BEST NORTH AMERICAN FILM - BITE ME (Directed by Meredith Edwards)In New York City, there is a subculture of people who identify themselves as vampires. A young woman named Sara (Naomi McDougall Jones) is one of those individuals. While she does drink blood to stay healthy, she doesn't sleep in a coffin, can walk in the daytime, has a job, and her vampire "church" is being audited by the IRS for back taxes. He life takes a turn in an unexpected direction when she meets James (Christian Coulson), the IRS agent assigned to her audit case. Before you know it, the two fall for each other, much to the chagrin of her roommates Chrissy (Naomi Grossman) and Lily (Mahira Kakkar). So how does a vampire find love in New York City, and can love truly conquer all in the real world?
This movie blew my mind!! I was expecting a horror comedy, not a romantic comedy/drama that deals with all-too-real problems that we face in our everyday lives. While there is horror in the film, it's modern day horrors: dead-end jobs, money problems, prejudices, and the fear of never finding that special person to love for the rest of your life. Naomi McDougall Jones soars as Sara; she just exudes talent and is absolutely wonderful in the film! Her on-screen chemistry with her co-star Christian Coulson is so believable that I fell head over heels in love with these two characters! And, in case you are not able to see the film during the festival, the filmmakers are taking the film on tour this spring. Dubbed "The Joyful Vampire Tour of America," the movie will be screened at independent theaters in 20-30 cities! Visit the film's official website www.bitemethefilm.com to learn more about the tour.
BEST FOREIGN FILM - BORDERLINE (Directed by Anna Alfieri)The film's about a young woman named Anna (Anna Alfieri), who is going through the aftermath of her breakup with Robyn (Agathe Ferre), the only girl she's ever loved. Told through a non-liner storyline, we see the love and heartache Anna has experienced, and the self-destructive path that she walks on after her relationship ended so damn painfully. Love is a four-letter word and we see first hand how Anna experiences this, how she lost it, and how does she find herself again.
This film had made such an impact on me that I was overwhelmed with a flood of emotions! Filmmaker Anna Alfieri tapped into a very dark and heartbreaking period in her life to tell a story of being in love and then losing it. Again, it doesn't matter if your gay, straight, bi, trans, Asian, African American or what have you, we all have the same emotions, and Alfieri bared her soul for all of us to see. Combining avant-garde visual storytelling, D.I.Y. guerrilla style filmmaking, and universal themes of love, depression, and life, the film is an unflinching look at what it means to be human, and how to overcome loss! Something that all of us can relate to!! To learn more about the film, visit www.borderline2019.com. To learn more about Anna Alfieri, visit her website at www.annaalfieri.co.uk.
BEST DOCUMENTARY - THE EDGE OF SUCCESS (Directed by Liza Meak & Kathryn Basiji)This was such a compelling and heart wrenching documentary about the many suicides that has transpired at Gunn High School, located in Palo Alto, California. Through in-depth interviews with students, educators, parents, and doctors, the film attempts to shine light as to why all this has happened, what were the circumstances, and how the community is trying to stop these deaths from happening all over again.
Living here in San Jose, Palo Alto is less than half an hour north of here, and yet, I had no idea that this was happening! I knew about the first cluster of suicides, but since 2009, there have been a total of eleven deaths of Gunn High School students, all by suicide. This documentary was such an eye opener that I was shocked and saddened by this, and not realizing this until now. Directed by Kathryn Basiji and journalist Liza Meak, this is a film that should be required viewing for all high school students who feel the same way as those interviewed!: overwhelmed, pressured, and depressed about their scholastics, SATs, college choices and everything else in their lives! This is call to action for every single parent, faculty member, and administrator! To learn more about the documentary and upcoming festival screenings, visit the film's official website at edgeofsuccessmovie.com.
BEST SHORT FILM - THE WIND PHONE (Directed by Kristen Gerweck)Inspired by true events. A phone booth on a remote ocean cliffside brings together seven strangers, having different conversations with their loved ones, but it's not your typical phone booth, and not your typical conversations.
This was emotional gut punch of a short film! We all people in our lives who have passed on, but what if we were given the opportunity to talk to them from the beyond? Writer/director Kristen Gerweck got the inspiration from a very tragic event. In 2011, a devastating 9.0 earthquake hit the northeastern section of Japan, which caused a massive tsunami that claimed the lives of more than 15,000 people. In the coastal town of Otsuchi, where they lost more than 800 lives, a phone booth was set up for people to call their dead loved ones, friends, and family members. An emotional short film that I really connected with!! To learn more about the film, the filmmakers, and future festival screenings, visit the film's official website at augohr.de/catalogue/the-wind-phone.
BEST SPOTLIGHT FILM - TEEN SPIRIT (Directed by Max Minghella)Elle Fanning stars as Violet, a very quiet and shy seventeen-year-old girl who goes to school, does her chores on her farm, loves her horse, works waiting on tables, and likes to sing. In fact, she can sing very well. When the hit UK show Teen Spirit (kinda like American Idol) comes to her little island, she tries out and gets picked. She gets help from her new manager, who just happens to be the local drunk at her work, Oh, and he used be a famous opera singer. What are the odds? As she climbs up the competition, he's exposed to the city's indulgence, which threatens her chances to win the contest.
I wasn't expecting much here, but I was pleasantly surprised on how much I enjoyed the film. Fanning was awesome as Violet, but it's actually her singing the songs! And she can really sing people! I've already the film's main song, "Dancing On My Own" and I can't stop listening it! She is just so damn talented and she shines brightly in the movie! Written and beautifully directed by Max Minghella, the movie is scheduled to be released to theaters on April 5th, so keep you eyes peeled when this bad boy comes out! To learn more about the film, visit the official website at bleeckerstreetmedia.com/teenspirit.
And folks there you have it! My Favorite Film from the 29th Annual Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival!! So be on the lookout for any of these films at your local theater, on cable, film festivals, VOD, and other media outlets! Also, if you would like to learn more about Cinequest, their mission statement, their Picture the Possibilities program, and how to make a donation, please visit www.cinequest.org.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!