All posts by HollywoodGlee

I’m a veteran of several film festivals including the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival, the American Film Institute's AFIFest Hollywood and AFI DOCS, the famed Venice International Film Festival, the San Luis Obispo SLO Film Fest, and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival's family of festivals including the SBIFF, the SBIFF Wave Festivals and the SBIFF Showcase Film Series. To date I’ve written and published over 100 film reviews and have work posted on four sites including sbccfilmreviews.org, imdb.com. I have also been published in Classic Film Images magazine. In addition to writing reviews and covering film festivals, I am currently seeking distribution for new films. I have contacts in several major markets including Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, and Cannes, France. So when you’re looking for your film to get noticed, remember HollywoodGlee can help. We have professional marketers, respected critics and the most knowledgeable contacts on what film festival and/or distribution channel is right for you and your film. See you at the movies!

Easterseals Presents ‘Has Recent Industry Emphasis on D&I Influenced Storytelling’ Panel Jan. 25th at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Actors & Decision Makers Will Spotlight Need to Include Disability in Diversity Conversations; Organization Serves as Member of Sundance Institute’s Accessibility & Inclusion Alliance

PARK CITY, UTAH Jan. 23, 2020 For Immediate Release — An Allied Organization of Sundance Institute and member of its newly announced Accessibility & Inclusion Alliance, Easterseals Disability Services will host a panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood in increasing the visibility of/opportunities for talent with disabilities in the entertainment industry. As a go-to resource for filmmakers and actors with disabilities, ESSC has worked with the Institute since 2018, helping to make the annual Sundance Film Festival more inclusive and accessible.

Moderated by Britt Stephens, Celebrity & Entertainment Editor, Pop Sugar. Guest panelists include Shanique Bonelli-Moore, Executive Director of Inclusion, United Talent Agency; Franklin Leonard, Founder and CEO, The Black List; John Travis, VP of Brand Marketing, Adobe; and Shoshannah Stern, Creator, Executive Producer, Writer and Star of Sundance TV’s This Close.

The disability community, which makes up 25 percent of the U.S. population and commands $21 billion in discretionary income, is represented in less than three percent of on-screen roles. It is time for Hollywood to take the opportunity to capitalize on new, authentic stories and reach a large segment of the marketplace by including people with disabilities in their content.

Said Mark Whitley, CEO, ESSC, “It’s been just three years since Sundance and Easterseals joined forces to advance disability inclusion and greater accessibility across the Festival and the entertainment industry at large. We’re making real progress, but still have more to do to make disability inclusion, whether in front of or behind the camera, commonplace— an industry practice and standard. This year, we’re honored to extend our work and partnership with Sundance Film Festival, bringing together new and diverse voices to share their unique perspectives, address challenges and push the needle forward on inclusion.”

As part of Easterseals’ vision of building a more inclusive future for more than 61 million Americans with disabilities, the organization is working with Sundance Institute to increase accessibility for filmmakers, critics and film enthusiasts with disabilities at the Festival.

For more information about Easterseals and the work it does to support the disability community, visit www.easterseals.com and www.wecelebrate.org 

Sundance Film Festival 2020

 

(Source: Press release provided by EasterSeals)

 

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LAURA DERN ACCEPTS CINEMA VANGUARD AWARD AT 35TH ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (January 22, 2020) – Day 7 of the 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) presented by UGG featured an insightful tribute to Laura Dern, who received the lauded Cinema Vanguard Award for her remarkable career and most recent performances in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. Pete Hammond, Deadline’s Awards Editor and Chief Film Critic, moderated the evening, and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos presented Dern with the award.

Highlights from the conversation included: 

  • On why she currently wants to be an actress: “I’m having so much damn fun, it’s amazing. And it wasn’t so fun as a teenager. I think I was caught up in the angst of it all. And trying to chase this idea of being an artist instead of realizing the privilege of doing what you love and the privilege of telling stories, and working with amazing storytellers. To not feel that it was overstated or arrogant to talk about the potential of the healing through art. For us that make art, for those that witness art – we have a very broken home and we’re all trying to figure it out. To have fierce and radical storytellers in film and television and documentaries is the work. We’re so blessed. So to have anything to do with that just radical good fortune.”
  • On the famous Ellen episode when she comes out as a lesbian: It spoke to a moment. We have this opportunity to talk about what matters and I think Citizen Ruth gave birth to that longing in me, why I fell in love with movies, and had that opportunity… and be a part of something profoundly historic. We all had a life-changing experience being a part of that episode in terms of backlash and how radically different we hoped the world looked then.”
  • On her experience filming Star Wars with modern day technology: It was an amazing experience. I’ll never forget walking on the set and [the director] saying ‘action,’ and looking up to say my lines – all of which I expected – but then R2D2 and C-3PO are standing in front of me and it’s crazy. I never need to take a hallucinogenic, I did a Star Wars film.”
  • On a possible Season 3 of Big Little Lies in the works: “I’ll never say no to Renata Klein, she’d kill me. I love that character and we’ll see what they come up with. I fell so in love that character.”
  • On her love for Marriage Story: It was an incredible gift just to witness the movie. I read the script and cried for 20 minutes. I’ve seen the movie five times – I cry every time. I often forget my involvement in it because I find it so deeply personal.”

During Dern’s conversation with Hammond, the audience was treated to various clips from her career, including the films Citizen Ruth, Blue Velvet, Wild Angels, Wild, 99 Homes, Marriage Story, Little Women and more.

Following Dern’s one-on-one conversation with Hammond, Sarandos took the stage to present her with the Cinema Vanguard award, stating: “I had the privilege of being close to Marriage Story from the very beginning. I , like Laura, cried from the very beginning, I knew that this role was written for her, and that she brought that character to life like nobody else in the world could.

The audience was on their feet as Dern and approached the podium to accept her award. In her remarks, Dern recognized Sarandos’s support of art and artists, saying: “I’ve watched artists just fight fight fight to get their stories told and made, and [Ted’s]  just waiting with open arms to make sure artists get the stories told.”

Two-time Academy Award® nominee, Emmy and Golden Globe winner, Dern has touched audiences and critics alike with her moving and heartfelt performances. Currently starring in two of the biggest films of the year Netflix’s Marriage Story and Sony’s Little Women, Dern has also won four Golden Globe Awards with seven nominations, as well as earned a Primetime Emmy Award and seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations.  On television, Dern was most recently seen as Renata in the second season of HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” which aired on HBO this past summer.

The Cinema Vanguard Award recognizes actors who have forged their own path, taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film. Previous honorees include Michael B. Jordan, William DeFoe, Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara, Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jean Dujardin, Bernice Bejo, Nicole Kidman, Peter Sarsgaard, Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stanley Tucci and Ryan Gosling.

The 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs from January 15-25, 2020. For more information, and to purchase tickets, festival passes and packages, please visit www.sbiff.org.

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization. Over the past 34 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 95,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and panels, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire people through the power of film. We celebrate the art of cinema and provide impactful educational experiences for our local, national and global communities.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In May 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

 

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(Source: SBIFF Press Release)

 

BONG JOON HO TO BE HONORED WITH OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR AWARD AT 2020 SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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SANTA BARBARA, CA (JANUARY 21, 2020) – Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG is thrilled to present auteur filmmaker Bong Joon Ho with the prestigious Outstanding Director of the Year Award on Thursday, January 23 for his six-time Oscar nominated film PARASITE. After making history at the SAG Awards for the first foreign language film to win Best Ensemble, SBIFF will be honoring Director Bong with a day long career retrospective, culminating in an evening tribute. He will be only the fourth recipient to receive this solo honor in the festival’s history. The event will take place at the Arlington Theatre.

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SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

SBIFF
“As an international film festival, director Bong and his film PARASITE transcend every category and genre globally. Funny, poignant, and thrilling, the film has been embraced around the world and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is ecstatic to continue to shine the light on one of the best filmmakers there is and his remarkable oeuvre,” states Executive Director Roger Durling.

SBIFF will be screening MEMORIES OF MURDER, THE HOST, MOTHER and PARASITE leading up the Outstanding Director of the Year tribute.
Parasite is the seventh feature film from the acclaimed Bong Joon Ho, following on from Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), Memories of Murder (2003), The Host (2006), Mother (2009), Snowpiercer (2013), and Okja (2017). The modern-day classic Memories of Murder delves into the investigation behind a well-known serial murder case that was never solved, depicting the authoritarian era of the time with satire and sharp insight. The Host takes as its basis the abduction of a young girl by a strange creature that crawls out of the Han River, turning the monster movie genre on its head while also issuing stinging social commentary. And finally, Mother, the story of a woman trying to protect her son from a murder charge, is a dark portrait of motherly love taken to the extreme.

Known for his cutting, socially incisive wit and twisting of genre conventions, Bong Joon Ho has continually raised questions about social institutions and societal inequalities with his unique blend of humor, emotion and suspense. In this sense, Parasite is both highly characteristic of Bong Joon Ho’s work, while at the same time evolving to a new level.

Making history as the first South Korean film to win the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and to be nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Production Design, Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite lit a fire among audiences and critics alike. Over 250 critics have anointed this masterwork as one of the best films of the year. More than 75 of those have ranked it #1 in their annual “top 10 lists.” Parasite won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the SAG Award for Best Ensemble. Bong has earned nominations from DGA for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film; WGA for Best Original Screenplay; PGA for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures; and BAFTA for Best Film, Film Not in the English Language, Director, and Original Screenplay.

The Outstanding Director of the Year Award has previously been presented to Danny Boyle (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), Kathryn Bigelow (HURT LOCKER), David Fincher (BENJAMIN BUTTON) and David O ‘Russell (AMERICAN HUSTLE).

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 34 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 95,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire the Santa Barbara community through film.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

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(Source: Press release provided by SBIFF.org)

 

FILM CAPSULE: A WORM IN THE HEART

Posted by Larry Gleeson

A riveting journey!

A WORM IN THE HEART, an extraordinary documentary about LGBTQ+ life in Russia, world premiered at the Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival on Friday, January 17th.

A WORM IN THE HEART details the extraordinary lives and brave stories of the diverse LGBTQ+ communities across Russia. Shot in six cities along the Trans-Siberian railway and utilizing intimate interviews about current Russian life, this documentary features deeply personal and moving accounts from activists and non-activists alike. The film follows Paul Rice and Liam Jackson Montgomery, a gay couple from Ireland and Wales, as they meet with the many heroic members of the LGBTQ+ community who risk their lives living authentically under oppressive laws and prejudices – from Nobel Peace prize nominees and international activists to drag queen performers thriving in remote Siberia. A WORM IN THE HEART is a never before seen collection of emotionally driven stories captured on their journey that poignantly documents the current state of the Russian LGBTQ+ community.

Said director Paul Rice, “The people I met with along this journey have profoundly impacted mine and my partner Liam’s life, and I hope that this documentary will spread their stories and messages further afield. The LGBTQ+ community is not confined to national borders, and I believe it is entirely our global responsibility to use our voices and talents to support the rights of LBGTQ+ communities in Russia.”

The film will be playing festivals throughout the year.

 

WELLHAUS BECOMES FIRST MULTI-DAY PROGRAM DURING FILM FESTIVALS IN PARK CITY TO GO “ZERO-WASTE”

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Activation Adds Sponsors, Event Programs to Multi-Venue Roster

January 20, 2019 (Park City, UT)WELLHAUS, the new health, wellness and CBD/cannabis-focused event platform from event industry veterans Axcess Entertainment, is pleased to announce that their second-annual activation during 2020’s Sundance/Slamdance film festivals in Park City, UT will be going zero-waste. A zero-waste event follows sustainable practices to send the least possible (approaching zero) amount of waste to landfills. Recycling, reusing items, and reducing waste are all important components of a zero-waste event. In addition to the zero-waste initiative, new panels, parties and partnerships have been added.

Located in the heart of historic Main Street, WELLHAUS has partnered with three local venues to create a first-ever multi-location brand experience at the Festival: the WELLHAUS Spa Experience at the PuraVida Spa at Sky & Main Hotel (201 Heber Street at Main); the WELLHAUS Café Experience offering complimentary organic coffees and healthy snacks at the Main Street Deli (525 Main Street) and the WELLHAUS Lounge at the brand-new Old Town Cellars (OTC, 408 Main Street) from January 24th through 27th during the festivals’ kick-off weekend. The Wellhaus Spa will additionally offer unique health & wellness services for the duration of the festival week, through February 2nd.

Joining the WELLHAUS Lounge as its resident DJ during the festivals to provide world-class entertainment for all events will be DJ Lavelle Dupree, one half of famous EDM duo Scooter & Lavelle. Recently voted the #1 DJ in San Diego, Lavelle has performed for crowds all across the globe and at notable music events such as Coachella and Winter Music Conference in addition to residencies in Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego and Park City.

Presenting Sponsor The Erba Verde Group (EVG) is a company with the global vision and leadership to become the future of legal cannabis. EVG is focused on early-stage investments, distribution, ancillary businesses and digital solutions in the emerging cannabis market. Erbe Verde is an end-to-end player in the cannabis, hemp and CBD space, involved in cultivation, extraction, R&D, product development, and distribution. WELLHAUS seeks to embody the Group’s ethos—as well as those of their other sponsors and partners—by implementing a series of unique programming and hospitality activations throughout the duration of Sundance, each aimed to educate and entertain the public and the festival community on the rapidly growing cannabis and CBD movement and wider health and wellness industries.

Joining EVG is BRIC’S Milano (https://bricstore.com). Established in 1952 in Florence, Italy by Mario Briccola, BRIC’S has been handcrafting travel bags and fine leather goods for over 60 years. Today BRIC’S is located in the beautiful Lake Como region of northern Italy, and with the motto, “happiness is packing for your next adventure,” the brand is currently owned and operated by Mario’s sons, daughters and grandchildren. This new generation carries on the family values, workmanship, and pride that was Mario’s original vision. BRIC’S Milano luxury pieces will be distributed with an array of Erba Verde Group and WELLHAUS health, wellness, hydration and CBD products to form a WELLHAUS “festival survival kit” for select media and celebrities attending the festival.

SEED Us Society [https://seedussociety.com], in conjunction with WELLHAUS, invites you into the conversation around self-awareness, the experience marketplace and the importance of an impact society. The SEED team, led by renowned conscious entrepreneurs Brandi Veil and Amanda Manares, will host an afternoon experience in mind, body and soul connection featuring keynote speakers, impact investors, community builders, a sound bath exercise, movement and networking, including a talk led by Theodore Adams III, Stan Lee Foundation co-founder, among others.

When it debuted last year, WELLHAUS was the first fully integrated health, wellness and ancillary product concept house during the festival, marking a departure from the typical mainstream consumer brand sponsor activations. Featuring the Wellhaus Lounge at OTC with exciting experiential and hospitality activations daily, WELLHAUS will host film premieres, dinners, receptions, daytime experiential activities, happy hours and panel discussions on cannabis in Hollywood and other topics. WELLHAUS will mix this programming with events in support of official competition films and leading filmmakers at the festival, to provide a truly integrated and unique Main Street experience. Select activities at WELLHAUS will also be open to the festival-going public—making this one of the most sought-after and highly trafficked locations during the festival. Here is a sampling of activities (*open to pubic):

FRIDAY, January 24:
10:00am-7:00pm: Spa open by appointment for talent and media throughout festival / * open for public with daily bookings
2:00-5:00pm: Night House Junket
5:00-7:00pm: WELLHAUS Opening Party *
8:00-11:00pm: Cocktail Party for Night House cast/crew

SATURDAY, January 24:
10:00am-7:00pm: Spa open *
Noon-3:00pm: DAILY GRIT panels/cocktails
3:00pm-6:00pm: SEED mind/body/soul experience

7:30pm-9:30pm: Kirby Dick/Amy Ziering documentary party: On the Record
11:00pm-1am: Premiere Party for Save Yourselves cast/crew

SUNDAY, January 25:
10:00am-7:00pm: Spa open *
3:00-7:00pm: Asian Pacific Filmmaker’s Experience Part
8:00-10:00pm: Film Fatales annual festival party

Complementing the flagship Wellhaus Lounge is the Wellhaus Spa Experience, operating through the duration of the festivals at PuraVida Spa in the Main & Sky complex at 201 Heber Avenue (at Main Street) and featuring Erba Verde Group’s high-end CBD products woven into traditional Ayurvedic therapies. The Wellhaus Spa will offer full-range professional spa treatments to media, celebrities and the public by appointment daily.

WELLHAUS is wholly-owned and produced by Axcess Wellness, a division of Axcess Entertainment – a global leader in live event, festival and entertainment production for more than 17 years and producer of more than 500 individual film events worldwide. The concept debuted in 2019 with activations during Sundance and SXSW, and expects to tour throughout North America and internationally in 2020 with executions in Malibu, Coachella, Las Vegas, Austin, Toronto, Miami and New York. For more information follow @ThisIsWellhaus on Instagram and visit the Axcess Entertainment website.

About Erba Verde Group (EVG)

A vertically integrated cannabis platform, EVG is comprised of a network of industry leaders and experienced operators and staff who ensure our products are the best they can be, from cultivation to production and into the market place. EVG has built a farm network from proven farmers in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, New York, and Oregon and is constantly expanding. Our production network is equipped with the latest in extraction technology. Our equipment extracts all cannabinoids, giving EVG the flexibility to produce any product the market wants. EVG has partnered with the industry’s top distribution companies which include marketing and creative specialists, dispensaries and logistics services. Please visit us at https://erbaverdegroup.com

About BRIC’S Milano

Still family-owned for more than 60 years, the collections offered today result from a combination of research into new and traditional materials designed to meet the needs of today’s travelers. Modern amenities and styling combined with iconic silhouettes provide the best of both worlds.

As BRIC’S continues to grow into a global brand it’s the core values of quality, artistry, attention to detail, Italian style, function, fashion, innovation, aesthetics, and durability, all backed by a family name that has helped BRIC’S grow into one of the premier luxury travel bag brands in the world. Please visit www.bricstore.com

About SEED Us Society

SEED Us is a society of impact investors and innovators who align through mission-driven projects and curated experiential, wellness events, which successfully aims to bring creatives, spiritualists, executives, musicians and industry thought leaders together to steward in the for-benefit economy.

Founder of Being Investments and creator of SEED Us Society Brandi Veil says “a society” that is focused on mission-driven impact can shift culture and impact the world for the better! SEED Us Society’s funding culture creates unique opportunities and experiences that cultivate change and is rewarding to the human spirit and the bottom-line. Health and wellness can be the drivers of the influence marketplace but first, you must experience it to have a cultural shift. If you can influence culture, you can influence the markets! Social Funding for GOOD! Join SEED Us Society today.
About Tyler’s Coffee
Tyler’s recommends drinking acid-free coffee for better health. They pride themselves on being the “only acid-free USDA-Certified Organic Coffee.” Tyler’s Coffee offers a healthier alternative for people suffering a variety of ailments from acid-related issues. Please visit https://www.tylerscoffees.com
(Source: Press release provided by Lucy Rendler Kaplan , Platform Group)

FILM REVIEW: Gutterbee (Ulrich Thomsen, 2019), Denmark

Posted by Larry Gleeson

First film I see for the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) sponsored by UGG, packs an unexpected, invisible wallop to the sensibilities. Making its US Premiere at SBIFF following its World Premiere at the São Paulo International Film GutterbeeFestival, Gutterbee, a character-driven, “social satire about the nexus of identity fear, where religion becomes an intellectual cul-de-sac, and racism, homophobia and intolerance reign supreme,”  provides, at a minimum, a snapshot of what life in small town, rural America looks like from an international perspective. It also reveals a solution on how to forge an elevated pathway into a better, more inclusive existence without forgetting who we are and where we came from.

Writer/director/producer Ulrich Thomsen encases his deeply felt messaging inside two dreamers who set out to open the “ultimate German Sausage restaurant: The Gourmet House of Refuge.” Anthony Starr (The Boys) portrays Mike Dankworth McCoid, a good-hearted bloke who has just been granted a prison release, while Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting) portrays Edward Hofler, a German sausage zealot. The two complement and play off one another as well as American film comedy duo, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

Gutterbee opens with a simple black and white title frame coupled with non-diegetic, Western music. With noir-style composition, Thomsen immediately begins exposing the dark aspects of rural life and culture spouting throughout the Americana landscape with a voice-over narrative of the town sheriff, played by Chance Kelly. Deftly, he reveals current topics of discussion including gender conversion therapy, greed disguised in the form of wealth gospel preachers, racism, xenophobia, bestiality, superstitions, and bullying, and how these behaviors continue to thrive.

Gutterbee is, by choice, not a major film studio production. It is a filmmaker’s truth. Thomsen derived the material and created his art from his experience including many years working in the United States, his monitoring of presidential tweets, and historical trivia on the art of sausage-making. Nevertheless, it is a professionally orchestrated production.

Oscar-winner Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography [Best Achievement in Cinematography Slumdog Millionaire (2008)] is stellar. The cast is strong with authentic performances from W. Earl Brown (Preacher, Deadwood: The Movie), Pia Mechler, Joshua Harto, Clark Middleton, and Gareth Williams. Scott Christopher Clark’s art direction, via the mise-en-scene, keeps the viewer wary and engaged. The costuming, designed by Suzanne Barnes, is spot on. And, the music from George Kallis, Breakthrough Composer of the Year 2018, International Film Music Critics Award, captivates.

In addition to the very noirish low key lighting and dramatic use of shadows, Gutterbee employs high key lighting, augmenting a plethora of comedic relief juxtaposed against the garishness of the depicted rural culture. Savvy writing allows for a natural and rhythmic flow adroitly addressing social concerns. The editing from Soren B Ebbe is expertly carried out and the use of jump cuts, a verified comedic device, is nicely woven into the film’s fabric.

Thomsen’s artistic snapshot of Americana in Gutterbee left me dumbfounded. In a brilliantly executed film, a message of hope is revealed amidst the human condition of rural Americans. Important to note, the majority of rural dwellers in the United States are of Germanic descent. Having grown up in a German-American community, I appreciated the inclusion of Germanic cultural artifacts including, but not limited to, lederhosen and the St. Pauli Girl-style costuming. Seemingly, the hope for the future of America lies within their rich, cultural hands. Ask, or in the case of Gutterbee, knock, and it shall be opened. Highly recommended film and wildly entertaining!

 

The 2020 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival announces line up of competition films (March 17-22)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

San Luis Obispo, CA (January 19, 2020) – The 26th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (March 17-22) has revealed the films selected this year for the George Sidney Independent Film Competition sections. They comprise 10 narrative features and 20 documentary features, 22 narrative short films, and 10 documentary shorts. Representing 18 countries, the films include some surprising names as well as the independent streak that has characterized SLO Film Fest films for more than a quarter-century now.

Wendy Eidson
San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director Wendy Edison

“While our galas, special events and screenings, including Surf Nite, and the annual presentation of the King Vidor Award are always can’t miss affairs, the core of the film festival will always be our competition films. They represent the heart of the SLO Film Fest,” said San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director Wendy Eidson. “We look forward to presenting these films to movie lovers here in San Luis Obispo, and seeing which films and filmmakers take this year’s awards home.”

 

Highlights among the narrative competition include; Hans Petter Moland’s OUT STEALING HORSES, Norway’s official Oscar entry stars Stellan Skarsgård (recent Golden Globe winner for Chernobyl) about a widower looking back on a fabled childhood summer in the late 40s when he and his father rode wild horses; Danish Renzu’s THE ILLEGAL starring Suraj Sharma LIFE OF PI) as a film student in Los Angeles; Ron Vignone’s award-winning drama TWO WAYS HOME about a bi-polar woman’s attempt to get your life back on track and reclaim her family following a stint in jail. The film was a winner at the Awareness FF, Marina del Rey FF, and the Women Texas Film Festival. Gille Klabin’s mindbender THE WAVE is about a man dealing with the effects of a mysterious hallucinogenic drug stars Justin Long (TUSK, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD) and Donald Faison (“Scrubs,” CLUELESS), and features incredible visual effects by SLO native, Patrick Lawler.
Wide-ranging topics and subjects in the documentary competition include; immigration – via Beth and George Gage’s A HOME CALLLED NEBRASKA, which looks at how that state approached bringing in more refugees per capita than any other state in 2016; “asshole culture” – via John Walker’s ASSHOLES: A THEORY, inspired by Aaron James’ New York Times bestseller of the same name; the history between Iran and America – via Taghi Amirani’s COUP 53, which unearths never seen footage during the CIA’s overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953; iconic photographers Tony Vaccaro and Santi Visalli – via Andrew Davis’s MENTORS: TONY & SANTI, a charming portrait of friendship and history of the two men who captured some of our most familiar images since WWII; and the perilous status of our bees – via Peter Nelson’s THE POLLINATORS, which looks at the threats to honey bees and what that means to our food security; and Nancy Lang and Peter Raymont’s MARGARET ATWOOD: A WORD AFTER A WORD AFTER A WORD IS POWER chronicles the busy life and career of The Handmaid’s Tale author as one of Canada’s most accomplished writers and ardent feminists.

 BURQA CITY
ALINA, BURQA CITY

Among the short films which stand out at first glance include; Rami Kodeih’s ALINA about a group of women trying to sneak a baby out of the Warsaw Ghetto, which stars Alia Shawkat (“Arrested Development”), Edin Gali (“Mad Men”), Erika Soto (VIDA) and Mark McCullough (LOGAN LUCKY); SLO Film Fest alum Bracq Fabrice’s BURQA CITY about a couple that have just got married in a Kafkaesque country;  John Gray’s EXTRA INNINGS about a contentious interview with the manager of the Boston Red Sox, starring Peter Riegert (LOCAL HERO, CROSSING DELANCY); Caroline Lindy’s YOUR MONSTER, about a girl who moves homesick and brokenhearted to find the monster in her closet is still there and ready to talk. The film stars Kimiko Glenn (“Orange is the New Black”) and Tommy Dewey (“Casual,” “The Mindy Project”).

The documentary short film competition will include Lawrence and Meg Kasdan, who will come to San Luis Obispo with their film LAST WEEK AT ED’S, about the closing of the beloved Ed’s Coffee Shop in West Hollywood.

Passes are now on sale and information on the film festival can be found at https://slofilmfest.org.

The 2020 GEORGE SIDNEY INDEPENDENT FILM COMPETITION selections:

NARRATIVE FILM COMPETITION
ALONE WITH HER DREAMS
Director: Paola Licata
Country: Italy, Running Time: 95 min.
Lucia is 11 when her parents leave Sicily in the late 1960s to find work in France and leave her with grandmother Maria, a strict woman incapable of expressing her feelings. As the months pass, Lucia is curious about the family Maria bans her from seeing without explaining why, so she visits them with tragic consequences. Years later, Lucia faces her past and realizes that Maria taught her dignity, strength, and optimism. This well-acted film also illustrates the plight of immigrants who entrust their children to those who remain – waiting for a family reunion that often isn’t possible.

BOOK WEEK
Director: Heath Davis
Country: Australia, Running Time: 96 min.
When it looks like his novel is going to be published, high school English teacher and once famous novelist, Nicholas Cutler, thinks his luck has finally changed. But what promises to be the best week of his life professionally, spirals into seven days of hell personally. A pregnant girlfriend, student in trouble with the law, a gravely ill brother in law and the prospects of living a life of unfilled dreams force Mr. Cutler to re-examine just what’s most important in his life.
THE ILLEGAL
Director: Danish Renzu
Country: USA, Running Time: 86 min.
In this gritty, realistic story, a young film student from middle-class India is forced to drop out of college in Los Angeles to support his family, then loses his student visa and is stuck working at an Indian restaurant – unable to get a better-paying job because he’s undocumented, unable to save enough money to go home. This excellent, well-paced film is emotional and sad, reflecting a common plight of immigrant restaurant workers who are caught in the system, living a life they never envisioned, asking themselves: “Is this what you thought your life would be when you came to America?”

LOVE SARAH
Director: Eliza Schroder
Country: UK, Running Time: 98 min.
A young woman wants to fulfill her late mother’s dream of opening a bakery in Notting Hill, London, so she enlists the help of an old friend and her grandmother. This well-paced story chronicles the women’s ups and downs as they strive to find their niche, forging lasting bonds along the way. Fine cinematography, moving music and great acting, especially by the lead award-winning actress, contribute to this feel-good film. Guaranteed to leave you wanting a coffee and croissant – or at least popcorn!

OUT STEALING HORSES
Director: Hans Petter Moland
Country: Norway, Running Time: 123 min.
Adapted by Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland from Per Petterson’s beloved 2003 novel “Out Stealing Horses,” the story follows 67-year-old widower Trond Sander (Stellen Skarsgård) as he transitions to a lonely retirement in the breathtaking but desolate landscape of eastern Norway. As winter arrives, he finds a neighbor who he once knew during the summer of 1948. Trond reflects back on that bucolic and childhood summer, the last one he spent with his father as they rode wild horses and chopped wood. This is Norway’s official Oscar entry.

TWO WAYS HOME
Director: Ron Vignone
Country: USA, Running Time: 90 min.
A young woman living with bipolar disorder returns to her hometown in rural Iowa to reconnect with her estranged 12-year-old daughter. Going head to head with her family sets her on a course to free her cantankerous grandfather from a nursing home, and live his last days out on the family farm. As she struggles to maintain balance with her condition, complications with her daughter’s well-being and her grandfather’s health test her sense of self-worth to the limit.

THE WAVE
Director: Gille Klabin
Country: USA, Running Time: 84 min.
A man on the verge of a promotion takes a mysterious hallucinogenic drug that begins to tear down his reality and expose his life for what it really is. Director Gille Klabin creates a stylish world that drags star Justin Long (TUSK, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD) through some unconventional hardships. Also features Donald Faison (Scrubs, CLUELESS), and incredible visual effects by SLO native, Patrick Lawler.

ZORO’S SOLO
Director: Martin Busker
Country: Germany, Running Time: 90 min.
A 13-year-old refugee from Afghanistan living in an emergency shelter in Germany joins a Christian boys’ choir to save his ill father who was left stranded in Hungary – and clashes with the strict choir director, among others. It’s an entertaining, dramatic and well-paced film that reflects the impact of immigration and families torn apart and how one individual can help make a difference in a young person’s life. It’s especially notable given that this is the Berlin director’s first feature film. Choir performances are moving.

DOCUMENTARY FILM COMPETITION
5 BLOCKS
Director: Dan Goldes
Country: USA, Running Time: 50 min.
San Francisco’s Market Street was once the grandest boulevard in America. No stranger to civic celebrations since the 1900s and just minutes from City Hall, the area fell into decline and became home to the city’s poorest population. The neighborhood is currently undergoing its most dramatic change in 50 years as tech companies, their employees, and the restaurants and stores that cater to them confront the realities of a neighborhood that still houses some of the city’s most marginalized residents. 5 BLOCKS explores the complex questions of income disparity, changing demographics, and the very nature of place.

AGNIYOGANA: LOWER THE HEAD, INVOKE THE FIRE
Director: Emma Balnaves
Country: Australia, Running Time: 64 min.
A meditative inquiry into the lost art of classical Hatha Yoga, AGNIYOGANA explores the richness of traditional Hatha Yoga teachings and the deeply connected states of heart, mind and freedom these practices deliver to sincere truth seekers. Take a journey through time and space to rediscover the inner dimensions of Hatha Yoga and reconnect the human spirit to the true meaning of “yug,” the connecting roots of all yogas.

A HOME CALLED NEBRASKA
Directors: Beth and George Gage
Country: USA, Running Time: 69 min.
This well-paced film takes us behind the scenes of the U.S. immigration crisis, focusing on efforts in Nebraska to welcome immigrants and refugees. In 2016, during the world’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, this Midwestern conservative state resettled more refugees per capita than any other state. “Our legacy as a country is to be welcoming, whether you’re liberal or conservative,” one volunteer noted. The immigrants’ remarkable stories of survival and Nebraskans’ hospitality to help them create new lives here – and change their own perceptions in the process – are both heartfelt and informative.

ASSHOLES: A THEORY
Director: John Walker
Country: Canada, Running Time: 81 min.
Inspired by Aaron James’ New York Times bestseller of the same name, ASSHOLES: A THEORY investigates the breeding grounds of contemporary ‘asshole culture’ — and locates signs of civility in an otherwise rude-n-nasty universe. Venturing into predominantly male domain, Canadian director John Walker moves from Ivy League frat clubs to the bratty princedoms of Silicon Valley and bear pits of international finance. Why do assholes thrive in certain environments? What explains their perverse appeal? And how do they keep getting elected?

AULCIE
Director: Dani Menkin
Countries: USA/Israel, Running Time: 72 min.
Aulcie Perry, a basketball legend in Israel opens up for the first time about his roller coaster career, while searching for his daughter he hasn’t seen for more than 20 years. This is a truly fascinating story of fame, love, loss and redemption.

THE CONDOR AND THE EAGLE
Directors: Sophie and Clement Guerra
Country: USA, Running Time: 79 min.
Four Indigenous environmental leaders embark on an extraordinary trans-continental adventure from the Canadian plains to deep into the heart of the Amazonian jungle to unite the peoples of North and South America and deepen the meaning of Climate Justice.

COUP 53
Director: Taghi Amirani
Country: USA, Running Time: 119 min.
While making a documentary about the Anglo-American coup in Iran in 1953, Iranian director Taghi Amirani and editor Walter Murch (APOCALYPSE NOW, THE GODFATHER) discover never seen before archive material hidden for decades. The 16mm footage and documents not only allow the filmmaker to tell the story of the overthrow of the Iranian government in unprecedented detail, but also lead to explosive revelations about dark British secrets buried for 66 years. What begins as a history documentary about 4 days in August 1985 turns into a live investigation, taking the filmmaker into uncharted cinematic waters.

FULL BOAR
Director: Peter Schroeder III
Country: USA, Running Time: 50 min.
In this insightful documentary on Gary Eberle, you’ll get a sense of the man called the godfather of the Paso Robles wine industry – his astute winemaking skills, warmth, deprecating self-humor, genuine compassion and determination in overcoming a hostile corporate takeover. Now celebrating his namesake winery’s 40th year, the man once destined for medical research credits legendary football coach Joe Paterno and famed winemaker Robert Mondavi for teaching him key lessons along the way. It’s an engaging, informative film worth watching, even if you don’t love wine.

THE LURE OF THIS LAND
Director: Alexandra Lexton
Countries: USA/Belize, Running Time:67 min.
THE LURE OF THIS LAND is an exploration of why people leave the places they know and love. Why do they leave their homelands? What are they looking for? What do they find? Filmmaker Alexandra Lexton came to Belize and found these stories: A story of a place, the story of others, and the more personal internal voyage of the foreigner in a foreign land. Among others, we meet people who have left everything to regenerate and rediscover themselves: Zookeeper Sharon Matola who has made the Belize Zoo out of Belize’s rescued indigenous and threatened creatures, nature documentary filmmakers Richard and Carol Foster, and eco-lodge originators Mick and Lucy Fleming. Behind every door we find another story, another person who had the drive to change their life… and to risk for a time getting lost.

MARGARET ATWOOD: A WORD AFTER A WORD AFTER A WORD IS POWER
Directors: Nancy Lang and Peter Raymont
Country: Canada, Running Time: 90 min.
Margaret Atwood is in serious demand these days. With her dystopian novel of brutal gender divides, The Handmaid’s Tale, having been adapted for TV and becoming a global symbol for Women’s Marches, the 80-year-old’s fiction feels more relevant to real life than ever. Filmed over a year, this doc follows Atwood and her partner, Graeme Gibson (who died in September), as they jet to speaking engagements and meet devoted fans across the world, inspiring action.

MENTORS: TONY & SANTI
Director: Andrew Davis
Country: USA, Running Time: 50 min.
Tony Vaccaro’s subjects include Enzo Ferrari, Pablo Picasso, JFK and Sophia Loren amongst hundreds of others for Look and Life magazines. Santi Visalli photographed five US presidents, Federico Fellini, Mohammed Ali, Louis Armstrong, and Sophia Loren, as well as covers for over 50 magazines and newspapers including the New York Times, Time, Newsweek and Forbes. MENTORS: TONY & SANTI is an intimate portrait of two renowned photographers by director Andrew Davis (THE FUGITIVE) Sharing their life’s journey not only as friends but also legendary photographers, they remind us all of the role family, friends, and mutual support plays in one’s life.

I GOT A MONSTER
Director: Kevin Abrams
Country: USA, Running Time: 103 min.
In March of 2017, Baltimore was rocked by one of the nation’s largest police corruption scandals when seven members of the elite Gun Trace Task Force unit were federally indicted on racketeering charges. Defense attorney Ivan Bates wasn’t shocked by the new because for years he had been listening to the victims of these crimes and had been trying to bring down the corrupt sergeant. I GOT A MONSTER is the true story of a cat-and-mouse game in an upside down world where the cops are also the robbers!

IT ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG: THE STORY OF THE NASHVILLE SONGWRITER
Director: Chusy
Country: USA, Running Time: 85 min.
We all hum their tunes. We know their words by heart. And we tell the story of our own lives through their art. Yet, few of us know their names. This is a film about one of the most important and unknown, forces in music: The Nashville Songwriter. From paying their dues to working through their creative process, this documentary draws from more than one hundred hours of footage and includes more than eighty interviews with music industry figures and songwriters such as Garth Brooks, Ben Folds, John Hiatt, Brett James, Alison Mosshart, Kacey Musgraves and Keb’ Mo’. A truly fascinating and entertaining tribute to the most valuable resource in the music industry today: the songwriter.

LIFE IN SYNCRO
Director: Angela Pinaglia
Country: USA, Running Time: 53 min.
Discover the world of synchronized ice skating, a sport that has been empowering generations of women since 1956 when it was founded by a father who saw the need for team sports for girls. Even though the sport has big dreams of Olympic inclusion, it has remained mostly on the fringe. Syncro is one of the few sports where there is not a male version of it. It’s 99.99% female and serves women of all ages. The film follows several determined skaters and coaches throughout a skating season, including a Team USA skater who wants to win big on the national stage and a 66-year old who found her passion for skating later in life and has built a community for herself around the sport.

LOVE THEM FIRST: LESSONS FROM LUCY LANEY ELEMENTARY
Director: Lindsey Seavert
Country: USA, Running Time: 90 min.
After this Minneapolis school ranked at the bottom of the state’s list of underperforming schools for two decades, its principal set out to change the culture and expectations among students, teachers and parents. Calling the challenge “Mission Possible,” she started with a decision to love all of the students, making them feel safe and accepted. The beautifully executed film, which follows the principal, parents and students for a year, shows the challenges they face in a state that has the largest achievement gap between black and white children in the U.S. An important subject – inspiring, heartwarming and hopeful.

MOTHERLOAD
Director: Liz Canning
Country: USA, Running Time: 86 min.
In MOTHERLOAD, the cargo bicycle becomes a vehicle for exploring parenthood in this digital age of climate change. As Marin filmmaker and new mother, Liz Canning, meets people behind the push to replace cars with purpose-built bikes, she contemplates the increasing tension between modern life and our hunter-gatherer DNA, and discovers the history and potential future of the bicycle as the “ultimate social revolutionizer.” Conflict arises when characters in the film encounter cultural resistance – in particular, “bikelash” focused on women and mothers. MOTHERLOAD draws connections here to the struggle of cyclist Suffragettes and women’s seemingly endless fight for bodily autonomy.

THE MUSTANGS: AMERICA’S WILD HORSES
Director: Steven Latham
Country: USA, Running Time: 74 min.
This beautiful documentary takes audiences on an odyssey throughout America to places few people have seen or even know about. There are more than 80,000 wild horses on our federal lands and more than 50,000 in government holding facilities. Whether you are a horse person or not, this film will make you fall in love with America all over again and understand why the protection of our wild horses and our public lands are worth fighting for. Wild horse sanctuary Return to Freedom, located in San Luis Obispo, is featured in the film.

THE POLLINATORS
Director: Peter Nelson
Country: USA, Running Time: 92 min.
Much of the food on our tables comes from the intrinsic act of pollinating the flowers that become the fruits, vegetables and nuts we eat. But the agricultural practices, pesticides and politics are making that simple act of nature more difficult every day. THE POLLINATORS takes us on a cinematic journey around the United States, as he follows migratory beekeepers and their truckloads of honey bees. Director/cinematographer Peter Nelson meets some fascinating farmers, scientists, chefs, economists and academics that give a broad perspective about the threats to honey bees and what it means to our food security.

SEX, DRUGS AND BICYCLES
Director: Jonathan Blank
Countries: USA/Netherlands, Running Time: 86 min.
Funny, creative and provocative, SEX, DRUGS & BICYCLES takes a good look at Dutch social democracy and answers the question: is having month-long double paid vacations, no fear of homelessness, and universal healthcare the nightmare we’ve been warned about? The answer may surprise you. Then again it may not. It really depends on a lot of factors outside our control. This is an enjoyable ride no matter what!

THE STORY OF PLASTIC
Director: Deia Schlosberg
Country: USA, Running Time: 89 min.
Headlines tout the crisis involving toxic plastic pollution, but not as much about plastic’s origin. This informative, sobering film aims to change that. A neighborhood in the Philippines that’s awash in plastic trash. A pipeline in Pennsylvania. A single refinery in Texas. They’re all part of a web of plastics infrastructure working together to significantly increase the amount of plastics in the world, threatening the life expectancy of animals, humans and Earth itself. Striking footage, original animations and archival material combine in this timely, must-see film that educates, offers solutions – and motivates us to change.

SHORT FILMS

NARRATIVE SHORTS
AGE OF DYSPHORIA
Director: Jessica Petelle
Country: Canada, Running Time: 19 min.

ALINA
Director: Rami Kodeih
Country: USA, Running Time: 25 min.

ANNA
Director: Dekel Berenson
Country: Ukraine, Running Time: 15 min.

AVA IN THE END
Director: Ursula Ellis
Country: USA, Running Time: 10 min.

BALLOON
Director: Jeremy Merrifield
Country: USA, Running Time: 17 min.

BREATHLESS
Director: YiJia Fang
Country: China, Running Time: 16 min.

BURQA CITY
Director: Bracq Fabrice
Country: France, Running Time: 20 min.

THE CHEF
Director: Hao Zheng
Country: USA, Running Time: 20 min.

¡COME! (EAT)
Director: Lizette Barrera
Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min.

EXTRA INNINGS
Director: John Gray
Country: USA, Running Time: 9 min.

FEELING THROUGH
Director: Doug Roland
Country: USA, Running Time: 18 min.

THE GERMAN KING
Director: Adetokumboh M’Cormack
Country: USA, Running Time: 20 min.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
Director: Sudhanshu Saria
Country: India, Running Time: 37 min.

MAESTRO
Director: Illogic
Country: France, Running Time: 2 min.

THE ONE YOU NEVER FORGET
Director: Morgan Jon Fox
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min.

PLANET EARTH CALLING ANA
Director: Fernando Bonelli
Country: Spain, Running Time: 20 min.

SHORT CALF MUSCLE
Director: Victoria Warmerdam
Country: Netherlands, Running Time: 13 min.

STORY
Director: Jolanta Bankowska
Country: Poland, Running Time: 5 min.

TOKE IS CHEAP
Director: Kerry van der Griend
Country: Canada, Running Time: 23 min.

UMBRELLA
Directors: Helena Hilario, Mario Pece
Country: Brazil, Running Time: 8 min.

US MX
Director: Joseph O. Hooten
Country: USA, Running Time: 16 min.

YOUR MONSTER
Director: Caroline Lindy
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min.

DOCUMENTARY SHORTS
CAMP ALEC
Director: Christopher Stoudt
Country: USA, Running Time: 18 min.

DICK PIC’S!
Directors: Hannah McSwiggen, Russell Sheaffer
Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min.

FULL CIRCLE
Director: Patrick Norman
Country: USA, Running Time: 38 min.

GLORIA’S CALL
Director: Cheri Gaulke
Country: USA, Running Time: 17 min.

THE GREAT TOILET PAPER SCARE
Director: Brian Gersten
Country: USA, Running Time: 11 min.

KNOCKING DOWN THE FENCES
Director: Megan Shutzer
Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min.

LAST WEEK AT ED’S
Directors: Lawrence and Meg Kasdan
Country: USA, Running Time: 40 min.

SUSTAINED OUTRAGE
Director: Gabriela Cavanagh
Country: USA, Running Time: 24 min.

WATERPROOF
Director: Ross Kauffman
Country: USA, Running Time: 31 min.

WE BEGAN TO SING
Director: Polly Wells
Country: Canada, Running Time: 23 min.

ABOUT SAN LUIS OBISPO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo’s laid-back vibe and serene natural beauty is the perfect setting for this highly regarded annual film celebration. Filmmakers rave about the warmth and attentiveness that is so much a part of the SLO Film fest experience, as does the swelling tide of industry pros and film critics who are fast discovering the film festival’s thoughtful audiences and unique programming sensibility. At the SLO Film Fest, “Movies Matter!”

(* Featured photo credited and in remembrance of John Kevin O’Connor)

SLOFF_2020

(Source: Press release from SLOIFF, Wildworks PR)

CYNTHIA ERIVO, TARON EGERTON, AND ALDIS HODGE SHOW OFF VOCALS SINGING FAVORITE KARAOKE SONGS AT THE 35TH ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Posted by Larry Gleeson

VIRTUOSOS AWARD PRESENTED TO ALDIS HODGE, AWKWAFINA, BEANIE FELDSTEIN, CYNTHIA ERIVO, TARON EGERTON, FLORENCE PUGH, AND TAYLOR RUSSELL AT THE 35TH ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (January 19, 2020) – Day 4 of the 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG concluded with a star-studded evening with the presentation of the Virtuosos Award, which recognizes a select group of talent whose noteworthy performances in film have elevated them into the national cinematic dialogue.

This year’s honorees included: Awkwafina (The Farewell), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart), Aldis Hodge (Clemency), George MacKay (1917), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Taylor Russell (Waves).

The tribute, held at the historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, was moderated for the tenth year by Turner Classic Movies host and IMDb special correspondent Dave Karger, who engaged in one-on-one discussions with each of the night’s honorees to take a look back at their flourishing career and recent noteworthy performances.

The one-on-one discussions were followed by a group panel discussion, also moderated by Karger. Following the conclusion of the panel discussion, Santa Barbara local and legendary actor Christopher Lloyd presented each honoree with their award.

Highlights from the evening include:

Aldis Hodge on working with Alfre Woodard in the film Clemency: “As an actor and an artist, I always seem to put myself around teachers. I love to get around education and an environment that’s going to help elevate and grow me. Being around someone as masterful as miss Woodard – that’s exactly what you’re going to get. She’s a fantastic actress, a fantastic scene partner, a fantastic leader. So for me, it really was a privileged education.

Awkwafina on using her real name, Nora Lum, for her on-screen credit in the future: “I think in the beginning, Awkwafina really was someone to kind of like take the stage fright and the nervousness and the neuroses and the overthinking. But I think more and more as I grew up, I realize they are the same person. And when I see the name Awkwafina on like a chair back or a call sheet, it’s the name I chose for myself. That means something to the 15-year-old girl that was like ‘it’s a great idea to name yourself Awkwafina. Which years later – regrettable – but it’s fine. It’s an homage to that, and I don’t think I’m ready to lose it yet.”

Beanie Feldstein on young girls admiring her for her role in Booksmart: “Sometimes I’ll just see two young girls come walk up to me and I just put my arms out, and it’s so fun and it’s so lovely. It’s just a joy. We made this movie for everyone, but it’s a testament and celebration of young women, and we just wanted to do this generation proud because they’re so engaged with the world in a way that even…I was at that age. But I feel like young people today are invested in their society at such a young age and it’s so inspiring and we really wanted to celebrate that in Booksmart.”

Cynthia Erivo on getting emotional during the Sesame Street tribute at the Kennedy Center Honors: “I think there’s something so endearing about the stories that Sesame Street would tell. It included everybody. No one was excluded from something like Sesame Street. So when I was watching the montage of the things that went by, it just made me feel like a kid again. I felt like these people really wanted to include all the children in the world. No one was different, no one was apart.”

Florence Pugh on her performance as Amy March in Little Women: “[Greta] wanted Amy to be more than just the girl that burned the book and ended up with the guy, and she was excited to maybe let people see themselves in Amy…When we made it, it felt great and lovely. Through Amy in this version, the audience finally gets to see how rough and how tough it was for women, and how clever she was for her to choose the life that she had.”

George MacKay on working on the film 1917: “It’s like a play and a film together, and that process of being involved right from the beginning…we had to choreograph the entire film. We had to suss out the emotional rhythm and the pace of the entire piece because it dictated the actual length of the set.”

Taron Egerton on winning a Golden Globe for Rocketman: “You know, I’m from a really rural part of the UK. I’m from the middle of Wales, and the Golden Globes feels like something that happens to other people. So to be there, to be nominated was incredible…to win was just really wonderful.”

Taylor Russell on how her personal experience translated to her role in Waves: “There’s a lot in my life that I think prepared me for this role. I have two brothers, and that connection is really important to me…I know what it feels like to love somebody and not like them. I knew what a relationship was like with a brother, so I had that and felt that with Kelvin right away.”

 

The final portion of the program was a true crowd-pleaser as Karger brought out all eight honorees for a panel discussion. The audience got a special treat when Karger asked what each person’s go-to karaoke song is, which then escalated to the honorees breaking out into song on stage.

Provoked by Erivo, Hodge sang a few lines of his favorite karaoke song, “Gold Digger” by Jamie Foxx ft. Kanye West. He then prompted Erivo to sing her song, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” by Tina Turner. While Erivo was belting out a few bars from the song, Feldstein pretended to faint in her chair as the audience cheered for more. Egerton also volunteered to sing part of his favorite karaoke song, “Faith” by George Michael.

Other topics of discussion included favorite movies of all time, dream roles and the films that surprised them the most this year.

Following the panel discussion, actor Christopher Lloyd presented each honoree with their award. The evening concluded as the talented group of actors laughed and mingled in a VIP afterparty.

Last year’s recipients of the Virtuosos Award were Yalitza Aparicio, Sam Elliott, Elsie Fisher, Claire Foy, Richard E. Grant, Thomasin McKenzie, John David Washington, and Steven Yeun.

The 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs from January 15-25, 2020. For more information, and to purchase tickets, festival passes and packages, please visit www.sbiff.org.

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization. Over the past 34 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 95,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and panels, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire people through the power of film. We celebrate the art of cinema and provide impactful educational experiences for our local, national and global communities.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In May 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

SBIFF 35

(Source materials provided by sbiff.org)

ADAM DRIVER ACCEPTS OUTSTANDING PERFORMERS OF THE YEAR AWARD AT THE 35TH ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Posted by Larry Gleeson

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (January 18, 2020) – Day 3 of the 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG featured a heartening tribute to 2020 Oscar nominated actor Adam Driver, who received the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award presented by Belvedere Vodka. Driver was recognized for his critically acclaimed work in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.

As he arrived to the tribute, the actor was greeted by SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling, who later presented him with the award. After taking a few questions from young aspiring student journalists on the red carpet, Driver sat down with IndieWire’s Anne Thompson for an insightful conversation and look back at his varied career and beginnings as a U.S. Marine.

Some of the highlights from the conversation included:

  • On shooting the dramatic “fight scene” in Marriage Story with Scarlett Johansson: ”We were supported by a very clear backbone of what we were doing. It was very carefully choreographed. We worked on it very similar to a play…because it was so well-written, blocking came really fast…When we were shooting it, it didn’t feel very dissimilar to what it’s like when you shoot a love scene with everyone naked. Our boom operator is holding the mic, but he’s kind of looking away. There’s such focus given to what we’re doing, and there’s not a lot of conversation in between…there’s two people trying to be as naked as possible.”
  • On working with Noah Baumbach: “It was on our first day of working together we clicked right away…His scripts are very to the letter and feel very much like theatre to me, which I found immediately comforting. I like that he just sets different boundaries than other directors. The lines are the lines. Don’t change them. And how you interpret them is up for grabs.”
  • On his character Charlie’s connection to his ballad of “Being Alive”: “It’s a song that he knows very well. By heart…he’s seen the YouTube clips and probably has the soundtrack. Maybe he even directed a production of it in high school. He knows it implicitly…for the first time he starts to process not the loss of love but love transitioning into something else.”
  • On how being in the military prepared him for acting: “It’s the best acting training…the structure is exactly the same. I mean, the end result is much different, and in one you’re pretending the stakes are life and death, in the other they actually are.”

Just before Driver’s conversation with Thompson, the audience was treated to a montage of Driver’s varied career, including clips from films like Inside Llewyn Davis, Francis Ha, BlacKkKlansman and Star Wars. 

Following Driver’s conversation with Thompson, Durling took the stage to present him with the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award, saying: Adam Driver, in my humble opinion, your acting as Charlie is the best performance by a male in 2019 by far. You bare your soul in this film. You do not rely on makeup. You don’t rely on wardrobe, nor dramatic weight changes. Instead, you wear your emotions on your skin and dig deep.”

Upon accepting his award with a standing ovation from the audience, Driver said: “Acting to me is many things. You know, it’s a craft. It’s a political act. Unfortunately, it’s a business, and it’s a service. I think that acting is a service industry. I’m there in service of the director, the actors and the crew, and the story overall, which is more important. I very much believe in that. I believe in the potential effect of great collaboration. I think movies and films and art can lead people out of the dark.”

Following the tribute, Driver and Thompson headed just outside the theatre for a VIP after party presented by Belvedere, where guests mingled over specialty cocktails, struck a pose in a gif-able photo booth and gathered around warm cozy lounge areas amid the chilly Santa Barbara weather.

The Outstanding Performers of the Year Award recognizes select individuals who have distinguished themselves with exceptional performances in film this past year. Past recipients of the award include Rami Malek, Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan, Steve Carell, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Viola Davis, James Franco, Colin Firth, Penelope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren, Heath Ledger, Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron.

The 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs from January 15-25, 2020. For more information, and to purchase tickets, festival passes and packages, please visit www.sbiff.org.

 

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization. Over the past 34 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 95,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and panels, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire people through the power of film. We celebrate the art of cinema and provide impactful educational experiences for our local, national and global communities.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In May 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

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(Source: Press release courtesy of sbiff)

 

The Marijuana Conspiracy

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Never a dull moment during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s (SBIFF) red carpet events. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson were slated to receive the Outstanding Performers of the Year which “recognizes select individuals who have distinguished themselves with exceptional performances in film this past year.” Yet, for the first time in the history of SBIFF, a no-show occurred. Late reports have Ms. Johansson under the weather.

Thank heavens for the talented and vivacious cast and the collaborative writer/director of The Marijuana Conspiracy, based on “Project Venus,” a government-funded research project to study the effects of marijuana on females.

The passion and zeal The Marijuana Conspiracy group emanated in our short conversation leads me to believe The Marijuana Conspiracy is a highly potent project. The story line about a group of women held in isolation for ninety-eight days during the winter of 1972 in Toronto, Canada, with a team of doctors noting the physical and social effects of marijuana on the females resonates.

So without further adieu, check out our talk, catch a screening, and experience the positivity of The Marijuana Conspiracy. You’ll be glad you did!

See below for more details on the film.

 

(From SBIFF.org) In 1972, a group of young women took part in an outlandish scientific study to measure the effects of marijuana on women. It began as fun, like a hippie camp: get paid to smoke weed and make some easy cash. The young women thrived and excelled at their given tasks despite their “toke times,” so scientists gave the girls ever-increasing THC levels to smoke. The girls eventually become zombified and felt like lab rats under constant observation and prodding. Yet, they endured, with no one to care for them and no laws to protect them. The girls used their unique strengths, resilience, and friendship to overcome this extreme adversity. This film tells their story.

Directed by Craig Pryce
Produced by Colin Brunton, Jennifer Haufler, Katarzyna Kochany, Craig Pryce, Mark Pancer
Written by Craig Pryce
Starring Brittany Bristow, Morgan Kohan, Julia Sarah Stone, Tymika Tafari, Kyla Young
Independent Competition Sponsored by Panavision
Country: Canada
123 minutes
US Premiere

The Marijuana Conspiracy is screening tomorrow at 4:20PM, at the Fiesta Theatre, Auditorium #4, and,

January 19th, at 5:20PM, at the Metro Theatre, Auditorium #2

For more information on screenings visit SBIFF.org.

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