The White Sands International Film Festival continues, and, let me tell you, if you are not attending some of the showings you are truly missing out! With a full schedule “packed with some of the most engaging, amazing and intriguing features, short films and documentaries anywhere” here is the fourth 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:
- Original story/Presentation
- Acting/Authentic Characters
- Cinematography/Audio/Special Effects
- Look & Feel/Storytelling
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). Click >>>HERE<<< for all the additional reviews/coverage of this year’s festival.
WSIFF Reviews: Part 4
LIES I TOLD MY LITTLE SISTER
Category: Feature. (IMDB page)
Beginning with a narrative told through the lens of a young woman recounting times with her sisters, this drama dives right in to the story and sets the tone and expectations of a film thought to be about lies yet full of life truths. After the death of her older sister, Cory reluctantly ends up on a family getaway and, as the single daughter in the family, is “forced” to participate in the family togetherness. Doing so means taking time with one another, catching up on memories, revisiting unhealed wounds and seeking closure through family, friends, fights and fears.
This film contains real-life characters and plays out much like a full-length production film. A believable bond of sisters, mix of characters, relevant family and personal issues and hints of friendship and romance make the movie real and reminiscent of films such as August: Osage County. The tagline for the film: “A family trip. Packing all the childhood baggage.” is pertinent and perfect in explaining what to expect.
The pacing in the film makes it a longer trip than preferred, but its characters (some of them in and out) and camerawork and promised sense of closure unpack the baggage and keep it real. The truth about the lies…a heavy film sprinkled lightly with comedy that carries a ton of life and familial truths through looks at the past and present in hopes to help prepare for better futures. Not the most comfortable to watch at all times, but such is life.
DOWNTON BY LAMPLIGHT
Category: Short/Documentary. (IMDB page)
Discover San Francisco’s Gilbert & Sullivan jewel in this amusing short about Lamplighters Music Theatre and their annual satirical send up, this year of Downton Abbey. Join host and stage director Phil Lowery and the rest of the assorted nuts of the Lamplighter Family as they prepare, practice and perform their way to a $48,000 payoff.. -IMDB.com
This docu-style short provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the satirical productions of the Gilbert & Sullivan theatrical teams. Musical comedies and stage plays are an art form that takes a lot of preparation, dedication and…vocalization. The team of the Lamplighters Music Theatre keep the Gilbert & Sullivan tradition going and each year parody a show or subject of recent popularity and pertinence. Their latest selection for satire on stage: Downton Abbey.
While this short documentary leaves the wonder of the show mainly to the imagination (go see the show instead), it does give a nice insight into the work that makes it all possible. From coming up with the music, to writing the lyrics to the countless hours of practicing the songs at tempos similar to Audubon speed limits, the production preparation is truly impressive. Enjoy this theatrical tour and see the passion and the heart and soul poured into the production both on and off stage.
MOSES ON THE MESA
Category: Short. (IMDB page)
Winner of the White Sands International Film Festival’s newest award, the “Best New Mexico-Made Film” Award, Moses on the Mesa is based on a true story and follows a young Jewish immigrant who arrives in New Mexico in search of a new life after fleeing impending war in Germany in the late 1860s. Unfamiliar with the ways of the West, this “Jewish Cowboy” adapts to his new trade and life, settles into it and succeeds.
One of the things most notable of this short is the gorgeous location and the way in which the filmmaker not only highlights the characters, but also the beauty of New Mexico. The blending of cultures and cares of the time give credence to the story shared and explain the history of the story of Don Solomono, “a Jewish immigrant who became governor of a Native American tribe during the days of the Wild West.”
This film tells the story of an unknown and unsung hero of history and brings it to light. It is a representation of one of the most important reasons for the existence of storytelling through the medium of the camera lens. Inspiring the desire to learn more of the people, the place and the product of their efforts, Moses on the Mesa is aptly titled, gorgeously filmed/presented, appropriately cast and costumed and deservedly hopeful of becoming a full-length feature.
NO LOVE LOST
Category: Short. (IMDB page)
Synopsis: A Jewish boy nurturing a secret romance with a Muslim girl, despite the realities of their backgrounds, is unaware he is being stalked. While the young lovers struggle to be open about their relationship, the stalker’s obsession reveals a thought provoking turn culminating in the trio coming face to face. Written by Bassi Brothers -IMDB
Unpredictable and powerful to the end, I had no idea what to expect by the conclusion of this film. Interesting, engrossing, challenging and unique in many ways, No Love Lost presents an age-old story of forbidden love and adds a few timeless twists and powerful messages to it. Touching on subjects such as prejudice, stereotypes, hate, religion and such like in a manner such as this that comes off as neither offensive nor inappropriate can be challenging to say the least. No Love Lost accomplishes that and manages to bring a case for change through its suspenseful deliverance of the story.
Centered on the characters, rarely is dialogue used in this film and yet so much is said. The emotion and engaging performances on-screen do nothing but keep audiences engaged and invested in not only the characters but also the underlying purposeful message of love for one another. The film itself is beautiful with all parts adding to it and not distracting from the intended purpose. The cast, the camera work, the musical score, the silent acting, the visuals, the directing…all combine to complete the craftmanship that is No Love Lost insomuch so that even the unexplained goes without needing to be explained…much like love itself.
Category: Short. (IMDB page)
In 1877 New Mexico, Sergeant Harrison Young, a black soldier, and Officer John Wilson, a white soldier serving under the Tenth Cavalry, escort three hunters around Apache territory. Tensions rise amongst the group as the hunters discriminate against Young. As they continue their mission, Wilson reveals that his mother has fallen ill and that he needs to return home. Young shares an experience about his own mother, who passed away when he was young. Young and Wilson begin to put aside their differences. However, once the hunters come across a trio of buffalo-hunting Apaches, Young may have to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the group and get Wilson home.
– Written by Julian Alexander
I am most excited to share this film with you because it comes from Las Cruces, NM written and directed by a friend and fellow film lover, Julian Alexander. This project, a passion of his that served as his senior thesis out of the Creative Media Institute here at New Mexico State University, is one that I have been most anxious to watch having been given the privilege to read and discuss the screenplay with Julian a year ago. Its debut public screening occurred on Saturday afternoon at the White Sands International Film Festival to a sold out audience, and I made sure not to miss it.
Tales of the Buffalo soldiers are few and far between on the movie screen. Buffalo, starring Craig Tate (12 Years a Slave, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) is one of the few that now exists and brings with it the desire to see more. An impressive effort from undergraduate students that brought this tale, based on stories told, to life from the script to the screen. From locations that, in and of themselves, become characters on their own, to authentic costume design that transports viewers directly into 1877 New Mexico, to the use of striking and memorable flashbacks to develop the story and its characters, to the underlying significant tale of a great white buffalo, Buffalo is far beyond what one would expect from a senior thesis project.
The story, told primarily through the lens of the main character, is aided along by time-appropriate wardrobe, conversations, sentiment and concerns of all parties involved. Each individual character’s driving motivations are made clearer as the story progresses and the conflicts (internal and external) rise as the plot develops. When a film’s parts are played in such a fashion that each character is believable it makes that film all the more stronger and acceptable. Buffalo is one such film and I hope to see it made into a full-length feature in the near future.
Themes of trust, fear, racism, brotherhood, survival, courage and respect intertwine throughout the tale and keep the story on track on its trail to the end. While a few elements may end up unexplained or capable of being strengthened, the overall story and its purpose hit its mark. Director Julian Alexander shows through his work with Buffalo that he is a passionate and talented writer/director to keep an eye out for in the future. Congratulations on a great project success.
(Side Note: Yes, I do know Julian, however, he did not ask me to review his film nor did he pay me to say anything about it. Actually, at the time of this posting and prior to, he has no idea I am even reviewing his film.)
The White Sands International Film Festival offers some fantastic viewing experiences this year. Stay tuned for even more reviews and spotlights. The festival continues 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”