Category Archives: Entertainment Industry Coverage

Fest Track Film Preview: BUSHWICK BEATS

It is time to celebrate the independent spirit of courageous filmmakers. One of these new voices is within “Bushwick Beats”, a film set in the heart of Brooklyn’s hot Bushwick neighborhood. The film is a brilliant construct by six promising young directors: Anu Valia, A. Sayeeda Moreno, Chloe Sarbib, Brian Shoaf, Sonejuhi Sinha and James Sweeney. The theme of unconditional love is in the heart of each segment which is moved in tandem by the journey of our heroes, whether through a single mother with ALS, a vampire or two lovers stuck in separate timelines. To carry these bittersweet and often humorous rides the directors have enlisted a charismatic cast of established actors such as Britt Baron (“Glow”), Henny Russell (“Orange is the New Black”), Britne Oldfor (“American Horror Story”), Mugga (“Billions”) , Nadia Dajani (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Keenan Jolliff (“Monsters And Men”) and Hazelle Goodman (“Hannibal”). Overall there is a common thread that surfaces within the experience of this film, a thread binding all humanities into one. It tracks the eternal struggle of inner accomplishment as well as finding a place in a complex existence. With a maverick sensibility, these filmmakers with their first full-length feature create a style as an opened arabesque, a fine sommersault of grace and precision coming to a festival soon.

By Emmanuel Itier

IR Print Quick Take: Laugh & Peace – The 2019 Okinawa Film Festival [Okinawa, Japan]

For most tourists in the World, Okinawa is this iconic Japanese Island some 400 miles from the mainland of Japan and where it’s always a “feel good” feeling to escape, rejuvenate in this paradise similar to Hawaii. For others it’s also the gruesome reminder of the ugly battle of Okinawa during World War II that caused so many lives from both sides and left a bitter taste in the mind and spirit. Therefore, for all these reasons, it’s not a surprise that the legendary Yoshimoto Kogyo entertainment conglomerate chose to give birth 11 years ago to the “Laugh and Peace” Okinawa International Movie Festival.

During this 4 day event, we, as participants, were lucky to encounter the rising Stars of Japan such as beautiful Actresses Honoka Matsumoto, Ayame Misaki and inspired Director Yûichi Hibi who showed his long awaited film “Erica 28” with the legendary late Krin Kiki. Plus we also met the talented Wutt Hmone Shwe Yi from Myanmar. We will have a focused story with interviews from these new exciting stars in our next coverage of the Okinawa International Movie Festival. It truly was amazing to encounter such talents and be able to report to the West that they all are ready for their big break in Hollywood! Kanpai!

On top of discovering new talent, new films, new savors and colors from this mesmerizing Okinawa, this was also the opportunity to learn about the new educational endeavor launched by Yoshimoto Kogyio and under the direction of chairman Hiroshi Osaki entitled “Laugh & Peace_Mother”, which a new platform powered by the NTT Group. Overall, one can only be impressed by this perfectly executed event full of surprises and tasteful programming.

And as a testament of the good taste from the locals attending the festival, this year’s Audience Award went to the very funny and charming Japanese film: ‘Handling Method for Grumpy Woman’. Director Shusuke Arita, who accepted his trophy, for sure had a smile of peace, laugh and love. Coming next year, the 12th Annual Okinawa International Movie Festival with welcome with peace and laughter.

By Emmanuel Itier

Fest Track On Sirk TV Film Review: SANTA BARBARA INTL FILM FESTIVAL [Santa Barbara, California]

The texture of Santa Barbara in terms of its film festival has transitioned over the years. The essence of genre and the programming has transitioned over the years but keying into the awards season fervor always remains the same but finding the right balance of films for the viewer’s taste is key.

Betrayal (Traición) This story of a woman searching for the texture of who her mother is begins very simply and allegorically before it becomes a metaphor for the essence of being. While the set up is structured more in an idea of action-based life vs. death, its eventual thrust unfolds too slowly. While the progression of what creates her life (out of a whorehouse tryst) almost carries a beholden wistfulness to it despite the surroundings, the inherent solution reveres itself in an idealism of the passing of the baton (maybe with an ode to “Queen Of The South”). However the resolution leaves the intentions and ultimately the struggle of power resolutely inert.

Outstanding Performer Of The Year: Rami Malek No performance has garnered as much respectability or indeed as much fervor as Malek’s turn as the legendary Queen frontman this year. Malek’s journey as indicated in his conversation on stage in nearly as frought in overcoming obstacles as Mercury himself. Though he was born and raised in Sherman Oaks, California, Malek himself is Egyptian, not far from Mercury’s Zanzibar in Tanzania. But it is taking that background and fighting against stereotypes that allowed Mercury to transcend in London and Malek thereby in Hollywood. The turning point, according to his conversation, seemingly happened with HBO’s “The Pacific” where at one point, Steven Spielberg was taping his scene audition across from Joseph Mazzello (who beyond playing John Deacon in “Bohemian Rhapsody” also played the grandson of John Hammond in the first “Jurassic Park”). That series led to other roles including “The Master” (which this reviewer totally forgot he was in). He pushed Paul Thomas Anderson in the audition with Joaquin [Phoenix] there saying “I want this”. His remembrance that there was an essence of acceptance from Phoenix he says spurred him on. “Mr. Robot” of course broke him through into the zeitgeist but it was because he says of show runner Sam Esmail’s prescience on the texture of the hacker. “Bohemian Rhapsody” came to him through that perception. He signed on with producer Graham King as soon as he was asked but then realized he had to deliver. He went to London and connected with a very specific movement coach. The one aspect not addressed was the aspect of Malek singing as Freddie which is one of the big questions since no one could really be able to do that. His texture of the man is undeniable although some story elements have been, to many, skewed a little bit to make the story more palpable for mainstream audiences. This seems to have worked as the film has performed admirably despite “the elephant in the room” as the moderator indicated which Malek finally addressed after being asked directly despite the apparent uncomfortability of the subject for him. This point was in regards to the aspect of ousted director Bryan Singer who has come under fire even more so in recent days for sexual harassment allegations despite the fact that it is his name still on the film and not Dexter Fletcher who completed the final two weeks of shooting. Malek finally did address this subject saying that working with Singer was “not pleasant…at all” and that Singer “was fired”.

Fly By Night This film, also part of the Crime Scenes sidebar (of which “Betrayal” is also part), focuses on small time crime on the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur. The tonal shifts in the scenes are both interesting and disjointed at times. The film starts off as a stylish character piece before moving into family drama before settling on an action hybrid/gangster film. While the strategy of the chess game between the police, the small time crooks and the local mafia interweaves nicely, the secondary plots including a jilted mistress seem to wash by the wayside. A particularly brutal end to a key ransom figurehead seems to simply occur and disappear. While the lead character per se: an egotistical young brother seemingly keeps falling down the same path, it is two adjacent characters. The first is that of the loyal combatant who takes a screwdriver into his own hands at one point. He has the most intensity and breathe of character. By comparison, the local head of the mafia is portrayed with such theatricality that it is hard to look away, even when he brutally goes off the rails. The resolution is finite and true to form but nonetheless solves none of the bigger problems of the plot.

Tell It To The Bees Anna Paquin always has the ability to inhabit and contextualize the aspect of the outsider while always inferring compassion in her performances. While Paquin balances this structure, she always at times can seem to be like she is acting per se thereby making it hard to see her disappear into her roles. Holliday Grainger (whom IR talked to for “Bonnie & Clyde” back in 2013) seems incessantly natural by comparison as the wife/woman scorned who falls into the arms of Paquin’s loving doctor. Granted this tome is set in the 1950s so the gist of the narrative focuses around the social and psychological tensions placed on the couple from the outside. Obviously the most biting satire or sense of understanding comes from the 10 year old child of Grainger’s character who is also dealing with an absentee father who is suffering after the war (but does his best to make everyone else miserable at the same time). The metaphor of the bees is keyed to listening and how to survive suffering. Ultimately the movie is a parable and a cautionary tale bathed with a sense of redemption and hope. Even though it tries a bit too hard, when it is carefree, it understands the balance of life is acceptance. Otherwise. it shows that darkness can consume even inside the impetus of family.

By Tim Wassberg

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