I recently attended the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, a monthly film festival-style screening event “designed to showcase innovative works by emerging filmmakers from around the world.” In addition to a generous open bar, the event hosts a glamorous film festival atmosphere, complete with red carpet, post-screening Q&A’s, and the chance to mingle with the filmmakers and stars. April’s selection featured four shorts, a hard-hitting documentary about America’s media culture, and a dramedy feature about a young couple whose one little lie spirals way out of proportion.
Leading off the shorts selection was “Great Western” (Dir. Tanya Goldberg) out of Australia, which sets a tense scene between an Iraqi cardiologist-turned-cab driver, and the immigration officer he unwittingly takes as a fare. Next up we had “Kate” (Dir. Phillip Clark Davis), an abstract, dreamy waltz through one man’s fantasy. “Leo’s Love(s)” (Dir. Alan Weischedel) is an amusing, Woody Allen-esque tale that follows the titular Leo as he meets the girl of his dreams, and must try to survive breaking up with his emotionally unstable fiancee (Kelly Erin Decker in the most terrifying performance of the night). Finally, the shorts selection rounded out with “Dog Ghost” (Dir. Calvin Robertson), a mesmerizing, deeply affecting, and masterfully shot portrait of two young sisters’ quest to find their lost dog in a coastal town seemingly devoid of adult supervision.
“Shadows of Liberty” (Dir. Jean-Philippe Tremblay) is an incisive recounting of the way American media has been bought up and reshaped by corporate oligarchs to gain and retain enormous political power. Through interviews with journalists and authors, the film paints a disturbing picture of citizens being censored for blowing the whistle on abuses of power as what was once an arena for free expression becomes a private profit zone. It’s a well-researched, well-made documentary, and a remarkably important one too.
The night’s feature presentation was “Congratulations” (Dir. Eric Levy and Juan Cardarelli) starring Brian Dietzen (NCIS) and Abby Miller (Justified) as a young couple who find themselves forced to perpetuate a lie when, after she turns down his marriage proposal, they visit Dietzen’s mother - played by Debra Jo Rupp (That 70’s Show) - only to find that the engagement is already a foregone conclusion. The film is funny and heartbreaking - often within the same breath - and reminds us that love is a complex entity, constantly in flux, with no one set of rules to go by. A fantastically engaging and likeable cast bring to life a nuanced script that feels more real than anything I’ve seen on screen in years.
May's NewFilmmakers Los Angeles will see the festival moving to a new location: Downtown LA’s AT&T Center. Out with folding chairs and street parking - in with a 500-seat theatre and on-location complimentary parking! And of course, another round of fantastic shorts and features from up-and-coming filmmakers across the globe. To purchase tickets for next month’s NFMLA, check out their website at http://www.newfilmmakersla.com/.
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