Philadelphia's Independent Film Festival

By PW Staff
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Jun. 22, 2011

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"Chasing Che" follows the the filmmaker as he attempts to translate Che Guevara’s biography into Farsi for Middle Eastern audiences.

The Escape
Directory James Connelly tells the story of lowly, hard-boiled prison worker Jasper, a man who spends his days tying nooses and cleaning up the bodies that were once hanging from them. But when his son is up to be executed, he learns some new truth about his family and springs into action to save his kin. There are a number of problems that keep this short from being entirely enjoyable. Though the story is set in a colonial-period England (we aren’t given an actual time period), accents come and go for many of the actors, and it keeps one from becoming fully engaged in the sometimes cloying story (get ready to hear some awful Jack Sparrow impressions). But Wes Cardino’s cinematography, defined by lighting reminiscent of Vermeer and Rembrandt paintings, are enough to keep you looking for 30 minutes. (Darren White)

Ocean State
If you can get past this film’s shocking similarity in plot and themes to the similarly titled Garden State, it is not without some winning moments. Ted Ryan’s film follows Tim (Keith Jordan) as he attempts to conquer his fear of the ocean, and meets Larry and Rachel; two locals with some fears of their own.  The film drags with awkward dialogue as Tim forms a slightly boundary-pushing and sexually tense connection with a teenaged girl, and the subplot of getting over his ex fails to convince. But set in Narragansett, the film is beautiful to watch and its homage to the human capacity for change and self-improvement rings clear and true. (Emma Eisenberg)

The Summer of Massacre
When M. Night Shyamalan began directing movies as a teenager, he relied on the suspenseful script and skill of his actors to scare his audience. Like most amateur directors, he left the gory special effects to the big kids. It’s too bad macabre mastermind Joe Castro didn’t follow en suite with The Summer of Massacre. Here’s the short and sweet: several unnamed and underdeveloped characters engage in killing sprees en masse; the victims are reincarnated into non-flesh eating zombies. The trance sound track and warped camera effects simulate an LSD trip, and the special effects, well, suck. So grab some fries for the BBQ sauce blood and get ready to laugh. (Alexis Sachdev)

Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film!
Shot at a so-called “small alternative club” in Brooklyn, the film features a slew of awesome stand-up comics—Colin Quinn, Kristen Schaal, Reggie Watts, Christian Finnegan, Janeane Garofalo, Jim Gaffigan and Wyatt Cenac—along with a couple of mediocre unknown acts sprinkled in. The least funny of the bunch: Liam McEneaney who also happens to be the host of the weekly comedy show and the film’s creator. In between each set, the comics discuss the pros and cons of performing in smaller, shittier venues as opposed to the more mainstream shows. (Nicole Finkbiner)

Chasing Che

Though the story of Che Guevara has been told to death, this film surprises with its fresh and authentic spin. Iranian filmmaker Alireza Rofougaran takes us on a journey following his own awakening to the story of Che and his desire to translate Che’s biography into Farsi to make the revolutionary’s story available to a Middle Eastern audience. Rofougaran’s footage of Che’s towns, life, and friends is rogue, fearless and impressive. Interviews with the Guevara family cook on her deathbed and Guevara’s best friend and keeper of his beret make the film a must see for Che enthusiasts or anyone who truly believes in the narrative documentary film. Cameo by the filmmaker’s own ladyfriend who starts calling herself Chichina is the cherry on top. (E.E.)

Thumb Sucking Weedie
Don’t let the title fool you—this short animated film isn’t about a pot head with munchies so bad, he sucks his thumb. Joey Ellis’ poetic short, running less than five minutes, tells the story of a young girl sitting on her stoop, sucking her thumb. Passersbys scold the young girl for her habit, and she eventually abandons her thumb for her lip. Told in Dr. Seuss-style poetry, the account is short and sweet. (A.S.)

Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived
Similar to the concept from Marvel’s Watchmen that portrayed a world where Nixon served a third term as president, Koji Masutani’s Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived examines the presidency of the dashing JFK, subtly delivering the message that the Vietnam War may not have happened had Kennedy not been assassinated. Released just after the outbreak of the Iraq war in 2008, this argument for the history that didn’t happen does dramatically demonstrate that “every time history repeats itself, the price of the lesson goes up.” Unfortunately, this documentary spends rather too much time on footage of Kennedy’s speeches and falls back on cliched lessons of Cold War history. Must see for those who intentionally switch to the History Channel, rather than stumble across it when channel surfing. (Trishula Patel)

The Deposition
African-American anti-hero Adam seems out of place living in an inbred Appalachian hamlet. By day, Adam delivers water bottles while shrugging off co-workers’ racist remarks. By night, Adam stays home and scribbles drunken musings about death. Adam's a wreck for good reason. The movie’s first scene tells us why: Adam’s car caresses the curves of a sun spackled mountain road while his hand caresses his girlfriend’s. His girlfriend, apologetic after yet another fight, unbuckles her seatbelt and leans forward to kiss Adam. Her timing couldn’t be worse—a white van cuts into their lane, Adam jerks the steering wheel and hits a tree, his lover is thrown through the windshield to her death. It was a tragic accident±—or was it? Post-trauma amnesia means Adam better remember what happened before police decide for him.  (Carl A. O’Donnell)

Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco
If you’re a theater nerd or connected to SanFran in any way, you’ll really appreciate this documentary. If not, you may find yourself zoning in and out, but ultimately regaining consciousness long enough to absorb some interesting information. As the title suggests, this film chronicles the history of theatrical innovation in America’s counterculture mecca (bit if an oxymoron, huh?). While you probably won’t know most of the playwrights, directors or show titles raddled off throughout the film, there’s a few familiar faces including, a slightly younger, yet equally creepy John Malkovich and Robin Williams (for reasons unbeknownst to the viewer). (N.F.)

The Pond
Main character Shelly, played by Friday Night Lights star Alicia Witt, greaves over the sudden lose of her husband by sprinkling his ashes over their favorite spot, a local pond. Quickly it is revealed this is no ordinary pond. It possesses special powers that Shelly has discovered unknowingly. She embarks on a mysterious path with the help of a complete stranger played by David Morse. Perhaps this intense story line would flourish a little more swiftly if more of the back-story was presented. (Melissa Straube)

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1. KFD said... on Jun 26, 2011 at 11:15PM

“Great screenings, great time, thank you.”


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