Father & Daughter Film Report
Best of 2016
Best Film Festival for Audience
We have been to the International Family Film Festival twice and both agree this is the best film festival to go to for the audience. You are going to LOTS of great films here, in one of the most interesting, historic, & fascinating places in the film world.
This is the festival that put the word 'international' in the phrase international film festival. Here is our report on the first one we attended:
Don’t let the word “family” in International Family Film Festival fool you. Of course, some of us older folks realize the word “family” has been so politicized recently that upon hearing it, one might think this festival only shows films with a political agenda. Wrong. Or only has films with themes of a Romper Room mentality. Wrong. Or a three- day marathon of Sesame Street clones. Wrong.
Quite the opposite…
This film festival will totally shatter any stereotypes - and more importantly - break you out of any boundaries that you have constructed on the very concept of family. We see Japanese families living near Honolulu during the attack on Pearl Harbor (Under the Blood Red Sun by Tim Savage), children struggling to tell their parents about their sexuality (Don’t Tell Mom & Dad by Cody Duvall), family pets that guide spirits from one world to the next (Super Dog, Dewayne & Lawayne Bontrager), and an educational history lesson (Lost Treasure Hunt by Matt Davis) that had the pace and feel of a Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode (the ones with Robert Vaughn & David McCallum).
But more on all the great films shown later.
We have to talk about the festival itself first. Every film festival we’ve attended thus far was held at a theatre of sorts. Logical. We are talking about films here, and watching them. Where else are you going to do that? The International Family Film Festival found a ‘where else’, a place called Raleigh Studios. That’s right, an actual film studio, where people in costumes are running around, props & sets are being built right there before your eyes while you were walking to the screening rooms. This atmosphere alone made Amanda & I feel like we were actually in Hollywood. Wait a minute… Wait a minute…
We were in Hollywood….!
But there was something more Hollywood-ish one feels by actually being at this festival.
Amanda & I both felt this odd sensation, as well as everyone else we talked to at the festival too.
We couldn’t articulate this feeling until we met Program Director & Co-Founder Patte Dee McKee (who at the age of 19 was under contract with Howard Hughes, actually "living" in the golden age of the studio system, and later becoming a costume designer & producer).
Patte told us that Raleigh Studios was the original United Artists Studio founded by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, & D.W. Griffith...
For the last 20 years, Patte has been the Program Director for the annual International Family Film Festival, the FreshiFilm Festival, and the FreshiFilm Camps.
Then the correct word immediately flashed into mind: HISTORY!
Ironically, after having this revelation, we walk into the (well stocked) welcome tent, and there’s retired physician & silent film aficionado author Tracey Goessel signing her book The First King of Hollywood, a complete look at the life of Douglas Fairbanks which critics (and myself) are proclaiming this to be the definitive biography of this famous actor who helped found the very studio we were in.
For you younger aspiring film makers, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. starred in the original Zorro (1920), Robin Hood (1922), and The Thief of Bagdad (1924), to name a few...
Naturally I bought a book...I love history....!
Got it signed, too.
So the heart and soul of this film festival can be said to be:
Hollywood + History + Family + Uniqueness + Hollywood + Love + Class + Hollywood + Hollywood
Another perspective of “family” came from Executive Director & Co-Founder Chris Shoemaker:
“The IFFF transcends the need to dictate exactly what constitutes a family, as long as there are two or more individuals who decide to journey life together in a caring, supportive and nurturing manner. That’s the bane and the beauty of defining this festival as a “family” festival – like all of us with our particular families, no two families are alike – and therein lies the delicious spice of life.”
Exactly, Chris. Exactly.
This festival does transcend what defines family, besides showing us the multitude of different conditions & circumstances that involve family.
Executive Director Chris Shoemaker of the International Family Film Festival (IFFF), the first worldwide festival showcasing family and children’s films in Hollywood (and what an uphill battle that must have been!)
Pretty impressive for a couple of film lovers who started all this with only a production company office and Fax machine…and you are going to be impressed with the fantastic films they selected for their festival, too.
Let’s start with the first film we saw....a family…in outer space …!
(please remember, just click on the image to link to the trailer or film)
The Looking Planet
Eric Law Anderson (Giant Dolphin Pictures) 17 minutes
Family film? Well, yes, actually. Underneath the multi-layers of story & plot lines is the relationship between a father and his son. See? Family. Words cannot do justice in describing any part of this film, both Amanda & I loved every aspect of it - the story, the animation, the music…everything.
One is even more impressed to learn that the ‘alien’ language being spoken in the film is actually Kaingang, a dying language spoken by Native Americans in southern Brazil (and the performance of the main character Lufo, was one of the original performers from Brazil). How about that for attention to detail…? And that’s what makes this film so wonderful on so many levels is the attention to detail on so many levels.
Readers will be pleased to learn this film will be released online December 9th, 2015, so come back here after that date and we'll show you how you can seed it...in its entirety.
So more talk here about this film is not needed, just watch it when it comes out. However, we must quote the old Lay’s commercial: Bet you can’t watch it just once….even the trailer.....
Lost Treasure Hunt
Richard Bazley, Matt Davis, & Corrine Wong (Professor Cobb Productions) 29 minutes
Created by award winning feature animators from DreamWorks, Disney, and Warner Bros. - this short could actually - or rather should be a regular TV show that will make history interesting for the classroom. Executive Producer & Screenwriter Matt Davis describes this as a passion projection on history amongst a group of animators who recognized that history is full of great themes that are crucial to us all as individuals, and as a society.
Naturally one of the difficulties was trying to convince Hollywood higher-ups that a combination of history and story telling could work, and while they did get some support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as Matt put it: “…many inside educational TV itself were convinced Lost Treasure Hunt could not do what we were promising.”
With that kind of attitude in American ‘educational television’, no wonder the USA is ranked 14th or 15th in education. Thank goodness some creative minds are trying to bring the feature animation style of story telling to educational television, and apparently this style is meeting with great success from the feedback of classrooms across the nation, to receiving Emmy nominations as well as Kidscreen, Kid’s Choice and the Parent’s Choice Awards. Perhaps there’s still hope for education in the USA yet….
Under the Blood Red Sun
Tim Savage & Dana Satler Hankins - Feature Film - 100 minutes
Director Tim Savage simply wishes to be known for making important films that will help and inspire people, and we think he is certainly off to a good start. This is an important film…and uplifting. And it seems this ‘uplifting’ aspect was not just from the story, but found within the production itself, for according to Tim: “I can’t tell you how many miracles I’ve witnessed; how many times things happened in our favor that were absolutely out of my control. I’m sure some people may thing that they are just coincidence or good luck, but I’ve seen amazing things happen too many times to think that there could be any other explanation other than God”.
While not many of us around had the chance to actually experience Pearl Harbor, the magic of this film, and what appeals to the ‘coming of age’ within all of us, is that it relates to the moment in our own life when we experience something that we know changes our lives forever. Based on the award-winning book (and the film has won its share of awards as well), what really makes this film work is the acting. When asked what was the biggest obstacle in making the film, Director Tim Savage immediately replied: “Finding Tomi”. Apparently this story needed a very special young lad to pull off the central character, and it wasn’t until very late in film development that a 9th grader in Honolulu was finally found: Kyler Ki Shim Sakamoto.
When you see the film, you’ll see why he indeed was the perfect choice. We must salute all the other great acting performances as well (this is a drama, by the way, and it is the acting that makes or breaks it), notably Academy Award Winning Director and actor, Chris Tashima (Papa) who created a special kind of spirit within his character that left traces & presence in scenes even when his father figure character was not on camera. Kalamakahaola Epstein (Billy Davis) was a standout as well, so much so that when we had the Q & A after the film, I expected him to be the character I saw on the screen for the past hour & a half, so convincing was his performance.
There’s a reason this film is winning so many awards in so many places - sure, its set in Pearl Harbor in early December 1941, but the impact created by how this film was produced hits a core within all of us….no matter what part of history we live in….
Don’t Tell Mom & Dad
Cody Duvall & Daniel Feiber - Short Film - 30 minutes
Ever see one of those Russian-cam road movies? Apparently, every driver from Moscow to Siberia has a camera mounted on top of their rear view mirror to film everything the driver sees: near misses, wrecks, idiots passing at high speeds on icy roads only to spin out. Great fun. Just Google 'Russian car crash videos' and enjoy.
This film has the same energy, but in the reverse. The entire film appears to be shot by a camera mounted on the rear view mirror, but is facing the driver and passengers.
Cool! What a great style, and it make a wonderful effect - one could really sense the emotions streaming out of the all the characters since…well…you were right there in the car with them, up close and personal. Well, at least it felt that way….
This was a very powerful film - over the issue itself & the way it was cleverly filmed - put this on your list of films to watch, especially if you ever had something in your life that motivated you to say: “Don’t Tell Mom and Dad”.
Ivy Liao & Jim Li - Short Film - 25 minutes
Attention! The link below is not just a trailer, but will take you to the THE ENTIRE FILM...!!!
How about going to their Facebook page and at least give them a LIKE for that?
We put the definition of the title up because it is a word one doesn’t see very often, but also because this turns out to be an excellent logline of sorts describing what the movie is about. And really, isn’t that what a title is supposed to do? We like the fact this term applies to both psychology and physiology, and that plays a major plot line in the film. But I'm not giving any of the story away....not now.
So, right off…excellent title. It made us think…and so did the movie.
We loved this film since it led you down the road of a sort of predictable path, then pulls twists and turns along the way and ends up showing you that a certain character’s transformation was indeed - total. There were many misty eyes after this film and for good reason…the example of what one will do to show love was done with magnitude.
Really, we thought we saw the ghost of Charlie Chaplin & Mary Pickford in the back giving their nods of approval so moving was the emotional appeal that Ivy Liao managed to create in her script. (This was screened in the Mary Pickford Theater, by the way, and studio staff informed me such sightings have been going on for decades).
Once again, when it comes to drama - and in this case highly charged emotional drama - the acting is paramount, and Cody Holguin and Christina Nicole Castro were a remarkable team…even the experienced Hollywood director would probably guess they had to have worked for years together to pull off the impressive dramatics they projected. How long have they acted together…? I don’t know…you ask them….
Michelle Anderson (Writer & Producer) TV Pilot - 30 minutes
From their website:
“On a quaint Sunday morning, sitting in the backyard of his rustic ranch home in Shadow Hills, California, director poses an intriguing question to the group of 12 actors gathered around him.
“How many people slept on a floor when they first came out to Los Angeles?”
Exchanging hesitant looks and glances of uncertainty, six hands slowly rise.
* * * * * * * * * *
We’re hooked already and we haven’t even seen the film yet…and what a treat when we did see it. Funny. A little bit crazy. Even a bit wacky. But it was all-in-all wholesome fun. Something truly missing in television nowadays, where it seems every other show is trying to push the boundaries of controversy, playing off of misunderstandings and innuendo, or relying on shock to create attention. Finally, here’s a comedy that's just plain...fun.
Fun for the entire family. (Again, family). But one that is unique, in a way, it can almost be its own subgenre, the way that rash of 1960’s beach party movies were. Remember those? How we’d laugh just at the mere sight of characters like the notorious ‘bad guy’ biker - Eric von Zipper - trying to mimic Marlon Brando while confidently rolling out all those malapropisms, which had us rolling out of our seats. Too young to know what I’m talking about…? Go see Beach Party or Bikini Beach. You're missing a special type of humor in your life if you haven't experienced that…a special type of humor that’s fun. Thank goodness Studio City is bringing this back.
What a treat.
The show's powerful premise fulfills a psychological need in all of us, that subconscious desire to go out and make it in the world. Writer & Producer Michelle Anderson has mastered projecting this so we all can enjoy the ‘climb up to fame” by not only watching - but living it - through different individuals from different hometowns all living together in one tiny apartment trying to get that ‘big break”. We've all been there in some way, right? Then you can relate to this show...and you will in other ways as well.
Michelle attributes this experience to growing up in the entertainment industry and working with many aspiring writers, directors and actors in that baptist of emerging & economic fire - so not only is this a comedy, but one that is very effective - one that is based in truth…or as they say in Hollywood.....real life. Even though this is only the pilot, one can see that besides the laughter, there are lessons of hope and love revealed as we see the characters move from one struggle and obstacle to another, but supporting each other.
The type of support we all need to see and feel in our own life, when we have to deal with our own struggles….
Lee Chee Tian & Zulkifli Salleh (Singapore - The Big Shots/Zero3Studio) 23 minutes
First, as you can see from this one shot, this is a beautifully made film. Second, as one versed in psychology, the logline of the story opens the door to all kinds of internal and external conflict:
“A boy watches a scary sea monster movie and becomes afraid of the sea. Problem is, he comes from a family of fishermen, and is expected to become a fisherman too. Will this spell the end of his traditional livelihood?”
What a premise. What makes this film so powerful is when you see how this can happen to the main character, it slowly creeps deep within your soul to reveal how such an event happened to you as well. When you were a child. Something that made you afraid. A fear that still follows you. Did you block it out completely so that you are no longer conscious of it, or does it lurk in the front of your mind, confronting you every day?
Either way, this film will have you confronting yourself; consciously if you deal with your fears openly, or subconsciously if you have blocked these out. Either way, you will now have a model in order to face your own fears after you see how young Lat, played perfectly by Amirul Hakimi Bin Fauzi, does so with his fear of the sea.
And we can tell you now, its quite a journey.
Play Date - (a modern day fable)
Paige Morrow Kimball (Makazan Films) 15 minutes
Now we felt the need to put the subtitle in, mainly since we really don’t get fables in today’s society, when they are needed more than ever. Fables have a moral to the story, and Play Date has a wonder moral lesson front and center, in an area that needs to be addressed in today’s society: homelessness. Sure, when one thinks of fables, naturally Aesop comes to mind, but remember there are some others like Jean de la Fontaine (who was one of Moliere’s best friends, by the way) and Rudyard Kipling who really applied these to their times masterfully.
Paige Morrow Kimball does the same here with Play Date.
Basically a little girl discovers a homeless woman in her backyard and invites her inside her home for a play date, which for most of the film goes unnoticed by her parents. This creates some suspense with a nice blend of comedy, but then everything comes out…and at a perfect pace, and with the perfect lesson.
A chance drive through LA’s Skid Row is what inspired filmmaker Kimball to write Play Date, and she did that very well. Writer’s know good writing, and this, ladies and gentlemen is excellent writing. Another excellent element of this fable is that the film practices what it preaches, with a percentage of all crowd funding proceeds going to OPCC, an organization in Santa Monica, California dedicated to improving and rebuilding the lives of homeless individuals.
Paige also makes this film available for private screenings at schools, community and religious organizations to raise awareness and break the common stereotypes associated with homeless. Lesson learned Paige. Keep it up, and you have our support on that one!
The Sac Fly
Deep Williams (Raking Leaves Productions) 35 minutes
I’m positive if this film were shown in every school in American, a consciously or subconsciously held element of racism would drop 90% in every individual, and for the nation as a whole. Call the schools, call the Department of Race Relations, heck, call the White House, but get this film out to the public…NOW.
Deep Williams tackles the problem of racism not as an issue between black folks and white folks, but by reaching for the heart and soul that exists within all of us. That spark of energy that flows inside each of us that responds to the electrical charges of atoms and molecules, instead of outside appearances. Raking Leaves Productions’ motto is “Life creates Film creates Life”, and they have made that philosophy a commitment to encourage, uplift, and inspire humanity to not only look up….but also look within.
Which is certainly the result of this film, which was inspired by a true story. Here again is a story based in the relationships of families - on many different levels & circumstances - however the message of the story goes far beyond what beliefs we have with this concept: it shows us a way of action, and how we as a people can shine if all of us on this earth treats each other like family.
Lewayne & Dewayne Bontrager (Twins Media) 15 minutes
Attention! The link below is not just a trailer, but will take you to the THE ENTIRE FILM...!!!
How about going to their Facebook page and at least give them a LIKE for that?
The above image is actually a link that will take you to Vimeo. Twin Media was actually kind enough to allow me to give you the PASSWORD, which is - super - should you need to use it, so you can watch the entire film. Isn’t that nice….?
Well, THANK-YOU Dewayne & Lawayne, that was right neighborly of you…and actually makes my job easier since I really don’t have to write about the film at all, then, do I…? But I will. Not about the film, watch it yourself, it’s 3:13 am as I'm writing this and I still have a paper to write on the theory of online language learning practice, so I’m burnt out - however, I will tell you what I experienced watching this film.
First, this film actually lasts exactly 14 minutes and 30 seconds, but I make it 15 minutes since everyone in the screening room took about 30 seconds of getting over the “wow” factor after the end of the movie, when all of the pieces of the clues finally sink into your brain so that you say “OOOOooooooooh - that’s what was going on!”
Sort of like the way Alfred Hitcock would do in his movies & TV shows, or the way Rod Serling would put out clues and decoys to get your brain chasing his twists and story lines....and then hit you out of no where...
You like that kind of a mental roller coaster ride? Then stop reading this and just watch the film….!
My Dog - Music Video
Cedar Breaks Band - Lyrics & Sung by Keith Behunin - 4:25
Alright. I know what you'e thinking. We've gone to the dogs.
Well, perhaps it looks that way, but we assure you, having two 'dog' features back to back happened purely by coincidence. Really. Besides these are very different films. Actually - we are proud to say - this is the first music video we've every featured. So you are witnessing history. For us, for the festival, and for the Cedar Breaks Band. You see, these guys and gals and kids and dogs won best music video at the International Family Film Festival, and this isn't the first time. Back in August they brought home the trophy for the Best Country Video at the World Music & Independent Film Festival in Washington DC....Congratulations, guys & gals & kids & dogs....
Yes..dogs...they are, after all, a part of the family too (I'm slowly working into a theme of the video now) and it is this story line that is wonderfully spread as a reminder and lesson. Plus, this really is a music video you can share with the entire family, and sing along with too!
Now for those of you who are tone deaf, let me tell you why these guys & gals & kids & dogs won all these festivals. This group can sing. I have not heard interactive harmonies that come close to this since ABBA. And in a way, ABBA had it easier...those girls only had to harmonize with each other while the Cedar Breaks Band have six individuals simultaneously match pitch, tone, notes, and chords. No easy feat, I assure you....
So gather the family around - guys & gals & kids & dogs - press play and have a nice sing along. Or just listen when you come home after a hard day....how can you not feel good after listening to some foot-tapping, head nodding, happy harmonies from such a song, anyway? Especially when there's a banjo there to lift the spirits...
As you can see, this is the most film reviews we’ve ever posted from any film festival so far, which is really a shout out to both founders of the festival - Patte Dee McKee and Chris Shoemaker - for the great selection job they and their staff did. Not only in creating a - truly - Hollywood atmosphere (and really, being at a famous historical production studio in Hollywood is, well...let's just say you can’t get any closer to being in Hollywood than that) but also for selecting some of the best, and we mean the best, independent films out there. Thank-you, IFFF....!!!
Lawayne & Dewayne Bontrager of Twins Media, with Amanda & David at an undisclosed restaurant, way in the back outside, where even the waiters & waitresses didn’t notice us...and believe it or not, we didn't mind....
Even though Amanda and I split our time so that, one would be in the Mary Pickford theater watching a block, while the other was in the Charlie Chaplin theater watching another, they also had films going on the in the Douglas Fairbanks theater, and well, it was impossible for us to watch them all.
And this saddens us.
Not just that we missed some great films, but that we probably missed about ten or twenty other films that deserve to be mentioned in this report too. And for that we are truly sorry, it was physically impossible for us to watch them all, and we honestly wonder how the IFFF staff has the time to watch all of the film & screenplay submissions they receive, which surely runs in the thousands.
If you are a filmmaker, this is a must go to film festival whether your film gets selected or not. The International Family Film Festival totally exceeded our expectations in every possible way, and any filmmaker and/or film lover who ever came here will certainly tell you it was well worth the trip.
Even if you came from the other part of the world, like Singapore.........or another solar system.
-Amanda & David