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Showing posts from July, 2016

Georgia Filmmakers Spotlight an Iconic Location and a Quirky Phenomenon in Documentaries "Hotel Clermont" (****) & "Eat White Dirt" (****½)

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Tammy Wright, the primary subject of “Eat White Dirt.” One of the greatest appeals of a film festival is its ability to introduce audiences to stories from around the globe. And while I enjoy seeing the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s nighttime streets and the breathtaking high-altitude views of the Himalayas  on the big screen, there’s something remarkably special about seeing a film that highlights the stories right in my backyard. Two Georgia-lensed documentary shorts have been making waves among the southern film festival circuit: “ Hotel Clermont ” by Heather Hutson and “ Eat White Dirt ” by Adam Forrester. Both screened earlier this year at the  Atlanta Film Festival and both came away with notable awards — “Hotel Clermont” won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Short and “Eat White Dirt” won the Seed&Spark Jury Award. Although I missed their screenings in Atlanta back in April, I made sure to catch them this weekend during the Macon Film Festival’s “Southern Stories”

"Jasmine" Review - Macon Film Festival (***)

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Jason Tobin stars in “Jasmine.” First-time director Dax Phelan crafts a tense but often meandering mystery in “Jasmine.” Phelan is more than capable of setting the tone for the increasingly unsettling thriller but the story lacks complexity. Jason Tobin plays Leonard To, a grieving widower whose wife was murdered the previous year. Leonard is in pain. Walking the streets of Hong Kong at night, he is very much alone and very much in his own head. With blurred lights in the distance and bustling streets, the city is a character of its own. Hong Kong—and Phelan’s ability to capture it—lends a lot to the film. Tobin is fantastic as the miserable, confused and angry Leonard. His wife’s murder is still unsolved and while the police seem to have given up, the lack of closure haunts him. The plot kicks into high gear when Leonard sees a man standing, staring at his wife’s grave. Leonard starts following this mystery man and becomes increasingly convinced that he is responsible for his wife’s d

Macon Film Festival: Recapping the Sundance Institute Master Class

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The Macon Film Festival welcomed us with open arms and kicked off the weekend with a Sundance Institute Short Film Master Class with Mike Plante and James Ponsoldt. Plante, Sundance Short Films Senior Programmer, wove his tale to an eager crowd. Beginning his festival journey in 1993, he is no stranger to the inner workings of getting films into festivals, and he started with rule number one—’Don’t be a dick.’ Simple enough, just treat every single person you meet along the way well. The positivity will read through the work and more people will sign on to help you make a great film. The class continued with humor and grace, explaining costs to submit to a festival, how the festival circuit can benefit an independent filmmaker, and even explained the various shorts categories of the Sundance Film Festival. Will tagging my school’s name add to the appeal? (Not for Sundance). How long can it be? (Technically 50 minutes or less… but for the love of God do not make a 50 minute short). It

"Legs: A Big Issue in a Small Town" Review - Macon Film Festival (**)

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The titular, controversial sculpture of Sag Harbor, New York. Four years before Angelina Jolie stunned the world on the 2012 Oscar Red Carpet with her bold, leggy pose , there was another pair of legs that caused quite a flurry of reactions and opinions. In 2008, eccentric art gallerists Janet Lehr and Ruth Vered erected a 16 foot tall, fiberglass sculpture of a pair of stocking-clad legs outside their home in the small, conservative town of Sag Harbor. Cue the controversy. As residents of Sag Harbor themselves, directors Beatrice Alda and Jennifer Brooke explore their small town through interviews with the locals, gathering their opinions and comments on the scandalous sculpture while simultaneously capturing their unique personalities. But the problem with the film lies within these interviews themselves. They don’t create any sense of a narrative or direction; rather, the film dwells on the discussion of opinions from one townsperson to the next (and to the next, and to the next). A

"Remittance" Review - Macon Film Festival (***)

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Angela Barotia stars in “Remittance.” In her time as a domestic worker in Singapore, Marie Delacruz jumps through hoops to please her host family. Risking her position as a maid, she finds alternate ways of making money, such as doubling as a ‘bar girl.’ She soon discovers that the money she sends home has been spent by her husband’s frivolous hand. “Remittance” is good. It doesn’t soar to new heights, but it addresses a social matter in a beautiful light, and I was pleasantly surprised. Would I watch it again? Likely not. Would I recommend others see it? It is a beautiful telling of the misfortune many women in today’s world face; being relocated and struggling to raise money for their families back home, so it’s worth a view. I went in with low expectations, feeling the story may be slow and predictable, but was shocked time and again by becoming so actively invested in the outcome of these women’s lives. However soul-baring the movie may be, it is not for the light-hearted and faces

14 Films to See at the 2016 Macon Film Festival

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Middle Georgia’s main film event returns for its 11th edition on July 21-24. While the festival focuses on music and Southern documentary, there’s something for everyone. A 30th anniversary presentation of John Hughes’ classic “Pretty in Pink” with star Andrew McCarthy is a good hook. So is a Sundance Master Class with Georgia-born director James Ponsoldt. So are special screenings of Ponsoldt’s critically-acclaimed hits “The Spectacular Now” and “The End of the Tour.” But the 11th annual Macon Film Festival has a whole lot more to offer! A couple of years deep into Macon’s focused effort to spotlight music-themed films and Southern non-fiction, the festival is bursting with promising offerings in both categories. Pepper in loads of Georgia-lensed shorts, some festival circuit hits, diverse international offerings and quality workshops—you have yourself a dynamite 4-day event. We’ve highlighted 14 films from this year’s Macon Film Festival that you must check out! The Arbalest #GAfilm

"Undrafted" Review (***)

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Jim Belushi and Aaron Tveit share a father-son moment in “Undrafted.” I have always been a sucker for baseball films, especially ones based on a true story. It is a tried-and-true genre, and although these films tend to be formulaic in structure and predictable in conclusion, they never fail to give me goosebumps on the final, slow-motion pitch that inevitably concludes the film. Joe Mazzello’s directorial debut, “Undrafted,” is no exception. It’s wildly entertaining and it delivers that feel-good ending that’s common to so many baseball films. However, “Undrafted” stumbles in its disproportionate balance of drama and comedy, creating awkward, out-of-place moments that disrupt the flow of the film. Based on the real-life experiences of Mazzello’s brother, “Undrafted” shines a light on a ragtag, intramural baseball team whose star player (played by a very stoic Aaron Tveit) fails to make the Major League Baseball draft. The film anchors itself on this dilemma as the team deals with dash

Atlanta's 100-Year-Old Rialto to host Inaugural Be Downtown Film Festival, July 22-23

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Georgia State University’s Rialto Center for the Arts, the Atlanta Film Society and Central Atlanta Progress are pleased to announce the first ever Be Downtown Film Festival on July 22 and 23, 2016. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Rialto opening as a movie theater in 1916. Built as the largest cinema in the Southeastern United States, the Rialto closed its doors to the public in 1989 before being acquired by Georgia State University years later. In addition to the centennial anniversary, the Rialto is also celebrating 20 years as GSU’s signature Center for the Arts as well as the Atlanta Film Society celebrating 40 years since its founding in 1976. The Be Downtown Film Festival will pay homage to the Rialto’s roots with a two-day festival celebrating films from the 1960s, 1970s and 1990s. The festival kicks off with a #FlashbackFriday on July 22, showcasing two 35mm presentations of movies that once screened at the Rialto during their original releases. Gordon Park’s class

Macon Film Festival and Sundance Institute Join Forces for Short Film Master Class with James Ponsoldt & Mike Plante

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The 11th annual Macon Film Festival kicks off on Thursday, July 21st and runs through Sunday, July 24th. Through a partnership with Sundance Institute , Middle Georgia’s largest film organization is kickstarting this year’s festivities with a high profile Master Class from acclaimed, Georgia-born filmmaker James Ponsoldt and long-time Sundance Short Film Programmer Mike Plante. The half-day educational workshop will guide attendees on how to get the most out of resources to make a successful short film within development and production. Film festival strategy will also be touched upon. The Short Film Master Class takes place at Theatre Macon , a venue that is new to the festival, but located only a block or two away from all of the festival’s other principal venues. Check-in begins at 11:30 AM, with the class running from 12 PM to 4 PM and a reception set to follow. Registration is FREE but required for admission. A free Friday Day-Pass to the Macon Film Festival—which includes a Frida