The 18th edition of Dances With Films (DWF) the iconic Los Angeles Film festival known for its convivial atmosphere of discovery, returns to the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood from May 28th to June 7th.
“This year’s theme, ‘Cinema Vortex,’ exemplifies the creative energy that has always been the epicenter of Dances With Films. So, whether you like documentaries, music videos, or a film of any length and genre, those and more can be found here,” states Leslee Scallon, Festival Co-Founder.
Dances With Films is one of the few festivals to include a music video section “Downbeat.” The Dances With Films (DWF) showcase of emerging artists include 11 Fusion Features, 20 Fusion Shorts, 3 Midnight Features, 8 Midnight Shorts, 8 Documentary Features, 5 Documentary Shorts, and 10 Downbeat. These 65 films include a record 65 premieres – 27 World, 5 North American, 16 West Coast, 3 Southern California, 13 Los Angeles, and 1 US premieres.
Global entries poured in from Australia, Scotland, the US and France with diverse casts including Michael Clarke Duncan, Clea DuVall, Sam Trammell, S. Epatha Merkerson, Nick Offerman T.R. Knight, Bruce Greenwood, and Matt Groening. The competition films were selected by the DWF community from more than 2,000 blind film submissions, based solely on their unique and powerful cinematic visions.
Dances With Film was formed in 1998 by a group of filmmakers who envisioned a festival where “who you know” didn’t matter, only the quality of the work.
The “fiercely independent” festival, often referred to as a “summer camp” for filmmakers, is known for its friendly, exhilarating atmosphere of discovery, for introducing breakthrough filmmakers and for forging lasting filmmaker relationships.
In 2007 DWF brought new commitment to the indie world with the advent of the 2 Minute, 2 Step Short Film Challenge where we actually shoot 8 films during the festival and present them to enthusiastic audiences.
“One of the reasons we created DWF is because of the level of exciting and innovative talent we champion to the film industry and Hollywood community at large. We represent those filmmakers and their teams who have taken limited resources and turned them into films you shouldn’t miss,” shares Michael Trent, Festival Founder.
“Our belief in our filmmakers is rewarded year after year – as we watch our DWF Alumni move on to produce, write, direct and/or star in blockbuster movies and TV shows. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating the film stars of tomorrow.”Leslee Scallon & Michael Trent, Founders, Dances With Films
Dances With Films alumni include Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, creators of the HBO TV series Big Love, Dan Harris, screenwriter of X-Men 2 and Superman Returns, director John Putch of American Pie Presents: The Book of Love, and actress Kathryn Morris, star of the TV series Cold Case.
“The Challenger”- Kent Moran’s “The Challenger” is Michael Clarke Duncan’s (“The Green Mile”) last film. When he and his adopted mother are evicted from their home, struggling Bronx auto mechanic Jaden Miller (Kent Moran) is forced back into the one thing he’s run from his entire life: fighting. With the help of a legendary trainer (Michael Clarke Duncan), Miller will do everything in his power to save his family from living on the streets.
Director Moran wrote and stars as Jaden in the drama. Merkerson plays Moran’s adopted mother Jada. Justin Hartley (Smallville), Ernie Sabella (The Lion King) and Lindsay Hartley (“All My Children,” “Days of Our Lives”) round out the cast.
CLOSING NIGHT: Dances With Film’s World premiere of Carlton Sugarman’s feature “The Amateur: Or Revenge Of The Qaudricorn, closes the festival. “The Amateur” is a gritty, naturalistic musical drama exploring the chaotic journey of artistic pursuit in contemporary Los Angeles. Joey takes his music very seriously. The rest of his life, not so much. “The Amateur” tells the tale of a broke, and sometimes broken, artist navigating the LA music scene.
FEATURES IN COMPETITION
“All I Need” (West Coast Premiere) In Dylan K. Narang’s Psychological horror film “All I Need “an insecure young woman must overcome her captor to save her own life, all the while not knowing the sinister reason she’s really being held
“Astraea” (Southern California Premiere)-Kristjan Thor’s “Astraea” teen coming of age film is set against the backdrop of the apocalypse. When disease decimates the population, a telepathic teenage girl named Astraea follows her visions through a silent America, hoping to find her family. She leads her doubtful brother on a five thousand-mile trek into the snowbound wilderness of Maine, where they encounter a couple homesteading on a frozen lake, the first people they’ve seen in over two years. Astraea’s clairvoyance intensifies, but her brother puts down roots, finds community, and wants to stay. Discord and division rise, and Astraea must decide if she trusts her visions enough to set out alone into the wintery backwoods to rescue her family before its too late.
“Barn Wedding”- Shaun Benson’s ‘Barn Wedding”, (Winner of the Audience Choice Award and Best Ensemble at the Canadian Film Fest) has its US Premiere at DWF. The ‘I’ve got a Barn, lets put on a wedding rom-com follows a group of friends and relatives adapting to the sudden change of date of Colin ((Brett Donahue),) and Jessie’s wedding. Colin’s taken a job out of town, scrambling for a location Jessie ((Emily Coutts)) picks a picturesque barn. Emma’s BFF/roommate Jessie (Kelly McCormack) gets back from a trip abroad in time to be Emma’s maid of honor. Director Shaun Benson plays Collin’s jerky older brother Derrick.
“The Break-In” (West Coast Premiere)- Swedish Writer/Director Marcus Ovnell’s chilling “The Break-In”, beautifully shot by Janssen Herr and edited by Ovnell, is a stylized movie about love and living with a secret. It has won numerous awards.
The Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF Grand Jury Best World Showcase- The Break In, Director Marcus Ovnell. Award Of Merit-Special Mention at The Indie Fest: Marcus Ovnell (Sweden), Film Feature, Direction, Actress: Leading (Jenny Lampa as The Woman), and MIff (MIlan International Film Festival) Nominated: Best Directing (Marcus Ovnell), Best Acting Performance Female ((Jenny Lampa), Best Cinematography (Janssen Herr), Best Supporting Performance Male (Richard Ulfsäter), Best Editing (Marcus Ovnell), Best Movie (Magnus Paulsson, Jenny Lampa, Marcus Ovnell)
A married couple has dinner, they go to bed but soon they realize that someone is in the house. The crisis that follows this incident brings the couple closer together, but brings the relationship to a clash when reality comes knocking on the door.
“Dusk” (West Coast Premiere) Writer/Director Michael Maney’s “Dusk” s an intense psychological thriller with an ending no one will see coming. Its set-up leads to an event that transforms the film into something entirely different.
John Whitmore wakes to find his wife, Anne, disappeared from their bed overnight and a recorded ransom message now remains in her place. The voice on the tape tells John to meet Dave, who will take him to a cabin where his wife is being held, to bring cash and go alone. Things get tricky when Dave, now joined by another man named Sam, begins to slow down the process. John begins to unravel, struggling to remember what his wife last said to him, a detail that could prove to be important. Why would someone kidnap her? Who are Dave and Sam? Why can’t he remember anything?
“Echo Lake” (World Premiere) Writer/Director Jody McVeigh-Schultz’s beautifully shot “Echo Lake” is the portrait of Will (Sam Zvibleman) a 30-year old, functioning alcoholic, struggling with adulthood. When his estranged father dies, Will inherits the family cabin in the Sierras and with it a new perspective on his family, childhood and habit of sabotaging relationships.
McVeigh-Schultz, who edited 26 episodes of Duck Dynasty (2012-2014) was eager to tell a story that would challenge his audience. “A (Reality TV) producer once told me that the story had to be clear enough that a viewer could be doing the dishes and still follow it.” He describes the film as “a story I’d never get to tell in my day job, to tell the unadulterated truth about a character and trust that the audience could take it, even if that character seemed unlovable, or even infuriating. Thus, Will, our unlikely protagonist, was born… Will is an exaggeration of all my worst qualities balled into one. That said, I hope that people see the humanity in Will, a character who needs more than anything to be able to grieve (for his father, but even more for his lost childhood, his lost sense of family). And yet, grieving is something Will has no idea how to do. He doesn’t even know how to tell the woman he loves that his father is dead.
“Fools” (World Premiere) Benjamin Meyer’s “Fools” has buzz. Set in Chicago, where Meyer attended Northwestern the Strangers When We Meet romance features lead actors Mary Cross (founding member and Associate Artistic Director of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble in Chicago) and noted actor Michael Szeles (Nominated for both Best Solo Performance and Best Ensemble Performance for the New York Innovative Theater Award.)
“Here One Minute” (World Premiere) Writer/Director Eleanor Gaver’s Mystery “Here One Minute” tells the devastating true story of what happens when Sarah-a college freshman-unexpectedly dies during the filming of a documentary about New York City graffiti writers. Sarah’s four best friends must deal with their sudden loss. They use her cell phone to retrace her final steps to discover what really happened that night. “Here One Minute” features music by Sarah Neufeld of The Arcade Fire, The National, Dopo Yume, Dujeous and commentary by Jonathan Safran Foer.
“Homeless” (West Coast Premiere)-Writer/Director Clay Riley Hassler’s neo-realist “Homeless” was filmed in a shelter, with a cast of nonpro actors (and homeless men) in Winston-Salem.
“Homeless” tells the story of Gosh Michael McDowell), a teenage boy lost in the bleak routine of life in a shelter. Everyday, from sunup until sundown, Gosh is put out on the streets, unable to return to the shelter until 7pm. He feels alone and anonymous in a seemingly connected world. Weeks go by and the long days and sleepless nights begin to wear on him, and he becomes increasingly discouraged. But when his circumstances change for the better, he finds himself adapting to a new home, new friends and looking forward to a future that he hopes will last.
“In Stereo” (World Premiere)
Writer/Director Mel Rodriguez III’s dark comedy “In Stereo” (based on his 2008 short) follows the lives of David (Micah Hauptman), a photographer on a self-destructive streak and Brenda (Beau Garrett), a once famous TV actress with behavioral issues that have caused her successful TV career to stall. David and Brenda are perfect for each other, and everyone knows it except David and Brenda. After a break-up, they wander through meaningless relationships with others until chance brings them back together on the streets of New York. David invites Brenda to the opening of his first photography exhibit, setting the stage for a night to potentially re-kindle an old romance.
“The Last Treasure Hunt” (World Premiere)- Patrick Biesemans’s “The Last Treasure Hunt” is A heartfelt story of an estranged brother and sister who must put aside their differences in order to solve an elaborate treasure hunt, left for them in the will of their eccentric father.
Oliver and Lucy Sinclair were raised on treasure hunts. Their father would hold a hunt each year, sending his children gallivanting around the house and island to find hidden prizes and secrets. But, like all children do, Oliver and Lucy grew up. After a year of estrangement, their eccentric father unexpectedly passes away, and the two siblings come home to put his affairs in order. Instead of a standard will, the two are met with something unexpected… A treasure hunt. They must solve the hunt together in order to receive their father’s inheritance.
“Lola’s Last Letter” (World Premiere)- Writer/Director/ lead actress Valerie Brandy’s “Lola’s Last Letter” is a portrait of Lola (Valerie Brandy)– a 22 year-old ex-con who spends her time completing her community service by picking up trash on the side of the highway– is making a video letter for her mysterious pen-pal “Henry.” Through her video antics, which range from darkly humorous to heartbreakingly honest, we discover a girl who’s full of contradictions. Tugged in opposite directions by her best friend Ree (Annamarie Kenoyer), and her new love interest Sam (Travis Quentin Young), Lola tries to piece her life back together in the aftermath of a huge mistake. Who is Henry, and why can’t Lola let go?
As part of the movie’s outreach, the filmmakers collected thousands of anonymous apology letters from fans on social media. The letters are posted daily to the film’s social media and are kept completely anonymous. The apologies feature headlines such as “I’m Sorry I Killed Your Cat and Lied About it Being an Accident,” and “I’m Sorry I Fell in Love With Your Boyfriend.” The posts can be viewed on the film’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, or on their official website: http://www.lolaslastletter.com/#!apologyletters/ci77
“The Man In The Shadows” (World Premiere)-Director Josh Fraiman’s “The Man In The Shadows” explores the terror of Sleep Paralysis. Based on thousands of true stories, a newlywed photographer is stalked by a dark man in a brimmed hat who followers her from her nightmares and into reality. Her life in shambles and sanity slipping, she meets a mysterious man claiming to know the shocking secrets of the Hat Man.
“Soledad” (West Coast Premiere)- Writers/Directors’ Eduardo Maytorena & Wayne Mitchell’s “Soledad” is a one night road movie set in Los Angeles. A lonely limousine driver named Victor lives an isolated existence until one evening he is forced to defend a client, from being sexually assaulted by her prom date. “Soledad” tells the story of an unlikely friendship that develops after an act of compassion sets off a series of events -destined to change the lives of everyone involved. A road-trip adventure through the heart of Los Angeles that reminds us that the thing about memories is, you have to have the experiences first. Created and Produced by a team of first-time filmmakers Eduardo Maytorena, Wayne Mitchell and Jesse Celedon. Three best friends who came together to make the type of independent feature film they’ve always dreamed of.
“Super Bob “-Jon Drever’s Brit Super Hero Rom Com “Super Bob”, which is in competition at DWF, premiered at LOCO 2015, The London Comedy Film Festival held at the BFI.
The comedy about a lonely man looking for love, won LOCO’s feature Discovery Award as well as Winner of Best Feature at Philadelphia Comic Con and was the Closing Night Film at London Science Fiction Film Festival.
In 2008, Robert Kenner, a mild mannered postman from Peckham, South London was struck by a meteor which bestowed him with super powers. Six years later, Bob is an overworked underappreciated “civil servant” for the British government. He spends most waking hours saving people and filling out forms. There has been no time for anything else. Least of all love. But today he has a day off. And best of all, he has a date with the woman he once met at the library. Now all he has to do is act as if this isn’t the most exciting day of his life. Apparently that puts people off. Superbob stars Brett Goldstein, Catherine Tate and Natalia Tena, and was directed by our very own Jon Drever!
“Superior”-First time writer/ director Edd Benda’s feature “Superior” is a road film set in the height of the Vietnam War in 1969. Best friends Charlie (on his way to Michigan Tech) and
Derek (waiting for his military draft number to come up) take a heroic 1,300 mile bike ride along the shores of Lake Superior. On their two-speed Schwinn bicycles, they pedal through the massive northern backwoods of Michigan, Minnesota, and Canada, meeting an assortment of reclusive characters and testing their personal limits.
“Actor For Hire”: In Marcus Mizelle’s comedy “Actor For Hire” after losing a part to “an actor with hair” an out of work actor makes it big , due to a wig
“Welcome To Happiness”-A children’s book author is the gatekeeper to a mysterious door in his closet that only allows certain people to enter. When he learns where the door leads, his life is forever changed.
Kyle Gallner (“American Sniper”) plays Woody Ward, the children’s book author with a secret door in his closet, the destination of which is unclear to even him. “Parks and Recreation” star Nick Offerman plays Moses Woody’s father figure and landlord, whose connection to the mysterious door is later revealed. Oliver Thompson’s metaphysical drama is the first film from Minutehand Pictures.
“WildLife” Frank Hall Green’s debut feature “Wildlife” has been a triumph at film festivals. The subtle drama about a teenage girl runaway seeks sanctuary in the Alaskan wilderness has garnered many awards.
When Mackenzie’s (Ella Purnell) in-recovery mother decides to temporarily relinquish custody of her 14-year-old daughter, she’s shipped of to her predatory single uncle (Brian Geraghty), brother to her dead father. Sexual abuse makes her a runner. Crashing in an “empty” motel room she surprises Renee Bartlett (Bruce Greenwood), a 50ish recent widower visiting Alaska. She follows him on has wilderness Trek, hoping to make it back to Seattle.
The Aftermath”-Tim McCann’s drama”The Aftermath” is set in a Louisiana backwater town. Sonny, a heartbroken man who has fallen into drug addiction, becomes obsessed with returning a necklace to his estranged wife for their anniversary. When the necklace is stolen by a gang of criminals led by a tough small-town madame named Franki, Sonny risks his life to navigate the seedy underbelly of his small Louisiana town to get it back.
“A Year And Change”, R. Stephen Suettinger’s ” A Year And Change”, a DWF World premiere is a portrait of Owen, a vending machine proprietor and his Life change. After drunkenly falling off the roof at a New Year’s house party, Owen, decides that it’s time to make some changes in his life; He quits drinking re-enters his estranged son’s life, reignites old friendships, , and falls in love with Vera, a bank teller and fellow divorcee…all in an attempt to surround himself with a family..
“Devils In Disguise”- French-born Guillaume Campanacci actor/ director’s “Devils In Disguise” is a non-linear dark psychological thriller inspired by Patricia Highsmith, the French New Wave and Davis Fincher (Campanacci appeared in Fincher’s “Fight Club” and “Seven”.) Campanacci plays the controlling boyfriend of two women who decide to get rid of him. Buzz aboundA for this Indiegogo crowd funded thriller. French-born Guillaume Campanacci actor/ director’s “Devils In Disguise” is a non linear dark psychological thriller inspired by Patricia Highsmith, the French New Wave and Davis Fincher ( Campanacci appeared in Fincher’s “Fight Club” and “Seven”.) Campanacci plays the controlling boyfriend of two women who decide to get rid of him. Buzz abounds for this Indie GoGo crowd funded thriller.
Dirty Beautiful”-Tim Bartell’s “Dirty Beautiful” had its World Premiere at Silicon Valley’s Cinequest, and was replayed in one of the Best Of The Fest slots on closing day. The films ‘meet-cute” is something else. Homeless Kat (Jordan Monaghan) jumps in David’s front seat car at a red light and within hours they are a couple. Ricky Mabe plays David.
Hello My Name Is Frank”-Dale Peterson’s “Hello My Name Is Frank”, which premiered at the Newport Beach Festival, is a comic road movie. Frank (Garrett M. Brown) is a hermit with Tourette Syndrome/ When Frank’s caretaker dies he has no one but only the caretaker’s teenage daughter Laura (Rachel DiPillo) to look after him. Laura decides to take despondent Frank on a life-changing trip with Laura and her friends rebellious Lisa (Hayley Kiyoko) and religious conservative Kim (Mary Kate Wiles).
“Honeyglue”-James Bird’s “Honeyglue”, another Newport Beach premiere, has animation sequences by Kevin Weber as part of its narrative arc. Cross dresser Jordan (Bordertown’s Zach Villa) meets Morgan (Adriana Mather) at a club. Creative Jordan lives in a rooftop teepee, Morgan, a cancer patient)who lives with her conservative parents, has three months to live. They fall in love and video document their idyllic romance.
DWF is known for its outstanding Documentary programming.
“2E: Twice Exceptional”-Thomas Ropelewski’s “2E: Twice Exceptional” makes its West Coast premiere at DWF. The film, which premiered at the Richmond International Film Festival, Richmond, Virginia, in February, follows members of the Class of 2011 at Bridges Academy as they prepared for life after high school. The intimate portrait of a group of possible ‘Outliers’ details the challenges for kids diagnosed with “2E” or “twice exceptional” (Gifted kids but with learning disabilities ( IE A.D.D Asbergers Syndrome etc.) as well as the work done at Bridges Academy, Studio City, CA, one of the first schools in American dedicated exclusively to the education of twice exceptional students.
David Collier, Suzanne LaFetra’s “FREE” follows a group of Oakland teens while working on a collaborative performance at Destiny Arts Center, an organization devoted to youth empowerment through dance, theater, and martial arts. Their shared creation, based on their experiences with poverty, alienation, HIV, sexual abuse, and gang violence offers a liberation, galvanizing courage, discipline and the ability to face painful truths- coping skills fro the rest of their lives.
David Collier and Suzanne LaFetra’s stirring, up-close documentary follows five of the teens in the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company as they co-create a piece that asks them to dig deeply into the motivating dilemmas and hopes of their lives-to tell the truth, even if it hurts, because the truth will in some degree set them free.
“Harry And Snowman”-Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ron Davis’s “Harry And Snowman” Is a Valentine to stubborn Harry deLeyer and his prize jumper Snowman. In 1956 Harry deLeyer, paid eighty dollars for his Snowman, rescuing him from the slaughterhouse
Harry, a Dutch immigrant and Long Island horse trainer, bought a cheap lesson horse to use at the private girls school where Harry was an instructor. He sold off Snowman to a neighbor, but the wily Snowman kept escaping, easily clearing five-foot pasture fences. So began the sage of a horse dubbed “The Cinderella Horse”, who would do anything for his trainer Harry. Snowman became one of America’s best-known horses. The champion Show Jumper began winning only two years after he was bought off the slaughter truck. Snowman, who would jump other horses appeared on TV frequently (Johnny Carson) His career lasted 5 years. Snowman was inducted into. the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1992.
“Still Point”-Director/ writer/ actress Penny Peyser follows up her 2008 award-winning doc “Trying to Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon” with “Still Point” a World Premiere for DWF. Peyser’s doc is an intimate visit to a California Zen community.
“The Big Lonely” -David Manougian’s immersive “The Big Lonely” portrays homeless Michael Nelms and his dog Tic who moved to the mountains rather than live like a troll under abridge and secretly built a cabin on government land. Manoughian worked with Nelms stunning self-shot footage to show us the heroism, heartbreak and hardships of homelessness.
“Theory of Obscurity: a film about The Residents” -Don Hardy’s fascinating “Theory of Obscurity: a film about The Residents” is an archive of video’s and performances by the mysterious Residents, the Art Rock Collective which keep their identities a secret leading to rumors of various rock superstars working incognito, the true story is more interesting than that and the archival footage (including sequences from their unfinished movie “Vileness Flats”) is exquisite. The opposite of the Kardashians who are famous for nothing, these freak artists chose to remain anonymous for brilliant achievement. A MUST SEE
“You See Me”-Filmmaker Linda Brown’s ‘You See Me”- Brown’s father embodied 1960s masculinity. But when a devastating stroke leaves him vulnerable and dependent, Linda decides to confront the silence surrounding his troubled and violent past. Drawing on home movies, family photos and interviews, she reveals secrets, uncovers lies, and discovers a redeeming treasure in a lost family video. What begins as an intimate, autobiographical story about loss, grief and trauma evolves into a universal look at the impact of trauma, the tragedy of mental illness and the meaning of family.
Combing through all the Super 8 and VHS footage her father ever filmed, Brown turns the family’s apparently blissful life as a nuclear family unit on its head. Who was this man who inflicted fits of violent rage upon them all, most of all upon their mother?
Three Midnight features: First time director Kathleen Behun’s “21 Days ” makes its LA premiere fresh from a win at The Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival in NYC
where it won Best Supernatural Feature Film. The film about three filmmakers who embark on a paranormal challenge by barricading themselves in a house so haunted, no one has been able to live in more than 21 days, has picked up another five awards six awards from four different fests which include, four for Best Feature Film (Los Angeles Film and Script Festival, Freakshow Horror Film Fest, RIP Horror Film Fest and the Philip K Dick Science Fiction Film Fest); one for Best Director (RIP Horror); and one for Best Actor- Max Hambleton (Freakshow Horror Film Fest.)
Kyle Steinbach’s Comic horror film “Bad Exorcists”, which premiered at Cinequest tells the story of a trio of awkward teens who intend to win a horror festival by making their own movie, but wind up getting their actress possessed in the process.
Jerry J White III’s fifth feature” The Horror” a dense character horror piece clocks in with a mere 70 minutes but Buzz is extreme for “The Horror” is a DWF World Premiere. As Isabelle (Callie Ott) recounts the story of her twin brother Malcolm’s mental breakdown. Raymond Creamer plays the psychotic anti-social Malcom, who’s strongest connection is with his sister.
I don’t know much about the shorts, however there is buzz about Canadian/Iranianilmmaker Parisisi Baranai’s “Ablution”. The dramatic short explores the inner life of a conservative Muslim woman and her struggle to reconcile her sexuality and spirituality in 1980s Tehran. (Official trailer-http://tinyurl.com/AblutionTrailer).
For information about the DOWNBEAT series of Music Videos and both the FUSION and MIDNIGHT SHORTS please visit the website http://www.danceswithfilms.com/.
VENUE: TCL Chinese Theatre (Hollywood & Highland), 6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028-(323) 461-3331(323) 461-3331