#WSIFF 2014: Selection Reviews, pt 1.



The White Sands International Film Festival begins showing selections today, September 3, 2014. With a full schedule “packed with some of the most engaging, amazing and intriguing features, short films and documentaries anywhere” here is the first installment of reviews to help attendees plan the most advantageous viewing schedule. For full playlist schedule and trailers for the film submissions, click HERE.

As a reminder: All films for the White Sands International Film Festival here are rated on a simple 5-star rating.

Each star is given based on the following:

  1. Original story/Presentation
  2. Acting/Authentic Characters
  3. Cinematography/Audio/Special Effects
  4. Look & Feel/Storytelling
  5. Entertainment/Unpredictability

Disclaimer– reviews are solely and independently my own opinion and do not reflect the opinions of the WSIFF board, judges, participants and viewers (or anyone else for that matter).


WSIFF Reviews: Part 1


Category: Feature. (IMDB page)gasp poster

A beautifully shot full length feature about a group of acquaintances who include a couple of strangers in on a night of traditions both old and new on a secluded island in a house full of intrigue and inquiry. While the warmth of the cinematography and the uniqueness of the characters are both inviting, the overall story and purpose tend to get a little lost amid the pensiveness and plot twists of the film. Discovery of self and others and escapism that perhaps truly is not are all themes in this film of surprises, seductions and subtle secrets. A story that builds to much but doesn’t quite reach its potential as the overall “special purpose” and plans get lost amid the philosophical conversations, musical interludes and inconsistent pacing.

Were it not for the energy of the actors and characters, along with the camera work and locations, this film would be much harder to watch and appreciate.

My score:star2.5



Category: Short. (IMDB page5 ways 2 die

Quirky. Comical. Suicidal. Homicidal. Dark. Delightful. In an pleasing and enjoyable way, death takes center stage in this short with twists and turns around devious and dark corners as we follow a man whose actions and attitude emote tendencies of suicide. But is all as it appears to be? Through nary a word, the main character aimlessly trudges through his medial tasks while the threat (or invitation) of death lurks around every bend. This short very quickly draws you in with clever hints as to what is happening without spelling it out for you, allowing for the mystery and intrigue to build throughout. Admittedly, I was very surprised by the finale and the filmmakers very graciously “fill in the blanks” as the credits prepare to roll. 5 Ways 2 Die had me dying from laughter and surprise and this impressive short is worth two watches. Well constructed, well executed, well thought out and told, 5 Ways 2 Die is a living testament of what quick storytelling should be like. Ingenious! Don’t die without having seen this one!

My score:star5



Category: Short. (IMDB page)thefantasy

Ah, what fun occurs when circumstance and coincidence yield comedy and calamity! The Fantasy is a short that brings out the comedy of a situation in which a husband goes to certain lengths in order to fulfill the fantasies of his wife…recently whispered into his ear. Audiences follow the husband during his day of completing tasks to bring the fantasy of his wife to life. The events that ensue create much more laughter and delight than I had anticipated prior to watching. Told in black and white and with no audible dialogue, the facial expressions and the reactions truly allow this film to come to life and makes the fantasy all the more real. Definitely a fun watch.

My score:star4



Category: Short. (IMDB page)dandelion

A short that challenges viewers to be true to yourself regardless of society and what is considered “the norm.” This short, longer than most, is filmed with quality and takes time to develop its message and characters in a way to bring about the morale of “unconditional social acceptance.” While the dialogue and acting at times come off a bit clunky, the overall delivery of this self-discovery is beautiful and pertinent in any day and age. Relatable to audiences of all walks of life, Dandelion Dreams encourages viewers to dare to dream and dare to discover what is important in one’s life.

My score:star3



Category: Other/Documentary. (IMDB page)extending the play

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/101367996]

When this film ended, I was surprised by how much I was actually keyed in to the story and the people featured. Most sports “documentaries” end up being “the same” and bring nothing new to the table. Beginning this one, I felt that I would be subjected to the same experience. But something happened as I kept watching…I cared about the story and needed to know what happened next, becoming an involuntary but willing observant cheerleader of the two athletes featured in this biopic of sorts that plays out more like a television special for ESPN.

Synopsis from writer/director John Dahlgren
Synopsis from writer/director John Dahlgren

So many role models in the world are not given the due recognition they deserve. That being the case, I considered it a delight and an honor to have watched this special about two athletes who loved their sport, let it grow them as individuals and a couple and use it to help others. I knew nothing about Kasey and Bracey Ulin prior to watching this film and now I want to know more about their lives (not only their careers). This film, not about basketball as a whole, focuses on their story of triumph, redemption, fame, abasement and perseverance and faith. It is an inspiring film for everyone regardless of your interest in sports or basketball. When all hope may be lost, their story inspires others to “extend the play” and keep pressing toward the goal because it can be accomplished.

I do not want to write much more and over-hype it or spoil any of the story, but let me tell you, this film stayed with me in my heart and mind and I appreciated the filmmaker’s choice in subject, writing, filming and storytelling. It is fulfilling discoveries like these that make film festivals a special treat.

My score:star4.5



Category: Short. (IMDB page) blind

Sentiment alone does not always make for the best story. This short with a dual-sided meaning gives feet the phrase “blind leading the blind.” Playing out much like the images one conjures in their mind’s eye as a story of a past event is being retold from the mouth of the one who experienced it, this “based on a true story” film is not much of a story to tell, but tries to take a possibly every day event and make it into more. Challenging audiences thus to not be blind to the beauty of normal every day circumstances…however, the film could have benefited from a different way to share that message. It lacks any real empathy or passion for the characters overall. (The only real passion to come from any of the characters is while the credits roll and the main character is humming after reaching his epiphany and having his eyes opened.)

Sight is not always needed to truly see. In this instance, however, I had hoped there would be more to see to help further the film’s story and purpose.

My score:star


The White Sands International Film Festival looks to offer some fantastic viewing experiences this year. Stay tuned for even more reviews and spotlights. Showtimes begin TODAY, September 3rd through September 7th.

Remember: For my full coverage and listing of all films reviewed, movie spotlights, photos, interviews and more, be sure to click (and visit often) the tab at the top of the screen entitled “2014 White Sands International Film Festival Coverage” for quick links to every post about WSIFF (or click HERE). You can also visit WSIFF.COM and click the link referring you to the “Official Blogger for 2014 WSIFF.”

Thanks for reading! Happy watching.

Terrence Faulkner, a.k.a. “TheFocusedFilmographer”


  1. Someday I am going to attend this film festival, Terrence…in the meantime, I’ll be reading these posts avidly…otherwise I’d never have booked THE RETRIEVAL. Have fun at the fest, my friend 🙂


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