Movie Review: SILENCE, 5min, UK, Romance (2016)

  MOVIE POSTERSILENCE, 5min, UK, Romance
Directed by Elena Brodach

The story of love that everyone dreams.

Seen at the July 2016 Under 5min. FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

Music may well be the language of love. Perhaps that is the thesis of the charming, poignant piece short Silence by director Elena Brodach. Shot in one frame, with no cuts, no dialogue and only two characters, Brodach proves that less really is more. The emotional mastery of the piece is that it is able to produce such strong feelings with seemingly such little effort.

For a film with little in the way of story set-up, the story is very clear. An elderly couple sit in a completely empty theater, watching some sort of performance the viewer cannot see. They can however hear the beautiful orchestra music playing, interrupted only by the occasional squeal of one of the couple’s’ hearing aids going out. After a few moments of uncomfortable adjusting, the two simply lean their heads together and hear the music equally well out of a shared aid. Together, the music swells.

A film that encapsulates one beautiful moment shared between two people who love each other. The wonderment in this short film is that it strips away the youth from beauty. So often our society shows love in the hands of the young, the innocent, the beautiful. Yet Silence reminds us that love is not often falling to our knees in front of the object of our affection, grand romantic gestures or bouquets of flowers. Love is a series of simple gestures that translate to “you matter, I care, these moments are shared.” And Silence pays tribute to love after 30, after 40, after 80.

Silence is colorfully shot, the sound is gorgeously designed and the moment is simple and sweet. It may not win and Oscar, but it can win your heart.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the short film:

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Movie Review: I LIKE YOU, 2min, Italy, Drama/Romance (2016)

  MOVIE POSTERI LIKE YOU, 2min, Italy, Drama/Romance
Directed by Vito D’Agostino

A child falls in love with a girl, he is at an age where he does not know what love is, but he tries to explain what he feels with his heart.

Seen at the July 2016 Under 5min. FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

Directed by  Vito D’Agostino with music by Chad Lewis I Like You is a childhood love story, a vivid imaginative account of the classic boy-meets-girl trope. Set against the poetic backdrop of winter, filled with mittens, ice skates, and winter nights set aglow with thousands of lights, a montage of loving moments are played out between boy and girl. The whole film, (save for the last scene) is enacted over the boy reading aloud his love letter to his love- words that are charming in the youthful innocence, yet poetically deep despite their simplicity.

I Like You is cinematic transportation to a world of romantic dreams. It exists in a place out of time- its space is inhabited by a world where we have not yet been touched by technology, not yet distorted by the bumps and scraps of life. It is the confidence of love when children are loving and in this way, deeply moving.

The film is beautifully executed with keen attention to detail. The casting was excellent. While the final image poses questions and leaves the viewer to answer them, the film is a study in beauty and the elusive love we all dream of knowing.

Critics of this piece may point to its resemblance to a Hallmark commercial, may comment on its singular male voice (for the female love interest has no lines) or even comment on its lack of diversity in casting. All of these things have accuracy in their own right. However, I will credit the production with this: from the initial image onward, I lived in the world of love the hero made. I was encapsulated and transported to a place where I believed love could conquer the impossible, and follow two people through their entire lives and beyond. In this way, despite its criticism, I Like You, holds the elements our dreams are made of.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the short film:

Movie Review: HOWELL, 4min, UK, Horror/Comedy (2016)

  MOVIE POSTERHOWELL, 4min, UK, Horror/Comedy
Directed by Leon Williams

Howell is attending a supporters group meeting, along with others that share his condition. He has many issues…but he is trying his best to find himself.

Seen at the July 2016 Under 5min. FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

Howl directed by Leon David Williams and starring Leo Bane, is a curious film that straddles the lines of satire and dry comedy. It seems to focus on what appears to be a support group for an unknown affliction. With emphasis on assimilating into normal life leads the viewer to believe that the protagonist is returning from a seedy previous life. The comedy arises in the escalation of strange things our hero fixates on to identify with his new normalcy- such as playing frisbee with his best friend, and culminating in a hilarious scene where he has dinner with his girlfriend and Ex at the same time- and the Ex appears to be a small domesticated dog.

The answer, of course, is that our Hero is a reformed Warewolf. A viewer may be able to grab that reveal from a curious flashback that occurs early in the film. However our hero’s visits to group and his montage of activities showcase his success with integrating his dog-human dichotomy.  If the viewer grabs onto this knowledge early on the end could be lack luster. Yet the humor is palpable, although possibly less apparent to a North American audience acclimatized to a less dry style of humor.  While this reviewer picked up early the secret of our half-Canine hero, it is certainly not a mark against the filmmaker. It could very well be the intent of Williams to have this secret become clear to the audience, so that they can better enjoy the schict of the piece.

Howl, because of its stylistic choices, may not be a film that will have everyone in the audience laughing. But if you appreciate this type of humor, it’s an enjoyable film. It offers laughs, comic spectacle and the ever-important howl at the full moon.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the short film:

Movie Review: LOREN THE ROBOT BUTLER: TEACH ME HOW TO DOUGIE! (2016)

festival posterLOREN THE ROBOT BUTLER: TEACH ME HOW TO DOUGIE!

Seen at the July 2016 Under 5min. FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Directed by Paul McGinnis

Loren, a proper British robot and formally the head butler for a very wealthy family, has been replaced with a Roomba and stored in the basement. Now the kids program him to teach them stuff.

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

Light, bright and whimsical, Loren The Robot Butler, written, directed and creatively lead by  Paul McGinnis, entices the inner child of us all. The film’s premise is established in just a few quick moments, and with the help of a charming opening tune, explaining that an outdated robotic butler sits unused in a family’s basement, and spends his retired life teaching children. Perpetually upbeat and sporting the quintessential British Accent, our friendly butler protagonist speaks directly to the audience as though they are the very children of the household where he is kept. At the children’s request, he takes on the mission to teach them how to “Dougie”, from the well known 80’s rapper Doug E. Fresh.

The humor comes easily on several level- most liminally, from the contrast of a British robot butler, attempting to recreate hip-hop music. The upper-crust British sound and robotic movement parodying the relaxed sway of the music beat and hip-hop/rap dialect. Further, there is humor in the form of breaking of the fourth wall with the audience, and from the shock that our robot friend not only executes the dance- but does so exceptionally well!

This piece is a delightful romp through the whimsical world of song and dance as seen through the eyes of a child, but there is a level deeper. It does speak to the element of old technology trying to keep up with the new, modern and current.

The most astonishing, staggering and interesting part of Loren The Robot Butler, however, is not it’s comedy or its use of social commentary. It is it’s artistry. At first glance, this piece could be mistaken as a completely CGI 3D animation. In reality, the entire piece is performed by three puppeteers, manning the upper bottle and each leg independently. The amazing truth is, this exceptionally complicated dance move is performed in perfect execution by highly trained professionals  (Lead by McGinnis) manning one doll behind a green screen, resulting in seamless and flawless dance that passes as computer generated. This is a feat of puppeteer mastery and specialized skill rarely seen in Cinema since Dark Crystal, (Let’s not talk about Team America) and at the very least should be applauded.

Whether Lorne The Robot Butler  is a proof of concept for a delightful children’s TV show, or a demo reel for some exceptional puppeteers, it is regardless a lovely, light comedy sure to entertain.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the short film:

A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER (Play Review)

a_gentlemans_guide_to_love_and_murder.jpgby Gilbert Seah

A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is a musical comedy, with the book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and the music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak. The musical is enjoying both rave reviews and a successful run at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre riding on its grand win of four Tony Awards in June 2014 including Best Musical.

The musical is based on the 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman, with some changes like the names its characters. It should be noted that the book was also made into an Ealing Studios film – the famous KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS starring Alec Guinness. While the film stood out as a black comedy, the musical version opts for outlandish comedy.

The story concerns a penniless young man named Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey) who discovers that he is 9th in line to become the Earl of Highhurst. The aristocrat D’Ysquiths (the name selected because its first syllable is ‘die’; another name was used in the film) disinherited Monty’s mother and denies his existence. Monty decides to knock off the eight so that he can become Earl. In the meantime, his girlfriend Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams) ditches him while he fall for Phoebe (Adrienne Eller).

The story has potential for bedroom farce, Sondheim type musical numbers and murder, a favourite theatre staple.

Kevin Massey has an excellent voice which is likely the reason he was chosen to play the main lead. He also makes a good straight man for all the comedy going around him. But it is John Rapson who steals the show, playing all the eight D’Ysquith family members as Alec Guinness did in the film. Both actors Massey and Rapson got a standing ovation during the performance I attended. But my prize for performance goes to Mary VanArsdel, playing Miss Shingle who shines in both comedy and song.

The best segment of the musical is its take on British bedroom farce with Monty hiding his two women in different rooms while being proposed by one . (See photo inset.) The shutting and opening of doors are perfect in timing with antics well choreographed while the song “I’ve Decide to Marry You” is performed.

The musical’s outlandishness is highlighted by Linda Cho’s costume design which won her a Tony. Her overdone pink costumes for Sibella and for the other females in the story are unforgettable. The scenic (Alexander Dodge) and projection design (Aaron Rhyne) also deserve mention. The moving trees in the skating sequence and the chasing bees demand mention.

Despite warnings in song at the start (“A Warning to the Audience) and middle (“Final Warning”), A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is a harmless entertaining evening at the theatre that should delight everyone without offending any. The only times the musical almost offends are the segments with Lady Hyacinth abroad in Africa, India and Egypt. But those are forgivable as they are done for the purpose of harmless enjoyment.

Interview with Festival Director Chris Grigsby (Cinevision Film Festival)

Cinevision Film Festival is an international competition for short filmmakers located in Santa Fe, NM at the heart of the city.  We aim to help amateur filmmakers make the professional leap.  This year’s competition is a little bit different than in the past.  We’re focusing more on shorter films to allow more directors the opportunity to be seen.  This year’s festival is directed by Chris Grigsby who is partnering with film4change and this is our film to help create the best program we’ve had yet.

http://cinevisionsfuad.com/

Interview with Chris Grigsby:

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

Chris Grigsby: Cinevision Film Festival is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For those who don’t know, Santa Fe, Nm is indeed a real place and it happens to be a film and artist hub. Independence Day 2, Seth Rogan’s new project, “Preacher” and the ever popular Netflix show, “Longmire,” are just some of the recent project that are taking place here. With the film Festival, we like to give the opportunity for Filmmakers to showcase their work to an audience that is very involved in the business, and hopefully be a bridge between the amateur and professional realm.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

CG: Laughing. Crying. Puking. Walk-outs and the occasional standing ovation is what I’m praying for. This year we had over 700 submissions from around the world and the program is shaping into one of the best showcases I’ve seen, but then again I’m biased.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

CG: Cinevision is an International Short Film Festival, so fifteen minutes or less is kind of our style. If you think punk-rock teen angst meets ballroom reception with a splash of comedy, this would be our qualifications. You won’t see to many heart felt documentaries this year.

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

CG: I can’t say with any certainty but I’m sure you could make a case for it. The beautiful thing about today, is that there are film festivals springing up all around the world that gives filmmakers an even greater chance to be seen and heard. So I would say try your chance and if it doesn’t work out, try again.

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

CG: Cinevision is part of a weekend art festival held at Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Were right in between Outdoor Vision Festival, which is an art instillation and projection exhibit, and Quadstock Music Festival. Their always seems to be a friendly rivalry between the events, and we want to win that rivalry. There is always a large crowd that comes out every year and we want them to come for the art, stay for the film and relax on the music.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

CG: We’ve shifted the program to focus on shorter works and opened up the competition more internationally, just to give the opportunity for more filmmakers to show their work. The competition abroad was really strong this season and I know the audience will appreciate that. If you’ve ever been to Santa Fe, then you’ll understand just how worldly the community is.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

CG: I’d like for the festival to keep its small town feel, and still support major competition. The great thing about being in Santa Fe, is that the filmmaker never gets lost in the shuffle and has the opportunities that any major film market could provide.

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

CG: Probably John Carpenters, Halloween. I started watching that around the age when I wasn’t supposed to and feel in love with it. And because of that, I’ll never get the soundtrack outta my head.

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

CG: A great film breaths life from pictures.

cinevision_film_festival

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go tohttp://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Festival Director Kimberly Bush (DC Shorts Film Festival)

Voted “Coolest Film Festival” by MovieMaker Magazine, DC Shorts Film Festival and Screenplay Competition is one of the largest short film events on the East Coast.  Last year, they screened 135 films from 25 countries in 18 unique showcases over 11 days to audiences of more than 9,000 people.

 Kimberley Bush Photo.jpgInterview with Executive Director Kimberly Bush

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

Kimberly Bush: DC Shorts Film Festival provides a robust venue for short film filmmakers to present their films. We are successful at being a 11 day full/well rounded experience for filmmakers. Filmmakers are able to not only screen their films but we invite them to the festival to spend authentic time with the audience in Q&A/panel discussions. The filmmakers can enhance their craft in our filmmaker workshops/classes as well as celebrate their presence at the festival at one of our celebrations including our Filmmaker Awards Brunch.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

KB: As an attendee you can expect to see poignant, riveting, multicultural, diverse and groundbreaking films in every genre from all over the globe. There are many opportunities for attendees to share dialogue with filmmakers in our Q&A/panel discussions/roundtables or at one of our celebrations. We also offer free workshops/classes for attendees interested filmmaking as well as free film showcases for youth and free lunch time film screenings. During the last weekend of our film festival, attendees can experience our Screenplay Competition. During this event, attendees will hear a table reading of approximately 6 different screenplays that have been previously selected by a juried panel. After the table readings they will be able to vote for the best screenplay. That screenwriter will be awarded a cash prize and their completed film will gain entry into the following year’s film festival. The Film Festival is truly 11 days of nonstop engaging fun and film.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

KB: Our main judging criterion is story. We screen all genres and styles of film. All films are 30 seconds to 20 minutes in length. We look for interesting and original stories with developed and well-written characters.

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

KB: I do think that there is a film festival/film competition for every kind/genre of film. It’s up the filmmakers to find the best festival for their film. However, we appreciate the difficulty of rejection, and so have created a “second chance opportunity” program within DC Shorts. DC Shorts’ Take 2 screens films that didn’t quite make the cut for the festival selection, allowing the audience to choose 2 films to make it back into the festival. This takes place over two days in May.

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

KB: Every year we receive feedback during the film festival (as well as months after) stating how much of a life-changing event it was for the filmmakers. They enjoyed all the opportunities to commune with the attendees and other filmmakers as well as the educational programming we provide. They felt well taken care of in regard to the housing/hotel accommodations we organize for them as well as the city tours and our Feed A Filmmaker program. What gives us the energy and motivation to create DC Shorts Film Festival year after year is knowing that our year round efforts make such a huge, positive impact on our filmmakers and the community. We do believe that film changes lives and we are charged with responsibility to provide the space that can bring film to the eyes and ears of the community.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

KB: The Festival has grown exponentially! In 2003 we were a 3 day film festival screening in only one location. We now have a screenplay competition with a cash prize award. We have had screenings in up to 5 different locations. During the film festival, we offer patrons who may not be able to attend the festival in person, our Online Film Festival where they can view 90% of the films that are actually in the festival. We host epic celebrations as well as free children’s film showcases in libraries throughout Washington DC as well as free filmmaker workshops and beginner/master classes.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

KB: I am relatively new to DC Shorts…I came aboard as the Executive Director in 2015. 2016 has brought more exciting changes to my staff. I have hired an amazing programming team. Joe Bilancio, our Director of Programming and Derek Horne, our Programming Lead, both with extraordinary track records/experience and insatiable passion for film. With this new team we will begin planning for DC Shorts’ future which may include new and exciting partnerships and collaborations that will provide even bigger and better opportunities for filmmakers.

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

KB: That is an impossible question to answer…so suffice it to say that I have watched repeatedly –not in any particular order—any Steven Soderburgh, Lisa Cholodenko, Spike Lee, Stanly Kubrick, Pedro Almodovar, Alfred Hitchcock, Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, Todd Haynes, or Quentin Tarantino film. #GloriousFilmMakers!

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

KB: If a film has the ability to REALLY make you think, feel, laugh, contemplate your own thoughts/way of being/existence or just create some level of change…however microscopic…I think that is what makes a great film.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

Washington DC probably hosts the largest variety of film festivals/film screenings in the country….culturally…politically…socially. Old movie house are being salvaged. New movie houses are being constructed. Film Festivals that were defunct are being resurrected. The DC film office has been making strides over the years. The film scene is vibrant, growing and ever present. There are over 100+ film festivals in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area with stellar and diverse film screenings/events year round.

PHOTO: DC Shorts Screening in 2015. Photo courtesy of DC Shorts:

dcshortscrow
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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go tohttp://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.