Los Angeles Film Festival is gearing up tomorrow! We’re working hard on finalizing our schedules to fit in as many movies as possible, but there are only so many hours in a day. With LAFF including everything from small indie documentaries like I Am Big Bird: The Carol Spinney Story to quiet and warm dramas like Land Ho! – we’re spoiled for choice for quality films all week. With so many to choose from, here are five films you shouldn’t miss.
Directed By: Deon Taylor Screenwriter: Eric J. Adams Producer: Roxanne Avent Cinematographer: Rodney Taylor Editor: Richard Molina Music: Michael Einziger Cast: Joe Anderson, Dawn Olivieri, Danny Glover, Lela Rochon, Anson Mount, Evan Ross, Derek Luke He was free for a day. Within hours of being released from 14 years of solitary confinement in maximum-security Pelican Bay State Prison, Garrett Tully is on the run again. When he finds a house off a dirt road and takes a family hostage, he thinks the Aryan Brotherhood has his back–and his kidnap victims are black. The family’s patriarch, Mr. Walker, is a jaded ex-con who hates cops so much he disavowed his own son for becoming one. Seeing a familiar desperation in Tully, Walker refuses to call the authorities for help, causing familial tensions to escalate, and soon grave missteps are made. With a powerful ensemble cast led by Danny Glover, director Deon Taylor deftly crafts a disquieting psychological thriller about race, family and loyalty in terms far from black and white. [youtube id=”tp3gl4PLH9A” width=”600″ height=”350″]
Out in the Night
Directed By: blair dorosh-walther Screenwriter: blair dorosh-walther Producers: blair dorosh-walther, Giovanna Chesler, Mridu Chandra, Yoruba Richen Executive Producers: Abigail Disney, Sally Jo Fifer Cinematographer: Daniel Patterson Editor: Kristen Huntley Music: Mario Grigorov Featuring: Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson, Terrain Dandridge, Venice Brown Taking us beyond the sensational “Attack of the Killer Lesbians” headlines, blair dorosh-walther’s provocative documentary pulls back the curtain on a tragic miscarriage of justice. In New York City’s West Village in 2006, four gay African-American women were brutally assaulted by a stranger whose unwanted sexual advances they’d just spurned. In defending themselves, they also unwittingly left themselves vulnerable to draconian prison sentences that wrested them from their supportive New Jersey families. dorosh-walther returns to the scene of their alleged crime, using security footage to condemn the deplorable conduct of unscrupulous reporters and callous police officers. With a deep compassion for its subjects tempering its outrage over the indignities they’ve suffered, the film poses a troubling question: How would have this unfolded had it been four straight white women instead? [youtube id=”5C-tcO18hYs” width=”600″ height=”350″]
I Am Big Bird: The Carol Spinney Story
Directed By: Dave LaMattina, Chad Walker Producers: Dave LaMattina, Chad Walker Executive Producer: Clay Frost Screenwriter: Dave LaMattina Cinematographer: Chad Walker Editor: Chad Walker Music: Joshua Johnson Featuring: Caroll Spinney, Frank Oz, Sonia Manzano, Jerry Nelson, Bob McGrath, Emilio Delgado, Dr. Loretta Long, Joan Ganz Cooney Trailer For over 40 years, Caroll Spinney has been the puppeteer behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Now, as his hand-picked successor waits to take over (as he’s been waiting for the past 20 years), Spinney rejects retirement once again. It would mean saying goodbye to the characters he loves like children and who represent two very different parts of who he is. Spinney can’t say goodbye to Big Bird because he is Big Bird. In this touching documentary, comprised largely of highlights from his amazing, never-before-seen home videos, we gain incredible insight to Spinney’s life, both past and present, and get an in-depth look at how he became the man who became the bird. [youtube id=”8dipqXdSFC4″ width=”600″ height=”350″]
Directed By: Martha Stephens, Aaron Katz Screenwriters: Martha Stephens, Aaron Katz Executive Producers: David Gordon Green, Geralyn Dreyfous, Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger, Dan Cogan Producers: Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy, Christina Jennings Cinematographer: Andrew Reed Editor: Aaron Katz Music: Keegan DeWitt Cast: Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Lynn Nelson, Karrie Crouse, Elizabeth McKee, Alicia Olivia Clarke, Emmsje Gauti Untethered from day-to-day responsibilities by retirement and divorce, seventy-somethings Colin and Mitch take an impromptu trip to Iceland in this warm and wise comedy. The two are easy company for each other. Mitch’s scene-stealing gregariousness is tempered by Colin’s understated calm as they explore everything from Iceland’s nightlife to its natural hot springs. Along the way, they treat themselves to some fine meals, finer weed and an ongoing conversation about life and how to live it that’s peppered with pop culture references twenty years out of date. Filmmakers Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens, working together for the first time, take a wonderfully unhurried approach to their film, allowing the charm of their characters, marvelously played by Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn, to bring a lightness to this comedy of the twilight years. [youtube id=”VOrALE_pBxU” width=”600″ height=”350″]
Directed By: Debra Granik Producer: Anne Rosellini Co-Producer: Victoria Stewart Executive Producer: Jonathan Scheuer Cinematographers: Eric Phillips-Horst, David Fleming, Ryan Piotrowski Editor: Victoria Stewart Music: Don Killion, Blackberry Winter Featuring: Ron ‘Stray Dog’ Hall, Alicia Soriano Hall, Felipe Angel Padilla Soriano, Felipe de Jesús Padilla Soriano Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik’s searching, stereotype-shattering documentary focuses on Ron “Stray Dog” Hall. At first glance, this burly, bearded biker looks like one badass dude. Then, through Granik’s incisive, sympathetic eye, we begin to see his big, battle-scarred heart. The movie follows Stray Dog as he caravans on his Harley from his rural Missouri home to Washington, D.C. with his fellow vets to pay tribute to his fallen brothers at the Vietnam Memorial. Back home, he takes in his Mexican wife and her two sons, who are, like him, struggling to find a place in a country that has become foreign. Stray Dog is at once a powerful look at the veteran experience, a surprising love story and a fresh exploration of what it takes to survive in the hardscrabble heartland of America. [youtube id=”5UKrOhJ0NRw” width=”600″ height=”350″]