Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Falls Around Her Poster
A relentless pursuit to seek reclamation through isolation.


Darlene Naponse,

FALLS AREOUN HER is a true Northern Ontario and Anishinaabe First Nation film that celebrates the winter of Canada as seen in the landscapes of lake, forests and rivers.  The film stars Tantoo Cardinal shining as a world-famous Anishinaabe musician (there is a shot her singing at the stat of the tim – showing some good original music) who returns to the reserve to rest and recharge — only to discover that fame (and the outside world) are not easily left behind.  

Her sister Betty (Tina Keeper) senses there may be more to Mary’s need for isolation and urges her to reconnect with family and old friends.  As Mary gets out more and even starts dating, it seems as though new possibilities are on the horizon.  She has demons to rid off which includes her past manager who is quite the woman abuser, though he gets what he deserves in the end as the film shifts uncomfortably towards horror slasher mode. 

Otherwise it is a relatively dull affair, all good intention aside.


TIFF 2018 Review: MAYA (France 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Maya Poster
The film follows a 30-year-old man named Gabriel, a French war reporter who was taken to hostage in Syria and then heads to India after months in captivity.


Mia Hansen-Løve

It’s been frequently on the news about war journalists in Syria being kidnapped with the threat of being decapitated on live televsion.  MAYA, Mia Hansen-Love’s (LE PERE DE MES ENFANTS, EDEN) latest film has one such French journalist recently freed who travels to India on vacation to recuperate.  

He meets MAYA, an Indian girl who opens his eyes back to life, though she is too young for him to start a love affair.  The best segment of the film is his re-meeting of his mother  who is working with foreign children, though detached from her own son. This the only serious musings on life by the director.  Lighter fare. otherwise  from Hansen-Love with lots of beautiful scenery of poverty stricken India. 

 The film does not really go anywhere as deep as her previous films but MAYA is still worth a look.

TIFF 2018 Review: KINGSWAY (Canada 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Directed by Bruce Sweeney

This dysfunctional comedy is done with much of the Bruce Sweeney wit that viewers of his previous films DIRTY, LAST WEDDING and EXCITED are used to.  And it is bitingly funny.  Take the first scene with Matt (Jeff Gladstone) in his psychiatrist office. “I am better.  I don’t need to be here and I can leave.” 

 So he gets up and leaves the office.  But Matt is not better but getting worse, even considering suicide.  It does not help that his wife, Lori is having and affair but worst of all, his dysfunctional family is butting in trying to do what they think is best for him – which is not.  The bossy sister, Jess (Camille Sullivan) and mother, Mary (Gabrielle Rose, who is always a pleasure to watch) will not leave Matt alone, even stooping so low as to confront Lori for him.  Director Sweeney knows how to tread the fine line between anxiety and crazy and often the line is blurred.  

One wishes that there would be something deeper in the story or some message  for the audience but Sweeney’s film is so entertaining, no one really cares for anything deeper.  The fantastic cast do a great a job as well.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2ILcjp-x44


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TIFF 2018 Review: ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH (Canada 2018) ***1/2

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch Poster


Filmmakers filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier return with their latest and third of their trilogy after MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES and WATERMARK, entitled ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH.  

The doc, written by Baichwal and narrated by Swedish actress and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander is a disturbing doc that demands to be seen for it explores human impact on the Earth.  The film’s first scene is that of molten metal.  

The site on display is north of the Arctic circle in what Baischwal describes as Russia’s most polluted city.  This is where the world’s largest metal smelting industry is located.  Baichwal and her crew travel the world documenting evidence of human domination – from concrete seawalls that cover 60% of China’s mainland coast, to psychedelic potash mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains, to vast marble quarries in Italy, to surreal phosphate tailings ponds in Florida.  

ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH is a spectacular film – Baichwal’s best of her trilogy.  She has spent an immense amount of time on research and travels resulting in this magnificent educational documentary.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44RYqgKwfSQ


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Interview with Festival Director Matty Steinkamp (iNDIE FILM FEST)

An exclusive independent film festival featuring the the highest quality in independent filmmaking. Our goal is to create the highest quality platform to showcase independent films while giving the filmmakers a place to make money and succeed at selling out their first premiere. Filmmakers will have the opportunity to premiere their film with a sold out audience in a nationally recognized independent theater and benefit from direct ticket sales with the festival.


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

A: Our fest premieres films with filmmakers giving part of the ticket sales directly to the winning filmmakers. We also provide earned media for each of our films here in the southwest along with radio interviews on Phoenix morning radio shows the week of the festival as part of our festival partnerships. Winners also receive cash prizes and in some categories direct distribution to several theaters in the southwest to screen their film after the festival. All of our premiere screenings will be held in downtown Phoenix in the heart of the art community so there is very active audience that filmmakers get to premiere their films in front of.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend your upcoming festival?

A: An inclusive art experience that premieres new indie films in vintage movie theaters and classic ballrooms, being surrounded by art, artists, and art lovers, the chance to experience VR at our VR installation, or take some fun photos in our photo booth, or catch a panel or our Key Note speaker at Crescent Ballroom and learn what it takes to get to the next step in your filmmaking career, or on opening night catch one of the pop up screenings down on the art walk with short films and music videos being projected on the buildings as you walk by. There will be live music and live art throughout the festivals two days. Unique film viewing experiences is what we are aiming to accomplish this year.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

A: The films must be created under a $250,000 budget. We are looking for true indie films. We want films made by filmmakers not the industry or some major studio system. Of course with each category there are different qualifications. Like the Drone Film category, we are only selecting films in this category filmed on or with a drone. Also we are looking for films that have not had a World Premiere yet in theaters or online. It is our goal to help new films reach audiences faster and with a successful premiere that the filmmakers can move on to more premieres and make money doing it without needing to struggle all along the way with putting films out alone.

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

A: Our team is made up of filmmakers and artists, we know from our own experiences in submitting films to 100s of festivals that indie films are over looked and passed on more so to give popular icons / studio films more lime light….. even if the the popular icon made a shitty film and the indie film that got passed up was actually amazing and might have been an award winner. Indie films are on the rise though and now is the time to showcase them and celebrate them even more! Our festival is going to give independent films and filmmakers a 100% chance to succeed the second they announce their official selection with INDIE.

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

A: We have always wanted something in downtown Phoenix to be honest. The art scene in Phoenix needs a great film festival that is more than just one night at one venue. Combining two of the top venues in downtown Phoenix in the festival allows for our audience to walk or ride a bike between venues while on the way possibly catch a pop up screening on the side of building just to keep in fun… no one is doing this here in the downtown area… we almost feel like its up to us to move the film festival concept forward in favor of the artists and become more experimental with the screenings to hopefully evolve the art form.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

It has been great so far, we have had some amazing submissions early on and are very excited to see the outcome of our committee selections!!! Filmfreeway gives us the chance to reach way more filmmakers across the entire planet… we are very excited!!!

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

Our plan is to be in the same locations but keep adding days as we grow. Our festival is still only a two day festival at this point but it is our goal to stay small and maintain the highest quality while giving the filmmakers the best opportunity to premiere their film. We do plan on growing into larger and more venues once we can accommodate the right budget for additional venues.

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

A: Coming to America, Goodfellas, Citizen Kane, Play The Documentary,

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

A: A great film needs to have the ability to tell a story that transports the audience to a different place or time.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

A: The film scene in Phoenix is growing. While the industry itself is not investing into the growth in Phoenix, several groups in Phoenix are working hard to collaborate more to help the growth of the film scene from within. New film companies are starting up everyday and more and more creatives are making indie films and putting them out to the world. We have a very strong activist community in Phoenix that is leading the way with social justice films telling the stories of our communities to help us move closer to an inclusive society as well to tell the stories of our communities correctly on not mislead or conveyed by the mass media.

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Interview with Festival Director JE (Jeff) Smith (TEXAS TERRORS FILM FESTIVAL)

Texas Terrors is an indie/grass roots short film festival celebrating the fun in bone-chilling horror. We’re less concerned with Hollywood-style slickness than with creativity, originality, and passion. The festival will feature a diverse array of scary stuff, and provide a fun evening of chills and thrills.


1) What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

I hope that I’m providing a good and empowering forum for filmmakers. As a filmmaker myself, I’m a four-year veteran of the festival circuit, mostly smaller, regional festivals, often with specialty themes. I have submitted my various films to dozens of different fests, and picked up a ton of rejections. Anyone who has tried their hand at the festival circuit will tell you, it’s not for the faint of heart — be prepared for a LOT of rejection, and for hearing “no” far more than you ever hear “yes.” Also, all festivals are not created equal, and even when you get a festival to accept your film, sometimes they don’t make things easy for you, as a filmmaker. Of course, running a festival is a tough job, and I understand that the people behind them are very busy. But there are definitely times when you, the filmmaker — the one providing them with content — are treated almost as an annoyance. So, when I decided to try my hand at putting on my own festival (in a genre I’ve loved since I was a kid), I decided that I would try to give the filmmakers who took a chance on my small, first-year, one-night festival, the best experience I possibly could. It remains to be seen whether I fully accomplish this, but I’m doing my best! Of course, the sad fact is, you still have to say “no” to a significant amount of submissions — I was overwhelmed by the response I got, and in fact, I even expanded my run-time to accommodate more films, because I was so excited by a lot of the material I was getting. But, I still had to say no to almost 2/3 of the people who submitted. That sucks! But, it was the only economically feasible way to approach this first-year festival. I could easily have selected another 6-8 excellent films if I had more time at the venue, or could afford to expand to a second night.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend your next festival?

Diversity of style. There is a wide range of content and approach that could be considered “horror,” and I’ve tried very hard to select films that represent a range of different types and sub-genres. If you go to YouTube and search for “short horror film,” you’re going to find a lot of stuff that seems like an endless variation on the same story: a young woman, home alone, hears a noise, gets a butcher knife from the kitchen, prowls around a bit, and them BOOM — jump-scare — some kind of boogeyman appears to get her. Hard cut to black. This kind of thing can be effective, but it’s over-done. WAY over-done. So, one of my guiding forces was to try and seek out films that were a little different, a little off-kilter. That said, we purposely have stayed away from the more extreme forms of horror. I personally am not a fan of the so-called “torture porn” sub-genre. I’m fine with grisly gore — you can’t be a horror fan if you’re too squeamish, and a well-done gag is part of the visceral thrill of horror flicks. But the sort of pointless, dehumanizing brutality that is associated with torture porn (and other purely sadistic horror sub-genres) doesn’t really appeal to me. I prefer “fun” horror — and this festival is a reflection of that. I’m very happy with the variety of styles that make up our program this year. Also, I’m very happy that over half of the films we’re showing have never screened anywhere in Texas before, AND we actually have three *world* premieres. Very exciting!

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Well, they had to be short. Twenty-two minutes was the upper limit, although in the end, the longest film we’re featuring is only eighteen. Most of them run between six and twelve minutes. No matter what their budget/slickness level, they had to have a base-line of acceptable filmmaking techniques — for instance, one film was rejected almost entirely because the sound was bad, and it was difficult to hear/understand what any of the actors were saying. So, they didn’t have to look like Hollywood movies, or be shot with expensive cameras — a few of the ones I accepted clearly were low- to no-budget affairs — but they had to be in focus, with clearly understandable dialogue (a good solid Rode Videomic only costs a couple hundred bucks, and if you’re not willing to spend that to have clear sound, maybe you shouldn’t be submitting to festivals!), and have a certain cohesion of storytelling. Just basic filmmaking competence, really. Most importantly, they had to have a sense of enthusiasm and vigor that transcended however much money they had to spend — it’s not the tools, it’s the talent, as the old saying goes.

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

Absolutely. There are definitely festivals that are concerned mostly with appearance — if it doesn’t look slick, it doesn’t have a chance. Which is a real shame, because the festival circuit really should function as a sort of training ground for burgeoning filmmakers; almost like the minor leagues in baseball. Of course, the ultimate goal of any festival is to entertain the audience that ends up attending, and I’m not suggesting festival directors should select bad films just so the filmmaker can get some experience under their belt — but it would be nice if the selection process could be a bit looser, and a bit more open to things that, at first glance, might not seem like a winner. Having said that, a lot of filmmakers tend to hamper themselves by not fully embracing the system and trying to understand the other side. If someone is putting together a short film festival, they want as much good material as possible, so every minute is precious — and yet I still got submissions that had unecessary scenes, weird story tangents, and overly-long closing credit crawls. Seriously, folks, cut those films to the bone! If your opening or closing credits last more than 30-45 seconds, they’re too long! :p

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

Honestly, for this first year, it was mainly just to see if I could do it. I like a challenge, and I’ve never assembled a project quite like this before — it’s a bit terrifying, but also thrilling. I don’t expect to make a nickel of profit (I’ll be thrilled if I come anywhere near breaking even!), but I suspect it will be more than worth it. And, as I said above, I really wanted to provide a forum where the filmmakers who participated would come away thinking, “Wow, that was a really cool festival. They cared.”

And, on a purely selfish level, I got to see a LOT of cool horror films I might not otherwise have seen. AND I get to share the best of them with an audience, in a really cool theater with a great projection system. That rocks.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway have been fantastic — I can’t say enough good things about them. A couple of times I had questions that weren’t on the FAQ page, and they responded super-quickly and helpfully. Their interface for people running festivals is clean and user-friendly. We used them exclusively, and they’re great. Highly recommended.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

I hope over the next few years we can expand to 2 or maybe even 3 nights. I would love to be able to incorporate a couple of feature-length films as well. It would be great to build enough of an audience that we can keep holding it at the Texas Theatre (the beautiful and historic venue where the fest is taking place) — it’s a fantastic place, and I’d love to continue to call it home. And I hope we can continue getting really interesting and challenging material to showcase. Also, I’m committed to keeping our submission fees low — a lot of festivals have what I would consider to be outrageous fees that many low-budget filmmakers simply can’t afford to pay. While, to a certain extent, I understand the economics of this — submission fees help fund the festival as a whole — it still feels weird to take money from someone and then reject their film. So I really want to keep our fees as low and non-exploitive as possible. I’d like to think that, ten years from now, we’ll be charging about the same as we did this year. Hopefully I won’t have to eat those words. 😮

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

Oh gosh — probably Monty Python and the Holy Grail? That would definitely be a contender. I did see the original Alien eight times the first week it was released (and yes, I’m old enough to have seen the original in theaters!).

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

The late, great film critic Gene Siskel used to say that a truly great film has “three great scenes, and no bad scenes.” That works for me. 🙂

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Pretty strong, actually. In a big city like this (Dallas), we have a remarkable pool of talent, from actors to make-up people, cinematographers, writers, you name it. I don’t know that any of them are truly “hitting the big time,” or making a lot of money, but I see a lot of folks who are passionate about their craft, and willing to make sacrifices, just to make art. That’s thrilling, and very empowering. The real trick is getting people to stick around, and not move to Austin, New York, or Hollywood! I myself have no desire to relocate — I love living in Texas, and I want to stay here and keep creating.

I’d say we have at least a half-dozen or so local/indie film festivals per year, and another handful of national/higher-end fests. There are always opportunities to get your films seen, once you’ve made them, but obviously, the more prestigious festivals can be tougher to crack. Still, ya never know til ya try!

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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: PAPILLON (USA 2017) ***1/2

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Papillon Poster
A prisoner detained on a remote island plots his escape in this second adaptation of the novels by Henri Charrière.


Michael Noer


Aaron Guzikowski (screenplay by), Henri Charrière(based upon the books “Papillon” and “Banco” by) |2 more credits »


Why bother remaking the successful 1973 biography of French convict Henri Charrière nicknamed PAPILLON who escaped from Devil’s Island in 1941?  After all, that film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starring two huge stars of the time Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman is still readily available on DVD.

A few reasons!  One would be that no one would likely remember anything about the 1973 film.  After all it is is is almost half a century ago.  I can only remember two things about the 1973 film – Dustin Hoffman eating a cockroach and Steve McQueen jumping off the cliff in the final escape scene.

The new PAPILLON is not too bad.  Despite not having as big star names, Charlie Hunnam (THE LOST CITY OF Z) and Rami Malek (I, ROBOT) inhabit their roles very convincingly.  There is no cockroach eating scene but the food served actually looks not half bad, like the consommé with diced vegetables in a tin can.  In fact, Papi (as Charrière is called in short) is tempted with the soup in order to reveal the name of his conspirator.  

PAPILLON is the nickname of Charrière likely from his butterfly tattoo on his body.  The film opens with his frolicking with his girlfriend, Nenette (Eve Hewson) in Paris after nicking some jewels from the big boss he was working for.  Thus framed for murder, Charrière, is unjustly convicted of murder and condemned to life in a notorious penal colony on Devil’s Island in French Guiana, South America.  Determined to regain his freedom, Papillon forms an unlikely alliance with quirky convicted counterfeiter Louis Dega, who in exchange for his protection, agrees to finance Papillon’s escape, ultimately resulting in a bond of lasting friendship.

For a film shot in Paris and set in France and French Guiana, not a word of French is spoken in the film.  The filmmakers must thing speaking English with a French accent is sufficient, though the 1973 original had the same flaw.  But true that commercial audiences rather hear dubbed dialogue than read subtitles.

If one can remember the 1973 version, this film is very similar as the new script by Aaron Guzikowski is based on Charrière’s autobiographies Papillon and Banco, as well as the former’s 1973 film adaptation, which was written by Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple Jr.  In fact, credit is given to the script by Trumbo and Semple Jr. in the closing credits.

PAPILLON 2017 moves fast enough for its 133 running time.  The film is not a film about escape but a film about the strained but lasting relationship of the two men.  But the film’s only escape sequence with Papi, Dega and two other prisoners (Roland Moller and Joel Bassman) is the film’s highpoint, especially trying to survive a storm in a broken boat in the wide ocean.  The hard prison conditions, though hard to watch make extremely intriguing fodder.  One wonders how inhuman human beings can be.  The film also demonstrates the triumph of the human spirit over mounting adversities.  So, despite the dim outlook of the film’s heroes, it is still a film of hope and not despair.

It would be interesting to watch both films back to back to observe the different treatment of each director and actors towards this timeless material.  Both films are equally well shot and absorbing and definitely worth seeing.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqj7XOv9mC8

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