Stephanie A. Taylor (SAT): How was experience with being the only female on the panel?
Pamela Powell (PP): It’s a wonderful group of fellow critics from Chicago. I have the utmost respect for their positions in the film criticism community. It’s a little overwhelming, at times, to be the only woman and I certainly do have a different viewpoint on film. How I perceive them, how I interpret them, an overall sense of filmmaking and the overall message the film has.
January 27th, 2018 Posted by pamelaNews, Review
0 thoughts on “2018 Slamdance Film Festival Highlights: An Exceptional Year”
Since 1995, the Slamdance Film Festival has taken place simultaneously with the Sundance Film Festival in the same mountain ski town of Park City, Utah.The festival, began “…when a group of cheerful, subversive filmmakers weren’t accepted into the Sundance Film Festival [and were] unwilling to take ‘no’ for an answer…”Since that time, the festival has grown exponentially, giving independent and innovative films a chance they may not have otherwise been given.The fest prides itself on being “By Filmmakers For Filmmakers.”
The 24th annual festival has now come to a close with the winners having been announced.“Rock Steady Row” won for Best Narrative Feature and Audience Award while “Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End” won for Best Documentary Feature.These two films are still on my list to screen, but the winners from the several films I did see are:
PICK OF THE LITTER:
Dana Nachman and Tom Hardy, Jr., are back at Slamdance after a three year hiatus.Their first documentary feature film that screened at the fest was the heartwarming “Batkid Begins,” a story about a child whose Make A Wish choice brings the entire city of San Francisco together to create a day of pure joy for a young boy.Now the dynamic duo of Nachman and Hardy give us “Pick of the Litter,” another heartwarming yet educational film about the journey of 5 labrador retriever puppies born to attempt to become a seeing eye guide dog for the blind.
The film is at once captivating (of course, they’re adorable little fur balls), but it is also thrilling as we see the love and heartbreak that occurs with the temporary owners who give these little pups their start in training.Following them from home to home, interviewing the possible candidates about receiving a dog, we connect with the people and the animals, rooting for them all, but knowing, like people, they are all different.
This 20 month journey will bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face as you watch this horse race of dogs attempting to cross that finish line of helping a blind individual become more independent.Will it be Phil? Potomac? Primrose? Patriot or Poppet?Check out the film, grab some tissues, and snuggle with your own little buddy as you learn and love what canines can do for their humans.
Becoming aware of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) thanks to James Redford’s film “Resilience,” allowed me to see the importance of Santiago Rizzo’s film “Quest” as more than just a wonderful, sweet story about a teacher going above and beyond for a child because he cared.The film depicts the real life story of Tim Moellering, a teacher who was that one stable adult in a young child’s life whose home life consisted of an abusive step father, an absentee mother, and an environment filled with violence.
This is Rizzo’s directorial debut and also co-writing the story based on his life and Moellering’s.Dash Mihok (“Ray Donovan”) embodies the look, heart, and “humility” as Rizzo described him to become Moellering.Other recognizable faces include Lou Diamond Phillips and Lakeith Stanfield as they add their talent to an important story about the need to help a child who is struggling.The young Greg Kasyan shines in the role depicting a boy who is pulled in different and dangerous directions yet yearning for the chance to succeed in a positive way.The immediate and genuine connection between Mills (Kasyan) and Moellering (Mihok) evokes a sincere understanding of what it takes to be a teacher and the importance of their role in our children’s lives.
“Quest” allows us to see that Moellering was an exception to the rule.He made a difference in one boy’s life and most certainly many more.We need more teachers willing to step up and into the troubled lives of our youth.One teacher can and did make a difference.“Quest” is a film every teacher should see.
Directors Natalie Kottke and Erica Sardarian take us to the little southern town of Crossett, Arkansas where the big paper production company Georgia-Pacific resides, employing much of the town and the neighboring ones as well.The town has a more than remarkable cancer rate, many of these victims working in the mill and/or residing next to contaminated water sources.
The directors investigate the town, interviewing residents, government officials, and environmental agencies, concluding the obvious.But big business owned by none other than the Koch brothers, Charles and David, is like fighting Goliath.The filmmakers lay out the pieces of information as they sometimes candidly film situations and conversations, allowing us to be privy to the discovery, devastation, and frustration this town is experiencing.
“Company Town” is just one example of how big business takes precedence over the every day worker.It’s yet another “Erin Brockovich” that we need to be aware of, but more importantly, we need to stand up for and protect one another .
Surrogacy is a hot topic right now and filmmaker Charlie Birns takes this topic and delves deeply into how it affects a young couple and the surrogate, Genevieve.Starring Julie Sokolowski as Genevieve, we experience her emotions and confusion as she becomes a part of Lucinda (Kerry Condon) and Sidney’s (Dominic Fumusa) family.The boundaries that are crossed create connections and sever others, bringing us closer to what could possibly occur between a surrogate and the expectant couple.
Sokolowski’s raw performance is unparalleled as she exudes a depth of emotion in this role.Condon and Fumusa find beautiful compatibility with one another and exquisitely portray the difficulties in a relationship as things begin to spiral out of control.While surrogacy is the vehicle which drives the plot, the film is ultimately about our relationship with one another and how our choices affect us.
Beautifully shot with an ending that is more than satisfying, “Human Affairs” is a brilliant depiction that exposes our innermost emotions in relationships.This is Birns first feature film and given its depth and complexity, I certainly hope it’s not his last.
Check back for interviews with many of these exceptionally talented filmmakers!
The Sundance Film Festival, founded in 1981, opens on Jan. 18 in the quaint ski town of Park City, Utah. The festival will run for 11 action-packed days giving filmmakers, artists, actors, and patrons a non-stop film-related extravaganza including screenings, panel discussions, interactive programming, and even music. While locals may find it difficult to navigate the narrow mountain town streets on foot or by car, the town’s guests continue to find Sundance one of the premiere festivals in the world. Why? and What makes this festival shine?
To read the rest of the article as it was published in the January 2018 edition of Fete Lifestyle Magazine, go to Fete Lifestyle Magazine
January 8th, 2018 Posted by pamelaNews
0 thoughts on “Women Standing Strong at the 75th Golden Globes”
The 75th Golden Globes, what many consider the most important indicator of Oscar, is now over, but will it predict what happens on March 4th? Only time will tell. What we do know is that women were the focus of the Golden Globes ceremony from Seth Meyers and his sometimes jarring jokes and his heartfelt words of encouragement to the remarkably powerful speeches from Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Moss. The tides have turned and it is evident that not only Hollywood has changed, but our entire nation is looking at gender equality…for the first time in a long time.
Although there were no female directors nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) this year, hopefully, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) will be a bit more open to looking at front-runner female-lead films for these nominations. The world of film was filled with amazing female-written and directed films that film critic organizations around the country have recognized. Last night, the FHPA did award “Lady Bird,” directed by Greta Gerwig, for the Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, and the star of this film, Saiorse Ronan for Best Actress in this category as well, but unfortunately, this outstanding film was snubbed for the Best Director.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was the big winner last night with 4 wins followed by 2 wins apiece for “The Shape of Water”and “Lady Bird.” Allison Janney took home her award for playing Tonya Harding’s mom in “I, Tonya,” and both Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) and James Franco (“The Disaster Artist”) had the pleasure of accepting an award.
The films that were recognized last night and the nominations of all are certainly going to be on the Oscar list when the nominations are announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23rd, but given the strength and power of last night’s show, I believe we are going to see a few more women on the list. Dee Rees, Greta Gerwig, Agnes Varda, Alice Birch, Petra Biondina Volpe, Patty Jenkins and many more have been the buzz of the town and this critic will be shocked and disappointed if we don’t see these women on that list.
January 7th, 2018 Posted by pamelaInterviews, News
0 thoughts on ““Keep Talking” At the Gene Siskel Film Center”
The multiple award-winning documentary KEEP TALKING is Chicagoan Karen Lynn Weinberg’s newest documentary film depicting the efforts of four Alaskan Native women fighting to save the endangered language Alutiiq. Less than 40 fluent speakers remain, placing a heavy burden on them to keep not only the language alive, but the culture and history that is an integral part of it as well. Within the film, we begin to understand the important role indigenous language plays in those seeking a sense of identity and the necessary bonds between the Alutiiq people.
I had an opportunity to talk with Weinberg about her informative and emotional film and how it has impacted her, the Alutiiq community, and other cultures around the world. Her insight and passion will at once inspire you to see the film and see the world in a different and more compassionate way.
The Indiana University graduate found her first passion for langauage in literature, particularly Shakespeare as his writing “…allowed me to personally experience the power of language to elevate and transform.” Weinberg also studied French, Spanish, and Italian, and even when she became a published author and documentary film editor, she found time to tutor English to adults when she could.
Weinberg’s teaching skills crossed over into film editing and Weinberg was invited by the Native Village of Afognak to Kodiak, Alaska to teach a one-week course. Her entire class was comprised of Kodiak Alutiiq as the group wanted to learn the necessary software to preserve their native language and their culture. Weinberg shared, “I was hooked and wanted to know more…At the time, I had wanted to try my hand at producing/directing a documentary, so I went Kari (a language activist) a proposal to take to their Elders, and they granted me see funding and permission to come film their first-ever Dig Afognak camp geared towards immersion.”
Weinberg felt her own background weighing on her as an outsider to this community. She was an outsider and says, “I mean, how many times have Indigenous people been misrepresented in the white media? I felt an enormous responsibility to get it right.” Working with the community, conducting feedback sessions, and finding translators to interpret hours of footage allowed Weinberg to immerse herself, gain the necessary funding, and most importantly, get it right.
“Keep Talking” is powerful, but the one aspect that really is quite emotional is Sadie’s story. She’s a struggling teen who seems to transform her personality and hope for her future when she is among her people, learning her native tongue, and embracing her roots and traditions. Finding and focusing on Sadie gives the viewer a true understanding of the need to not lose our culture. Weinberg shared that she and the film’s cinematographer, Nara Garber, were immediately drawn to her. “As I got to know her, I understood that she was in a tough place emotionally, much as I was at her age. At the same time, the language and Alutiiq dancing was a clear, bright spot in her life.” Weinberg continued, “While we absolutely had more people we were filming with and I wish all the storylines could have fit into this film, it was Sadie’s coming of age story that most clearly illustrated the power of culture to help and heal.”
The film’s impact upon the viewer is tremendous as it exhibits the historical tragedies that continue to effect the culture in negative ways. A reconnection to their beginnings seems to have a healing effect. Weinberg has found from viewers that “…language revitalization work helps to heal historical trauma.” She continued, “In a bigger sense, I hope that the film contributes to discussions of the need for governmental bodies to provide lasting support to programs like language revitalization: this support is sorely needed to help to heal some of the damage done by assimilationist policies practiced by the United States, Canada and countless other countries formed with colonization at their core.”
Weinberg passionately expressed that, “Making this film has me firmly convinced that modern society desperately needs a push towards interpersonal connection and communication, including strengthening people’s sense of identity with an awareness of their own ancestry and heritage.” Perhaps in looking forward, we all need to look backward and see where we began and hold on to our roots, cherish our elders’ and their knowledge, and learn about our ancestry, no matter where we began. It is obvious in “Keep Talking” that this Alutiiq culture is on a more positive path…one that would benefit us all in understanding one another and even ourselves.
In closing, I asked Weinberg what was her favorite word or expression. Her answer brings me to happy tears. She said, “Since I can’t spell or say my favorite word (which means ‘they always tease me’), I will leave you with ‘Tang’rciqamken’- I will see you later. It’s a substitute for goodbye. I love that there is no word for goodbye.” The film screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Friday, Jan. 5th for its grand re-opening and will screen again on Jan. 11. For more information about tickets, go to www.siskelfilmcenter.org/keeptalking
For more information about the film go to www.keeptalkingthefilm.com
December 22nd, 2017 Posted by pamelaNews
0 thoughts on “RHR’s Top Picks of 2017”
2017 has proven to be one of the most controversial and revelatory years in the history of the entertainment industry. While the Harvey Weinsteins of the film world have been revealed, pulling away the curtain to expose the ugly truths about how men, for decades, have assaulted and harassed women in Hollywood, a healing process has begun for women in every environment. Men are beginning to see how their actions, perhaps previously thought innocent, are actually hurtful. There also seems to be the beginnings of comprehension by men of the mental, emotional, and physical attacks women undergo on a daily basis. Women are also standing together to speak up in the hopes of making a change for the future—our daughters’ futures and our own. It’s just the beginning, but a very hopeful one.
2017 just might be the year that women, a minority in the film industry, are recognized for their talents in filmmaking. As the number of women directors and writers really haven’t changed in the last 5 years, perhaps the voting bodies will begin to open their eyes to finally see the overlooked works of art that we have this year in movies. 2017 has given us a generous number of entertaining blockbusters and heartwarming gems, several of which were spearheaded by women.
It was difficult to choose just 10 top films as I could have easily chosen 30. Some of these films are chilling dramas and others are light-hearted and whimsical films, but hopefully you’ll find a few that aren’t on the typical film critic’s list. None of these films were chosen based on who wrote or directed them. They were based on the tough criteria of, was it a good story told well…the words of Robert Redford still ring loudly and meaningfully to me. If a woman wrote or directed one of my top films, then that’s just a great bonus for women!
BEST FEATURE FILMS OF 2017
“The Shape of Water” (written and directed by Guillermo del Toro)
“Maudie” (written by Sherry White, directed by Aisling Walsh)
“I, Tonya” (written by Steven Rogers, directed by Craig Gillespie)
“All the Money in the World” (written by David Scarpa, novel by John Pearson, directed by Ridley Scott)
“Lady Macbeth” (written by Alice Birch, based on the novel by Nikolai Leskov, directed by William Oldroyd)
“Mudbound” (written by Virgil Williams, Dee Rees, and Hillary Jordan (novel), directed by Dee Rees)
“Lady Bird” (written and directed by Greta Gerwig)
“The Post” (written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, directed by Steven Spielberg)
“Brad’s Status” (written and directed by Mike White)
“The Hero” (written by Brett Haley and Marc Basch, directed by Brett Haley)
Honorable Mentions include: “Get Out,” “Wind River,” “Norman,” “Colossal,” “Molly’s Game,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Wakefield,” “Beatriz at Dinner,” “Battle of the Sexes,” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Detroit,” “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” and “Their Finest”
BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARIES OF 2017
“Faces Places” (written and directed by JR and Agnes Varda)
“Tickling Giants” (written and directed by Sara Taksler)
“Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” (written and directed by Alexandra Dean)
“Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution” (written and directed by James Redford)
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” (written by Al Gore, directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk)
“Step” (directed by Amanda Lipitz)
“Take My Nose Please” (directed by Joan Kron)
“Whose Streets” (directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis)
“Miracle on 42nd Street” (written by Joal Ryan and Steve Ryfle, directed by Alice Elliott)
“42 Grams” (directed by Jack C. Newell)
Honorable Mention: “It’s Not Yet Dark” and “LA ’92”
“The Lovers” (written and directed by Azazel Jacobs)
“The Light of the Moon” (written and directed by Jessica M. Thompson)
“Walking Out” (Written by Alex Smith and Andrew J. Smith, short story by David Quammen, directed Alex Smith and Andrew J. Smith)
“D-Love” (written by Dave Rogers, directed Elena Beuca)
“Band Aid” (written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones)
“The Big Sick” (written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, directed by Michael Showalter)
Check out the reviews of these films and the many interviews with the talent right here on Reel Honest Reviews!
December 13th, 2017 Posted by pamelaNews
0 thoughts on “CFCA Announces Winners”
The Chicago film Critics Association gathered last night to announce and celebrate the award winners from the amazing slate of films from 2017. Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” was the big winner, taking home 4 wins after being nominated in 6 different categories. The film received the coveted Best Picture Award along with Best Actress-Saiorse Ronan, Best Supporting Actress-Laurie Metcalf, and Most Promising Filmmaker-Greta Gerwig.
“Call Me By Your Name” was a close second with 3 wins: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor-Timothee Chalamet, and Most Promising Performer-Timothee Chalamet.
“Blade Runner 2049” won two awards, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.
The remaining award winners are:
Best Director- Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”)
Best Supporting Actor- Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”)
Best Original Screenplay- Jordan Peele (“Get Out”)
Best Original Score-Johnny Greenwood (“The Phantom Thread”)
Best Editing- Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss (“Baby Driver”)
Best Foreign Film- “The Square”
Best Animated Feature-“Coco”
Best Documentary Feature-“Jane”
While the L.A. Film Critics Circle gave the Best Picture award to “Call Me By Your Name,” and both Chicago and N.Y. found “Lady Bird” deserving of that title, it will be interesting to see if this is a predictor of what will happen on Oscar night. Only time will tell! Perhaps it is the beginning of women being recognized in the director’s chair after all!
November 3rd, 2017 Posted by pamelaNews
0 thoughts on “5 must-see films this year from the Chicago International Film Festival”
Looking back over the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival, or CIFF, which ended last weekend, there is a seemingly myriad number of films in as many categories. It’s difficult to pick just a few top films, but here are five to put on your list, some mainstream and others indie gems that will require some work and patience to find, but all worth your time and money.
“THE SHAPE OF WATER”
Release: Dec. 1
Starring Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg, this fantasy-thriller directed by Guillermo del Toro is set during the Cold War, portraying espionage, government secrets and, most importantly, love. Elisa, a nonverbal cleaning lady, discovers hidden secrets behind the locked doors and connects with a strange creature. She must save him from imminent death, but the risks might be too high. Paying homage to various film genres of the past and addressing many current social situations, “The Shape of Water” is as visually gorgeous as it is intellectually and emotionally beautiful.
To read the article and learn about the other 4, go to
November 1st, 2017 Posted by pamelaNews
0 thoughts on “Women writers and directors dominate Portland Film Festival”
How does the Portland Film Festival program 59 percent of its films with women writers and directors? It’s easy…they screen films blindly and just play the better films. Filmmaker Josh Leake, founder and director whose staff comprises more than 70 percent women and has screening panelists from all over the world, all with diverse backgrounds explained, “We have a blind screening process so we didn’t know if the films screened were from men or women. This year it just happened to be a higher ratio…we’re playing the better films.” Now, that’s a true representation of equity.
To read the interview with Josh Leake, go to www.ff2media.com/blog/2017/10/30/pff/
November 1st, 2017 Posted by pamelaNews
0 thoughts on “CIFF Highlights Architecture in Film, Form, and Events”
On October 12th through the 26th, the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival, the longest running competitive festival in North America, will roll out the red carpet and the proverbial film reels for what might possibly be the best line-up of films in its history. Chicago, as they say, is “my kind of town,” but Chicago also does things its own way and that is to its audiences’ benefit as the festival is highlighting architecture—think of it as a city’s fashion statement—with the Spotlight: Architecture category.
CIFF began Spotlight: Architecture in 2015 and is now partnering with the Chicago Architecture Biennial for its inaugural year. In addition to the 6 feature- and short-films at CIFF, there will also be several events taking place around the city to showcase Chicago’s unique and rich architectural history. CIFF programming director Anthony Kaufman shared his excitement about the film “The Experimental City” and filmmaker Chad Freidrichs’ attendance at his screenings. He added, “[Chad] is also doing a free talk before his premiere at the Chicago Cultural Center on ‘Future Cities.’
October 26th, 2017 Posted by Pamela PowellInterviews, News
0 thoughts on “"Or Die Trying" producer Sarah Hawkins talks about women in film: collaboration, not competition”
Award-winning actress Sarah Hawkins is branching out quickly to the executive producer role of a new web series, “Or Die Trying” and creating her own production company, Dadley Productions, with fellow director, also her father, Bradley Hawkins. She’s on fire right now, paving a new path not only for herself, but for other young women in Hollywood and beyond.
“Roller Coaster,” her first film which happens to be a silent one, is filled with more heartfelt emotion in every action than most other dramatic or comedic short films. Based on her own humorous situations as she attempts to “make it” in Hollywood, she auditions and tries to live life on a shoestring. It’s a compelling short film which she and her father created and was the springboard for her next endeavors, “Or Die Trying” and “Filling In.”
Hawkins is shooting for the stars and I had a chance to talk with the talented and ambitious actress/producer recently about being female in this male-dominated world and the making of “Or Die Trying.”
Pamela Powell (PP): You’ve gone from award-winning actress to the lead and executive producer of “Or Die Trying.” Tell me about how you navigated this path.
Sarah Hawkins (SH): I love being on screen, but guiding a project from inception to final product is incredibly fulfilling. I’ve worked for a female-driven production company called Busted Buggy Entertainment, and recently produced a comedy-fantasy proof-of-concept called “Filling In.” It’s exciting to see [ODT] finally out in the world. It was also a fun way to put the acting hat on again as my character “Ellie Hansen.”
PP: Women in the film industry is a hot topic right now, thankfully. How do you see your role in helping to improve where women currently are and what can others do to help?
SH: As women working in the film industry ourselves, we were desperate to change the conversation on this topic as, more often than not, it focuses on depressing statistics and systemic misogyny. We knew our show wasn’t going to fix a patriarchal society like Hollywood; however, by committing to hire a team of at least 85% women, our audience was not only contributing to a female-driven narrative on screen, they were contributing to giving women in the industry a practical leg-up off screen. [And] who better to tell the story of millennial women in film than women in film? We made the decision early on to hire a predominantly female crew.
PP: Women supporting other women…there must be great strength with that!
SH: The simple switch in mentality from being competitive to being collaborative is what makes the women-in-film community so strong. When one woman succeeds in this business, we all do. We received so much support from brands, businesses, and badass women (and men!) who genuinely wanted to move the needle on gender equality. It was overwhelmingly encouraging to witness, and that much more exciting to be a part of.
PP: I’m sure you must have encountered hurdles in completing ODT which was funded through a campaign through Seed & Spark.
SH: Lack of time and money are always obstacles, but I think what is unique about OR DIE TRYING in this capacity is that we shot close to 70 pages within five and a half days, producing the entire series with a budget a little over 13k. It’s definitely not something I’d recommend, but looking back, I think it was a pretty excellent feat that we were able to get it all in.
PP: Do you feel like your show reflects the reality of women in your age group in the film industry?
SH: Absolutely. I have to give props to Myah Hollis, the series creator, writer (and my producing partner). She nails the highs and lows of the industry, and the work/life balance struggle [we] millennials go through exceptionally well. “Success” is an ambiguous term that can mean many different things to many different people. Who you become in the process of balancing your personal and professional lives while trying to achieve “success” AND being a woman on top of that makes for a hotbed of issues [that] I know a lot of our peers grapple with every day.
PP: What have you learned and what are your words of advice after creating this series?
SH: I think the biggest take away was a lesson in faith…the entire process was a little over two years. [And] leave nothing on the table, work fiercely and fervently, and don’t dare [to] give up on the end goal just because things don’t come easy.
Hawkins and her team’s series can be found on YouTube with a season 2 already in development. It certainly looks like Hawkins’ aim was a bulls eye in shooting for those stars.
September 27th, 2017 Posted by pamelaNews
0 thoughts on “Manhattan Short Film Festival arrives at the Wilmette Theater October 6,7, and 8”
Who votes for films in the Oscar nominations? Well, YOU can! As an attendee of the Manhattan Shorts Film Festival on October 6,7, and 8 at the Wilmette Theatre (1122 Central Ave, Wilmette), you not only view the 10 final short film contestants, but vote on the “best actor” and “best film” as well. Theaters around the world will be voting at the same time and the winners go on to participate in the qualifying theatrical run in Los Angeles. That means a possible chance of winning that coveted little gold statue in February.
This one-of-a-kind global film festival which started in 1998, received over 1600 short film entries from 75 countries with only 10 going on to be a part of the festival. The finalists’ countries include Italy, Georgia, Latvia, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, the U.K. and the U.S.A. For a complete list of films go to: http://www.manhattanshort.com/finalists.html
The films will all be shown in a 2-hour time period on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with voting taking place immediately after the final credits roll. While this festival has only been at the Wilmette Theatre for three years, Executive Director Wendy Sharon witnessed the attendance grow significantly last year thanks to Chicago’s very own Mike Pusateri who came to introduce his film “Ella Gets a Promotion?” which won the 2016 MSFF for Best Actress.
Sharon said, “I’m always looking for opportunities to bring people together…and this (the MSFF) is one of the things that just spoke to me.” She continued, “It’s a way to participate in a festival without a major investment in time and energy.” Citing the diversity of films from different countries and genres, Sharon is confident that “there’s something for everyone.”
Sharon felt that her programming mission is to “add value” to her communities film-going experience, particularly when competing with the big blockbuster venues. As she said, “See something different.” An event such as the MSFF also is a way for people to be “…more knowledgable about how they look at film and how they evaluate them.” Seeing them on the big screen adds yet more value in being a part of this cinematic experience.
July 12th, 2017 Posted by pamelaNews, Review, Weekly VOD
0 thoughts on “"Boiling the Frog" Will make you jump to action; a free web series starring Senator Al Franken”
Climate change. Some people haven’t woken up to smell the coffee—that’s grown in Brazil where the rainforest is being depleted at a rate of upwards of 80,000 acres per day (‘Scientific American’). And with today’s United States government leaders not just denying climate change, but taking action to accelerate it, what can we do? It’s a depressing and sometimes emotionally crushing thought, but former-satirist and current Minnesota Senator Al Franken finds a way to reach audiences, educate them, and yes, even find humor in what most of us consider a devastating situation.
Franken has joined forces with Funny Or Die and ‘Years of Living Dangerously’ to give us (are you ready for the title?) Boiling the Frog. Executive Producer David Gelber explained the title: “If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it’ll jump right out. But if you put a frog in a pot of cold water, place it on a stove and slowly start heating it up, it turns out the frog will stay in the pot and let itself get boiled.” He continued, “We’re living in a time where politicians are more like the frog in the heating pot. Despite climate change staring them right in the face, they’re not taking life-saving action.” While I’d rather not observe that whole frog-pot experiment, the short web series is more captivating and entertaining and doesn’t harm a soul. “Boiling the Frog” communicates relevant issues discussed between Franken and David Letterman. Both of these men with their roots in comedy hope to find a way to make the world a better place. And each with young children or grandchildren feel a sense of responsibility to them to make positive changes.
Franken, as Letterman put it, is more of a climate change optimist and given Franken’s position in government and his recognizable face and name, that’s a good thing. As the two sit down for 6 short segments, their dry sense of humor underscores the seriousness of the consequences of taking no action or remaining ignorant. From coal mine jobs and alternative energy technology to the Koch brothers identity and even Rush Limbaugh as topics, the two create an engaging series that just might open your eyes a bit while you chuckle. At least one “take-away message” comes in each episode such as “Call your senator or congressman.” Believe it or not, that really does matter! Each episode is just a few minutes in length so it’s a short time investment that just might give you a high return in insight.
May 25th, 2017 Posted by pamelaNews
0 thoughts on “Helen Mirren, Taylor Hackford Receive Lifetime Achievement Awards from Cinema Chicago”
The name Helen Mirren immediately brings to mind “The Queen” for most people, but she is so much more and Cinema/Chicago recognized this at their Spring Gala last night. Both she and her illustrious husband, Taylor Hackford, were given the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for their respective careers, acting and directing. The annual event raises the necessary funds for the long-running Chicago International Film Festival headed by Michael Kutza. It was a night filled with live and silent auction items, including a guitar signed by each of the Rolling Stones and a trip to the People’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles. The main draw for tickets, however, was the chance to see both Hackford and Mirren in person—a ticket worth every penny.
Bill Kurtis, the iconic face and voice of Chicago, hosted the interview with Hackford and Mirren, allowing us to learn more about the life and experiences of this talented couple. A montage of film footage characterizing their careers as well as heartfelt and comedic personalized video messages from Bryan Cranston, Richard Gere, and Ryan Reynolds, to name just a few, added a special touch to the evening for the stars as well as the audience. Hackford fondly reminisced about his career and its origins, stating that “…it all started here” in Chicago at CIFF.
Hackford shared his insight about directing, recognizing that “…casting is one of the most important things if not the most important thing” in creating a successful film. He reiterated that an actor must “empathize with the character” and that “no one acts alone.” He continued to discuss “An Officer and a Gentlemen” starring Gere and Debra Winger, his love of music and the importance it has not only in augmenting a film, but being the topic itself as he created “Ray,” the biopic drama about Ray Charles.
Mirren, always stunning, seemed humbled by the kind words from her former directors and co-stars. She and her husband both recalled her preparation for various roles, particularly that of Queen Elizabeth, honing in on what makes this actress one-of-a-kind. Her rather soft-spoken and demure nature was unexpected, but this just added to her appeal. As Kutza handed her the Gold Hugo Award, it was obvious that she was truly honored.
The evening concluded with a well-deserved standing ovation while the couple proudly held their awards. For more information about CIFF, Cinema/Chicago, and upcoming events, go to www.chicagofilmfestival.com
March 6th, 2017 Posted by pamelaFilm Festivals, News
0 thoughts on “Patrick Wilson Receives Career Achievement Award at GIFF”
Patrick Wilson, photo credit: GIFF
The 11th Annual Gasparilla International Film Festival taking place through March 9th celebrated the achievements of local Floridian actor Patrick Wilson as he received the Career Achievement Award. Wilson is known for his roles in “Aquaman,” “The Conjuring,” and “Phantom of the Opera.” Winning Tony and Golden Globe Awards and receiving Emmy nominations, the St. Petersburg native is also a community activist, helping raise funds for the area by performing in concerts with his brothers Mark and Paul in their band Van Wilson .
Wilson seems to have figured out how to balance fame and fortune yet still remain grounded and connected to family and his roots. Attending the ceremony with Wilson were his parents and siblings as well as his wife Dagmara and his children Kassian and Kalin. It’s refreshing to see a success story who gives back.
February 26th, 2017 Posted by pamelaNews
0 thoughts on “Budgets vs. Oscar Predictions”
Can a film’s budget predict the winner of Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards? Let’s take a look at that along with the other awards to see if we can accurately predict who will take home the Best Picture Oscar tonight!
9 films have been nominated, ranging from futuristic alien invasions to real life history coming out from hiding and everything in between, but there will only be one winner. This year, the budget to complete these films are as varied as the films’ topics; $5M to $47M. “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea” were both completed for around the $5 million mark, bringing in approximately $21M and $46M, respectively. The bigger budgeted films, “Arrival” and “Hacksaw Ridge” required $47M and $40M, respectively and pulled in $100M and $66M, respectively. The winner with the greatest bang for their investment buck so far, however are the Hollywood darlings, “La La Land” ($30M to produce and grossing $343M) and “Hidden Figures” ($25M to produce and grossing $148M). That leaves “Fences,” “Lion,” and “Hell or High Water” smack dab in the middle of production and income. Looking at the profit margin, it looks like “La La Land” is the front runner.
But it’s not just box office receipts and cost of production of the film that weighs into this. This is a serious game of cat and mouse— the winner has boasting rights of saying their company produced and/or distributed an Academy Award winner. The cost is much higher than you might realize. Oscar campaigns, according to E! Online can cost as much as $25M with an average cost of $10M for the coveted little bald man. This is a costly game comprised of special dinner and cocktail parties, press junkets and sending every Academy voter and anyone with a voice to create buzz, a DVD. “Crash” spent over $250k just in DVD mailers a few years ago! The question is now, which film had the money to back this type of buzz? Distribution companies are very tight-lipped when it comes to revealing how much they have spent in marketing and publicity just for Oscar, but the deep pockets appear to be Lionsgate with “La La Land” and Amazon with “Manchester by the Sea.”
Winning awards from the big organizations such as the BAFTA, Golden Globes, and SAG also help create buzz. Where does each film fall in this category? So far, the big budget films haven’t even gotten on the scoreboard: “Arrival,” and “Hacksaw Ridge” = 0. “Hell or High Water” couldn’t make the cut either with these three awards events. “Hidden Figures” sneaks in with 1 win (SAG) and both “Lion” (BAFTA) and “Moonlight” (Golden Globe, SAG) have a score of 2. “Manchester by the Sea” has 3 (Golden Globe, BAFTA) and “Fences” has 4 (SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globe). The clear winner with this is “La La Land” with 12, winning 1 SAG Award, 5 BAFTA Awards, and 6 Golden Globes.
When you put it all together, all three prediction techniques point to “La La Land” as being the clear winner. While there have been 683 new members to the voting membership of the Academy (46% female, 41% non-white), it’s still quite clearly lead by older, white males. “Moonlight,” given its topic matter may not have even made it to the Oscar consideration table prior to this change, but given the statistics, it is certainly an underdog. Time will soon tell as the Academy Awards ceremony is just a couple of hours away!
February 5th, 2017 Posted by pamelaInterviews, News
0 thoughts on “Allen Maldonado reveals new short film app Everybody Digital”
Allen Maldonado (BLACK-ISH, SURVIVOR’S REMORSE) is not only a talented actor and writer, he is also a cutting-edge entrepreneur. Maldonado has created a new app called Everybody Digital which breathes new life into all those wonderful short films only a few of us get the opportunity to view at film festivals. The app will launch in March 2017 modeling itself after the Netflix subscription concept. Viewers will have access to amazing short films as well as original content for a price of $2.99/month. Filmmakers will also have the opportunity to submit their films to EverybodyDigital.com for consideration. It’s a win-win situation for filmmakers and viewers!
Maldonado sat down with me during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival to talk about his new app and what motivated him to develop it. LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE
The often-times overlooked film festival, Slamdance, which takes place in that same quaint ski town of Park City, Utah at the same time as Sundance, is about to begin. While the festival may be much smaller than Sundance, the significance of the films are just as great. Last year, the breakout film HONEY BUDDIES aka BUDDYMOON premiered along with THE TAIL JOB, MAD, and many more. This year, the list looks just as promising and I’m excited to share a few of my recommendations:
In an era where we seem to have to question everything in our environment, “What Lies Upstream” goes against the governmental current to dive into the contamination of our water sources. What are you really drinking? Writer/director Cullen Hoback tackles one of the largest chemical drinking water contaminations to give us information and knowledge about a situation that may not be isolated.
“Beat Beat Heart” takes us on a journey of love, love lost, and the ever-challenging mother-daughter relationship. This film promises to make us laugh and sigh in empathy because we’ve all had a broken heart.
“Suck It Up” finds two former best friends having gone their very separate ways, uniting as they deal with loss. It’s a road trip story of friendship, secrets, and confessions with a few laughs promised as well.
“Dave Made a Maze” brings us on a fantastical journey of what could happen by building a living room fort and then getting trapped inside! It’ll be up to Dave’s girlfriend to rescue him from this magical place full of booby traps and strange creatures.
“Dim the Fluorescents” creates a darkly comic situation as a struggling actress and a playwright must make ends meet, but aren’t willing to give up their craft. The compromise? Get paid to create role-playing demonstrations for corporations.
“Kate Can’t Swim” brings us back to the innocence of young love and the delicate balance of friendships. This promises to be a refreshing look at growing up and the emotional complications associated with it.
“Automatic At Sea” blurs the lines of reality while a young traveler is stranded on an island. Is she even there? “Automatic At Sea” looks like a mind-boggling thriller that will have you glued to every scene.
“Weather House,” set in the future where climate change has made its mark, catapulting housebound residents into bizarre belief systems and actions. It’s sure to be a sometimes funny and ironic film, but may plant a few seeds of fear for our actual future.
“Neighborhood Food Drive” set with Chicago as its backdrop, follows a group of well-meaning misfits as they attempt to better their community. Their misguided intentions may bring some rather unsettling or unexpected results full of humor and drama.
And finally, “Wexford Plaza” focuses upon a lonely strip mall security guard, Betty, and her chance encounter with “deadbeat Danny.” Awkwardly hilarious yet realistic situations promise to unfold as we get to know these two characters.
One of the charming aspects of the Slamdance Film Festival is the fact that a coordinating short film is shown before the feature film, getting you ready for what’s to come. If short films are more your style, they also offer blocks of short films with specific headings such as “Experimental Shorts” and “Documentary Shorts.”
December 19th, 2016 Posted by pamelaNews, Review, Weekly VOD
0 thoughts on “"The Secret Life of Muslims" Promises (and delivers) entertainment, humor, and empathy By Pamela Powell”
Muslim Girl founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh.
In the aftermath of one of the racially divided and prejudicial presidential races in U.S. history, the fear of even greater harm and prejudice toward Muslims is also unprecedented. To counteract this “Islamophobia,” Joshua Seftel brings us “The Secret Life of Muslims.” This new “digital series that uses humor and empathy to confront Islamophobia” actually does much more than that. It educates and entertains while it awakens you to see how truly silly prejudices are. Yes, this is about the Muslim religion (it is a religion, people), but the concept can be applied to any religion and any group of people to whom there are negative stereotypes. “The Secret Life of Muslims” is a brilliant concept that, in under 5 minutes, could change your perspective and views. I told you it was brilliant!
Each week through February, 2017, this series will launch a new episode available on a variety of on-line digital platforms. This innovative distribution model allows viewers to see or listen to these short stories on Vox, The USA TODAY Network, CBS Sunday Morning, and PRI’s THE WORLD. Seftel interviews a wide range of people living in the United States who are Muslim. From comedian Ahmed Ahmed who will have you laughing out loud (Watch his episode here) to female journalist Dena Takruri who will bring to you a keener insight to the difficulties in reporting the news (Watch her episode here), and many other notable public figures such as NYPD Muslim Chaplain Khalid Latif (Watch his episode here) and actor Iqbal Theba, these Muslims who look, talk, and act just like everyone else, tell you their story. Watch, listen, (laugh) and learn.
Seftel explains that, “After such a divisive election, we need to come together to start telling stories that add truth and nuance to what was stoked on the campaign trail.” Seftel knows about prejudice as he recalls facing “… anti-Semitism growing up Jewish in Upstate New York and that stayed with me.” With the anti-Muslim discrimination that is occurring here in the U.S., it is his hope is to create an understanding about the religion and the people. He adds, “…so if we can help create understanding in some small way, that would be a great step.”
With 1.7 billion Muslims in the world, 3.3 million of them living in the United States, this series will definitely create understanding as well as correct misconceptions surrounding the Muslim religion. Thanks to Seftel and the key support from the Ford Foundation/Just Films, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, The New York Community Trust, Pillars Fund, and many more, this uniquely informative and creative concept is free to everyone to see. Here’s the link to view all of the episodes: www.secretlifeofmuslims.com
October 10th, 2016 Posted by pamelaFilm Festivals, News
0 thoughts on “Reelworld Film Festival in Toronto October 12-16 by Pamela Powell”
Toronto is known for TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), but it also hosts one of the most socially important film festivals in North America. Reelworld Film Festival focuses on “harnessing the power of film as a force for social good.” Now in its 16th year, the festival takes place at the Harbourfront Centre from Wednesday, October 12 through Sunday, October 16 showcasing full-length feature films, visual reality (VR) presentations and interaction, and gaming options. It is the first year to solely address social issues and will continue to do so in future years. And this festival promises to be no ordinary one. Each film will be followed by the opportunity to sit down with leaders and various organizations to discuss and implement the next step for a positive change. Watching, learning, and making a direct difference puts this festival into a category all its own.
I spoke with Gave Lindo, Executive Director of the Reelworld Film Festival, to discuss the festival’s programming, goals, and opportunities. Although Lindo’s background is not in filmmaking,he has always “…been interested in storytelling and using media to do that regardless of the format…” He felt that social change happens by using a variety of media or being “medium agnostic.” The festival’s use of VR and gaming delivers information or stories to the viewer in yet another unique format. The festival even has a game to help young ones learn about the importance of our natural resources called “Save the Park.”
As the panel discussions and meetings following the screenings set this festival apart from all the rest, Lindo explained that this is a “…launching pad for filmmakers and films to actually create impact and change in communities.” Each film has a representative organization “…for deeper engagement.” For example, “Almost Sunrise,” a Chicago based film, addresses PTSD. The Wounded Warriors will then discuss with viewers how they can continue to make a difference and help veterans. “Naledi: A Baby Elephant’s Tale” tells the story of the connection between this majestic animal and her caretakers. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will be on hand afterward to sit down and brainstorm with the viewers what they can do together to help stop poaching. It’s an amazing opportunity to not only see a film, but to be changed and motivated by it.
Lindo has seen a dramatic increase in the number of films available which address social issues. “In a way,” he said, “it’s a scary thing. The more troubled the world seems to be, the more filmmakers are responding to what’s happening.” Several film submissions for the Syrian refugee crisis and police brutality as well as civil rights have been noted. Those films chosen for this festival will “…create community engagement…and inspire action among those in the audience.”
Whether your passion or interest is in the environment, women’s issues, politics, or aging, to name a few, this festival will spark a drive in you to make a difference in this world. From full-length feature films, documentaries, games, and visual reality experiences, Reelworld Film Festival has it all. Watching together and learning together leads to making a difference together. Film is the catalyst for change. Be a part of that change.
September 30th, 2016 Posted by pamelaInterviews, News
0 thoughts on “Life After "Beast" An interview with Robby Benson by Pamela Powell”
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall, and Robby Benson, the voice behind the Beast, was in Chicago to help celebrate this mile marker for the beloved children’s classic.
Throughout his remarkably varied career, Benson found notoriety not only in acting in films, but directing hit television shows such as “Friends” and writing two best-selling novels.
What has this actor and once teen heartthrob been doing since his iconic roles in films like “One On One,” “Ice Castles” and the beloved role as the Beast?
As I listened to that signature Benson voice, soft-spoken yet rich and melodic, he told me his career centers around his love of his family — a truly refreshing perspective from a successful Hollywood star.