LA Film Festival Video Round Up
The LA Film Festival 2016 has drawn to a close. Here’s a look back at the coverage, reviews and Q & A Videos from the festival, brought to you by We Live Entertainment and Chad Gleason.
Film: Beyond the Gates
Plot: Two estranged brothers reunite at their missing father’s video store to liquidate the property and sell off his assets. As they dig through the store, they find a VCR board game dubbed ‘Beyond The Gates’ that holds a connection to their father’s disappearance and deadly consequences for anyone who plays it.
Director: Jackson Stewart
Cast: Barbara Crampton, Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson
Film: Chee & T
Plot: A Comedy about the only two guys left in Silicon Valley who have nothing to do with technology.
Director: Tanuj Chopra
Cast: Karan Soni, Sunkrish Bala, Dominic Rains
Film: Free CeCe
Plot: This film confronts the culture of violence surrounding trans women of color. It is told through the voices of Laverne Cox and Cece McDonald.
Director: Jacqueline Gares
Cast: Laverne Cox, CeCe McDonald
Plot: With a single abortion clinic remaining in the state of Mississippi, the city of Jackson has become ground zero in the nation’s battle over reproductive healthcare. Saving Jackson is an intimate portrait of the interwoven lives of three women in this town. Wrought with the racial and religious undertones of the Deep South, the lives of two women are deeply affected by the director of the local pro-life crisis pregnancy center and the movement she represents.
Director: Maisie Crow
Film: The House on Coco Road
Plot:In the midst of the racial violence sparked by Reagan’s war on drugs, leading a normal life had become unfeasible for many citizens of Oakland, California. In a moment of inspiration, activist and teacher Fannie Haughton decided to show her children a different way of life. She and her children moved to the island nation of Grenada to participate in an Afro-centric revolution with the goal of realizing a utopic, socialist society. But in Grenada, a U.S. military invasion threatened their safety and dreams. In this intimate family portrait of nationalism and freedom, debut feature filmmaker Damani Baker draws on poignant archival footage and insights from well-respected activists, including Angela Davis, to offer historical and emotional truths through the journey of one family striving for a better society.
Director: Damani Baker
Cast: Fannie Haughton, Angela Davis, Fania Davis, Damani Baker, Yvonne Belfon, Alimenta Bishop
Film: The Sweet Life
Plot: Kenny is an ice cream vendor in Chicago with a crisp white uniform and an apathetic heart. When he encounters Lolita, a sharp-tongued but despondent insurance actuary, their heated conversation, natural spark and mutual hopelessness lead to an unusual proposal for a meet-cute: to travel to San Francisco, where they will jump off the Golden Gate Bridge together. A road trip with the most intentionally dour of endings is an unusual scenario in which two souls might bond, but they drop their guards—while encountering unexpected hitchhikers, accidentally saving lives, and revealing their personal demons—and the growing connection between them casts their endgame in a new light. Veteran TV director Rob Spera crafts a humorous and endearing story, grounded by Chris Messina and Abigail Spencer’s nuanced and heartfelt lead performances that prove love and life never follow the exact route we plan to take.
Director: Rob Spera
Cast: Chris Messina, Abigail Spencer
Film: Lights Out
Plot: Rebecca spent her entire life never quite sure of what was real when the lights went out at night, tormented by childhood fears and unexplained memories. Now grown, she finds herself overcome with dread when her little brother reports the same terrifying visions that threatened her own safety and sanity: a creature with a mysterious attachment to their mother that appears only when the lights go out.
Adapted from his successful short film that bears the same name and nightmare-inducing premise, first-time feature director David F. Sandberg–championed by producer and horror veteran James Wan–builds exquisitely pained suspense from every shadow, every flicker, every floorboard creak. Fear of the dark has never been so haunting or so deserved.
Director: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Gabriel Bateman
Film: Dr Feelgood
Plot:Dr. William Hurwitz was sentenced to 25 years in prison for drug trafficking. Considered by many a preeminent pain specialist, Hurwitz had no moral qualms about prescribing as many opiates as his patients needed in order to fight their chronic pain and live normal lives.
Placed within a larger historical context regarding the use and legality of opiates, first-time director Eve Marson presents a remarkably even portrait of a man who dared to challenge the established norms for pain treatment. Despite testimonies about how his prescriptions created life-shattering addictions, and in some cases death, Hurwitz is unabashedly firm in the face of intense criticism about the ethics of his former practice from the families of former patients, other medical professionals and even his own family.
Director: Eve Marson
Cast: Eve Marson
Plot: Julia, an investigative reporter with the style and confidence of a young Bacall, happens upon a series of gruesome murders tied to real estate mysteries, where entire rooms have been dismantled and pulled from their foundations. The fact that those rooms were the exact settings for heinous tragedies sets Julia and hardboiled cop Grady on a search for the unimaginable. The stakes go up when it suddenly becomes very personal in this stylized and increasingly horrifying modern-noir.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman has an impressive horror background, from helming SAW II-IV, to his passion project REPO! The Genetic Opera, and that love of genre in all its various forms comes across in this haunted house hybrid thriller, based on a comic book mini-series.
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Jessica Lowndes, Joe Anderson, Lin Shaye, Dayton Callie
Film: Company Town
Plot: What do you do when the company you work for is making you sick? Privately owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, Georgia-Pacific is one of the world’s largest pulp, paper and chemical manufacturers—and is a massive environmental polluter. In Crossett, Arkansas, Pastor and Deputy Sheriff David Bouie has had enough. He and his neighbors are sick; breathing with respirators, dying of cancer and demanding that Georgia-Pacific and Koch Industries take responsibly for decades of negligence and countless lives lost.
After spending years gaining the trust of the people in Crossett, first-time directors Natalie Kottke-Masocco and Erica Sardarian have crafted an inspiring David and Goliath story about community resiliency that is told as an engrossing investigative tale full of heart and sincerity.
Director: Natalie Kottke-Masocco, Co-Director: Erica Sardarian
Cast: David Bouie, Barbara Bouie, Cheryl Slavant
Film: They Call Us Monsters
Plot:In California, juveniles between the ages of 14 and 17 can be tried as adults for violent crimes. Behind the walls of The Compound, they await their trials—and the accompanying adult sentencing. Juan, Jarad and Antonio are three such inmates. To their advocates, they’re kids. To the system, they’re adults. To their victims, they’re monsters. Who are they to you?
With unprecedented access to the juvenile facility, Ben Lear’s evocative and daring debut documentary allows audiences to get to know these young men through a screenwriting workshop in which they collectively fictionalize their lives and dreams. Lear delves into the lives of the victims of violent crimes committed by juveniles and follows legislative debates around bill SB260, which gives children a so-called second chance by allowing them parole eligibility after 35 years.
Director: Ben Lear
Film: Paint It Black
Plot: Josie is a young woman struggling to cope with the tragic death of her boyfriend. In the aftermath of his death, she finds herself both repelled and attracted to his pianist mother, Meredith, who holds Josie responsible for her son’s passing. The two women are drawn into a twisted relationship raging with equal parts distrust and blind need as they become consumed with each other while trying to navigate life without the one they love.
Adapted from the eponymous book by Janet Fitch, Amber Tamblyn’s impressive directorial debut is visually decadent, elaborately reflecting the intensity of her characters’ spiraling emotional states. Commanding performances by Janet McTeer and Alia Shawkat make Paint It Black a startlingly visceral experience and affirm Tamblyn’s unique voice as a director.
Director: Amber Tamblyn
Cast: Janet McTeer, Alia Shawkat, Alfred Molina, Emily Rios, Rhys Wakefield
Film: So B. It
Plot: Heidi is a precocious 12-year-old who lives happily with her autistic mother under the care of their remarkable neighbor—the brilliant but eccentric Bernadette—who never leaves her apartment. Mama always had only 22 words in her entire vocabulary, but one day a new word pops out: “soof.” This changes everything. This mysterious word propels Heidi on a cross-country journey of discovery and loss, truth and identity. As secrets boil to the surface, Heidi must face her fears and finally learns who she is and the origins of her child-like Mama.
Based on The New York Times bestselling novel, this adaptation stars Oscar©-nominated and Golden Globe©-winning actress Alfre Woodard, along with such notables as Oscar©-winner Cloris Leachman and John Heard.
Director: Stephen Gyllenhaal
Cast: Talitha Bateman, Alfre Woodard, John Heard, Jessica Collins, Jacinda Barrett, Dash Mihok, Cloris Leachman, Mataeo Mingo, Michael Arden, Atticus Todd, Stan Davis, David Dean Bottrell, CJ Hoff, Moira O’Neill, Sherry Mandujano, Jack Plotnick, Van Epperson, Luis Moncada, Karen May
Film: Blood Stripe
Plot: A U.S. Marine sergeant returns home from her third tour of duty in Afghanistan unable to sleep and wracked by paranoia and anxiety. Feeling disconnected from her home life with her husband and friends, and frustrated by an inept Department of Veterans Affairs, she retreats deep into Minnesota’s North Woods. There she seeks refuge at a picturesque summer camp with a plainspoken overseer and a local fisherman, but her deep emotional wounds continue to overwhelm and traumatize her.
Remy Auberjonois’s assured feature debut is an intense and searing portrait of PTSD’s crippling manifestation from the perspective of a female protagonist—something rarely seen on film. Kate Nowlin is mesmerizing in this tour de force performance that vividly illustrates the psychological complexities of a former soldier barely holding it together, and who is forced to adjust to the mundane reality of everyday life.
Director: Remy Auberjonois
Cast: Kate Nowlin, Tom Lipinski, Chris Sullivan, Rusty Schwimmer, Rene Auberjonois
Film: Lupe Under the Sun
Plot: Long estranged from his family in Michoacán, migrant laborer Lupe finds relief from the backbreaking work of harvesting peaches in California’s Central Valley through beer-drenched camaraderie and a quiet love affair with fellow immigrant Gloria. Soon the stability of his daily routine begins to crack under the weight of a life scarred with regret and missed opportunities.
Filmed in a classic neorealist style, director Rodrigo Reyes’s deeply moving debut fiction feature, inspired by the life of his own grandfather, is at once an intimately drawn meditation on life’s missed chances and a tale of the universal struggles of immigrants. Winner of Film Independent’s Canon Filmmaker Award, Reyes’s unforgettable film heralds the arrival of an important new voice in American cinema.
Director: Rodrigo Reyes
Cast: Daniel Muratalla, Ana Muratalla
Film: Don’t Think Twice
Plot: For eleven years, the members of the Commune have reigned as big fish in the small pond of the New York improv theater world, while working menial jobs day after day to support themselves and returning home to shared, run-down apartments. The tight-knit group kills onstage night after night with fluid performances, but they are waiting for their big break. When scouts from a hit TV show come to a performance looking for talent but only choose two performers, the dynamic of the group is tested. Relationships begin to crack as six best friends face the truth that not all of them will make it.
Funny, insightful and honest, Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice shines a light on an all too common experience—failure.
Director: Mike Birbiglia
Cast: Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard, Tami Sagher
Film: Olympic Pride, American Prejudice
Plot: Before defiant fists were raised in protest at the 1968 Summer Olympics, 18 African American athletes paved the way for future generations by competing in the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin. History has placed Jesse Owens on his own pedestal, but Deborah Riley Draper’s debut feature film sheds light on the cumulative work of 17 other Black athletes and their journey from America’s attempted boycott of the ’36 Olympics, to the trials, competition and the athletes’ unceremonious return home. The courage and success of these men and women sparked pride among the African American community, as they defied both the institutional racism of Jim Crow America and the Nazi doctrine of Aryan supremacy. Their camaraderie and collective action was a critical step towards the Civil Rights Movement.
Compelling footage is paired with interviews from athletes, experts and surviving family members who share an important story that was almost lost to history.
Director: Deborah Riley Draper
Cast: Isiah Thomas, Carl Lewis, Lonnie Bunch, Joanna Hayes
Film: Girl Flu.
Plot: Bird is mature for her age, a thoughtful sixth grader who dreams of doing the grocery shopping so that all food groups are represented, but whose emotional wisdom starts to slip when her body begins to develop. After her first period arrives in an embarrassingly public way, Bird turns to her single mother for guidance; however, her mom is a flighty stoner who finds this milestone just as befuddling as her young daughter. Already frustrated by their recent move to Echo Park from the Valley, Bird wishes everything would start making sense again.
First-time director Dorie Barton sets a lighthearted backdrop for this mother and daughter twofold coming-of-age story, offering a sweet perspective on a universal, yet underrepresented experience.
Director: Dorie Barton
Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Jeremy Sisto, Jade Pettyjohn, Heather Matarazzo, Judy Reyes
Film: Play the Devil
Plot: Gregory, a gifted student from a working class family, is favorably positioned to win a coveted medical scholarship, and yet is secretly cultivating a desire to become a photographer. James, an established businessman, uses his wealth and access to pique the young man’s latent artistic inclinations. When James cannot accept Gregory’s boundaries, the relationship spirals into a fateful, carnal dance during the “Jab” (devil) play, on Carnival’s Monday night.
Bursting with confidence, style and vision against the lush landscape of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival, Bahamian writer/director Maria Govan’s sophomore feature complicates notions of masculinity, privilege and sexuality in this nuanced, yet brutal, coming-of-age portrait that deftly thwarts any easy moral judgments of her characters’ actions and desires.
Director: Maria Govan
Cast: Petrice Jones, Gareth Jenkins, Akil Nicholas, Penelope Spencer
Film: Opening Night
Plot: Backstage at a new Broadway show featuring the best one-hit wonders you ever forgot the band name for, production manager Nick circles non-stop like a shark, putting out countless fires involving feuding actors, flirtatious dancers and a gonzo band member with a jones for a buzz. Vibrant onstage musical numbers with legitimately impressive singing and staging are cut together with snarky exchanges, sexual bets, inside jokes, broken hearts and a glorious multi-layered NSYNC riff to brighten the darkest of spirits.
Veteran commercial/music video director Isaac Rentz sets a lively pace with his impressive comedic ensemble, capturing all of the frenetic energy, camaraderie and dynamism that bubble up behind the scenes, and unleashing them on the audience like a glitter bomb at curtain call.
Director: Isaac Rentz
Cast: Topher Grace, Lauren Lapkus, Alona Tal, Taye Diggs, Anne Heche, JC Chasez, Rob Riggle, Paul Scheer, Brian Husky, Lesli Margherita
Film: London Town
Plot: Thatcher’s England circa 1979 is a land of striking unions and soaring inflation, impacting even 14-year-old Shay as he struggles with bullies, school and housework after his mother abandons their family. When his dad is hospitalized, Shay becomes responsible for his younger sister and his burdens mirror the chaotic country at large, as does the salvation he feels at seeing The Clash perform. Inspired by music that addresses the poverty and injustices that surround him, Shay meets a girl, dyes his hair and breaks the rules, but it’s his good heart that ultimately wins him the most unlikely of champions: Joe Strummer himself.
Accomplished director Derrick Borte creates a world as vibrant, messy and authentic as the very best kind of punk rock in this lively coming-of-age tale.
Director: Derrick Borte
Cast: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Dougray Scott, Natascha McElhone, Daniel Huttlestone, Tom Hughes
Film: A Hundred Streets
Plot: This multi-stranded drama is set within one specific area of contemporary London. The cast of characters face major choices and changes in their separate lives as their paths sometimes cross. All of these interconnecting stories paint a picture of a society where a person is often loneliest within a crowd. As tension mounts, relationships are strained, loyalties are tested and violence erupts.
Nodding to both Crash and Amores Perros and inspired by real stories, Jim O’Hanlon’s feature directorial debut is a gripping and moving portrayal of modern city life, which should resonate with anyone who has lived it.
Director: Jim O’Hanlon
Cast: Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Charlie Creed-Miles, Franz Drameh, Kierston Wareing, Tom Cullen and Ken Stott
Thank you for checking out our video coverage. Don’t forget to check out the written coverage as well, right here on We Live Entertainment!