Review: The Intervention

The Intervention features 4 couples in various stages of coming together or falling apart. They gather for a weekend with a crackpot plan to stage an intervention in the marriage of one of the couples.Continue Reading: Review: The Intervention

Watch This: Trailer for Trapped

Trapped is a documentary by Dawn Porter. The title refers to Targeted Regulations of Abortion Provider laws. It was released in January of this year, but is only available on limited screens. On the film’s website, you will find information on how to hold a community screening and a listing of theaters where the film can be seen.

Continue Reading: Watch This: Trailer for Trapped

Review: Runoff

Runoff terrified me. It was so real, so close to the bone. This was not some glorified superhero tale, this was a real family with real problems and real choices to make. Mild spoilers ahead.

Here’s the basic story. Frank (Neal Huff) and Betty (Joanne Kelly) are going under. His business of selling feed, antibiotics, hormones and such to farmers is being stolen away by big agro. The family is in danger of losing their home and farm. They have two kids: Fin (Alex Shaffer) and Sam (Kivlighan de Montebello). Continue Reading: Review: Runoff

The New Season on Independent Lens

It made the news when Lois Vossen was promoted to executive producer of the PBS documentary series Independent Lens. That makes Vossen one of the top ranking people at PBS. The series she’ll head caught my attention when I saw the articles about her promotion. The commitment to independent film she talks about is wonderful and important.

Independent Lens begins its 14th season on November 9. Take a look at some of the films and any female film makers to be in the new season.

Stray Dog

The season opens with Stray Dog, which is billed as a “stereotype-shattering portrait” of Vietnam veteran Ron Hall directed by Debra Granik. Granik directed the Jennifer Lawrence star-making film Winter’s Bone.

East of Salinas

East of Salinas scene

Laura Pacheco is the producer and director of East of Salinas. The director of photography is also a woman: Jackie Mow.

The film description: “East of Salinas is a story about immigration, childhood, and circumstance. With little support at home, Salinas, California third grader José Ansaldo often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, once a migrant farm kid himself. Oscar helps José imagine a future beyond the lettuce fields where his parents work. But José was born in Mexico — and he’s on the cusp of understanding the implications of that. As we watch this play out, we begin to understand the cruelty of circumstance — for José and many millions of migrant kids like him. East of Salinas asks: What is lost when kids like José are denied opportunities?”

Meet the Patels

Meet the Patels is directed by Ravi Patel and Geeta Patel. Geeta Patel is the cinamatographer and a producer. Geeta Patel is also one of the writers, along with Ravi Patel and others.

Meet the Patels is described thus: “. . . a laugh-out-loud real life romantic comedy about Ravi Patel, an almost-30-year-old Indian-American who enters a love triangle with the woman of his dreams… and his parents. This hilarious heartwarming film reveals how love is a family affair.”

In Football We Trust

In Football we Trust is directed by first time feature film makers Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn. The film synopsis is “In Football we Trust intimately portrays four young Polynesian football players struggling to overcome gang violence, family pressures and near poverty as they enter the high stakes world of college recruiting and the promise of professional sports.” There’s quite a pipeline of Pacific Islanders coming to the U.S. to play football.

Autism in Love

Autism in Love “follows four adults with an autism spectrum disorder as they pursue and navigate through romantic relationships.” Matt Fuller is the director.

When the new season of Independent Lens begins in November, it will be on Monday nights on PBS.

Watch This: Trailer for Runoff

Most trailers tell you almost everything about a story. Runoff is different. You understand almost nothing of what is happening from the trailer. But it’s compelling and looks powerful. I am very interested in this film after watching this trailer. It looks like a unique film experience.

Runoff poster

Here’s the film synopsis.

The beauty of the land cannot mask the brutality of a farm town. As harvest draws near, Betty confronts a terrifying new reality and will go to desperate lengths to save her family when they are threatened with being forced from their land.

Joanna Kelly in Runoff
Joanna Kelly in Runoff

It stars Joanne Kelly as Betty. Also featured are Neal Huff as Betty’s husband Frank. Their kids are played by Alex Shaffer and Kivlighan de Montebello. Tom Bower plays the character Scratch, the one offering cash for something morally questionable.

The reviewers who have seen it so far are using superlatives like stunning, mesmerizing and relevant. The film is the work of first time director Kimberly Levin.

The film has made the rounds of festivals but, so far, hasn’t gotten a wide release. However, Runoff opened in several theaters around the country this week. Here’s a list of where you can see it. Go if you can, and let me know if it’s as interesting as it looks. Since I’m nowhere near any of the cities where there will be screenings, I’m going to have to wait for some online service to pick it up.

An interview by Meredith Alloway with the director will give you more insight into the issues in the film.

Review: Your Sister’s Sister

Your Sister’s Sister stars Emily Blunt as Iris, Rosemarie DeWitt as Hannah, and Mark Duplass as Jack. It was written and directed by Lynn Shelton. She’s the blonde with the three actors in the photo above.

I’ve had it in my watch list on Netflix for a long time and never watched it. But after watching Laggies the other day, I decided it was time to have a Lynn Shelton week, so I hit play on Your Sister’s Sister.

Spoilers ahead. Continue Reading: Review: Your Sister’s Sister

Review: The Trouble with the Truth

The Trouble with the Truth stars John Shea and Lea Thompson in a 90 minute conversation that maintains a sense of flow for the entire film. The way the cameras follow them, the way the two actors deliver thousands of lines apiece as if each one just occurred to them, and the chemistry between the actors somehow makes this long conversation work.

Spoilers ahead. Continue Reading: Review: The Trouble with the Truth

Review: Boy Meets Girl

Boy Meets Girl is a love story as the title suggests, but it’s also a bit of a transgender play on words. It has romance, sex, heartbreak, and a transgender lead character. It’s one of the sweetest love stories I’ve seen in a long time.

I found this indie gem on Netflix. It was written and directed by Eric Schaeffer.

Spoilers ahead. Continue Reading: Review: Boy Meets Girl

Review: Advantageous

Advantageous is a beautiful film. Every frame is a work of art. It’s visually stunning in every possible way and worth seeing for that alone.

This science fiction drama is slow and quiet and doesn’t have a lot of exciting action. Yet, it vibrates with fear and tension in the quiet moments. It’s a film about hard choices. How does a mother give her daughter a chance at success in a world full of both extreme wealth and extreme hardship?

Spoilers ahead. Continue Reading: Review: Advantageous

Looking for More Diversity? A Consumer Can Help. UPDATED

Let’s start with this infographic from Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? 85 Years of the Academy Awards from Lee and Low Books. This information is from a study of 85 years of awards and reveals the lack of diversity in the Oscar Awards.

We, as consumers, can do something about this lack of diversity. I’ll get to how in a minute.

Diversity in The Academy Awards
Diversity in the Academy Awards infographic from Lee and Low Books. Click for full size.

The article containing this infographic talks how independent films and filmmakers can bring about change in what we see in movies. Four independent filmmakers are interviewed in the article. They talk about what they are doing and how they use crowd sourced fundraising tools like Kickstarter to get films made.

The filmmakers interviewed also talk about watching films from other countries in languages other than English. Several people talked about rejecting attempts from directors and writers to create stereotypes rather than more realistic characters.

IndieWire picked up the infographic, as I did, and wrote about it The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards in Infographic Form. This article emphasized that the box office drives which films get made.

The situation right now is that when a film with a female lead such as The Hunger Games or Bridesmaids takes the box office the Hollywood power structure is as surprised as Fox News was when President Obama was reelected in 2012. It shouldn’t be a surprise, it should be expected.

How Consumers Can Help

We, as consumers, are the ones spending the dollars at the box office. We, as consumers, are the ones choosing the channel on the TV or setting the DVR to record. What can we do to increase diversity?

Here are a few ideas.

  • Pay attention to Kickstarter or other fund raising campaigns for indie films and support them with a few bucks. It costs you $10 to go out to a movie, $20 if you buy a drink and some popcorn. Why not give that amount to a filmmaker who is struggling to create a film with a more diverse outlook and cast than what you’ll see at the local multiplex? For a while now, I’ve been promoting a Paper.li publication about Women Directors. Perhaps you’ve noticed links to it in my Twitter stream. Many times you’ll find links to fund raising campaigns mentioned in this publication. Start reading it.
  • Support indie filmmakers by watching their work. Sometimes you have to work a bit to find it. It might be shown as a web series or on Vimeo or in only one theater in your town that isn’t the biggest multiplex. Find it and go.
  • Look for stereotypes and stop supporting films and TV shows that support stereotypes. Talk about why you’re doing it on your blog or Twitter. Demand diversity.
  • Make your viewership for movies and TV shows and web series count. Make your eyeballs register numbers and stats in the places where diversity is done right.
  • Use Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu to watch foreign films of quality. There are plenty of them. You can read. Use that skill to read subtitles and you’ll see some amazing stories.

Lee and Low Books have done similar studies of The Tony Awards, The Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, and US politics. Thanks to them for organizing this information and making accessible visuals to help us understand the stats.

UPDATE

The Representation Blog published The Representation Test on 2/28/2014. This is a downloadable test that,

. . . gives films points for representations of people which avoid harmful and limiting stereotypes, as well as for having diversity behind-the-camera. There are 27 possible points in the test, but any film scoring 11 or above receives an “A” for representation.

Downloading and using this test, and talking about your scores in public places such as your blog and Twitter is another good way that you as a consumer can help change the status quo. You may want to to check back for new versions of the test from time to time, because the creators say it will evolve over time.

Image credit: Diversity Quilt via Flickr.