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Entries in Film Festivals (70)

Thursday
Oct062016

Jed Williams Gallery on First Fridays in Philly, Traveling Europe by Train and shnit Film Festival Picks 

Made in Belgium, the shnit International Short Film Festival selection 'Drôle D'oiseau (Strange Bird)' is a portrait of a man with bipolar disorder, told through the eyes of his 11 year-old daughter. In keeping with Couch Fest’s long-standing tradition of bringing movie lovers together, I am proud to be presenting the 14th Annual shnit Short Film Festival next weekend. It is an exceptional twelve-day event taking place simultaneously in eight cities across five continents worldwide. As part of the shnit family, I have the pleasure to give the Philadelphia community further access to a selection of award-nominated films in the shnit CINEMAS lineup.

The 2016 programming block showcases films from countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Russia, Belgium and the United States. Knowing the birthplace of America offers many fun activities to keep film fans occupied in the meantime, I welcomed several locals on the Philly arts scene to let you know what’s happening in and around town; while also sharing their transnational experiences, interests and…of course…most anticipated films playing at the shnit International Short Film Festival.

Damon McCloskey's work in the 'Here We Are Now' exhibition is on display at Jed Williams Gallery.Jed Williams Gallery (at 615 Bainbridge Street) is hosting a First Friday reception on October 7th from 4pm-7pm for HERE WE ARE NOW, an exhibition exploring themes of contemporary abstraction through paintings by Damon McCloskey, TJ Walsh and Ethan Dahl. Philly locals and visitors alike are invited to come over and mingle with new friends over free wine and refreshments – right in time for the unveiling of an official, limited edition, HERE WE ARE NOW t-shirt.

Having attended grade school and high school in France (part of his family is French), Gallery owner and artist Jed Williams’ exploration of the world around him began early on.

Though Williams has since been to Israel, Italy, studied abroad in Germany and spent most of his time in Edinburgh -- a place he considers “a really cool city” -- during a visit to Scotland, he still “would like to travel somewhere, maybe in the East, like Russia.” Continuing below is a sneak peek into the shnit CINEMAS lineup during my Q&A with the man behind one of the top art galleries in Bella Vista.

Madlab Post: What kind of adventures did you experience during your time abroad?

Jed Williams: I was traveling around Europe by train, and, while going from Germany, there was a man sitting across from me who looked like a straight-laced businessman, but then somehow we started talking and had this incredible conversation about life in general, psychedelic drugs, our families, the important things in life and so on. It was really a great traveling encounter. All the more because I never saw him again.

MP: Is film a universal language?

JW: That is a really fascinating question, because it almost suggests another question -- that of whether or not there actually is a universal language at all. I would say film is a universal language in that people of all countries/cultures/spoken languages can enjoy it and be inspired by the dramatic conjunctions of moving images and sounds the best films offer; however I would also say that, one can go even further by thinking that when speech/spoken language is added to a movie, movies featuring particular languages become dialects of the universal language.

So film is such a powerful experience because there is so much being expressed, on so many levels simultaneously; and in ways that make us use different parts of our consciousness.

Made in Russia, the shnit International Short Film Festival selection 'The Very Lonely Cock' is about a charmingly stupid, very timid and very lonely rooster and his encounter with a rope.MP: Which film in the shnit Cinemas lineup for Philly interests you the most?

JW: It's a tie between ОЧЕНЬ ОДИНОКИЙ ПЕТУХ (Very Lonely Cock) and Drôle D'oiseau (Strange Bird). Very Lonely Cock has an interesting visual look and it deals with the theme of loneliness, to which I can relate.  

Drôle D'oiseau, on the other hand, seems like it would be a fascinating psychological dialogue/portrayal and the story line appeals to me; I used to be a counselor as well.

MP: How many languages do you speak?

JW: I speak 3 languages. English, fluent French and pretty good/intermediate German (I learned German all through high school and college, and I guess it stuck with me!). I would like to learn Russian. In fact, I'm trying to teach myself Russian right now, as a kind of hobby, with books, internet sites and a Russian-learning app!

MP:  What is one of your favorite foods from another country or culture?

JW: I like Chicken Biriani; it's Indian. I have no idea how to make it myself!

MP: Can you describe one of your favorite foreign movies?

JW: I loved Woman in the Dunes by Hiroshi Teshigahara. I liked the psychological depth with which it portrays the different characters, like the main character, a Butterfly catcher. The atmosphere of the film is very seductive, and particular, somewhat hushed and dream-like but at the same time dealing with intense, sometimes violent feelings. The black and white photography is also amazing.

MP: What can Jed Williams Gallery visitors expect during the Here We Are Now exhibition and t-shirt unveiling?

JW: The Here We Are Now t-shirt is a way to promote the show while also offering some cool merch for people. I am indebted to Brian Spies, the curator of Here We Are Now, for designing the t-shirt. I love the stark simplicity of it.

When visitors come to the show they can expect a wealth of different types of art, from TJ Walsh's colorful, complex abstract mixed media/oil paintings to Ethan Dahl's giclees (a type of printing process) mounted on panels that have a kind of brilliant, pop-like color and over-all design sensibility; and also not to forget Damon McCloskey's more tonal mixed media works on paper in which one can get lost in omni present, labyrinthine details and a rich color sense.

The First Friday reception for HERE WE ARE NOW at Jed Williams Gallery is October 7 from 4-7pm.I think it is an exceptional show and represents a collaboration between the gallery and Brian Spies, the curator, as well as the gallery reaching out beyond artists from Philadelphia (as 2 of the artists are from central PA.)

 

 

Much thanks to Jed Williams Gallery for spending time with me to discuss film, art and culture; all in preparation for when shnit International Short Film Festival hits Philly!

World cinema buffs can now GET MOVIE PASSES to see some of the world’s best films.

Things to Do in Philly Right Now: If you’re in town, be sure to visit First Fridays at Jed Williams Gallery’s reception for for HERE ARE WE NOW, October 7th 4pm-6pm at 615 Bainbridge Street in Philadelphia, PA.

What is the last foreign film YOU watched?

How do YOU celebrate First Fridays?

Monday
Sep262016

7 Best Moments from the Urbanworld Film Festival

The Urbanworld Film Festival wrapped up its 20th Anniversary this weekend with Blurred Lines: Artistry and Activism, a conversation with women whose work connects art, culture and community. Keeping up with as many movies playing at AMC Empire in Times Square as lobby chats, Q&A sessions and panels – not to mention all of the red carpet action -- is quite an adventure. Here is a roundup of the best moments that happened at this star-studded event.

'Destined' star Cory Hardict on the red carpet at the 20th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival. Photo by Deb MarcanoMooz-lum director Quasim Basir returned with a new film called Destined, about the alternate paths that exist for one man who grew up in Detroit’s housing projects. I almost skipped this movie and am glad to have changed my mind because it’s a great piece of work that depicts some harsh realities about the way life is shaped by the choices you make.

Cory Hardict gives a stellar performance in two roles, as men who are faced with dilemmas that affect whether they will build up their family and community or destroy them. “Rasheed” is an architect rising through the ranks at his firm. “Sheed” runs a drug empire while under investigation for murder. After a little confusion with Basir’s interweaving of multiple storylines early on, I was eventually drawn to the journey of his characters. Urbanworld alum R. Malcolm Jones even walked out of the teenage love drama Honeytrap – what he considers to be an equally captivating and well-constructed film – to enjoy a second viewing of Destined.

I ran into The Same Difference director Nneka Onuorah on my way to see the World Premiere of Gina Prince-Bythewood’s new FOX series Shots Fired. She came to support a documentary called The Revival: Women and the Word about queer women poets and singers who embark on a road tour, paying homage to the Harlem Renaissance. The Nwas surprised to learn about another lesbian film in the festival lineup – Loved Like This. It’s the one film that convinced me to attend the Young Filmmakers Showcase, presented by Revolt. Yet, my favorite shorts in this programming block ended up being Madaran, Hush and The Bench.

Clocking in at ten minutes, Hush features a clever blend of art, fiction and real-life monsters in this disturbing tale about a young ballerina who performs as Little Red Riding Hood. The Bench, a heartfelt film about a random encounter, restores a bit of my faith in humanity. Jones made it to the theater in time to share in the glory of watching Madaran, an emotionally heavy tale about an Iranian mother who must decide whether to end or spare the life of her son’s killer. When the end-credits rolled, he leaned over and happily whispered “now THAT’S how you make a film!” which I endorsed with a good ol’ fashioned high-five.

'The Magic City' director R. Malcolm Jones heading to the 'Honeytrap' film screening at Urbanworld 2016.The premise for Madaran is dark, yes, but it brings together the right fusion of talent, technical chops and musical score that brings significance to each passing second. Since the only other mini-flicks I heard people raving about were Mast Qalandar, Samaria and The Suit, it seems that Revolt’s Young Filmmakers Showcase was the strongest program of shorts at Urbanworld this year.

The Urbanworld crew member who served as MC for the post-screening activities of Revolt’s Young Filmmakers Showcase did a great job instructing audience members on how to vote for these films via text messaging. Between quick jokes and karaoke-style singing, he added some fun to a tedious task, as attendees had to vote for each film separately, using a scale from 1-5.

One audience member had difficulty voting due to cell phone signal complications, and yelled “Don’t go with Sprint!” out loud. It was the most engaged crowd of moviegoers (who took the time to participate in Urbanworld’s audience voting process) that I’ve ever seen at a film festival. Let’s just hope Sprint didn’t cost any of the filmmakers the Audience Award.

Dar Noir director Hamadi Mwapachu flew from Tanzania to New York, whipped out a laptop and showed clips of his film to anyone within reach. Having attended screenings in previous years where there were between 9-15 people at AMC theater (in Times Square!), I’ve seen firsthand how Urbanworld filmmakers can learn a lot from his tenacity in making sure Dar Noir was on everyone’s radar. Photographer Deb Marcano, who supports independently produced work made in Africa, missed much of Queen of Katwe to check out Mwapachu’s film.

After emphasizing the production value of a key scene, Mwapachu also described New York as a “beautiful city” full of nice people; while informing me of Tanzanians’ reservations about traveling to the U.S. due to the way the media portrays people and places here.

'She's Got a Plan' Director Fatima Washington attends the Urbanworld Film Festival 2016. Photo by Deb MarcanoThe World Premiere of Fatima Washington’s dramedy She’s Got a Plan reignited the drive in Marcano, who is producing an Ethiopian documentary.

Starring Faizon Love, Paula Jai Parker and Golden Brooks, She’s Got a Plan examines class and culture in Hollywood through an aspiring writer-director who has given herself 30 days to make her dreams come true. Marcano cites the film as being just what she needed to watch for motivation in doing work that she loves as an photographer and filmmaker.

Executive producers Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythwood gave up their seats to fellow attendees at the highly anticipated screening of their upcoming series Shots Fired.

It was a standing-room only event, as AMC reached capacity for festivalgoers eager to get a first-look at this prime time drama that examines racially charged shootings in a small southern town. Those who weren’t positioned along the walls of the theater found a spot to sit on the stairs. The program, starring Sanaa Lathan, Helen Hunt, Stephan James, Tristan Wilds and Will Patton, is presented by FOX.

What (traditional) medium do YOU think best represents the world we live in – Film or Television?

What are YOUR favorite movie moments from the month of September?

Sunday
Jul102016

Never Been Kissed: Inside Director Barbara Kronenberg’s qFlix Comedy ‘Ballad of Ella Plummhoff’

'The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff' writer and director Barbara KronenbergIt’s nice to be blogging again, as I interrupt the Popcorn Snobs’ (semi)regularly scheduled “Taking of A-Z” series, in favor of world cinema. If you believe laughter is the best medicine, you need to get acquainted with Barbara Kronenberg, a German writer/director whose comedy Die Ballad Von Ella Plummhoff (The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff) is among the most anticipated shorts playing at the qFLIX film festival in Philadelphia, PA this weekend.

Dr. Sheena Howard and Wafiyyah Packer of the Women’s Screening Committee even cite it as one they would highly recommend people to come watch.

“I thought the angles and intensity of some of the shots were well put together,” praises Howard on the cinematography as well as the overall technical excellence of what she describes as “a really quirky” and entertaining short film. Packer agrees adding “I love teenage awkwardness….the way they told this coming-of-age story was great.” What’s interesting, however, is that this film almost didn’t get made. There was a time when Barbara Kronenberg got fed up with filmmaking after a string of depressing projects.

Encouraged by her wife along with family and friends to not give up, she tried working on a story that was different and more humorous than her usual fare – resulting in The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff. This 29-minute short helped Kronenberg, a former software developer, rediscover her passion for filmmaking. I arranged a conversation with Kronenberg, who was up for discussing a few topics, from the challenges of shooting goldfish to the definition of beauty and why everyone needs a funny bone.

So without further ado, here’s the woman behind this wildly enjoyable film about an eighth grader who is flunking Math, getting love lessons from a grotesque ballet teacher and only cares about landing her first kiss—on another girl. Grades be damned!

Madlab Post Asks: What is your favorite scene from The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff?

Barbara Kronenberg (BK): The one where Ella is sitting in front of the aquarium after everyone else left for holiday vacation. It has very subtle humor and people usually start laughing when they realize that Ella is wearing her swimming goggles as if she has made up her own holiday setting, which is of course not satisfying. Ella is just sitting there, observing the two goldfishes through her swimming goggles and it seems to be a very easy to shoot scene because there is no big action.

As you probably wouldn't imagine, the two fishes were not that easy to handle - they behaved like little divas. I tried to give compliments about their beautiful fish scale, I praised their skills as actors and we even bought them gourmet fish food, but they preferred to stay in the tank corners. Finally I told staff to fire them and to cast turtles instead of fishes. That was the key and they started to perform the choreography, which we trained on for about 3 or 4 weeks. So this very small scene took some more time then people are expecting.

What makes a woman beautiful?

I never felt attracted only because of a “perfect“ body, face or dressing; it’s always a mixture of charisma, behavior, attitude, brainpower and appearance. To me, beauty isn’t something that you can see, it’s something that you feel.  – BK

(l-r) Actresses Lotta devil and Inga Dreger on the set of 'Die Ballad Von Ella Plummhoff' directed by Barbara Kronenberg.Would you like to share the story behind your first kiss?

The only thing I can tell you is that I had to kiss a lot of boys before I found out that I prefer kissing girls. - BK

What is the best quality everyone should have?

I’d love to say it is humor because I think it makes life much easier and of course funnier, but there are maybe one or two things which are more important and could be helpful to save the future of humanity: honesty and tolerance. It’s ok to make mistakes as far as you admit them. It’s also ok to have a different opinion as far as you don’t force someone else to share your opinion or way of living. – BK

Kudos to Barbara Kronenberg for showing the world that perseverance pays off and it’s important to have fun when following your passion. Otherwise, what’s the point?!

Die Ballad Von Ella Plummhoff /The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff is a German language film with English subtitles playing Sunday, July 10, 2016 at the Caplan Theater - University of the Arts – 211 S. Broad Street in Philadelphia, PA. Showtime is 2:30PM. It is part of the qFlix Film Festival’s  fun and fanciful “Damn Danielle” program, a collection of short films for everyone, with stories about family power struggles, revenge and the last laugh.

Share YOUR Comments!

What makes someone a good kisser? How supportive are YOUR loved ones in your chosen profession? If YOU had a pet turtle, what would you name it?

*Special thanks to Mike Nash for contributing to this piece. Images courtesy of Barbara Kronenberg.