22 April, 2014

Atlanta Review: "The Unwanted" (**1/2)

Hannah Fierman and Christen Orr star in "The Unwanted"

"The Unwanted"—written and directed by Bret Wood—is based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s graphic novella. The story follows Carmilla, a young woman who travels to a small town in an effort to uncover the mystery behind her mother’s disappearance. Carmilla meets, and soon falls in love with, a troubled local girl who lives with her over-protective father. While he holds the answers to Carmilla’s questions, he also hides some terrifying truths about her mother.

Atlanta Review: "Joe" (****)

Tye Sheridan and Nicolas Cage star in "Joe"

Few directors are able to jump from genre to genre as successfully as David Gordon Green. With one of the most unique directing resumes ranging from stoner comedies all the way to quiet passion projects, Green has continued to challenge himself as a filmmaker. His latest is “Joe”, which stars an almost unrecognizable Nicolas Cage and semi-newcomer Tye Sheridan. Joe, played by Cage, is a well meaning but hot-tempered ex con whose life of impulsivity and bad choices have turned him into a hardened and lonely man. Between the alcohol, prostitutes and never-ending stream of cigarettes, Joe seems to have little drive or purpose. That is until he meets young Gary (Sheridan).

25 March, 2014

Georgia filmmakers stray from home in Atlanta Film Festival documentaries: "Limo Ride" (***½), "Mayan Blue" (****)

Georgia filmmakers travel near and far for these ATLFF selected documentaries;
"Mayan Blue" (top) filmed in Guatemala, "Limo Ride" (bottom) filmed in Alabama.

As is usually the case with the Atlanta Film Festival, Georgia independent film is featured with an especially high visibility. This year, there are two documentary features, two narrative features and a host of short films from Georgia filmmakers. To go beyond that, several films are 'Georgia connected,' meaning they come from a filmmaker that grew up in Georgia, have a producer from here or some other connection that makes them slightly less of a Georgia production—but still something we can claim as our own.

This year's two local documentary features—"Limo Ride" and "Mayan Blue"—are anything but 'local.' "Limo Ride" comes from Atlanta filmmakers and ATLFF alumni Gideon C. Kennedy and Marcus Rosentrater (also a Senior Animator on the excellent Georgia-made television show "Archer"), but was set and shot in Alabama. The film tells the tale of a group of friends who rented a limo to take them to-and-from a crazy New Years Day party and wound up with a little more adventure than they bargained for. "Mayan Blue" was directed by Atlanta-born, Athens-based director Rafael Garcia from Standoff Studios, but showcases Guatemala's beautiful Lake Atitlán. The film explores the recent discovery of the underwater Mayan city of Samabaj and the implications of the city's destruction on Mayan society.

22 March, 2014

Macon Review: "Muscle Shoals" (****)

Keith Richards is featured in "Muscle Shoals"

Recent scientific research has shown that it is impossible to keep still during the first ten minutes of "Muscle Shoals." Moments after Bono's opening lines echo across the stunning colors and textures of northwestern Alabama's verdant riverbanks, Wilson Pickett's "Land of 1,000 Dances" kicks in and you can't help but shake loose. It is immediately clear just how much soul this film possesses, having gleaned character and zeal from its many revered subjects.
"Deep down in your stomach, coming out of your gut. That's that Muscle Shoals sound." —Candi Staton
Having first seen "Muscle Shoals" at the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham last summer—appropriately showcased at the Alabama Theatre—I was excited to hear that the film was also the opening night selection for the 2014 Macon Film Festival. Macon—although much larger of a city and with a less musically synonymous name than Muscle Shoals—has a rich and diverse musical history, even claiming home to Georgia's Music Hall of Fame. I knew the crowd in Macon would love "Muscle Shoals," and I was right. In the Q&A following the film, I can't tell you how many times an audience member (or one of the moderators) tried to cajole director Freddy Camalier into making a follow-up film about Macon. I guess it could work—he already has Gregg Allman's contact information.

17 March, 2014

Complete lineup of the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival


Less than two weeks away, the 38th edition of the Atlanta Film Festival is surely the most exciting yet. The lineup is striking—composed of previous festival hits and world premieres, international narratives and documentaries on a myriad of subjects. Cannes, Sundance, SXSW and Toronto all send their greatest hits of the past few months, but plenty of new local fare and standout docs from the Savannah Film Festival and Macon Film Festival ("Mayan Blue" [Savannah], "Brothers Hypnotic" [Savannah & Macon], "A Fragile Trust" [Macon]) dot the lineup as well.

Local feature titles include narratives "A is for Alex" and "The Unwanted" as well as documentaries "Limo Ride" and "Mayan Blue." Georgia-connected filmmakers share films like "Beside Still Waters" and "Bayou Maharajah" and a host of Georgia set, shot and connected short films feature in several different blocks.

The Atlanta Film Festival has worked very hard in recent years to clarify its voice and put on an organized, polished presentation. It has continued to grow and mature, leading up its 40th birthday in 2016, a feat that few festivals can boast—many likely never reaching that far.

You can bet that Reel Georgia will feature plenty of coverage of this very promising edition of the Grande Dame of Georgia's festival circuit. Look forward to a massive 'What to see,' Georgia film spotlights, red carpet interviews and reviews in the coming weeks. For now, check out the complete lineup!

OPENING NIGHT PRESENTATION

Joe
directed by David Gordon Green USA, 2014, English, 114 minutes
A gripping mix of friendship, violence and redemption erupts in the contemporary South in "Joe," directed by David Gordon Green. "Joe" brings Academy Award® winner Nicolas Cage back to his indie roots in the title role as the hard-living, hot-tempered, ex-con Joe Ransom, who is just trying to dodge his instincts for trouble—until he meets a hard-luck kid played by Tye Sheridan (“Mud,” “The Tree of Life”), who awakens in him a fierce and tender-hearted protector. With a screenplay by Gary Hawkins, “Joe” is based on the novel by the late Larry Brown (“Big Bad Love,” “Facing the Moon”), the former Mississippi firefighter renowned for his powerful, gothic storytelling and universal themes of honor, desperation and moral rectitude.

CLOSING NIGHT PRESENTATION

The Double
directed by Richard Ayoade UK, 2013, English, 93 minutes
Simon James is a ghost. Friends, family, and coworkers meet his every action with complete indifference. He grimly goes through the motions, hoping for recognition that never comes. All of this changes when James Simon arrives. Physically, James and Simon are dead ringers. Yet in temperament, James is everything Simon is not: personable, spontaneous, assertive and desirable. When James begins to take over Simon’s life, he is forced to act. Jesse Eisenberg’s fantastic double performance is bolstered by a cast of seasoned character actors who bring Simon James’s gloomy retro world to life. Directed with a deftly comic hand and assured visual technique by Richard Ayoade, "The Double" is a stylish black comedy with acerbic wit to spare.

Homespun: A Q&A with Brantly Watts

"Homespun is a series of short character films profiling unique individuals around the metro Atlanta area. Partnered by the Atlanta Film Festival, the series allows local filmmakers to collaborate with metro-area musicians, artists and other local talent while featuring the local characters and neighborhoods that give Atlanta its distinctive culture. Through these individual character studies, Atlanta will be revealed as the Homespun phenomenon it has become."


This is how Homespun, Brantly Watts' brainchild, defines itself. Brantly and her husband, Jon Watts, co-founded Half Pint Productions to provide a platform on which they further their storytelling and love of Atlanta. We asked Brantly a few questions about the Homespun series to get a better idea about its purpose and their dreams for its growth.


–How has the response been to the first Homespun series?
Many locals we've spoken to about the series seem to feel that a project like Homespun is desperately needed in the Atlanta community.  However, we were surprised by the overwhelming amount of positive feedback the first screening received, particularly regarding our subjects.  We wanted the first screening to capture a variety of people that make the city unique.  The responses we have received so far lead me to believe we were successful in our mission.  A few attendees were moved to tears by Takashi Doscher's "Time." As a filmmaker, you can't ask for more from an audience.

16 March, 2014

2014 Georgia Independent Film Survey Results

Editor's Note: Credit for this exceptional piece must go to our partner Charles Judson at CinemATL. If anyone has their finger on the pulse of Georgia's independent film scene, it's this guy. We look forward to continuing and further developing our partnership with CinemATL in the future. -CM

The results of CinemATL and Reel Georgia's first survey of the Georgia Film Scene are in. All submitted survey responses can be found at the end of this post.

We asked 9 questions:
  • How do you define an Independent Film?
  • What are the benefits when a film is identified being an indie/independent?
  • What are the negatives when a film is identified as being an indie/independent film?
  • How seriously--how much respect--does the community/industry at large treat the indie films on your resume?
  • How confident are you about the future of Georgia's Independent Film Scene?
  • Of the independent films you've worked on in Georgia, how you would rate your experience?
  • How aware is the rest of the country of Atlanta and Georgia's Independent Film Scene?
  • If you had to grade Georgia's presence at the major festivals in the United States (Sundance, SXSW, etc.), what would you give it?
  • How would you grade Georgia's Independent Film Scene?

There will be those who will agree with the picture the answers create of independent film in Georgia. With Georgia's film boom well into it's 6th year, some will vehemently disagree. Whatever side you may fall on, this should be a catalyst to discussion. We'll be following up with a more detailed reactions from our own contributors and from the community in a week or so.

A few things to note as we dive in.

There are 48 total responses. We posted, tweeted and emailed as often as we could to get the word out.

Our biggest push were two boosted Facebook posts we created. Through keywords and audience, we aimed those posts specifically at the film community, targeting Atlanta up to a radius of 50 miles. That's 7,800 square miles that stretches just shy of Athens.

Why target Atlanta and not the entire state? Research shows the concentration of online activity by the film community is in this area. Going further out would just dilute our reach. 

As a result, our first boosted post reached 11,288 potential respondents. The second reached 5,360. Including email and our additional social media channels, we hit about 30,000 people total (how much overlap we don't know). 

We're including this information to highlight that we wanted to give as many as possible a chance to answer. 

14 March, 2014

Vote for "The House at the Edge of the Galaxy" in the Krakow Film Festival trailer competition!


Last year, Gleb Osatinski's "The House at the Edge of the Galaxy" was one of my favorite films at the Atlanta Film Festival. As he continues his festival run (next month, he'll be in Sarasota), he is also expanding his horizons. The prestigious Krakow Film Festival is currently running a trailer contest. Out of the myriad entries, the film that receives the most votes will go on to be featured in the festival! It only takes two clicks!


Let's reward this talented and hardworking Atlanta Film Festival alumnus!

11 March, 2014

Macon Review bundle: "Desires of the Heart" (**½), "Brothers Hypnotic" (****), "A Fragile Trust" (****½)

Val Lauren and Alicia Minshew star in "Desires of the Heart"

"Desires of the Heart"

Shot on location in Savannah and India, this is director James Kicklighter’s first feature length narrative. The story follows Kris Sharma (Val Lauren) as he navigates his identity in family and in love. His encounter with Madeline (Alicia Minshew) challenges what he thought he knew about himself and, ultimately, destiny. The screenplay, which Kicklighter describes as having been 'rewritten every day,' seems like it was; I’d like to think the performances would have been better should the actors been provided a less pliable script. While the photography only ever aids very genuine emotion, the sound editing and film length leave me excited—generously stated—to partake in Kicklighter’s next, new and improved venture.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Reviews for "Brothers Hypnotic" and "A Fragile Trust" after the jump.

Macon Review: Bittersweet (****½)

Diana Prazak and Lucia Rijker star in "Bittersweet"

Motivated by pure ambition and fueled by a fierce desire to win, Diana Prazak accepts the invitation from the world’s reigning number one WBC World Champion Boxer, Frida Wallberg, to face off for the title. “Bittersweet” follows Diana’s grueling journey and her intense uphill battle in the attempt to claim the ultimate prize.

Diana Prazak, a proud Australian now living in Los Angeles, is tough. Never taking her eye off the prize, she fights daily to maintain both her physical and mental health. Her trainer, six-time world champion Lucia Rijker, is clearly one of the best in the business. At first glance, she’s intimidating, but her focus and knowledge of the sport is completely mesmerizing. Her caring nature and the gentleness she has towards Diana kept me transfixed.