The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a great movie

Last weekend, my husband and I went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The premise of the film is that several financially-strapped British retirees decide to move to India, where the pound might go farther. But the story is much more than a fish-out-of-water tale. Instead, it deals with the dilemmas faced by many individuals as they age in a society that worships youth and pushes older people aside. This delicate, thought-provoking theme could make for some dreary storytelling. Instead the audience is drawn in by the film’s warmth and humor.

As the audience left the theater, middle-aged people had tears in their eyes. Older men and women smiled broadly — someone had finally understood. Everyone seemed uplifted — assured that, at any age, life can be an adventure.

Jeff Nichols – Take Shelter and Shotgun Stories

From June 10, 2011 Following a screening of his 2004 film, Shotgun Stories, at the fifth‑annual Little Rock Film Festival, producer‑director Jeff Nichols was interviewed by film critic Philip Martin. At the Cannes Film Festival, Nichols’ latest film, Take Shelter, won the Critics’ Week competition against seven other films, as well as the Society of Dramatic … Continue reading

Filipino Amerasians Left by the Ship

From June 8, 2011

On Saturday, June 4, I saw Left by the Ship at the fifth‑annual Little Rock Film Festival. The documentary follows the stories of Amerasian children born in the Philippines. Their Filipino mothers were forced into prostitution by poverty. Their American fathers were servicemen who have since left the country—and their children—behind. The children are the only Amerasians fathered by servicemen not recognized as American citizens by the U.S. government.

Director‑producers Emma Rossi Landi and Alberto Vendemmiati were present after the screening for a Q&A session.

The pair started making the film in 2007. They made connections with Filipino families through Emma’s mother, who was a peace activist and knew former Filipino prostitutes.

Someone in the audience asked whether the gray, threatening skies in the movie were intentional—included to reinforce the children’s plight. Said Alberto, “It rained all of the time. We were stuck in the room because of the weather, so we were forced to [shoot out the window].”

“We were the whole crew,” he said. The pair used two cameras, and filmed during three production trips lasting two months each. Emma and Alberto funded the first production trips. “We didn’t get a salary for more than three years,” said Emma.

Emma says that, in the Philippines, family is important. Someone not having family is considered nothing. Family is that “one thing that is richness in poverty.

Left by the Ship will be appearing on PBS next spring.

The Conversation with a blind assassin

From June 8, 2011 The Conversation was a featured short at the 2011 Little Rock Film Festival. It’s about the abilities and frustrations of a hired gun, who happens to be blind. Visually impaired director, Leon Tidwell, says that “good comedy comes from frustration. A lot of these things are me… No, I’m not a … Continue reading

First Dog, a charming children’s film

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First Dog is a family‑friendly film for young children screened at the Arkansas Film Festival on Saturday, June 4, 2011. It’s about a boy who finds the President’s dog after the dog wanders away after a press rally. Although Danny is tempted to keep “Teddy,” he decides that returning the dog is the right thing … Continue reading

Indie Film Distribution panel

From June 7, 2011 At the Little Rock Film Festival there was an excellent panel on independent film distribution (Friday, June 3, 2011). Tim Basham from Paste magazine moderated the discussion with Diana Sperrazza (Executive Producer for Investigation Discovery), Harry Thomason (Director of the festival’s featured film The Last Ride, and Erik Jambor (Director of Indie … Continue reading

Sons of Perdition, a documentary

From June 7, 2011

Sons of Perdition is a riveting documentary following three teenage boys who escape the right‑wing‑Mormon polygamist sect headed by Warren Jeffs.

The director, Tyler Measom, was present for a Q&A session following the Friday, June 3 screening at the Little Rock Film Festival.

Tyler and his wife worked on the film for five years. During the time when the movie was being made, most escapees fled to a rapidly‑growing city in close proximity to their families.

Since boys in the sect work construction sites from the age of eight, and there was a lot of construction work within the city, their skills allowed them to find employment and earn money.

An audience member asked whether the filmmakers ever felt afraid while they were making the movie?

Tyler said yes. Members from the sect drove white vans; the filmmakers saw white vans driving by their locations. Some of the drivers took photographs. At one point, stones were thrown at them.

Another question was, how did you find these particular boys?

Tyler explained that a number of teenagers were interviewed. Bruce, Joe, and Sam had that “certain something.” Plus they travelled in a group, so their stories were intertwined, and yet they followed different paths. These boys were also outgoing and articulate, and enjoyed being in a movie.

Tyler felt that he could relate somewhat to their difficulties, having left the Mormon Church himself.

He volunteered that, while they were filming Sons of Perdition, they kept true to documentary filmmaking. There were no re‑enactments. The boys were never told “say that again,” or “walk through here.” Said Tyler, “We missed a lot of great stuff, but we also caught a lot of great stuff.

Indeed they did.