Indy Film Fest

9Jul/130

IIFF 2013 :: A COMMON ENEMY

Posted by Kate Pell

Guest post by Kelly Millspaugh
Addicted to coffee and discovering new music. I prefer cold weather and speak sarcasm fluently.

I will be the first person to admit that I don’t know much about Tunisia. I watched this documentary not knowing that they recently overthrew their president and were having their first free elections ever. As an American, I have never lived under the rule of a dictator or a corrupt leader. My parents, and their parents haven’t either. You may disagree with our president and government but the point is that you are allowed to disagree and voice your opinion. Living in a developed country is a privilege that we seem to take for granted in the United States. That is why stories like this are so important for us to see and experience from a first person point of view.

The people of Tunisia know what it is like to have their freedoms limited and even though their corrupt leader was overthrown, they have a long way to go. The people have a strong distrust of any politicians; they fear they will end up right back where they were under the rule of Ben Ali. This distrust has led some of the people to be apathetic and disengaged. Others have been led to rally, protest, and even become violent in support of their causes. The causes of various groups in Tunisia include education, women’s rights, and religious freedom.

A COMMON ENEMY tells the story of Tunisians who are pounding the pavement trying to convince their fellow man and woman to go out and vote in the coming free election. It is amazing to watch people fight for what they believe in with such fervor and persistence. The people of Tunisia are a good example of fighting for freedom for all of us but especially for the other Arab countries in their area.

I would recommend this documentary for anyone who, like myself, didn’t know much about Tunisia, but also to anyone interested in seeing the power that people can have in the face of corruption.

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The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for A COMMON ENEMY. 

Thursday, July 25 @ 2:45 in the Toby
Friday, July 26 @ 4:45 in the DeBoest

9Jul/130

IIFF 2013 :: TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE

Posted by Kate Pell

Guest post by Heike Baird
Heike Baird is a writer and film fan who resides in downtown Indianapolis. Heike's fixation on good films began with a childhood obsession with Mary Poppins. Her favorite movie ever is Waiting for Guffman. Oh—and her first name rhymes with Micah.

Would you give one of your kidneys to a stranger?

Would you give one of your kidneys to a stranger for $20,000?

In the David Cronenberg-narrated documentary TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE, the international black market exchange of human organs is exposed with grisly detail and gritty existential inquiry. The documentary follows several people involved in the trade as either a “criminal” surgeon, a desperate-for-cash donor, or a desperate-for-life patient.

You can dive into the ethical questions for yourself when the film screens, but let’s start with the facts: In the world today, human organs are scarce, and poor people are not. Given the opportunity, many of these poor people would welcome the chance to donate a non-requisite body part (like a kidney) in exchange for an incentive. A kidney donation has the potential to save two lives equally, providing a large, blessed sum of money to someone in dire need (one of the film’s donors, for example, lives in a crawlspace under someone else’s house) and providing a vital organ to save the life of someone who is suffering and is willing to pay for it.

The TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE filmmakers are granted unprecedented access to several key players in the underground organ trade world, including “Doctor Vulture” himself—the highly qualified doctor wielding the clinically sanitized (but ethically unsanitary) surgical tools that have sliced open thousands of eager abdomens. We, as viewers, are taken through the streets of Moldova, the Philippines, Canada, Kosovo, and beyond to see the real faces behind these very visceral, and very real, organ “donations” (or are they transactions?).

During my 70-ish minutes with the film, a few questions that began to materialize in my mind included:

  • What is exploitation?
  • Can you be exploited if you know all of the facts?
  • Should the government be able to regulate the voluntary donation of a person’s own organs?
  • Is it wrong to accept money for an altruistic act?

I appreciated the way that the film featured so many viewpoints instead of making the unpleasant mistake of sidling up to only one perspective. This movie is a real conversation starter for anyone who enjoys discussing morality, ethics, the state of healthcare, and the problem of poverty. Hearing about an illegal trade of organs is one thing; seeing the names and faces associated with the trade is quite another, and the faces of the people who talked about their experiences in this film continued to stay with me long after the last shots of shuttered kidney-transplant clinics in Kosovo had faded.

Note: If you’re not fond of video footage that includes surgery and blood, please don’t try to stomach this movie about surgery and blood.

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The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE. 

Tuesday, July 23 @ 9:00 in the Toby
Friday, July 26 @ 6:30 in the DeBoest

8Jul/130

IIFF 2013 :: THE LONGER DAY OF HAPPINESS

Posted by Kate Pell

Guest post by Claire Brosman
Grant writer & storyteller for non-profits. Better composter than gardener. Obsessed with good food and where it comes from.

We meet Lisa Jones. We meet Jack Jones. And then we meet Garret Jones. They are grown adopted siblings with an overbearing mother. The setting is LA with a back drop of studio lots and stages, press events, and photo ops. Agents and PR reps surround the Jones siblings and their mother who are no strangers to fame. Their lives seemingly should be charmed, but they aren’t. Everybody is fighting with something in THE LONGER DAY OF HAPPINESS.

What compelled me to watch these characters' stories unfold was simply curiosity. What was driving each character into the downward spiral we find each in as the film opens? We get only a glimpse of one day in the life of these characters and so I never found those character motives or answers I was seeking, but I realize that’s kind of how life works.

Life isn’t neat. There aren’t always reasons for why we end up unhappy or make bad decisions. In life, people don’t always make sense. People aren’t always interesting or even likeable. And so, in this respect, director Shane Stevens pulls together a film about life that may be more realistic than it is enjoyable.

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The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for THE LONGER DAY OF HAPPINESS.

Sunday, July 21 @ 7:30 in the DeBoest
Wednesday, July 24 @ 7:00 in the Toby

8Jul/130

IIFF 2013 :: COLDWATER

Posted by Kate Pell

Guest post by Kelly Millspaugh
Addicted to coffee and discovering new music. I prefer cold weather and speak sarcasm fluently.

COLDWATER opens with a young man named Brad being forcibly removed from his home in the middle of the night and taken to a juvenile rehabilitation center called Coldwater. Brad was a bad kid. He sold drugs and had a bit of a temper when it came to his mother and her new boyfriend. He continued to disobey and his mother felt being taken to Coldwater was the only way he would avoid jail time and have a chance to be reformed. Coldwater is run by ex-military and not bound by any criminal justice system laws or standards. These young men may be bad seeds but they are treated like animals and put through the wringer in hopes of coming out as soft spoken gentlemen who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Brad initially rebels but learns that playing along is the only way he may be able to expose the truth about Coldwater and stop the inhumane treatment from continuing.

The film is shot well and the cast is very strong. PJ Boudousqué is excellent in his role as Brad. He had the ability to appear disengaged and emotionless when it was necessary but a subtle change in facial expression or sideways glance reminded you that this was a troubled guy who was just trying to survive. He does resemble Ryan Gosling physically but seems to also have Gosling's impressive range. I think we will see a lot more of him in the future. At times the violence and torture endured by the inmates is cringe-worthy but I think it’s necessary to really understand why these facilities are doing more harm than good. I have only really hinted at the storyline of the film because I do not want to reveal too much.

COLDWATER is mostly a drama but the third act is really more of a thriller. Ultimately, COLDWATER is a story that reveals that “good” guys and “bad” guys in life are not always easy to label.

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The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for COLDWATER.

Sunday, July 21 @ 8:30 in the Toby
Friday, July 26 @ 4:30 in the Toby

8Jul/130

IIFF 2013 :: THE BOUNCEBACK

Posted by Kate Pell

Guest post by Elizabeth Friedland
Senior PR Manager living the ad agency life. Voracious consumer (and sometimes publisher) of the written word, culture, politics and music.

THE BOUNCEBACK is one of those classic tales of unrequited love – if the unrequited loves simultaneously self-pleasured themselves on opposite coasts (dammed that empty Kleenex box), participated in Air Sex competitions (yes, it’s real – and really graphic) and slept their way around Austin, Texas (one of the better tourist activities. Er, or so I’ve heard).

The film opens with scenes familiar to pretty much every twenty or thirty something -- two Austinites are on a first date anyone would envy. There’s witty banter, liquid courage, and drunken kissing. Through a hipster-ish photomontage, we learn that Kathy and Stan (a delicious piece of Midwestern man candy played by Michael Stahl-David) have moved from fabulous first date to full-on relationship – until she moves to New York for medical school and he moves to L.A. to deliver pizza.

Stan is wallowing in his misery when he learns via Facebook that his beloved ex will be returning to Austin to visit her best friend (the trashy Kara). With hope in his heart and a tent in his pants, he books a ticket that direction – under the guise of visiting his best friend Jeff  – who just so happens to be Kara’s ex, and equally trash-tastic.

To recap, two sets of exes are gathering in Austin, where the weather is sultry, the beer is cheap, and the Air Sex Olympics are happening. It’s an R rated trifecta. The four friends are left to decide if they want to revisit their past relationships or give in to the temptation of a rebound fling. It’s the old heart versus groin dilemma, and the audience is left wondering which head will win out until the very last seconds of the movie. Predictable, it is not.

Yes, the film is crass. Don’t take children, your mother, or a first date -- or do, depending on how you’d like the night to end. But if you look beyond the simulated sodomy, dick pics and vagina jokes, you’ll find a “half creepy, half romantic” (as one character put it) tale as old as time. With relatable dialogue, slick editing choices and a recognizable peek into Austin’s bar scene (Death Metal Pizza, anyone?), THE BOUNCEBACK is a dirty romp in the sack with some tender post-coital cuddling. Just how we like it.

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The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for THE BOUNCEBACK. 

Saturday, July 20 @ 10:00 in the Toby
Friday, July 26 @ 6:30 in the Toby

7Jul/130

IIFF 2013 :: TINY, A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL

Posted by Kate Pell

Guest post by Dan Dark
Dan is a screener for the IIFF (Docs) and loves seeing movies in empty theaters. During the day he is Director of Content at Raidious.

 

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” - Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN

“The things you own, end up owning you.” - Tyler Durden, FIGHT CLUB

What is your home? Is it a place to store your stuff, a place to offer security, an investment? According to Christopher Smith, the director and star of the documentary TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL, your home is a reflection of what we value in our lives and how we want to live. Your home is your self portrait.

So when Smith, who says he lived in 20 different houses growing up, is approaching his 30th birthday and finds himself grappling with the need to settle down and buy a home, he struggles with what kind of life he wants to live and builds his home to suit that. He wants to build a tiny home with the help of his girlfriend and pull it out to a 5-acre plot he purchased in the mountains of Colorado.

Tiny homes are just what they sound like: homes that are 84 square feet, 110 square feet, 130 square feet -- there is no definitive size (though one common thread is that many of these homes are built on wheeled trailers as a loophole to minimum square-footage building laws). Their owners -- some single, some couples, some with cats -- build tiny houses for a variety of reasons. I broke them down accordingly:

  • The Tyler Durden: Rejection of the system.
  • The Hendy David Thoreau: Finding meaning in a simpler life, closer to nature.
  • The Al Gore: Environmentally friendly.
  • The Dave Ramsey: Live within your means.

All of these are, in their own way, about freedom. Freedom from the expectations of the American Dream that just doesn’t apply to everyone. Freedom in living how you want to live.

And yet, as unsurprising as it seems, the value of TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL as a documentary is that it is well-constructed, without fluff and efficiently told. The film’s tight 66 minutes keeps focused on Smith’s construction of his own tiny home, while interviewing a dozen or so other micro-home dwellers.

When I heard Smith narrating in the first person, I prepared myself for the worst, as I have encountered too many documentaries where the director and subject can’t seem to edit themselves out. This is what ultimately doomed documentaries like “Sharkwater” for me. TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL and Smith never fall into this trap. At points where Smith could focus on his personal struggles with his job or girlfriend, securing the funds to build, or long diatribes about how McMansions are evil or how the banking industry is unscrupulous, the film remains focused on the question of the home and what it means to have a tiny house.

To Smith, the world gets so much bigger when you’re living small. Your home is your self portrait. How you live is a reflection of what you value. In TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL, Smith says, “We all know what [home] is, even if we can’t describe it.” So sometimes you have to build it yourself.

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The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for TINY, A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL.

Sunday, July 21 @ 11:00 in the Toby
Tuesday, July 23 @ 1:00 in the DeBoest

7Jul/130

IIFF 2013 :: THE CLEANER

Posted by Kate Pell

Guest post by Claire Brosman
Grant writer & storyteller for non-profits. Better composter than gardener. Obsessed with good food and where it comes from.

In the way of stories, what THE CLEANER offers isn’t new. Eusebio Vela is a forensic cleaner during an epidemic sweeping Lima, Peru. He is lonely. Joaquin, an orphan, enters his life. Eusebio is changed. We all know that story and have seen a life transformed on screen again and again.

But the thing is the control first time director Adrian Saba brings to the film makes the story its own. Saba builds a world void of distractions and lets you linger in Eusebio’s life and his revelations. Dialogue is sparse, the soundtrack used sparingly and the takes are long and static. It’s beautiful to let the story unfold before you quietly and at its own pace, never compromising the story by telling too much. Really though, my screener paused mid-film and I didn’t notice anything was awry for a few seconds.

THE CLEANER is a Spanish language film, but highlighting it as such hardly seems relevant. Dialogue doesn’t dominate the story; you’ll take in the characters’ experiences and emotions through Eusebio’s low hung head and Joaquin’s furrowed eyebrows. A rarely employed soundtrack accompanies only a few scenes drawing focus instead to the sounds of the Eusebio’s broom on the pavement as he alone washes away death in the wake of the epidemic, the swishing of his suit as he moves from job to job or the sound of his breath as he sits alone in his apartment. And by stripping everything away, this film captures the magnitude of Eusebio’s metamorphosis.

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The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for THE CLEANER.

Saturday, July 20 @ 4:30 in the DeBoest
Tuesday, July 23 @ 6:30 in the DeBoest

Saturday, July 27 @ 11:30 in the Toby

6Jul/130

IIFF 2013 :: MILES TO GO

Posted by Kate Pell

Guest Post by Nik Browning
Began musical blogging under myspace/facebook dev. http://redrkr.blogspot.com/  http://redrkr2.blogspot.com/ - movies.

Miles is alone, listless. He runs at night because he has trouble sleeping. We learn at his therapist's office that he’s suffering from dumper’s remorse. A break-up which he initiated because he felt trapped, but now misses his ex. He realizes his selfishness of contacting her- as he simply wants some comfort without considering a future. But the ex soon forces his hand and provides an ultimatum. Full relationship or nothing. And Miles is cornered, needing to face his fears and make a decision. Embrace the love that presents itself? Or sabotage what he sees as the inevitable?

A supporting cast are quick to enter and leave the proceedings. They seem to normalize Miles and his girlfriend, Julia. As sexually selfish as Miles is, his best friend is worse. As depressed as he can feel, his sister is worse. They all bring along a little color commentary without bringing enough baggage to weigh down the story or direct it away from the main couple. As the girlfriend, Jen McPherson plays the role as straight and sweetly as one could hope. She goes from hurt to forgiving to hopeful quite logically without being jerked around to seem unstable, like a male director is sometimes want to do.

The first thing that will come to mind when describing a film that is written by, directed by and stars the same guy… Which is about a writer with romantic commitment issues… is of course, Woody Allen. And Quincy Rose is careful not to steal that voice, but it is a clear inspiration. The dinner party scene strays from mortality discussions based on Nietzsche writings and gears more toward the philosophy of anal sex while reciting gangsta rap lyrics. This film has been likened to a long “Girls” episode as well, which is fair. But it’s crude sexuality serves the purpose of the greater story, investigating if lasting relationships can be maintained in an age where social media leaves alternative interaction with each mouse click and strip mall massage parlors are a block away.

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The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for MILES TO GO.

Wednesday, July 24 @ 1:00 in the Toby
Saturday, July 27 @ 4:30 in the DeBoest

3Jul/130

IIFF 2013 :: MEDORA

Posted by Kate Pell

Guest post by Joe Ball
Proud Hoosier. Consumer of movies, music, art, smart jokes, tacos & bourbon.

Years ago, at the start of Indiana Pacers home games and just after the introduction of the visiting team, the arena would darken and the center court video boards illuminated a sepia-toned montage of historic Pacers games. The audio of a radio announcer calling the on-screen plays was mixed with the theme music from the movie HOOSIERS. At the culmination of the montage, just after Reggie Miller drains a signature 3-pointer over Michael Jordan, the screens flip to a blinding white background and the following quote appears:

“In 49 states it’s just basketball…but this is Indiana.”

Having grown up in Indiana, I know how true those words are. Basketball lore is woven into countless stories of our state. MEDORA, a documentary by filmmakers Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart, is one such tale. Following a 2009 The New York Times article on both the town and the basketball team’s trials, the filmmakers set out to document why the team has gone decades without a winning record.

It is a story of players, products of broken homes and bad luck, who don’t dream of reaching the big stage of playing for a state championship. They dream of staying out of trouble; of reuniting with parents struggling with alcoholism; of being the first in their family to graduate high school; of maybe joining the military or possibly getting into college. They dream of winning just one basketball game.

It is also a story of what a winless basketball team can mean to a community struggling to stay alive. Nestled just south of US-50 (between Bedford and Seymour) Medora, Indiana has a population of approximately 500 people. Hard hit by the recession, factories have closed and jobs have left the impoverished farming community. With an enrollment of just 72, Medora High School is one of the smallest schools in the state. Its sports teams routinely play against those from consolidated schools, sometimes with talent pools ten-times the size of Medora’s. The city’s school system is facing a budget crisis and consolidation seems to be an option in the near future. As one resident of Medora points out, “This town will die when that school leaves.” In a town with nothing, one win could mean everything.

Yes, this is a basketball story and yes, this is Indiana. But Medora could be anywhere and its story is the story of countless small towns throughout the country. I won’t bore you with sports movie clichés to entice you to see this film. If you need one, just know that Medora is the ultimate underdog story. And a story that needs to be seen.

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The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for MEDORA. 

SPECIAL VENUE:  Friday, July 19 @ 9:30 in The Harrison Center gym
Thursday, July 25 @ 4:30 in The Toby

2Jul/130

IIFF 2013 ::AS HIGH AS THE SKY

Posted by Kate Pell

Guest post by Melanie Woods
Comm/marketing professional, adjunct comm professor, NFL junkie - GO COLTS, art collector, proud Indy resident

In college, my roommates liked to mess with my stuff. They would rearrange my DVD collection (which was in alphabetical order) or move things around on my desk (which was always perfectly arranged). When I got home, they would see how long it would take me to notice and freak out (which was never too long).

My OCD tendencies are nothing compared to those of Maggie, the main character in AS HIGH AS THE SKY. The opening sequence quickly establishes Maggie’s routine of making sure things are where they are supposed to be. Her house is impeccable but there are hints that not everything is in place in her life. She wakes up looking embarrassed to be cuddling a pillow and quickly puts it back on the other side of the bed. The manly voice on her answering machine informs callers that “we” can’t come to the phone, but Maggie lives alone.

You can’t help but wonder what Maggie is trying to suppress. There’s clearly more to this character but writer and director Nikki Braendlin takes her time revealing the layers. This plot is somewhat of a slow burner but the payoff is worth it in the end, when you will be grateful for a dark theatre to hide the fact that you may be tearing up (which you probably will be).

Maggie’s world of order and control is disrupted when her sister Josephine and niece Hannah drop in for an unannounced visit. Maggie welcomes them into her home but is visibly anxious as they scatter their stuff around and settle in. Josephine is the polar opposite of Maggie. She’s 13 years older, loud, carefree, tattooed and smokes weed. She and her 10-year-old daughter have one of those “you and me against the world” relationships. The father isn’t in the picture but they are doing just fine without him.

It’s not clear how long it’s been since the sisters last saw each other. Their parents died in a car crash when Josephine was 17. She took off, leaving 4-year-old Maggie to be raised by her aunts. Maggie and Josephine seem awkward around each other at first and Hannah is noticeably uncomfortable with her aunt’s eccentric behavior.

Over the course of their stay, the trio breaks down their emotional barriers and finds a way to connect. There are a few moments when Maggie lets herself lose control and actually has fun with her family. And as the viewer, you’ll feel yourself relaxing and smiling along with her. The sisters share a genuine moment when Josephine apologizes for abandoning Maggie and Maggie says she never blamed her for leaving. They solidify their sisterly bond but it may be too late to matter.

“As High as the Sky” is one of those movies where you don’t know everything, but once you know what you do, you look back at various events in the film with a different perspective. It’s not a particularly unique plot but the characters are well-developed and you end up fully invested in what will happen to them at the end of the movie (which is why you should pack some Kleenex).

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The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for AS HIGH AS THE SKY. 

Saturday, July 20 @ 3:00 p.m. at The Toby
Thursday, July 25 @ 1:00 p.m. at The Toby