) none other than Manila in the Philippines.  It is revealed that there are other smaller centres too, given this dauntless task, but Manila is the main one.   “Delete, ignore,” these are the words often spoken by the workers (in a Filipino accent) as they work their jobs.

Yes, the film has got the audience’s attention.  The question then would be whether the doc would be able to keep it a compelling watch from start to end.

The film introduces five “digital scavengers” among thousands of people outsourced from Silicon Valley whose job it is to delete “inappropriate” content off the net. In a parallel struggle, we meet people around the globe whose lives are dramatically affected by online censorship. A typical “cleaner” must observe and rate thousands of often deeply disturbing images and videos every day, leading to lasting psychological impacts. Yet underneath their work lies profound questions around what makes an image, art, or propaganda, and what defines journalism. Where exactly is the point of balance for social media to be neither an unlegislated space nor a forum rife with censorship. The Cleaners struggles to come to terms with this new and disconcerting paradigm.

The high executives of the high-tech companies like Facebook appear sincere in doing what is right – to seem out inappropriate content that will promote hatred and ignorance  But it is an impossible task.  The film goes deep in the last third to demonstrate how hatred is promoted through Facebook against the most prosecuted minorities  (The Rohinghas in Burma)  in the world.

The film is even more shocking when it shows glimpses of a few of these deleted images.  The directors cannot resist sensationalization from their film.  There is a disturbing segment which shows an image of a beheading done with a dull knife (like  kitchen knife) resulting in a crooked cut with lots of blood.

The film lacks a proper conclusion for the reason that problems presented in the film have no clear resolution.  Promises by the high tech giant executives are difficult to keep despite good intentions.  One thing the film clearly shows is the evil that reside inside human beings.  The question still remains that social media like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube will continue to exist despite uncontrollability.  But accountability has at least reared its ugly head.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JA1DxRdT2hA

 

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Interview with Festival Director Ivan Sosnin (Unknown Film Festival)

UNKNOWN FILM FESTIVAL is the best platform for amateur filmmakers around the world that provides a stage for short films, animations, visual arts and any variations of branded content. The mission of the UFF is to discover the most innovative independent filmmakers and to make them known all over the world. At the UFF, we focus on the film. 

The aim of the UFF is to discover new talents and possibly create further opportunities for them in the Russian and international filmmaking industry. It is the time when young filmmakers can speak to the world and share their works.
The film festival is organized by the Red Pepper Creative- an advertising company that is existing in the Russian advertising and film industry for more than 10 years. Red Pepper already has numerous works that won awards in big international festivals. Red Pepper is known as one of the most creative agencies in Russia nowadays.

Website: http://unknownfilmfestival.com/main
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unknownfilmfestivalrussia/?ref=bookmarks 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/unknownfilmfestival/

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

Ivan Sosnin: We present works of young and unknown filmmakers to Russian citizens and to the whole world. Some of the finalists will win grants for filming their new projects. Our festival is a great opportunity to declare about yourself. 

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2018)? 

This is the first year for the festival, so we want to make it as loud as possible. We want to have much more applicants next year. For this year the event itself will be very compact and convenient for all participants, it will include award ceremony, concerts, lectures. We are sure that it will be amazing. We hope that many people will come to Russia and will be under a great impression afterwards. 

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?  

We selected films whose quality meets world standards. Ideas and scripts should also be international, they should be understood anywhere in the world. It is very important that a film does not make people bored because it’s a short meter.  

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

Yes, we think so. Many festivals are limited to an online-judging without any ceremonies and awards. Festival is a huge event for every filmmaker. We don’t want to make an event that is just passed-by. 

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?  

We want to develop the film industry in our country, want to develop young filmmakers. And we also want to tell about Ekaterinburg to the whole world.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?  

FilmFreeway is a great platform, very use-friendly. Thanks to it, we received a large number of works of a high quality. This platform unites all lovers of cinematography around the world. 

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023? 

We see that Unknown Film Festival is one of the biggest festivals in Russia where participants come from all over the world. We dream that all participants and finalists arrive to the ceremony

8) What film have you seen the most times in your life? 

Lala Land 

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film? 

Great film is a film that makes an impression on all people, despite their age, nationality and social status. 

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Filmmaking is actively developing in Ekaterinburg. People already gave up an idea of chasing Moscow and are looking for authentic locations and alternative cities for their shootings. Ekaterinburg could offer a lot of things to filmmakers. 

 

 

unknown 1

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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 single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Film Review: PRESSING ON: THE LETTERPRESS FILM (USA 2016) ***

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Pressing On: The Letterpress Film Poster
Trailer

Why has letterpress printing survived? Irreplaceable knowledge of the historic craft is in danger of being lost as its caretakers age. Fascinating personalities intermix with wood, metal, …See full summary »

 

What is a letter press?  As explained in Andrew P. Quinn and Erin Beckloff’s documentary PRESSING ON:  THE LETTERPRESS FILM, it is a machine that presses letters on to paper using ink so as to make print.

The modern world was born on a printing press. Once essential to communication, the 500-year-old process is now in danger of being lost as its caretaker’s age. From self-proclaimed basement hoarders to the famed Hatch Show Print, PRESSING ON: THE LETTERPRESS FILM explores the question: why have 500 year old letterpresses survived in a digital age?

People are fascinated by the past.  As the old adage goes: the past helps humans understand the present and who they are.  With those thoughts come a film that provides insight on what the voiceover informs is an old art form.

Why has letterpress printing survived?  Irreplaceable knowledge of the historic craft is in danger of being lost as its caretakers age.  Fascinating personalities intermix with wood, metal, and type as young printers save a traditional process in PRESSING ON, a 4K feature length documentary exploring the remarkable community keeping letterpress alive.  The film begins with shots of presses at work.

It is hard to get people interested in letterpress machines or letter pressing – a thing of the past.  This remains therefore a dauntless task for directors Andrew P. Quinn and Erin Beckloff to get the audience interested less making a compelling documentary.  But maybe they can teach us a bit about history or about the technology of the invention.

The film introduces the audience to one letterpress maker who claims his lifelong task as the restorer of these machines, saying that he could only preserve 50 or so in the rest of his life time, adding that only a minuscule few new ones will be made.  “It is a fun machine to watch – to see all the parts moving around,” says he.  The film goes on with an enthusiastic graphics designer, Stephanie Carpenter who informs (as well as providing insight) of the 3 stages of letter pressing and how she learnt graphic design through this process.

Worlds of each character are portrayed as unusual narratives – in various states of human emotions of joyful, mournful, reflective and visionary stats, each punctuated with on-screen visual poetry, every shot meticulously composed.  Captivating personalities blend with wood, metal and type as young printers strive to save this historic process in a film created for the designer, type nerd, historian and collector in us all.

PRESSING ON ends up not too bad a documentary (yes, quite nostalgic, romantic and as oddly entertaining as its subjects) subject nor too bad a documentary either.  What can be more romantic than a married couple letter pressing in the garage together?  There are little messages imbued in the doc together with some light humour making it light entertainment and a good quiet watch on the smaller screen.

The doc is available On iTunes, DVD/Blu-ray and On Demand Tuesday, June 19 worldwide.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/269373025

 

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HIGHLIGHTS – April 2018 Under 5 Minute Festival

Under 5 minute film festival

AUDIENCE AWARD WINNERS:

BEST FILM: VOWS

BEST PERFORMANCES: MILE

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: DAUGHTER

BEST MUSIC: TRAIN

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Videos:

festival posterYOURS FAITHFULLY EDNA WELTHORPE (MRS), UK, Animation/Comedy

festival posterVOWS, 4min., USA, LGBT/Animation

festival posterA LETTER FROM LETICIA, 3min., Argentina, Animation

festival posterDAUGHTER, 3min., Canada, Drama/Family

festival posterMILE, 1min., USA, Drama

festival posterTRAIN, 3min., Israel, Animation/Music Video

festival posterWINE AND EGGS, 5min., Turkey, Drama

festival posterORNAMENT OF BEAUTY, USA, Thriller/Fantasy

The theme of the LGBT/Under 5 Minute FEEDBACK Film Festival was “Finding Identity”. Every single film shown was about this overriding thematic.

The MVP of the festival was the Toronto audience. This wasn’t the greatest week for the Greater Toronto Area as someone decided to rent a van and run over people on a sidewalk in a busy intersection. This became a world story as there were many casualties and major injuries. Perhaps one of the saddest events in Toronto history.

#TorontoStrong became the hashtag. You can still…

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