Two quiet independent films slip into theaters soon, and each is worthy of your attention. Both premiered in Chicago earlier this year at the Chicago Critic's Film Festival, a week-long affair that's proving to be a local film staple previewing the year's best fare. It was there I saw A Ghost Story, The Little Hours, Patti Cake$ and more well before their theatrical release.
Columbus (Sept. 8) and Menashe (August 11) couldn't be more different in some ways, and yet they're strikingly similar. Each follows a male (minority) protagonist as he navigates a rocky time in his life. Each is built around a very specific setting, the architectural enclave of Columbus, Indiana (Columbus) and the Hassidic Jewish community of Brooklyn (Menashe). And each brings their respective world to life in crisp fashion, yet without much fanfare. It's the subtle but diligent care the filmmakers take that pays off for both films. Continue reading “Review(s): Columbus and Menashe”
Founded in 2008, the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women is a charter school with a goal of seeing all its graduates succeed in college. Its educators and administrators set high standards and expect greatness from the girls in their charge. Academics are paramount, and failure is not an option.
For the students at BLSYW, though, it’s more than just a school. It’s a haven in a rough neighborhood; a support network often far more dependable than family; and a launch pad for talent, passion and futures so bright these girls’ll need shades.
It’s a glimpse into those trials, tribulations and triumphs that Step delivers in one of the year’s best documentaries, as it follows three young women in the school’s first graduating class. They’ve been together since middle school, the year they started at BLSYW and also founded the school’s step dance team. The film chronicles their lives both on and off the stage as their senior year winds down, through college applications, dicey friendships and one major dance competition. Continue reading “Review: STEP”
I don’t remember exactly when I became a fan of Zoe Lister-Jones, but it happened at some point, because now I follow her on Instagram. Last July, she posted a headline that she’d be making her directorial debut with Band Aid, a feature she also wrote and would produce and star in.
By January, that little feature was not only shot and picture locked, but it enjoyed a premiere at Sundance. In May, it screened as part of the Chicago Critics Film Festival, where I was able to catch it during a week jam-packed with great films.
In a matter of months, I’d seen a film go from announcement to festivals and then to theaters. A rapid timeline by anyone’s standards! And something about this one – an original script by an already successful actress – made it particularly intriguing. This is creating, this is making art, making something from nothing.
It’s not a dig against it to say the movie isn’t anything monumental. Nothing explodes, there’s no big special effects. Instead, it’s a modern, original relationship comedy, one that finds its stride in the chemistry between Lister-Jones and Adam Pally as a married couple on the rocks who decide to turn their fights into songs for their new band. Continue reading “Review: Band Aid”