Film Review: MASQUERADING: TO HELL AND BACK, South Africa, LGBT/Documentary

This bright film, equal parts charming and heart breaking, follows two well known South African Drag Queens. Growing up in the South Africa during Apartheid, when “cross dressing” was punishable by imprisonment, Samantha Fox and Sandra Dee faced intolerable conditions, horrendous persecution and heartbreaking treatment for living their lives in adherence to the way they felt they needed to.

 

Framed beautifully by letters being written to each other, the two recount their lives, their trails and hurdles- through poverty, homelessness, severe abuse and trauma, all to come through it on the other end, bigger, brighter and more beautiful.

 

Samantha Fox and Sandra Dee are now iconic in their communities, and known their strength and for their generous spirits. We follow them through an LGTB drag pageant show where performers battle for the title of Miss District 6 and Miss Gay Legend , where they are assisting in crowning the winners.

What is truly inspirational about this film, despite it’s excellent music and beautiful photography, is the exceptional performances of Samantha Fox and Sandra Dee. With unfailing grace, elegance and beauty, with unmatched charm and wit, they tell their stories, their histories and their journeys with compassion, composure and admirable positivity. They embody an inner strength that can only be found when one has tested the limited of all strength can endure. They are role models for women everywhere, for it is clear that they have risen above adversity to shine brighter in the face of it.

 

A touching film and a joy to watch. Heart wrenching, engaging and beautiful, many glasses are raised to these two beautiful ladies, and a bravo to director Sofia De Fay.

by Kierston Drier

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MASQUERADING: TO HELL AND BACK, 13min., South Africa, LGBT/Documentary
Directed by Sofia De FayTwo hilarious and eccentric old drag queens living in Cape Town, South Africa remember their lives and how they survived years of brutal and terrifying discrimination. The fifty year old drag queens remember the apartheid years, where up till 1994 in South Africa it was illegal to “masquerade” as the opposite sex.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Film Review: SUNLIGHT OVER WATER, Canada, LGBT/Drama

 

With bold cinematic choices and a strong narrative voice, SUNLIGHT OVER WATER tells the story of the tumultuous friendships between high schoolers Merit and Julien. Their friendship already heavily laced with sexual tension, Julien makes a sexual overture to Merit, who accepts, but is then confused when Julien is distant, cold and even aggressive afterwards.

 

Painfully relatable and authentic, this piece captures the fragile rollercoaster that is adolescence, offset by the compounded pain of loving in vain.  A fascinating dive into the world of young, confusing love, where tempers burn and passion paves the way for dramatic self discovery, SUNLIGHT OVER WATER offers no easy answers to the problems growing up creates. Perhaps that is what makes this film so appealing- it takes you into Merit’s world, while leaving Juliens’ unknowable- the way Julien appears to Merit. A compelling look into young love and the experiences that shape us into the people we become, SUNLIGHT OVER WATER is a beautiful and intense short.  

by Kierston Drier

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SUNLIGHT OVER WATER, 15min., Canada, LGBT/Drama
Directed by Jesse Gotfrit

High-schooler Merit discovers his sexuality through a tumultuous relationship with his friend Julien.

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Film Review: CHRISTINE, USA, LGBT/Coming of Age

Gorgeously shot with exceptional casting, CHRISTINE is the poignant story of precious young Christine who can’t beat her friend in an arm wrestling match, her friend decides to help her. At her request, he cuts her hair and shares his clothes with her, and in a few meaningful but speedy moments Christinee completely transforms- at least, almost. She still can’t seem to best her friend in arm wrestling- something deeply distressing to her.

The beauty of this film is that it accomplishes so much with so little dialogue. There is an excellence in this piece with its simplicity and yet profundity of meaning. Without over burdening the scenes with expositio the meaning behind the film is still perfectly conveyed- the testament of character is far more than skin deep. Christine’s friendship with her male counterpart has the almost tangible feeling of being founded within childhood and yet extending through it and into adolescence. With the nostalgic anachronistic feeling of a youthful summer day, this film captures the early moment of coming-of-age for Christine and she begins the journey of independence and self discovery. A film about knowing yourself, even amidst finding out who you are, CHRISTINE is a film will touch your heart while it makes you think.

by Kierston Drier

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CHRISTINE, 10min, USA, LGBT/Coming of Age
Directed by Jessica Adler

With the help of her best friend, Christine redefines her perception of strength and what it means to be herself.

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Film Review: ALAN WILLIAMS METAL ARTIST, UK, Documentary/Art 

ALAN WILLIAMS METAL ARTIST is a spectacular piece of cinematic documentary storytelling. Shining with incredible images from every frame and with fantastical creations waiting to leap out in every corner, Alan Williams carries us, the audience, along with him while he turns seemingly useless scrap metal in to utterly stunning works of mastery.

 

At seven minutes, to see so much in so small a time is an ambitious feat, but director Ben Cox is able to put together a brilliant documentary in that impressively small time frame. A film that sparks as much passion as the artist himself clearly has for his work, ALAN WILLIAMS METAL ARTIST is a captivating visual journey of art and beauty. A delight for the eyes and the artists’ heart.

 

by Kierston Drier

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ALAN WILLIAMS METAL ARTIST, 7min., UK, Documentary/Art 
Directed by Ben CoxAlan Williams: Creatures of the Deep offers an insight into the mind and work of the immensely talented Brighton sculptor Alan Williams, who turns scrap metal into amazing animal figures

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Film Review: MISSING PEACE, USA, Documentary/Drama 

A deeply controversial and highly moving film, MISSING PEACE follows two people, Chloe and Jeremy,  who suffer from Body integrity Identity Disorder- a disorder that compels them to deeply believe their sense of self is more actualized if they were differently abled. In Chloe’s case, all her life she has struggled with a deep desire to be unable to use her legs. In Jeremys’ case, (and he has hidden his identity for fear of backlash for his feelings) he has always longed to be hands-free.

For someone without BIID, wrapping the mind around the condition may be difficult, even concerning, due to the stigma attached to being differently-abled, but for Chloe and Jeremy, this condition goes much deeper than the surface. For our two heroes, the body they feel they belong in is one that is, respectively, missing hands or unable to walk. The body they currently have feels as though they should not be in it.

 

MISSING PEACE does what every documentary aims to do- open up and explore an area of life that may not be known or understood by the “everyman”. It attempts, with remarkable sensitivity, to capture the difficult and trying world of a human being at odds with society and its’ view on their own sense of self. Perhaps another reason why this film rings so powerful is that it attempts to rid itself of subjectivity. MISSING PEACE allows its focus to be the journey’s of the heroes, not any potential judgements that may be held by the filmmaker. Instead the audience is asked to makeup their own opinion. We see the damage and pain caused to our heroes because of the world they live in, while the viewer may still struggle to understand the reality the heroes live in. Ultimately the choice is up the viewer, but the story is no less important, no less meaningful- no less necessary to be heard. A film not for the faint of heart, it speaks to the bravery of Chloe, Jeremy and director Jenna Gartlan, to take on such a deep and emotional topic. Well done to all.

 

by Kierston Drier

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MISSING PEACE, 17min., USA, Documentary/Drama 
Directed by Jenna Gartlan

Missing Peace follows Chloe Jennings-White and Jeremy as they struggle with Body Integrity Identity Disorder. Chloe wishes to be paraplegic, and Jeremy wants to cut off his hands.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Film Review: PLAYGROUND, USA, Documentary/Society 

A heart wrenching story of a community reeling after the death of a preteen boy, shot by a police officer in a local park, PLAYGROUND is a seventeen minute short that showcases how one community copes with loss by banding together.

 

Strong and poignant, PLAYGROUND follows Brick City Community Theatre near the Lakeview Terrace public housing project in Cleveland. The community around the theatre puts on productions about the local life, involving both youth and senior community members. PLAYGROUND follows one such production, an original created around the recent death and uses the trauma to empower and support the community members.

 

A deeply touching and moving piece, with excellent composition and execution, PLAYGROUND will remind us all of our fundamental similarities, are basic need for human connection and the transformative and healing power of the arts. A bow of credit to the directors Drew Dickler and Jakob Hochendoner.

 

by Kierston Drier

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PLAYGROUND, 17min., USA, Documentary/Society 
Directed by Drew Dickler

Afternoons at 4, residents from Lakeview Terrace, a public housing project in Cleveland, gather at their community center to transform their life stories into art and their grief into understanding.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Film Review: COSPLAY: BEHIND THE MASK, USA, Documentary/Sci-Fi

 

 

Enter that incredible, rich, vibrant world of COSPLAY: BEHIND THE MASK. Directed by Hendricksen Armand, this movie dives into the tapestry of talent behind Cosplay. Cosplay involves dressing up like a well known character from a book and TV show, usually (But not exclusively) found within the anime media community. Think Sailor Moon, DragonBall and Pokemon- and those are just major well known shows. Other shows or movies  including well known action heroes are often included as well.  Conventions that create hubs for fans of the shows often have attendees that dress the part of their favorite characters. What is incredible about this is that the costumes are largely created by attendees. Often elaborate and time consuming, the creative lengths attendees go to to create larger-than-life costumes and true adherence to character is inspiration.

 

Such incredible works and labors of love are not without issue, however. COSPLAY: BEHIND THE MASK follows a handful of dedicated and talented cosplayers as they discuss making their costumes, but also some of the concerns that follow them at conventions. They are often mistaken at conventions as paid performers, touched or groped without their consent and made to feel uncomfortable, often because their work is so believable. Our talented cosplayers also discuss the sexual overtones and undertones often associated with their work. Since the outfits of their characters are often sexualized, it is difficult to dress the part without facing the same reaction.

COSPLAY: BEHInd THE MASK must be commended on it’s open and honest portrayal of cosplay, with all its’ joys and concerns. Bright, colorful and fun, while still being deep, meaningful and thought-provoking, this is layered and fascinating film. A special shout out must be given to the key cast, as they are all instantly loveable, and all remarkably gifted both as creators and performers. A film to see!

by Kierston Drier

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COSPLAY: BEHIND THE MASK, 20min., USA, Documentary/Sci-Fi 
Directed by Hendricksen Armand

A look into the life of cosplayers who try to shatter the boundaries of reality by transforming themselves into characters from comic books, TV shows, and movies.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Film Review: LEAD THE PARADE, USA, Documentary/Society 

A sharp, but compassionate look at the world of disenfranchised youth, LEAD THE PARADE is a fifteen minute short coming to us from director Omino Gardezi. Packed with meaning in every frame and brimming with the emotional reality that is life for the underprivileged, LEAD THE PARADE showcases groups like New York’s Partnership with Children, a community organization that works with children to help lift them out of otherwise difficult situations.

 

One cornerstone of this piece is the concept of poverty equalling trauma. With massive numbers of children in urban settings living within poverty-stricken conditions a generation is at risk.

 

LEAD THE PARADE is a film that approaches these difficult concepts with sensitivity and faces the complex problems with openness. There is, in fact, a remedy for the trauma caused by poverty: Healthy and positive relationships with adults. LEAD THE PARADE is a strong film, filled with hope, compassion and positivity, but beyond that, it is a film with an uplifting message; Change is possible. It starts with us.

by Kierston Drier

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LEAD THE PARADE, 15min., USA, Documentary/Society 
Directed by Omino Gardezi

In Lead the parade, The filmmakers embark on an intimate? ?conversation with Neuroscientist, mental health Specialists Social workers, Economist, Government and thought leaders to explore the impact a child’s early environment on their cognitive, social and emotional development, it will be? ?premiered on the Martin Luther King Jr. day and will be available for viewing at Lead the Parade.org

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Film Review: OCEANIC ALIENS, USA, Documentary/Wildlife

This classical-style documentary weaves wonderous thoughts and images in its short six minute time-slot. Set against the inky-dark world under the ocean, OCEANIC ALIENS follows a handful of rarely seen bioluminescent aquatic creatures.

 

A piece that explores the whole new world of bright and colorful life under the waves, OCEANIC ALIENS is a compelling watch. In true documentary style, it offers simple and direct information about each creature, and weaves a near-magical picture of the ocean as so much deeper, richer and teaming with life than we may have before believed.

 

Of specific note, is the exceptional footage. It is incredible difficult to film underwater and the images captured of these incredible and beautiful life forms is well worth that watch. A film for information lovers and film lovers alike.

by Kierston Drier

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OCEANIC ALIENS, 6min., USA, Documentary/Wildlife
Directed by Mike Johnson

Oceanic Aliens is an internationally award winning short documentary that explores one aspect of how little we truly know about planet earth. More is known about outer space than our very own oceans. This short documentary illustrates just one example of a little known class of marine species and their amazing attributes.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

FILM REVIEW: ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD (US 2017) ****

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All the Money in the World Poster
Trailer

The story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom.

Director:

Ridley Scott

Writers:

David ScarpaJohn Pearson (based on the book by)

 

The big question everyone will be asking about ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD is how effective the replacement of Christopher Plummer in the titular role of Paul Getty.  After the sexual harassment allegations surfaced on Kevin Spacey, director Ridley Scott (BLADE RUNNER) quickly replaced him with Plummer, doing the required re-shoots.  After viewing ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD, all traces of Spacey have been removed and it is nothing short of remarkable that Ridley has done such a great job.  And Oscar Winner Plummer is great.  Spacey would ave added a sly, comedic sarcastic element to his portrayal – his trait, but Plummer plays him straight, funny or serious depending on the situation.  The world needs not need to see a more sarcastic Getty.

The film is narrated from the grandson, Paulo (Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher Plummer), giving the film his perspective on his grandfather.  “He is not only the richest man in the world, but the richest man who ever lived!”  Plummer as Getty shows the stingy side of a millionaire, how he trusts artifacts and objects instead of people, as these show themselves as they are, with nothing hidden. But just as his colleagues and friend betray him, he does the same with his grandson’s artifact.

The film contains a few ineffective segments.  One odd one that stands out is a short segment set in 1838 in Saudi Arabia where Getty (in younger mode and Plummer decked in make up and dyed black hair to look younger) discusses oil.  That scene is total unnecessary and could have been done away with to save money and Plummer looking a bit ridiculous.  One cliched segment has the grandson walking the streets of Rome in the middle of the night accosting the prostitutes.  When he remarks to one of them: “I can take care of myself,” one can guess that he is just about to be kidnapped.  The next scene has him pushed into a car by the kidnappers.

But there are a few impressive scenes like the beginning black and white shot of a city with vintage cars.  The scene evolves into colour and the famous Trini fountain is revealed while Italian dialogue heard in the background.  It could be a scene right out of Fellini’s LA DOLCE VITA.

All the performances are outstanding from Michelle Williams as the angry mother slowly developing more tolerance towards the hired Chase to Plummer to Wahlberg.  The best  performance, however belongs to French actor Roman Duris (THE BEAT MY HEART SKIPPED, THE NEW GIRLDFRIEND) as the Getty’s grandson’s kidnapper.

Scott’s film is strong on emotions.    Getty’s daughter-in-law played by Williams undergoes the entire spectrum of emotions and character including, anger, strength, vulnerability, love, sensitivity, tolerance and annoyance.  All kidnapping films have the element of the Stockholm Syndrome.  As the kidnapper and kidnapped are both male, the bonding is one of trust and respect, which makes for the film greatest surprises.

The film plays more of a suspense thriller than a biopic on the millionaire Getty.  Still, there are enough screen time given to Getty to  show him the man he could be.  The words on the screen at the closing credits makes it clear that though the film is based on true events, dialogue and some events have been fictionalized.  It would be interesting to know which parts of the film are fictionalized.  The whole story, at the very end, seems like the perfect kidnapping caper, perfect for a good suspense film.

The film also contains a message. Watching Christopher Plummer as Getty teaches me,  wealthy Scrooge, a few things while opening my eyes.

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

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