Film FestivalFilm Festival Reviews: NFF 01

Reviews are listed alphabetically.
St Louis International Film Festival: New Filmmakers Forum 2001


Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page last update 22.Nov.01

back to the top ACTS OF WORSHIP
dir-scr Rosemary Rodriguez
with Ana Reeder, Michael Hyatt, Nestor Rodriguez, Christopher Kadish, Brian Burchill, Kelly Cole, Robert Gualtieri, Eddie Sullivan, Caesar Leonardo, Simon Gonzalez, Heather Robbins, Arthur French
Emerging Filmmaker Award: St Louis Film Fest Nov.01 01/US 1h34 4 out of 5 stars
Hyatt on the streetREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
Combining both a deeply personal story with a serious amount of filmmaking skill, writer-director Rodriguez's debut feature is a real stunner. Alix (Reeder) is an addict on the streets of New York, a young woman who admits she's not ready to get her life together. She supports herself with an inventive string of scams, relentlessly searching for that next hit ... and not much else. But there are issues--an ex-boyfriend (Kadish) and fellow addict who wants her back, a local photographer (Hyatt) who wants to help her, and her parents, to whom she has yet to admit the truth. The film snaps us straight into Alix's story with gritty energy and honesty. Rodriguez puts us on the street with characters who are both believably desperate and deeply likeable! And perhaps most remarkably, the harrowing honesty about addiction never alienates us ... and never preaches. Everything is first-rate: Rodriguez's script is astute and witty, her direction is assured and illuminating, and her cast is breathtakingly believable (Reeder delivers an astonishing, Oscar-calibre performance). This film deserves a wide distribution--or at least the same push as Darren Aronofsky's far more mannered and pushy Requiem for a Dream. Yes, it's that good. [adult themes and situations, language, drugs] 17.Nov.01 sliff
back to the top BUNNY
dir-scr Mia Trachinger
with Petra Tikalova, Edward Dratver, Elizabeth Liebel, Eugene Alper, Brian Morri, Virginia Baet, Maggie Rowe, Alex Koenig, Art Tirakian, Christopher Fairbanks, Jean Iavelli, Joseph Demonico
St Louis Film Fest Nov.01 00/US 1h28 4 out of 5 stars
Dratver peers from his suitREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
Dark and earthy yet personal and deeply moving, Trachinger's debut feature is a gorgeous allegory about adapting to a new life. Luda and Nik (Tikalova and Dratver) are refugees from war-torn Eastern Europe who arrive in L.A. with a place to live--with Luda's Aunt Elsie (Liebel)--but without any job prospects. Finally they give in to their need and take work wearing pink bunny costumes, hopping on street corners. But Luda is finding it easier to adapt to this new life than Nik is. As cracks develop in their relationship, the film takes on a tone that's both comic and melancholy (think Being John Malkovich) ... and transcendent. The offbeat story is profoundly fable-like in the way it examines both this intimate relationship and the larger issue of cultural assimilation. There's a real tenderness to every scene, but it never gets remotely sentimental, even as the emotional power surges unflinchingly at the end. The quiet quirkiness draws us in (and keeps us laughing gently), while Trachinger uses sheer artistry and her solid cast to keep us intimately involved. Sadly, it's not easy to find films like this, even in arthouse cinemas--there's no "name" in the cast, no simplistic path through the narrative. All the more reason to seek out gems like this at festivals! [adult themes and situations, language] 17.Nov.01 sliff
back to the top THE DOE BOY
dir-scr Randy Redroad
with James Duval, Kevin Anderson, Andrew J Ferchland, Gordon Tootoosis, Jeri Arredondo, Jade Herrera, Jim Metzler, Robert C Anthony, Nathaniel Arcand, Gil Birmingham, Kody Dayish, Alex Rice
St Louis Film Fest Nov.01 01/US 1h25 4 out of 5 stars
Tootoosis and DuvalREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
First-time filmmaker Redroad shows astounding skill in this semi-autobiographical story unlike any Native American film we've ever seen. Hunter (Ferchland as a boy, Duval as a teen) is caught between cultures in rural Oklahoma; his mother (Arredondo) is an Indian, his father (Anderson) isn't. While his haemophilia sets him apart from his friends even further--and reminds him of his half-blood status. Finally as an 18-year-old he finds the courage to explore his Indian roots by way of his grandfather (Tootoosis) and a young woman (Herrera) who catches his eye. But how will he ever reach out to his father? Redroad's script adeptly peels back the layers of the story, revealing difficult truths and tracking the characters through very hard situations without ever losing a sense of humour. There is real life in every scene--and there are frequent moments of filmmaking genius where the writing, directing, editing and very fine performances all come together in such a powerful way that they take our breath away. And the cinematography is just gorgeous! Important themes are addressed in a revealing way that never resorts to cliches or cheap plot points; it all flows beautifully, drawing us into its almost mystical atmosphere and actually letting us see ourselves in the characters and their reactions to the world around them. [themes, language, violence] 17.Nov.01 sliff
back to the top THE POOR & HUNGRY
dir-scr Craig Brewer
with Eric Tate, Lindsey Roberts, Lake Latimer, John Still, Wanda Wilson, Keenon Nikita, TC Sharpe, Dennis Phillippi, Jay Munn
St Louis Film Fest Nov.01 01/US 1h58 4 out of 5 stars
Filming in black and white with home video cameras, Brewer's debut feature is an absolute knockout--stunningly well written and directed and featuring powerfully moving performances. Set in Memphis, the story revolves around Eli (Tate), a car thief who suddenly realises the impact of his actions when he sees a beautiful young cellist (Latimer) mourning the loss of her car. Hanging out with his sidekick, the relentless scammer Harper (Roberts), in the cafe that gives the film its title, Eli finds himself on a personal odyssey, discovering a new way of looking at his world. A fresh air of authenticity blows through this entire film, bringing the characters and situations to life with profound resonance. We are genuinely interested in these people, and everything about the film draws us into their world. The cast is terrific, with Roberts especially unforgettable--and reminiscent of a young Holly Hunter. And Brewer brilliantly weaves in classical music in an unexpected and poetic way, while blending serious drama and violence with romance and earthy humour. There are some problems with the plot later on, but a few inexplicable turns in the story can't undermine Brewer's confident filmmaking skills. Keep an eye out for whatever he does next! [adult themes, language, drugs] 16.Nov.01 sliff
back to the top ROADS AND BRIDGES
dir-scr Abraham Lim
with Gregory Sullivan, Abraham Lim, Soon-Tek Oh, Jim Akman, Matt Malloy, Emmet Brennan, Joe Michaelski
St Louis Film Fest Nov.01 01/US 2h03 3 out of 5 stars
Using an unusual setting, writer-director-actor Lim examines racial issues in Middle America from a sharply original perspective. The story is set in Kansas, where a road crew is replacing signs along the rural highways. But there are two members of the team who are treated like outsiders: Daryl is a hard-working black guy (Sullivan) who's been on the job for years, while Johnson is a mute Chinese man (Lim) who has a mysterious past. Both are Kansas natives, so they feel betrayed by their own people as they are alternatively ignored and picked on. Soon they develop an unexpected friendship that helps them regain just a bit of their self respect. Filmed with a strong visual sense, the story moves powerfully and realistically as these two central characters refuse to dislodge the chips on their shoulders. Performances are involving, even if the filmmaking style gets a bit obvious, using too much cinematic shorthand to make sure we get it all--including lots of unsubtle Americana. But Lim has such a sure grip on his story that we never lose interest in either the people or the issues they struggle with. The themes and events in the story are important ones, and they come across loud and clear ... as does Lim's skill as a filmmaker to watch. [themes, language, violence] 17.Nov.01 sliff
send your review to Shadows...
back to the top

2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall