MOVIE REVIEW: KAJAL (KOHL) (Drama)

Played at the August 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival to rave reviews.

by Kierston Drier

Most cinema aims to make the audience feel something- laughter or joy, terror and thrill, anticipation and satisfaction. Excellent films achieve this, while also making you think. Spectacular films do all these things while also leaving one with an empowering message. Enter Kajal, which has transcended all these requirements and more. This twenty minute short from Indian directed by Paakhi A Tryewala, is a cinematic masterpiece of beautiful, terror and empowerment. A statement on society through one woman’s solitary tale of domination and resistance. Our heroine, a submissive and cautious woman, disrespected by strangers, ignored by her boss, and berated by her husband, stumbles into a mysterious package on her way home- containing a gun. Empowered by a weapon that finally gives her an element of protection, defense and choice, our hero sets about making changes the the world around her that treats life as though she is less than those around her.

 

It is never the gun that creates the changes- it is our heroine, empowered by the realization that she can wield power- and she does so without ever uttering a word.

 

Kajal is beautifully shot, with gorgeous cinematography. It is exceptionally well cast on every level. The performance of leading actress Salony Luthra is nothing short of awe-inspiring, as she captivates the screen with strength, poise and undeniable grit and determination. This is a rare gem of a film that is composed in near-perfection as it takes the viewer slowly into the life of one woman, prepared to change her world by any means necessary. Yet, the gun that empowers her is a beautiful metaphor for her own power. A gun is only as dangerous as the person who holds it.

Kajal is a must-see film. It resonates with tension, sparkles with anticipation and burns hot with a deep message of empowerment. A breakthrough film with razer-edge execution, it is a riveting cinematic piece to watch. Bravo Paakhi A Tyrewala. Bravo!

KOHL, 20min, India, Drama
Directed by Paakhi A Tyrewala

Like all elements, humans have a saturation point. What happens when a woman — constantly bullied by a boss, harassed by strangers and abused by husband — finds an abandoned package one night?

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

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MOVIE REVIEW: NO STRINGS ATTACHED, (Music Video)

Played at the August 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival to rave reviews.

by Kierston Drier

This five minute music video from the USA, No Strings Attached is a bold and dramatic statement about the commercialization of art.  Highly abstract, yet clear with its goals, motives and intent, this stylized musical art piece is comment on media, money and the rights to human expression.

 

No Strings Attached performed by Alyssa Maria featuring Destiny Claymore and directed by Lindsay Penn is not only a strong musical number but is composed with exceptional lyrics and an unforgettable performances. The lyrics jump out at the viewer as clearly and as vibrantly as the stunning emotional visuals.  

 

A special nod must be given to the artistic design- the costumes, makeup and overall visual spectacle of the piece is just as lush and entrancing as the highly moving lyrics. An artistic but strong criticism and review of our music industry and the money that propels the creation and distribution of content, this is a strong and memorable performance and a incredibly engaging film to behold

NO STRINGS ATTACHED, 5min, USA, Music Video
Directed by Lindsay PennFans or dollars? A surreal exploration of the inner conflict of the independent artist.

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

MOVIE REVIEW: THE SESSION (Comedy)

Played at the August 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival to rave reviews.

by Kierston Drier

An emotionally intense and psychologically thrilling comedy, this ambitious seven minute short hailing from the USA and directed by Molly Maguire is rollercoaster of extremes. It follows a timid Amanda at her first meeting with her  strong and confident therapist. Eager to please and desperate to be “just like everyone else”, Amanda is quick to obey the words of her trusted therapist, who quickly persuades her into accepting deep truths about her psyche. The power dynamics of this piece are quick, intense and startling, as the rapid fire writing carries the story from one emotional high to the next.

 

Incredibly successful while still being admirably ambitious, The Session may push a viewer out of their comfort zone with psychology manipulation and comic irony. However, this is the type of daring and adventurous cinematic short that must be highly commended for its strong performances, excellent writing and killer mic-drop comic twist ending. A worthy watch and a short not to miss.

THE SESSION, 7min, USA, Comedy
Directed by Molly Maguire

Amanda arrives early for her first therapy session a bit eager, nervous, and open to her Dr.’s professional words of wisdom. Dr. Franklin uses all of this to her advantage. Turning those fateful minutes in which Amanda arrived early into ones Amanda will never forget.

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

MOVIE REVIEW: THE MAN WHO DOESN’T SLEEP (Drama, Dramamentary)

Played at the August 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival to rave reviews.

by Kierston Drier

A fifteen minute Mockumentary-Drama coming out of Canada, directed by Jana Stackhouse, follows a young filmmaker Sam as she explores the curious condition of her neighbor. Her neighbour, as it turns out, doesn’t sleep- or can’t sleep. Taken with the fascinating story of this medical miracle, Sam devotes her time to following her neighbor Craig and his story. What would you do with your newly found time, if you no longer had to sleep?

What she finds is an amazing introvert who is a jack of all trades, from Cosplay to self-taught chef, to botanist, to one-man-band, Craig can do it all- although he can’t do any of it perfectly. And slowly, the shy recluse opens up to his new friend. But when Craig suddenly begins to feel exhaustion, Sam learns that when he finally does sleep, he may sleep most of the rest of his life to make up for what sleep has been lost. Determined to finish her film and give Craig a chance to tell his story, they carry on the documentary. Craig however, must come to the realization that a person can live in a dream world, even if they never fall asleep.

 

This is an exceptionally well balanced film. The Man Who Doesn’t Sleep has emotional and genuine performances, charming tone and a beautiful mixture of subtle comedy and heart. It’s slightly unbelievable premise is easy to accept because of how authentically it is portrayed. A meaningful message is left with anyone who takes the time to enjoy The Man Who Doesn’t Sleep– life may be short, but it is worth being awake for.

THE MAN WHO DOESN’T SLEEP, 15min, Canada, Drama
Directed by Jana StackhouseA young filmmaker finds herself in a new apartment where her neighbour is literally up all night. Her anger turns to curiosity as she sets out to make a documentary about ‘The Man Who Doesn’t Sleep.’

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

MOVIE REVIEW: WE WERE SWIMMING, (Art/Surreal)

Played at the August 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival to rave reviews.

by Kierston Drier

We Were Swimming is a metaphorical, musical, poetic short, laced with symbolism and poignance. The story, while abstract, follows two teenage girls who share (or have shared) an intense emotional bond. Directed by May Fisher and hailing from the UK, this short film has an exceptionally beautiful in its impenetrable mystery.

 

The piece is largely visual set against a dramatic spoken word piece, detailing a the heavy history and powerful bond shared by the two women. There is an emphasis on the symbology of water in the piece, but the meaning behind it is left for the viewer to contemplate.

Excellent performances and beautiful cinematography are found in We Were Swimming. What exalts this short above the standard are the bravely intimate non-dialogue moments shared between the heroines. It captures the closeness clearly shared between them, although the extent of their relationship is left up to the interpretation of the audience. Impactful and often profound, We Were Swimming has the tone of a love poem spoken in whispers, that nevertheless can resonate with any heart.

 

WE WERE SWIMMING, 3min, UK, Art/Surreal
Directed by Jesse May Fisher

We Were Swimming explores intimacies and tensions between two teenage girls. As the protagonist’s dreams and memories interweave with one another certain intricacies of girlhood and female friendship come to light.

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

MOVIE REVIEW: GRACE & GRIT (Thriller/Drama)

Played at the August 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival to rave reviews.

by Kierston Drier

A dramatic and emotional roller coaster of a film, Grace and Grit directed by Olivia Applegate and Blair Bomar, is a strong cinematic endeavour. Following one woman who battles with two different personas inside her, we see the passionate internal battle of torn emotional soul. Our heroine stands at the crossroads of a broken and abusive relationship, fighting within herself as to stay or leave. Stay, and attempt to turn something broken into something beautiful, or leave fueled with anger and fury. A detailed portrait of human complexity, this piece will make you feel and think.

 

The actresses who play Grace (Blair Bomar), Grit  (Olivia Grace Applegate) and the “Woman” (Kelly Frye) are to be commended for their strong, tense and compelling performances. Superbly cast, the performances alone make this film a must-see.

 

Grace and Grit is an emotional gut-punch, because the real struggle of the film is not the relationship the woman has with her abusive partner, but the relationship she has with herself. Her equally torn sides each speak with their own twisted but compelling logic. It is hard to choose a side, and hard to look away as our heroine is swept up in the emotional chaos within her. Striking, bold and emotionally ambitious, Grace and Grit is not to be missed.

GRACE & GRIT, 3min, USA, Thriller/Drama
Directed by Olivia ApplegateA twisted celebration of me, myself and I.

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

Interview with Festival Director Gabor Pertic (Breakthroughs Film Festival)

Now in its 5th amazing year, the Breakthroughs Film Festival is the only festival in Canada devoted exclusively to short films by New Generation women filmmakers. We show films in any and every genre made by talented young artists from all over the world. 

Breakthroughs Film Festival also features a panel discussion with the participating directors, giving the audience a chance to learn more about what these amazing women can do!

http://www.breakthroughsfilmfestival.com/

Get to know Festival Director Gabor Pertic:

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

Gabor Pertic: In an industry where women still struggle to get their work seen and heard, Breakthroughs provides an opportunity for new generation female filmmakers to have their films programmed and brought to a big screen. The films and filmmakers we showcase are often times just entering the film industry, which is a crowded, intimidating space to begin with. It can be quite difficult to get your work noticed by a festival or play to an audience, so we’re providing a place where one of our main goals is to give voice to these emerging talents.

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

Gabor: Audiences are going to be able to see a curated selection of creative, fresh visions from young female filmmakers. It’s an opportunity to see original content from names you may have not seen on a marquee just yet. It becomes a discovery moment for any audience member, an opportunity to see an incredibly talented group of women at a stage when their art is taking shape and rising.

Matthew: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Gabor: The basic guidelines for any submitted film to Breakthroughs is that it’s directed by a female between the ages of 18-30 and the film runtime sits under 20 minutes. There is an abundance of filmmakers that fit within these parameters who are looking for places to get their film seen. Be it fictional narratives, documentaries, or anything that falls in more of an experimental group, Breakthroughs aims to highlight local and international short films that offer up a mix of these film forms.

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

Gabor: Film programming is a multilayered process, one that has many factors to consider within any given festival. Like Breakthroughs, there are many festivals that work on highlighting more specific programming, be it with regard to content, region, style, and/or theme. Certain top-tier festivals can be ambitious goals for any filmmaker looking to premiere their film but in an incredibly large and competitive space, it may be hard to get noticed. At the end of the day, film festivals strive to showcase the best group of films in any given year that fit with the festival’s specific mandates and artistic direction. It’s just a matter of finding the right partnership between the film and the festival.

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

Gabor: We all are here because we have a passion for film and we believe that women are making some of the most interesting work out there. We see the daily struggles of female filmmakers not getting the attention or respect they deserve and we hope to be able to provide a change in that narrative, to put the next generation of talented women front and center.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?

Gabor: One of the biggest changes the festival has undergone was that it opened up to international submissions. Breakthroughs started out only showcasing local Canadian work but we now are actively able to showcase a global perspective and we continue to grow on this worldview, seeking films from every continent.

Matthew: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Gabor: We are currently right in the middle of a cultural landscape where there are daily discussions being had of women within the film space. Breakthroughs wants to maintain this conversation by working hard to improve upon a consistently unbalanced system. In the next few years, we can only hope that things start to progressive positively and that our festival has contributed in some way to showcasing why it is essential to give a platform for female filmmakers. We aim to be both a voice for these women and a destination for all those who support them.

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

Gabor: This would be a great moment to just write The Double Life of Veronique or Meshes of the Afternoon but if we’re talking pure statistical numbers, I should be honest and say there are a few others that outrank them in terms of views. I’ve certainly made my way through a number of formats of When Harry Met Sally… through VHS to DVD to Streaming. Nora Ephron’s script is magical and it’s been a comfort and touchstone at different parts of my life. But, if some biographer where ever to comb through my life in detail, they would uncover that when Space Jam came to video in 1997, there was a six-month window where I easily watched it over a dozen times… This answer went real fast from incredible achievements in the cinematic artform to Michael Jordan playing basketball with Bugs Bunny. Which, I suppose, is a different kind of art all around…

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

Gabor: Not sure if I can narrow it down to one sentence, so I’ll just say that a great film is one worth watching.

Matthew: How is the film scene in your city?

Gabor: Toronto is an absolutely incredible city for film. Within any given week, you can go see a film at one of the many festivals the city has to offer, and on your way there, have to walk around a film shoot happening live on one of the streets downtown. People here are filmmakers and film lovers, and more often than not, the answer to the question “hey, do you want to go see a movie?” is “yes”.

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GABOR PERTIC BIO

Executive Director: Gabor Pertic
 attended the University of Toronto as a Specialist in Cinema Studies, graduating with an Honours B.A. After working as a film critic in Toronto, he transitioned into the world of film festival programming. For several years, he worked in the programming department of the Toronto International Film Festival, four of those years working as Programming Associate to TIFF Director & CEO Piers Handling. In addition to TIFF, Gabor has been continuously working and programming for North America’s largest documentary-exclusive film festival Hot Docs. Over the last decade, Gabor has had the privilege of curating a diverse, international selection of films for Toronto audiences.

 

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 to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.