Tag Archives: Dances With Films

Imitation Girl – 2017 Dances with Films – Natasha Kermani – Writer/Director Interview

Imitation Girl is the story of a young woman and her alien doppelganger. It screened as part of the narrative competition at Dances With Films and we spoke with its writer/director Natasha Kermani.

A mysterious young woman materializes in the middle of the Southwestern desert, where each step teaches her about her new world and her new body. As she assumes her new life, she discovers she has a twin with whom she shares more than just an outward appearance.

Alan Ng spoke with Natasha about her film and the filmmaking process at Dances with Film 2017.


‘Imitation Girl’ – Sci-fi Tale Screens Tonight at Dances with Films

A mysterious being appears in the Southwestern desert and assumes the identity of the first person she sees – a woman on a magazine cover. Taken in by Iranian immigrants, she forms an understanding of her new surroundings and comes to appreciate the beauty and the sadness of her new world. At the same time, Julianna, Imitation’s world-weary earthly double, knows both glitz and grit working as an entertainer in New York City, where her fraying life and relationships threaten her dreams for an audition that might finally set her on a happier path. On learning of Juliana’s existence, Imitation heads to New York, where only by sacrificing themselves to each other can the cosmic twins complete a full portrait of a woman.

This is the first feature film of Iranian-American filmmaker Natasha Kermani. It stars indie horror actress Lauren Ashley Carter. “Imitation Girl” makes its Los Angeles premiere at Dances With Film at 7:15 pm – TCL Chinese Theaters. Director Natasha Kermani, producer Tim Wu, and talent Neimah Djourabchi and Sanam Erfani will all be in attendance and will be present for a Q&A after the screening.

Western ‘Cassidy Red’ Premieres Tonight At Dances With Films

The World Premiere of the feature film “Cassidy Red,” a Western ballad of love and hate, written and directed by Matt Knudsen, a UCLA MFA student—starring Abby Eiland (“Criminal Minds,” “Life on Mars”), David Thomas Jenkins (“Girl Meets World,” “CSI: Miami”), Jason Grasl (“Hot in Cleveland,” “White Collar”), Gregory Zaragoza (“The Sopranos,” “The Last of the Mohicans”)Jessy Knudsen, Rick Cramer (“True Blood,” “Live Free or Die Hard”), and Lola Kelly (“The Grinder,” “The Fosters”). The film screens as an Official Selection in Competition Features at Dances With Films on Friday, June 2, 2017, at 7:15 p.m., at the TCL Chinese Theatres (6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California).

Set against the backdrop of the 19th century American Southwest, the story follows “Josephine Cassidy,” the headstrong daughter of a prostitute and gunslinger, who returns to her hometown seeking vengeance against the corrupt lawman she believes murdered her lover.

Director Matt Knudsen says, “I wanted to acknowledge all of the iconic ingredients that made us fall in love with Westerns in the first place. But I conceived of the character Josephine Cassidy to represent the kind of progressive heroine that could help push the genre into a more interesting, contemporary place.”

The 92-minute film was shot at Old Tucson Studios (a historic location home to dozens of John Wayne classics) in Southern Arizona. Knudsen’s inspiration was the Spaghetti Westerns of his personal hero, the famed Sergio Leone, and the result owes much to the Italian classics he grew up watching. With the recent successes of Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” Antoine Fuqua’s remake of “The Magnificent Seven”, and HBO’s “Westworld,” Knudsen has tapped into a nostalgic desire for the genre at a key moment.

Knudsen adds, “Like Leone often did for his films, I examined the genre and saw that there were stories, characters, and themes not being represented. The superstructure of ‘Cassidy Red’ is forged from familiar elements we associate with the Western: the untamed frontier, the constant threat of violence, outlaws, betrayal, corruption, saloons, jail cells, livestock, prostitution, bloodshed… But, at its core, the film examines elements underrepresented in classic Westerns: strong, complex, proactive female characters, familial ties, heartbreak, sacrifice, choice, and star-crossed love.”

This love letter by Knudsen to the Western takes the audience on a journey through the American Southwest where two brothers fall for the same woman, resulting in a deadly love triangle.

The film is produced by Brooks Yang. It was shot by Director of Photography Julia Swain. The original soundtrack by Andrew Carroll (lead singer of Los Angeles indie folk quintet The Lonely Wild) is available on Amazon and iTunes and features 70 minutes of original music.

Website: http://www.cassidyred.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/cassidyredmovie
Twitter: @cassidyredmovie / https://twitter.com/cassidyredmovie
Instagram: @cassidyredmovie / www.instagram.com/cassidyredmovie

Dances With Films Opens Today in Hollywood

Dances With Films is a little gem of an independent film festival and it is celebrating its 20th festival today in Hollywood. The films opening today’s festival are American Folk and Missing in Europe.

Dances With Films take place at TCL Chinese Theaters. American Folk starts at 7 pm and Missing in Europe at 9 pm.

American Folk

When their plane from Los Angeles to New York is grounded on the morning of September 11, 2001, strangers Elliott (Joe Purdy) and Joni (Amber Rubarth) are unexpectedly thrust together amidst the chaos of that historic day. With little in common but both needing to get to NYC urgently, they accept help from Joni’s family friend Scottie (Krisha Fairchild) who lends the duo a rusty old 1972 Chevy Van. The shock and stress of 9/11 quickly threatens to derail their cross-country journey until the pair discover what they do have in common: a love for old folk songs. Armed with a pile of guitars left in the van from Scottie’s touring days, Elliott and Joni raise their voices together (and with those they meet on the road), re-discovering the healing nature of music and bearing witness to a nation of people who, even while mourning, manage to lift each other up in the wake of tragedy. With a refreshing gentleness and beauty, AMERICAN FOLK lovingly chronicles the spaces between the suffering and fear, where music has the power to connect. Musicians Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth give nuanced and thoughtful performances, with voices that are uplifting and achingly gorgeous. Filmed over 3,500 miles in 14 states, AMERICAN FOLK serves as a love letter to the natural beauty of America, to the style of music that has shepherded us through historically tough times and to the kindness of all of the “folk” that make America what it is.

Missing in Europe

Cyber security expert Sara Woods has just touched down in Belgrade, Serbia. Under the guise of attending a conference for work, she is really there to check in on her daughter, Karissa, who has been studying abroad. Their happy reunion is cut short when Karissa and her classmate Lara go clubbing and seemingly disappear into thin air. Sara is certain that her daughter has been abducted. Utilizing a host of hacking skills and following the clues Karissa is leaving behind, she starts to uncover a major sex trafficking ring. Even worse, it seems the local police force is in on it. With nobody to trust but herself, Sara uses every tool at her disposal to locate her daughter before she’s sold to the highest bidder and disappears forever. Starring Miranda Raison (Match Point, My Week with Marilyn, MI-5) and Emmett J Scanlan (Hollyoaks, Charlie Casanova, Guardians of the Galaxy) and newcomer Sophie Robertson, the film was shot entirely on location in Belgrade, Serbia in twelve days. Other than the producers, director, and writer, the crew was Serbian as were the rest of the cast, drawing talent from Serbian television and theater. Produced by MarVista Entertainment, the film is a female Taken as a mother tries to save her daughter from human traffickers. Dances with Films is the World Premiere.

Dances With Films

In 1998 DWF began as a film festival dedicated to finding tomorrow’s talent today and continues to carry on this mission today. With many World and West Coast Premieres, DWF provides a coveted first stop on the festival circuit. With a vast number of submissions, the selection process is based solely on merit and discoverability. DWF continues its dedication to and is a devoted champion of fresh and creative voices, mandating that all competitive films have no known actors, writers, directors, or producers. For the past 20 years, DWF has proudly provided access and opportunity to thousands of films and filmmakers from across the globe that diligently work year after year to see their dreams realized. With more than 12,000+ festival attendees and 2.5 million impressions per month on www.danceswithfilms.com, DWF is loyal and dedicated to the indie filmmaker and is considered their champion in Hollywood.

Victor Walk – Movie Review – Dances With Films

Victor Walk is a documentary about NHL Stanley Cup Winner Theo Fleury and his 10-day walk from Toronto to Ottawa, Canada’s capital. His 400-kilometer walk is meant to bring awareness for adults, who were sexually abused as children and to urge Canadian lawmakers to strengthen laws against predators and support for their victims.

Dances with Films 2016 – World Premiere
Michael David Lynch
Subject: Theo Fleury

Victor Walk is a powerful documentary focusing on adult victims of sexual abuse. It does everything that a documentary has to do to shed light on a serious problem facing Canadians and Americans. In North America, 1 out of 4 men and 1 out of 3 women have been sexually abused.

Fleury uses the Victor Walk to first show that victims of sexual abuse no longer need to let their abuse define who they are. The struggle for survival was not easy, but Fleury overcame and is now victorious over his abuse.

As a teen, Fleury was sexually abused by his hockey coach. Quickly becoming an NHL star, Fleury fought the demons of anger, drugs and gambling. Soon his career and riches were gone. Fleury found himself alone in a room ready to commit suicide. Choosing survival, Fleury’s life is now dedicated to letting his fellow Canadians know this by walking from Toronto to Ottawa. It is in Ottawa that Fleury will ultimately confront lawmakers asking them to make real reforms in the prosecution of sex offenders.

Not only does Victor Walk educate us about the current state of sexual abuse in Canada, but it connects us with real faces left in the wake of abuse. For 10 days, Fleury would walk 400 kilometers and never a day goes by along the walk that dozens of adults come out to lend support and for many releases, for the first time, the specter of abuse they have been carrying all their lives until today. Fleury is there to encourage these brave men and women to find victory.

Like a good documentary, Victor Walk leaves its audiences feeling like more needs to be done. It’s hard not to feel compassion for those suffering in silence, feel joy when a victim finally frees themselves by talking and anger that the laws of Canada (and the United States for that matter) don’t do enough to keep predators behind bars.

There are a lot of information warning children and parents about sexual predators. Victor Walk is one of the rare movies that speaks directly to adults, who have had to hide their shame for decades. You can learn more about Victor Walk and upcoming screenings at victorwalkdoc.com.

Actor For Hire – Movie Review – Dances With Films

Actor For Hire is the story of struggling actor, Jesse O’Neill, in hopes of becoming a legitimate Hollywood Actor. After losing yet another role because he is bald, Jesse finds quick success when he dons a cheap wig and becomes a completely different actor. Jesse soon finds that to get a break; he has to create a break.  That break comes as Jesse (with wig) is fired from a TV show and quickly befriends the show’s star, Joel Hogan. The little white lie of Jesse now needs to be protected as he starts to become noticed by everyone in Hollywood. It is amazing how different Jesse looks with and without the wig.

The movie is also an expose of the life of the unknown actor as they bounce from one audition to the next. They embellish their work to pad their resumes and audition for people who don’t know what they want. The problem is we’ve seen this kind of film before.

Dances With Films (2015)
Marcus Mizelle
Writer: Marcus Mizelle
Cast: Jesse O’Neill, Joel Hogan, Hollie Shay, Jandres Burgos, Greg Perrow, Najee De-Tiege, Jesse C. Boyd, Brittany Finamore, JT Alexander, Beth Lepley

Actor for Hire is not an original story. We’ve seen plenty of movies about struggling actors. The appeal of the movie is that it is a stereotypical independent film. You can see that writer/director Marcus Mizelle made Actor for Hire with an extremely low budget, with all of his friends and most likely without a single filming permit. It is as if the movie, Bowfinger, was his manual on making a film.

The best example is the moment that Jesse has a meeting on a studio lot. The camera follows Jesse as he enters the soundstage doors. As the camera pans, you see is the corner a studio security guard walking right to the camera. That’s just one of the Bowfinger.

I was not blown over by Actor for Hire. The story is solid and moves at a good pace. Most laugh-out performances come from the film’s supporting actors, especially from Greg Perrow as Jesse’s body builder actor and Jandres Burgos, who manages to go too deep into character. You get the sense that Actor For Hire is a labor of love for filmmaker Mizelle.

Walking away from Actor for Hire, I felt more admiration for the film, than amazement. I admire the filmmaker, cast, and crew for their hard work to achieve their dream of completing the film. Watch Actor For Hire as a way to support the independent filmmaker. Great filmmakers are creative and resourceful when it comes to making a movie with nothing. Kudos to Mizelle for getting his vision on screen and producing a solid film.

For more information about Actor for Hire and future screenings, go to ActorForHireMovie.com.

Fools – Movie Review – Dances with Films

Fools is the story of Sam (Michael Szales) and Susan (Mary Cross). The movie opens when the two meet by chance when their hands brush against each other on a Chicago El Train. Sam and Susan are a pair of loners. Susan currently lives with an aggressive roommate that does not treat her well. Sam moves from job to job unable to find one that he feels qualified to hold.

Dances With Films Film Festival (World Premiere)
Writer: Benjamin Meyer
Director: Benjamin Meyer
Cast: Mary Cross, Michael Szales, Rebecca Spense

Sam soon finds a job delivering groceries to shut-in and neglected seniors. With an open heart, Sam goes above and beyond the call of duty and helps his customers with chores and a little conversation. Susan, on the other hand, is literally on the street after her roommate evicts her. Sam allows Susan to live with him in his apartment. Sam soon discovers that Susan is a handful. She’s apparently a princess and must be treated as such. Clearly afraid of conflict, Sam finds himself making us stories to appease not only Princess Susan but also to connect with some of his elderly clients.

It’s not hard to see that Fools is a love story. But Fools also explores the idea that as people, we often lie about our past to make ourselves look better to others or to avoid conflict. For example, Susan lies to her old roommate about a boyfriend she doesn’t have to avoid the feeling of loneliness being single. Also, is Susan lying about being a princess to cope with her newfound homelessness?

What about Sam? During a conversation with one of his clients, Mr. Hill, Sam poses as his estranged son to bring closure to Hill’s pent up regret.

Ultimately, is there a point in our lying that we start believing our own lies? Filmmaker Benjamin Meyer explores this issue extensively in Fools. We’ve all been there. We’ve padded our resume a little, and then we pad it a lot for that extra pizzazz. Soon we start to believe our own hype.

Fools is an unusual love story. The movie starts uncomfortable because you know that Sam is in trouble the moment he opens his world to Susan. But as the movie progresses, it’s hard not to sympathize with Sam. Although you’ll cringe at the point of crisis in his life, you can’t help but root for him on the back end. If you’re interested in the premise of how we lie to ourselves and others, you’ll enjoy Fools. If you’re willing to witness a movie that’s more insightful than your typical love story, then hang on for the ride and be surprised.

The Last Treasure Hunt – Movie Review – Dances With Films

You can choose your friends, but you can never choose your family. The friends you chose can help shape and guide your character and your future. Your family will always shape and guide your future for good or for bad.

Dances With Films entrant, The Last Treasure Hunt is the story of siblings, Oliver (Casey Nelson) and Lucy (Kate Murdoch). After a long estrangement, Oliver and Lucy’s eccentric father passes away leaving them the valuable family home on a small New York island. But to receive their inheritance, Oliver and Lucy must take part in a final treasure hunt. A hunt that has been an annual family tradition from childhood.

Dances With Films 2015
Writer: Kate Murdoch & Casey Nelson
Director: Patrick Biesemans
Cast: Kate Murdoch, Casey Nelson, Jeff Grace

Fortunately for audiences, the movie is not about solving a treasure hunt. It’s about facing the barriers family members build between one another to gain independence. It’s also these barriers that often keep us from growing and maturing as adults.

Oliver is the hard working so-to-be family man, who left behind the childish games of his father and the childishness of his sister. Lucy is the girl, who has not yet crossed into the world of adulthood and is doomed to remain daddy’s girl. The two are now forced to work together in hopes of rebuilding, what was once a family. As with most family, pride gets in the way of the family dynamic.

The Last Treasure Hunt is an endearing tale of family, set on a beautiful beach island in New York. Writers/stars Casey Nelson and Kate Murdoch convincingly tell the tale of two squabbling siblings. Their arguments and petty bickering feel real and their inability to get along feels tragic and real.

Jeff Grace also brings much-needed humor to the film as Cousin Alfred. Alfred was the odd-man out of the family trio and often the target of the other’s harmless pranks. Cousin Alfred is also the only family member to remain on the island and offers to purchase the home from the other two.

Director Patrick Biesemans does a masterful job with the pacing and storytelling duties for this independent movie. Cinematographer Michael Ormiston makes the most of his natural surroundings and shoots a beautiful looking movie.

The Last Treasure Hunt’s West Coast premiere was at Dances with Films. To see the film, go to TheLastTreasureHuntMovie.com or Facebook.com/TheLastTreasureHuntMovie

The Big Lonely – Movie Review – Dances with Films 2015

The Big Lonely follows the life of Michael Nelms and his dog, Tic. Michael is a homeless man who, rather than live under a bridge or in a big city alley, live in a self-built cabin 60 miles into an Oregon forest.

The movie not only documents Michael’s life for about nine months and through a brutal winter but also serves as his personal diary. The entire movie was shot and recorded by Michael without the supervision of any third person. The only subjects in The Big Lonely are Michael, dog Tic and you the viewer.

Dances With Films Entrant
David Manougian
Director: David Manougian
Cast/Subject: Michael Nelms

The movie tells two parallel stories. The first story is one of survival. Every day, Michael has to find food, get drinking water from a well and cope with loneliness. The movie starts with the coming of a particularly harsh winter. When the weather gets cold, Michael must stay warm and decide if he is going to brave the elements to get much-needed water and food. As the temperature drops to sub-zero degrees, food and water become more and more scarce. At one point, Michael must make a 60-mile trek in the dead of winter to a nearby town to find small odd jobs and buy enough food for another year. This is a trip he does not want to make. First, because of the cold winter’s snow and second, the nearby town does not want him on its streets.

The second story is Michael himself. For a man living in isolation, he is a fascinating man. Before becoming homeless, Michael Nelms was a business man and a realtor. After his divorce, the state went after him for child support. After receiving a letter that he had fulfilled his support obligation, the state went after him again for more money. Ignoring the first letter, the state took away his driver’s license and Michael is now unable to work and find any employment.

Now living in the Oregon woods, Michael is reflective about his past and the events that lead to his current situation. He can enjoy and embrace the beauty of his natural surroundings to the point of being amazingly philosophical and poetic with his words. Looking at the amazing green forest landscape, Michael calls it “Poverty with a view.” Then there’s his future, Michael lives in an annual cycle of survival. His sole purpose in life is to make it to the next day and through the next winter. He fights with himself in hopes of not crossing the line into hopelessness. He is unable to see a future where his situation gets better.

Writer/Director David Manougian does a magnificent job piecing together hundreds of hours of Michael’s video diary. He paints a story that makes you feel Michael’s struggle in the coldest winter. You are engaged with Michael’s story and fall in love with the beauty of the American outdoors. You will be touched and challenged with The Big Lonely.

For more information about The Big Lonely and future screenings, visit TheBigLonely.com.

Missing Child – Beaten Path Film Festival – Movie Review

Missing Child” is a thriller by writer/director Luke Sabis and recently part of the Beyond the Beaten Path Film Festival. There is another opportunity to see this thriller at the upcoming, Dances With Films Festival on Thursday, June 5th at 2:45 pm at the Mann Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

It is the story of a young woman, Gia (Kristen Ruhlin), who is finally able to move on with her life after being accepted to design school. Gia has had a troubled past. As a child, she was shuffled through the foster care system. She was physically and sexually abused and exploited by those who “cared” for her in the past.

Today, Gia finds herself at a point, where her life is the most stable than it has ever been. She has a job and close friends. A boyfriend, Joe (Luke Sabis), who protects her and the future as she prepares to pursue a career. Until Joe discovers an age-progressed photo of a missing girl that resembles Gia on a website from a couple, looking for the daughter taken from them at the age of three.

Gia and Joe decide to see if this couple could possibly be her parents. Upon arrival at a secluded farm, Gia and Joe meet the God-fearing widower Henry (Charles Gorgano), who is at times welcoming and distrustful of the couple. When Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth, went missing, many suspected Henry of being the perpetrator. Also, Gia has not been the first person claiming to be his daughter leading to Henry’s distrust.

Missing Child” is an independent film and you can tell by the quality of the production. It’s missing a little bit of the polish of the big studio productions. The acting by the three leads is fine but clunky at times. The lead, Kristen Ruhlin, who plays Gia does an admirable job playing an adult-abuse victim. As an adult, there is strength in her character, along with a level of fear and dissociation built over time.

The story, on the other hand, does what a thriller should do. It takes an idyllic situation and gives you the feeling that something is just not right, and all your main characters have secrets. “Missing Child” walks you down a path that slowly but surely, falls apart on you by the end. As with most stories involving adult children of abuse, trouble always seems to follow the victims.

If you have the opportunity, check out “Missing Child” as it rounds the festival circuit. The next Southern California screening will be at Dances With Films on Thursday, June 5th at 2:45 pm at the Mann Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA.