Full Review: ROMA (Mexico/USA 2018) Top 10 *****

Roma Poster

A story that chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s.


Alfonso Cuarón

ROMA marks another Netflix original movie.  There are so many these and so many good ones at that (THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES, this one) that very soon there might even be an award for Best Netflix movie. (Netflix should look into this possibility for publicity.3

ROMA’s is bookended by camera shots of an overhead flying airplane, the first image seen as a reflection in the water poured on the floor by the maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and seen again as in the last image in the sky, probably a metaphor that Cleo has risen to a different height in life.  The first shot of the plane introduces Cleo as a servant to a wealthy Mexican family.  The second time the plane appears is when Cleo an the family are at a beach where she saves the children from drowning, another highlight of her life after being depressed from a failed romance.  And the third signals …… .  Sorry, no more spoilers in the review.

The film is called ROMA because that is the name of the suburb in Mexico City that the film is set.  The film follows the life of maid and nanny Cleo as she works for a wealthy Mexican family, loved by the mistress and her children.   The daily routines of cleaning, serving, washing are laid out bear amidst Cleo facing life’s ordeals like a failed romance, the breakup of her employers’ marriage and Mexico’s troubles.  This is crafted layered storytelling.

Cleo works hard.  She is jilted and left pregnant by her male chauvinist lover.  “One thing is for sure.  Women are always alone.” The mistress tells Cleo at one point in the film, which is the theme of the film.  Surprisingly, this message is also so relevant in the current age of female abuse.  Women have to stand together as depicted in the story of the film.

The film has three outstanding segments – a riot protest gone violent, as seen from a window; a drowning scene and a forest fire all done old fashioned no gimmicks style.   Cuaron flexes his artistic muscles with a man singing during the forest fire segment.  Cuaron also brings the audience up to date to the problems faced by the Mexicans like land rights and violent protests, use of firearm and class distinction.  But the most moving segment (and indeed most moving segment found in ay film this year) is the Cleo’s delivery scene, again the details of which will not be spoilt out in this review.

ROMA is director Cuaron’s film of his childhood memories with his maid.  Directors always make their bet films based on childhood memories – examples being Ingmar Bergman’s FANNY AND ALEXANDER and Federico Fellini’s AMARCORD.  ROMA can be added to the esteemed list.

ROMA is shot in black and white 16mm and a gorgeous looking picture.  I have seen ROMA twice and the film passes the test of still being captivating on its second viewing.  ROMA is Netflix’s hope of winning its first Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.  It has my vote.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKVYRtE-kXI


Film Review: THE WILD PEAR TREE (Ahlat Ağacı)(Turkey/France/Germany/Bulgaria/Macedonia/Bosnia and Herzegovia/Sweden 2018) ****

The Wild Pear Tree Poster
An aspiring writer returns to his native village, where his father’s debts catch up to him.


Akin AksuEbru Ceylan |

The third film set in Anatolia, Turkey after ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA and WINTER SLEEP, THE WILD PEAR TREE is another engrossing and rewarding drama to watch despite its 3-hour running time.  As in all of Ceylon’s films, the drama deals with an individual as he contemplates existence in a rural setting.  Because Ceylon is able to connect his protagonist with his audience through film, his films are tremendously satisfying, this film having the best rating on Rotten Tomatoes for a film screened at Cannes this year.  THE WILD PEAR TREE is also Turkey’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar for 2018.

The film opens with the return after graduation from college of one young Siman (Aydın Doğu Demirkol) to his family farm.  Ceylon is clear to show that he is one in love with Turkey as the camera proudly pans the landscape of the rural countryside and the beauty of the port.  Sinan is passionate about literature and has always wanted to be a writer.   Returning to the village where he was born, he pours heart and soul into scraping together the money he needs to be published, but his father, Idris’s (Murat Cecir) debts catch up with him.

The segment with Siman working unsuccessfully to dig a well on the farm so that the father could till the land is one that demonstrates both the problems a family faces while working  together as well as the harshness of farming as an occupation.  Siman’s goals and ambition in life are put into question when he later meets a young girl.  He confesses that the villagers are simple peasants and she remarks that he would think little of her as she has aims of staying in the village and getting married, settling down.

One wonders if the segment in which the idealistic Siman looks into getting his work published is autobiographical.  Director Ceylon probably faced the same resistance when he wanted his films made.  It is a question of the idealistic vs the realistic.  Siman’s possible publisher is reluctant having seen many similar cases before, one of which includes himself wanting to write as well.  This part ends the second half of the film.  It is a bit slow and would likely be more interesting to artists having to go throughout the same ordeals as Siman in the story.

Ceylon has a religious debate that goes for a while at the 2/3 mark of the film.  The debate that is also applicable to other religions, about changes in the Koran might either come across as too heavy, too distant or un-relatable.  Even the imam confesses at the end of the debate: “There is no end to this discussion.”  But Ceylon allow the debate to go on and on with little conclusion.

THE WILD PEAR TREE, as in the other Ceylon films a heavy watch –  a case of one having to work in order to reap the rewards.  
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGts8qQe8Fc

Film Review: LOVE JACKED (Canada/South Africa 2017) ***

Love Jacked Poster

MAYA, has artistic ambitions – her father ED wants: a dutiful daughter to run the family store. Taking her independence a step further, Maya decides to travel to Africa for inspiration and returns with a fiancé.


Alfons Adetuyi

LOVE JACKED is a a romantic comedy with a touch of road trip featuring charming characters, family drama and humorous misadventures.  The description can be applied to almost any number of romantic comedies, but this does not mean it will be a predictable bore.  The recent CRAZY RICH ASIANS treaded similar waters but it won the hearts of audiences as well as made lots of money.  That film was smart enough to tap Singapore, an ultra modern city that provided a fresh look to the well-worn genre.  LOVE JACKED uses Cape Town, South Africa to provide a varied touch.

When the film opens, Maya (Amber Stephens West) is in trouble and requires a bailout.

Maya is headstrong with artistic ambitions, a strong contrast to what her father Ed (Keith David) wants: a dutiful daughter to run the family hardware store.  Ed is shocked when Maya takes her assertions of independence a step further and decides to travel to Africa. While looking for inspiration, she meets Mtumbie (Demetrius Grosse), an African Casanova who sweeps her into a whirlwind romance and the two announce their engagement.  When Maya’s father tries to persuade her to forget Africa and return home, her resolve to go ahead with the marriage hardens until she finds Mtumbie in bed with another woman. But rather than admit that her father was right, she tells her family the wedding is on.  Drowning her sorrows at a small diner and looking for a way out of her situation, Maya meets pool hustler Malcom (Shamier Anderson) who is on the run from his partner Tyrell (Lyriq Bent). With Malcolm on the run and Maya trying to convince her family she is still engaged, they devise a plan to solve both their situations: Malcolm will hide out from Tyrell pretending to be Maya’s African fiancé Mtumbie.

No prize in guessing that Maya wilful in love with Mtumbie.  Myumbie shows up at the airport dressed in African robe speaking with a Nigerian accent.  He wins approval of the family even Maya’s father.  The story pays homage to the Eddie Murphy Joh Landis’ comedy COMING TO AMERICA, one of Murphy’s funniest comedies.  Mtumbie even mentions COMING  TO AMERICA in this film.

The scripts adds on a few more obstacles to the romance.  Mtumbie is a pool hustler from Quebec (quite funny) who is on the lam from his buddy who wants to kill him.  Mtumbie also meets an uncle of maya’s who is expert on anything African – beginning to quiz Mtumbie on his origins.  Maya’s sexy cousin starts hitting on Mtumbie.  All Harlequin novels contain obstacles that are all overcome at the end for the benefit of the couple finding themselves again.

For a family that owns a hardware store, the family can afford to own a mansion that is unbelievably grand.  But movies are normally set in huge mansions with elaborate decor rather than meagre dwellings, realistic to the story or not.

The best thing about the film is actor Demetrius Grosse who can play both the chivalrous romantic hero or the African clown speaking completely with Nigerian accent.  He is a hoot and one could watch him forever.  Keith David is also hilarious as the father who always has a one-liner under his breath.

Cliches and predictability aside, there are sweet moments of romantic charm.  LOVED JACKED is an entertaining light date film for couples with other things in mind on a date.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3XQ09nocQM

Watch the October 2018 1st Scene Script Winners

First Scene Screenplay Festival

STORYLGBT 1ST SCENE Screenplay: FLUIDITY by Taylor Carter
October 2018
STORYACTION 1ST SCENE Screenplay: SAVIOR by Tim Molloy
October 2018
October 2018

We also accept online submissions through Film Freeway. Click on the link BELOW to submit online through this middle-man resource website.


Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Director: Kierston Drier
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson

Camera Operator: Mary Cox

View original post

Watch the October 2018 1st Scene Script Winners

First Scene Screenplay Festival

STORYLGBT 1ST SCENE Screenplay: FLUIDITY by Taylor Carter
October 2018
STORYACTION 1ST SCENE Screenplay: SAVIOR by Tim Molloy
October 2018
October 2018

We also accept online submissions through Film Freeway. Click on the link BELOW to submit online through this middle-man resource website.


Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Director: Kierston Drier
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson

Camera Operator: Mary Cox

View original post

Watch the November 2018 1st Scene Script Winners

Film Review: THE DRAWER BOY (Canada 2018) ***1/2

The Drawer Boy Poster
Ontario – 1972. Miles, a young theatre actor from Toronto, arrives in Huron County at the home of Angus and Morgan, two aging bachelor farmers. Miles stays with the two farmers in order to …See full summary »


Arturo Pérez TorresAviva Armour-Ostroff (co-director)

Arturo Pérez Torres and Aviva Armour-Ostroff’s first narrative feature THE DRAWER BOY is based on Michael Healey’s Governor General’s Literary Award winning play.  The darer refers to one who draws. Expectations are high on the esteemed play’s adaptation.  Thankfully, the film lives up to the expectations.

The play, set in the 70’s, is a three handler with a stranger – an actor from Toronto who suddenly shows up at a farmhouse door in Huron county, Ontario, and entering the then comfortable lives of two friends who served in world War II now working on a small farm in Canada.  

The actor is Miles who wishes to observe the farmers in order to write a play about farmers.  Miles asks for a place to stay and an opportunity to watch them do what they do. 

The next day starts of disastrously.  In an attempt to start learning their ways, Miles tries to use Morgan’s tractor and ends up injuring Morgan almost immediately.  Miles suggests that maybe he should just watch from now on, but Morgan insists that he isn’t getting a place to stay unless he helps out.  Upon getting to know the farmers further, he learns that the man who originally answered the door was Angus, who has short-term memory loss due to an injury from the war.

The film and the play has an odd premise of character interaction but it is this oddity that enables the film to fascinate the audience.  Directors Torres and Armour-Ostroff realizes the fact and keeps the story always one step ahead of the audience.  For example, the audience only learns of Angus memory loss after the effects of the memory loss are shown.  The war stories are also revealed slowly, one bit at a time. The uncovering of the truth and the story carries the mystery of the film that is quite effective.

The directors take the film out into the open so that it does not feel like a play.  The three characters talk a lot which is the only point that reminds one that the film is based on a play.   The brilliant performances also remind one of the film’s roots as a good play which is almost sure to contain riveting performances.  All the actors Jakob Ehman playing Toronto actor, Miles, Ricahrd Clark playing Morgan and Stuart Hughes as Angus are to be commended most notably the latter.  Hughes has the ability to move an audience to tears by changing the pitch of his voice.  Otherwise, there are shots of cows, the Huron landscape, the farms, the harvest fields, the interior and exterior of the farm house that lead the audience to forget a stage bound play.

A post-screening Q&A is added on Saturday, November 24th at the 7:00PM screening. In attendance will be Director-Producer Arturo Pérez Torres and Co-Director-Producer Aviva Armour-Ostro

THE DRAWER marks one of this year’s best Canadian films this year.  Among the many awards won is the Best Feature at Canadian Film Fest 2018.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/185346761

Interview with Festival Director Bill Hass (FORT WORTH INDIE FILM SHOWCASE)

The Fort Worth Indie Film Showcase (FWIFS) is going into it’s sixth year. It started as a small “boutique” showcase, designed to service local and regional filmmakers. The festival quickly grew in popularity and is now an international festival servicing filmmakers around the globe. The first year, it screened about 40 films, and they struggled to find those. In 2018, they screened around 120 films over the course of three days. They are a multi-genre fest. They screen features and shorts on a variety of topics. In their fourth year, they relocated to Sundance Square, in the heart of downtown Fort Worth. They typically present the festival in the third week of July. The dates for 2019 are July 18-20, and we are currently open for submissions.


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

Bill Hass: What we do successfully is provide a platform to grow. We are going into our sixth year and we have some filmmakers that have participated with us from the beginning. It is encouraging to see the quality of films improve over time. We take a family approach to our event. Once you participate, you’re one of us. With that we do all we can to help filmmakers grow their networks. We make them aware of other festivals, we make introductions to other filmmakers in attendance, and we set up panels and discussions to speak on specific areas of the craft.

2) What will attendees experience when they attend your upcoming festival?

We do everything we can to put a spotlight on the filmmaker. FWIFS is about each individual artist. Of course, we will show the films. Beyond that we are looking to expand the experience by offering a full day of panels on various topics. For the screenwriters, we are also looking at an opportunity to have local actors read portions of their scripts before an audience.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We look for films that tell an interesting story, films that leave you thinking and spark discussions. As a multi-genre fest, we look for and accept a wide variety of projects. We like to present a strong cross-section of films, everything from horror to comedy, and romance to faith based. The element that all of our projects have in common is a tight story, told with interesting characters.

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

The really nice thing about the independent film festival, is that all films are equal. A film that was produced with a zero budget will be considered alongside a film with a six figure budget. Each film is judged on its own merits. At FWIFS, we take every submission seriously. Every other festival I’ve dealt with does the same. That being said, as filmmakers we need to make sure we’re submitting according to the festival rules. In other words, don’t submit a feature drama to a festival that specializes in short comedies. As long as films are submitted within the guidelines of the festival I believe they are fairly considered. I think that is true for all festivals. I know that is true for us.

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

The filmmaker and the audience. Festivals like this are important to new and independent filmmakers because we provide an outlet for them to show their films. For those who attend, they also have an opportunity to engage the audience and receive valuable feedback. It’s great to see filmmakers interacting with the audience and their peers. It’s also very nice to watch and audience enjoy a film that they may not have seen or known about, except for our festival. It’s a really good feeling to know what we had something to do with making that happen. That motivates us to do it the next time.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway has made our submission process really easy. The receipt, review, and acceptance process is really simple. It’s easy for the judges. Of all the platforms we’ve tried so far, FilmFreeway has brought us the most success. Anytime I’ve had a question or a problem, I’ve been able to get help right away. They also consistently improve the platform and add features that increase the value. I am very glad we discovered FilmFreeway.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

In addition to what we’re already doing, by 2023 I’d like to see us offering more workshops and panels. I’d also like to see more blocks that cater to writers and story development. Over the next five years I also want to continue fostering our relationships with schools and student filmmakers. Ideally, we’ll see a level of growth that will enable us to add another day or possibly another venue in addition to our current location.

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

The Matrix. I really enjoy the way that story unfolds.

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

Well developed characters in a well written story.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

It’s getting better. We have a new film commission that is working to bring filmmaking to Ft. Worth. There are a lot of great locations to shoot, and the Commission is really focused on building a reputation as a Film-Friendly city. Aside from ourselves, there are several other festivals that go up throughout the year, so there is a decent opportunity to catch indie films. I’m looking forward to seeing what develops here over the next few years.

About the Festival Director:

Bill Hass is the programming director and one of the founders of FWIFS. Bill is himself an award winning filmmaker, so he and the team present the festival from a filmmakers perspective. Bill’s journey to programming this festival was about thirty years in the making. He started as a stage actor. From there he learned to write, which led to making films. Filmmaking evolved to programming a festival. He’s been programming the festival since it’s inception, and he works to present a strong cross-section of films each year. The focus is on presenting strong character driven stories in all genres. He also looks for opportunities to mentor young filmmakers whenever possible.

fort worth 2

November 2018 – Read the best of Screenwriter Interviews

Interviews by Matthew Toffolo

Touch the link and read 22 different interviews with the best of new screenwriters from around the world.

Louric Rankine (SQUAD)
Interview with Screenwriter Louric Rankine (SQUAD)

Nicholas Julius (MYTHATANIA)
Interview with Screenwriter Nicholas Julius (MYTHATANIA)

Interview with Screenwriter Stephen Witty (Whittaker, Alger, and Dick)

Marc Gatschner (OF THE SEA)
Interview with Screenwriter Marc Gatschner (OF THE SEA)

Michael Preston (INHERIT-LY GAY)
Interview with Screenwriter Michael Preston (Inherit-ly Gay)

Alexander Stathis (HOMEFRONT)
Interview with Screenwriter Alexander Stathis (HOMEFRONT)

Interview with Screenwriter Joel Stern (THE WAITING ROOM)

Chima Idigo (MEAT)
Interview with Screenwriter Chima Idigo (MEAT)

Anthony Cicchelli (MILE HIGH ROOM)
Interview with Screenwriter Anthony Cicchelli (MILE HIGH ROOM)

Karen Matthews (PANDORA)
Interview with Screenwriter Karen Matthews (PANDORA)

Interview with Screenwriter Suzanne Lutas (The Dead Ringer, The Grand Jury)

Interview with Screenwriter Brandon Gillum (CADENCE OF THE BATTLE CRY)

James Grayford (THE FRANCHISE)
Interview with Screenwriter James Grayford (THE FRANCHISE)

Interview with Screenwriter Joshua Ashburn (A Brief Word on Hypersleep Studies: Chiliagon)

Interview with Writer Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (CONFESSIONS OF AN APOTEMNOPHILE: I THINK I AM)

Interview with Screenwriter Michael De Sapio (Incredible Life of Joey Coletta)

Interview with Screenwriter Paul Watkins (Kenobi: A Star Wars Story)

Rodgers Wilson (ELLA WITNESSING)
Interview with Screenwriter Rodgers Wilson (ELLA, WITNESSING)

John Renney (THE CULTISTS)
Interview with Screenwriter John Renney (THE CULTISTS)

Isaac Sweeney (SHOOTING)
Interview with Screenwriter Isaac Sweeney (SHOOTING)

Peter Lloyd (STREET LAW)
Interview with Screenwriter Peter Lloyd (STREET LAW)

Interview with Screenwriter Michael Head (LIGHTKEEPERS)