Alfonso Cuaron’s ROMA evoking Oscar and more

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Alfonso Cuaron’s latest diatribe of Mexican life, Roma, winner of the 74th Venice International Film Festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion, and favorite of the Chicago Film Critics Association, is on display at a theatre near you. While it is streaming on Netflix, its full flavor is best enjoyed in a theatrical experience where sounds abound, camera movements mesmerize, performances loom large and the mise-en-scene transports. I had the good fortune to view the cinematic treat at the new home of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), the Riviera Theatre, recently renamed the Lynda and Bruce’s Rivera Theatre in honor of SBIFF philanthropic benefactors, Lynda Weinman and husband, Bruce Heavin.

 

 

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Set in Mexico City during the politically turbulent time of the 1970’s, Roma follows the life of a young servant, Celo, portrayed by first-time actress, Yalitza Aparicio. In homage to classical Italian Neo-Realism, Cuaron infuses Roma with elemental characteristics of Neo-Realism with his choice of a first-time, non-professional actress, a seemingly realistic setting and exhibits the film in black and white.

 

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Yet, Roma, is a highly crafted, highly orchestrated work of art. Cuaron makes every shot count, every moment a well-conceived and executed thought brought to fruition enticing the viewer to suspend disbelief. Cuaron then, and only then, deftly adds a shot to remind the viewer that Roma is a film. That’s how masterful Cuaron has become with his filmmaking craft.

 

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Photo courtesy of Netflix

 

And, that’s not to take anything away from the film’s narrative. Highly autobiographical, Cuaron draws scenes from his memory and manages to wrap them around his central character, Celo, then slowly allows the layers to melt away leaving the viewer with an exaltation that must be seen and experienced to be believed. Highly recommended on a cinematic screen!

One of the year’s best films….if not the very best.

Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!

 

 

2019 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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Pahokee, photo by Patrick Bresnan

A RECORD-BREAKING 14,259 SUBMISSIONS FROM 152 COUNTRIES

For the 2019 Festival, slated to run January 24th through February 3rd, 2019, 112 feature-length films were selected from a record high of 14,259 submissions including 4,018 feature-length films, representing 33 countries and 45 first-time filmmakers. Of the feature film submissions, 1,767 were from the U.S. and 2,251 were international; 31% were directed by one or more women; 38% were directed by one or more filmmaker of color; 11% by one or more people who identify as LGBTQIA. 24 films are supported by Sundance Institute in development, whether through direct granting or residency Labs. In addition, 102 of the Festival’s feature films, or 91% of the lineup, will be world premieres.

The Sundance Film Festival is the premier showcase for U.S. and international independent film, held each January in and around Park City, Utah. Presenting dramatic and documentary feature-length films from emerging and established artists, innovative short films, filmmaker forums and panels, live music performances, cutting-edge media installations, and engaging community programs, the Festival is known for bringing together the most original storytellers of our time.

Robert Redford, pictured below, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, recently said this about storytellers,

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“Society relies on storytellers.

The choices they make, and the risks they take, define our collective experience.

This year’s Festival is full of storytellers who offer challenges, questions and entertainment.

In telling their stories, they make difficult decisions in the pursuit of truth and art; culture reaps the reward.”

 

 

Supported by the non-profit Sundance Institute, the Sundance Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most ground-breaking films of the past two decades, including sex, lies, and videotape, Maria Full of Grace, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, An Inconvenient Truth, Trouble the Water, and Central Station and, through its New Frontier initiative, has brought the cinematic works of media artists including Isaac Julian, Doug Aitken, Pierre Huyghe, Jennifer Steinkamp, and Matthew Barney.

In 2018, the Festival drew 124,900 attendees from 49 U.S. states and 26 other countries, generated $191.6 million in economic activity for the state of Utah and supported 3,323 local jobs.

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival will take place January 23 – February 2, 2020.

Stay tuned for this year’s program! Until then….

I’ll see you at the movies!

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BECOMING ASTRID Opens in Los Angeles and New York

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Music Box Film’s Becoming Astrid, directed by acclaimed Danish filmmaker Pernille Fischer Christensen and inspired by events in Swedish author and literary icon (Pippi Longstocking) Astrid Lindgren’s formative years, is an engaging, heartfelt story of a teenaged Astrid Lindgren, played by Alba August in a breakthrough performance that delvers an emotionally riveting sojourn of the young writer’s early religious upbringing and her advent in becoming a storyteller of mythical proportions.

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After young Astrid accepts an internship at a local newspaper, she catches the eye of the married editor, Mr. Blomberg, portrayed by Henrik Rafaelsen, and soon becomes pregnant. Forced to leave her childhood home for Copenhagen to avoid the public outcry that could potentially remove her family from their stewardship of church land and to secretly give birth to a bastard child, Astrid perseveres learning difficult life lessons, eventually settling in Stockholm when her parents refuse her with her new son, Lars (Lasse). Reluctantly, Astrid leaves Lasse with a foster mother, Marie, portrayed by Trine Dyrholm, during her exiled time in Stockholm. Saving her money from a paltry secretary’s salary, Astrid visits young Lasse when she can. After Marie falls ill, Astrid uses her imagination and flair for storytelling to reconnect with her child. In spite of her struggles, Astrid emerges with a newfound courage that will form the foundation of a vast and beloved body of literary work.

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While Astrid Lindgren is mostly remembered for her Pippi Longstocking and Karlsson-on-the-Roof book series, her titles have been translated into 85 languages and published in over 100 countries. Selling approximately 165 million books worldwide, much of her writing was based on her childhood memories growing up in a small Swedish village. Outspoken on topics as diverse as the Vietnam War, children refugees, nuclear power, and urban planning, she always had children and their future at the center of her concerns. In 1958, Lindgren received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the top international award in children’s literature.

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Becoming Astrid is an excellent film technically as well as aesthetically. The version I viewed was in Swedish and Danish with English subtitles and came in with a run time of a smooth 123 minutes. In addition, the film contained well-rounded cinematography, seamless continuity editing, a strong narrative structure, stellar acting performances, a beautiful mise-en-scene, and an uplifting and complementary, non-diagetic, musical score. Becoming Astrid recently won the Audience Award for Best Foreign-Language Feature in October at the recent Chicago International Film Festival and is a highly recommended film!

Becoming Astrid opened November 23rd at the Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in Los Angeles and in New York at the Film Forum and will soon be followed by a national rollout.

 

AFI FEST 2018 Announces Additional Conversations

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI announced today additional Conversations that will take place at AFI FEST 2018 presented by Audi.

The lineup includes Conversations with director Rob Marshall about his celebrated career, which will include an exclusive preview of a musical number from MARY POPPINS RETURNS; the cast and filmmakers of CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?; television creator Chuck Lorre; as well as a roundtable of documentary filmmakers presented by the Los Angeles Times; The Hollywood Reporter’s Indie Contenders Roundtable moderated by Scott Feinberg; a panel with four directors with films in this year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar® race; a panel with female film critics; and a presentation by director Nina Menkes on female representation in cinema. These new events events join previously announced conversations with Nicole Kidman and Natalie Portman.

DOC ROUNDTABLE

Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang will moderate a panel of distinguished directors from this year’s most talked-about and acclaimed documentaries including Alexis Bloom (DIVIDE AND CONQUER: THE STORY OF ROGER AILES), Talal Derki (OF FATHERS AND SONS), Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (FREE SOLO), Morgan Neville (WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?), RaMell Ross (HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING), Jed Rothstein (ENEMIES: THE PRESIDENT, JUSTICE & THE FBI), Sandi Tan (SHIRKERS), Rudy Valdez (THE SENTENCE) and Betsy West (RBG). 

INDIE CONTENDERS ROUNDTABLE

Hear from a diverse panel of artists who have done standout work in independent film this year. Presented by The Hollywood Reporter and moderated by columnist and blogger Scott Feinberg, the panel will feature a discussion with the artists about their careers and influences, as well as the challenges and rewards of working on indies. Panelists include Willem Dafoe (AT ETERNITY’S GATE), Richard E. Grant (CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?), Kathryn Hahn (PRIVATE LIFE), Felicity Jones (ON THE BASIS OF SEX), Joanna Kulig (COLD WAR), Thomasin McKenzie (LEAVE NO TRACE), Rosamund Pike (A PRIVATE WAR) and John C. Reilly (THE SISTERS BROTHERS and STAN & OLLIE).

THE LANGUAGE OF CINEMA: INTERNATIONAL DIRECTORS

Join four directors with films in this year’s foreign Oscar® race — Rima Das (Indian Oscar® entry VILLAGE ROCKSTARS; AFI FEST film BULBUL CAN SING), Sophie Dupuis (Canada’s FAMILY FIRST), Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Germany’s NEVER LOOK AWAY) and László Nemes (Hungary’s SUNSET) — in a conversation with Barry Sabath, producer and AFI Conservatory Senior Lecturer.

RAZZLE DAZZLE ‘EM! A Conversation With Rob Marshall

Oscar®-nominated film and stage director Rob Marshall joins us for an in-depth conversation about his career. Considered the master of the modern movie musical, Marshall has brought multi award-winning musicals, such as CHICAGO, NINE and INTO THE WOODS, to film audiences around the globe. His latest, Disney’s MARY POPPINS RETURNS, will be released in December. Audience members will get an exclusive preview of one of the musical numbers from MARY POPPINS RETURNS.

WHO SAYS? Underrepresented Voices in Film Criticism

Join Turner Classic Movies’ Alicia Malone and three of the country’s leading voices in film criticism — Jacqueline Coley (Rotten Tomatoes), Ann Hornaday (The Washington Post) and Lisa Kennedy (Denver Post) — for a frank discussion on the state of film criticism and how media outlets, studios and film festivals are working to increase representation among critics and journalists, with an opening presentation by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at USC. 

STORIES FROM THE SET: THE FILMMAKERS BEHIND CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Join director Marielle Heller, actress Melissa McCarthy and producer Amy Nauiokas as they discuss the making of one of the year’s most acclaimed films. Based on the true story of author Lee Israel, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? stars McCarthy in a virtuoso performance as the fiercely intelligent but tough-to-love Israel who, forced to make ends meet, turns her art form to deception with the help of her witty friend Jack (Richard E. Grant).

A CONVERSATION WITH CHUCK LORRE
Esteemed TV creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre discusses his wide-ranging career, from THE BIG BANG THEORY to TWO AND A HALF MEN, along with his latest series, THE KOMINSKY METHOD, which will be presented as a Gala at AFI FEST.

SEX AND POWER: THE VISUAL LANGUAGE OF OPPRESSION

Filmmaker Nina Menkes presents, analyzes and deconstructs a series of film clips to show how lighting, camera angles, camera movement, blocking and framing are used in mainstream filmmaking to formally disempower women on screen. Menkes presented this lecture at the 2018 Sundance and Cannes film festivals, among other prestigious venues.

Pictured at top: Rob Marshall

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19th Annual Ojai Film Festival Opens

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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The 19th Annual Ojai Film Festival (OFF) is up and running. Last night at the enchanting Libbey Bowl in downtown Ojai, a free Community screening of Mel Brooks’ raucous and rollicking Young Frankenstein was the Opening Night Film. OFF President Jonathan Lambert jump started the evening with Opening Night remarks including a plug for Loving Vincent and OFF’s new environmentally-oriented films, “Focus Earth.”

 

Without further adieu Lambert brought forth the evening’s special guest, Hank Wynands. Wynands built the sets for Young Frankenstein and worked on several other of Mel Brooks’ films. Wynands shared some colorful inside jokes on the day-to-day operations on a Brooks film set and the impact budgeting has on a production.

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Special Opening Night guest, Hank Wynands shares his experience on working with Mel Brooks on the set of Young Frankenstein (1974), last night, November 1, 2018, during the 19th Annual Ojai Film Festival at The Libbey Bowl in downtown Ojai, Calif. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow is the first full day of OFF starting at 10:00 A.M. with the Student Filmmakers Program at the Ojai Art Center Theater. Stay tuned for more on this emerging film festival! Legendary Hollywood producer Peter Guber, Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group, told the audience at a recent Toronto International Film Festival that “Ojai is the next Telluride.”

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Ojai Street entrance to Libbey Park in downtown Ojai, Calif., on November 1st, at the 19th Annual Ojai Film Festival. The festival will run through November 11th, 2018. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

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Welcome sign to the 19th Annual Film Festival on Ojai Street at Signal Street in downtown Ojai, Calif., November 1st. The festival will run through November 11th, 2018. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

See you at the movies!

AFI FEST 2018 to Open with World Premiere ON THE BASIS OF SEX

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 32nd edition of AFI FEST presented by Audi will open with the World Premiere of Participant Media’s ON THE BASIS OF SEX, in association with Alibaba Pictures and distributed by Focus Features. Directed by AFI Conservatory alumna Mimi Leder (AFI Class of 1973), the inspiring drama tells the story of young lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg before she became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

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The film stars Academy Award® nominee Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Jack Reynor and Cailee Spaeny, with Academy Award® nominee Sam Waterston and Academy Award® winner Kathy Bates. The film is produced by longtime AFI Conservatory lecturer Robert W. Cort and Participant Media’s Jonathan King. The screenplay is written by Daniel Stiepleman. The Opening Night Gala screening will take place Thursday, November 8, 2018, at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre.

Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 11.10.18 PM“As one of the first women ever admitted to the AFI Conservatory, it’s particularly meaningful to me that ON THE BASIS OF SEX will open AFI FEST 2018,” said Mimi Leder. “My time at the Conservatory was a life-changing experience and informed my creative journey. I am forever grateful. The origin story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in this 25th anniversary year of her appointment to the Supreme Court, couldn’t come at a more important moment in our history nor be shown at a more relevant place than AFI FEST, a symbol of artistic integrity and the enduring power of cinema. I hope girls and young women in particular will see the film and find inspiration to realize their own unlimited potential.”

Inspired by a true story, ON THE BASIS OF SEX is the stirring and spirited film that follows young lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she teams with her husband Marty to bring a groundbreaking case before the U.S. Court of Appeals and overturn a century of gender discrimination.

The film will be released on December 25, 2018, in line with Justice Ginsburg’s 25th anniversary on the Supreme Court.

Patron Packages ensure reserved seats for Opening Night. A limited number of individual tickets to Opening Night and other screenings are also made available at no charge thanks to the event sponsors. Click here to purchase Patron Packages, which can include access to Galas and other high-demand films and events. Individual tickets will be available on AFI.com beginning October 30.

(Source: AFI Press Release)

Snake Oil, Tension and Sexual Assault Underscore Meet the Press Film Festival with AFI “On the Ballot” Program

Posted by Larry Gleeson

 

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NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs, correspondent and political journalist, Andrea Mitchell, introduces the Meet the Press Film Festival with AFI “On the Ballot” Film Program inside the Landmark Atlantic Plumbing Cinema on October 8th, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Featuring independent filmmaking artists, the Meet the Press Film Festival with AFI “On the Ballot” Film Program captured the audience imagination inside the Landmark Atlantic Plumbing Cinema, on October 8th, 2018, in Washington D.C. Meet the Press is the most watched Sunday morning public affairs show and the longest running program in television history. In a dramatic brand expansion, the television show has joined forces with the American Film Institute for a second consecutive year to spotlight critical election issues facing the American electorate before an impending midterm election.

And as if tensions were not already elevated with the Judge Kavanaugh hearing and subsequent FBI background sojourn into alleged sexual assault claims against Judge Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, filmmakers Brett Story, Samantha Knowles and Stefano Da Fre crafted their respective documentaries, Camperforce, The Blue Line, and The Girl Who Cannot Speak, on explosive issues of supporting local law enforcement juxtaposed against the Black Lives Matter Movement (The Blue Line), in Warwick, Rhode Island, Amazon giant’s exploitation of workers (Camperforce) left behind following the 2008 housing crisis and financial collapse of major banking institutions and preeminent investment houses with a third party, Camper Force, selling a lifestyle of joy and exercise to financially indigent people living out of recreational vehicles as they work 12-hour shifts for $11 an hour without retirement or healthcare benefits as they try to make ends meet after losing a lifetime of savings, and, five cases of sexual assault including one perpetrated upon a sixteen year-old girl, virtually speechless, (The Girl Who Cannot Speak) shown only stating her name at the film’s conclusion.

Regardless of where your political loyalties fall, these films are eerily timely. And, while truth can be relative, facts cannot. There is no such thing as an alternative fact. Discernment, yes. Alternative facts, no.

 

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From left to right, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent and political journalist, Andrea Mitchell; Directors, Brett Story, Samantha Knowles and Stefano Da Fre engaging in a panel discussion following the Meet the Press Film Festival with AFI Film Program, “On the Ballot,”  October 8th, 2018, at the Landmark Atlantic Plumbing Cinema in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Without further adieu, I encourage you to watch the select Meet the Press Film Festival with AFI films, soon to be made available for a month-long showcase on the NBC News Digital platforms and apps, including AppleTV, Roku, Amazon Fire as well as Hulu, AOL and Comcast X1. While you won’t be privy to the panel discussions led by the NBC anchors and correspondents, please feel free to post your comments on HollywoodGlee and together we will find common ground. Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!

E Pluribus Unum

 

 

Ojai Film Festival Award Brunch celebrating winning films and lifetime achievement

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Ojai Film Festival will hold its Award Brunch and present awards to the winning filmmakers in eight categories, as well as Lifetime Achievement Award honorees, Ojai’s own actor Malcolm McDowell and cinematographer Ellen Kura, ASC.

 

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Actor and Ojai resident Malcolm McDowell, left, participates in a conversation with Actor/writer Peter Fox at the Ojai Art Center on Saturday, November 3rd, 2018, following the screening of O Lucky Man! during the 19th Annual Ojai Film Festival in Ojai, Calif. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

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Academy Award-nominee and Primetime Emmy winner, Ellen Kuras, left, shares her experience and insights from her career as a cinematographer and director in a  conversation with Stuart Crowner, Saturday, November 3rd, 2018, at the Ojai Art Center during the 19th Annual Ojai Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

The brunch takes place in the Ojai Art Center Courtyard. The brunch will be catered by Home Kitchen of Ojai and chef Hector Orozco will make his signature crepes onsite along with other brunch items and mimosas. To enjoy the brunch, everyone is welcome to arrive at 10 am. Presentations begins at 11 am. TICKETS: $24
https://ojaifilmfestival.com/award-brunch-celebrating-winning-filmmakers-and-lifetime-achievement-honorees-malcolm-mcdowell-and-ellen-kuras-asc/

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Come and See What’s Happening Today at the Ojai Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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Ojai Film Festival President, Jonathon Lambert, welcomes high school film students to the 19th Annual Ojai Film Festival to the festival’s Student Filmmakers Program at the Ojai Art Center in downtown Ojai, Calif., on Friday, November 3rd, 2018. (Photo Credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

 

The 19th Annual Ojai Film Festival is off to a rousing start. Yesterday four high school groups participated in this year’s Student Filmmakers Program attending two seminars on conducted by industry professionals, filmmaker Q & A’s and festival Screenings.

 

 

Today’s festivities include a Business and Legal Seminar with a panel of industry executives led by entertainment legal expert Laura Caulfield followed by a 2 PM Cinematographer Seminar with Ellen Kuras, one of the few female member of the American Society of Cinematographers. And, if you’re looking for something more, The Art of the Pitch, a “how-to” on selling an idea to potential funders with Emily Best, CEO of Seed & Spark,  is scheduled for 4PM.

The main event for the evening is the Screening of this Year’s Lifetime Achievement Actor Recipient Malcolm McDowell’s film, O Lucky Man! The screening will be followed by a Q & A with Mr. McDowell led by actor/writer Peter Fox. A reception in the Ojia Art Center will close out the day’s scheduled activities.

For tickets, passes and additional information visit the Ojai Film Festival website!

Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!

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*Featured photo: Welcome volunteers, left to right, Chris Malzone and Gaile Leskowitz. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

 

Eshaana Sheth Brings THE BUTTER KNIFE to Ojai

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Trained Actor-director, Producer-writer Eshaana Sheth unleashed The Butter Knife at the 19th Annual Ojai Film Festival Friday morning, November 2nd, at the Ojai Art Center Theater. Utilizing snappy banter between her lead characters, Ria (Shalina Bathina), a witty, resourceful young American woman and Alistair (Daniel Halden), a bespectacled young, male Brit, Sheth slashes through cultural norms, stereotypes and even manages to whip in some geopolitical witticisms along with a Hitchcockian cameo!

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Filmmaker Eshaana Sheth addresses the audience during a Q & A at the 19th Annual Ojai Film Festival following the screening of her new film, The Butter Knife, at the Ojai Art Center Theatre, in downtown Ojai, Calif., Friday morning, November 2nd, 2018 (Photo Credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

In addition to Sheth’s talents, Cinematographer, Editor and Sound Producer, Sean Cruser, dazzles with a dynamic camera accentuating the hysterical interpersonal, heated exchange between the two leads.

Based on the reaction from the morning screening, The Butter Knife is a film to be reckoned with when it comes time for audience awards and screens again next Sunday, November 11th, 10 AM, at the Chaparral Auditorium in downtown Ojai. The film festival runs through November 11th.

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