Our Saturday screening schedule for the Phoenix Film Festival and International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival ran the gauntlet from a documentary about the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 to a mother/daughter Arizona adventure, with plenty of #IHSFF2016 goodness (and some badness) in between.
Please enjoy this hair-raising recap of our Saturday #PFF2016 and #IHSFF screenings.
Since: The Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103
This documentary about the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was my favorite of Saturday’s screenings, but not because it was a pleasant filmgoing experience.
Since documents the struggles of the Flight 103 victims’ families over the past 29 years and how the United States government, our politicians, foreign allies and big business have dishonored the innocent people that were killed in that tragedy and failed to learn the lessons that it should have been burned into their consciousness.
Directed by Phil Furey, this is an important and shocking movie that will make you angry and fearful for our future as a civilized society, but it also has some hopeful moments in its portrayal of the strength and resolve of the surviving families, whose story is largely unknown. I can’t recommend this powerful movie enough. It was a definite highlight of the festival. [Learn more at: since103.com].
The Cruel Tale of the Medicine Man
I went from from the bizarre and absurd of real life (with Since – see above) to the bizarre and absurd of the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival. It’s hard to describe The Cruel Tale of the Medicine Man, but it made me think that this is what American Horror Story: Freak Show might have been if David Lynch had directed it.
A ringmaster with a giant fake nose steals the souls of young women who join his weird stage show. He then gives them to a medicine man who promises to provide him with a bigger, better show in return. In between there is plenty of mind-boggling burlesque and backstage drama that is like something out of circus freak’s nightmare.
This cruel tale was not my cup of tea (or medicine man’s green hooch, at it were), but if my summary sounds sounds appealing to you, then you ought to check this one out – all others beware.
Sci-fi Shorts A
The Sci-Fi Shorts A block made up for some of the shortcomings from the “B” block I saw the day before (see that coverage HERE), and it started with PROJECT: Horizon a very short ‘short’ that has a space explorer and his robot companion on a universe saving expedition.
Next was Clones, which surprisingly starred Rutger Hauer as a doctor trying to preserve the memories of an important scientist; and Back to the Gaia, a Chinese offering with very nice CGI effects that have a young woman trying to save the planet (or something like that (?).)
Iris was one of the best films in this set and had a murderer getting his comeuppance at the hands of a handheld personal assistant with ethics; it was followed by Jakob, a French robot film in the vein of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot.
Younglings, was the best short I saw at the festival, it was a fun spoof of aging Star Wars fanboys still debating the subtleties of the franchise in a far distant future. Whether you love or hate SW fans, this short is sure to put a smile on your face.
The Sci-Fi A block was closed out by Avant, a kid meets robot in a post-apocalyptic adventure; and As They Continue To Fall, an evil v good (or gooder evil) tale that has fallen angels on the mean side of a Punisher like badass…and it could make for a decent feature film.
Night of Something Strange
If you spend time in the world of independent films, especially in the horror genre, every once in awhile you come across a movie that defies words. I try not to be too judgemental about indie work that tenderfoot filmmakers have poured their souls and pocketbooks into, so I’m not going to say how I really feel about Night of Something Strange, a feature film that explores the dangers of mixing radiation with a nasty sexually transmitted disease; but I’m not going to be so kind to the audience that was eating this gruesome gruel right out of the bowl.
From the reaction of many in the Night of Something Strange audience, adjectives like depraved, sick, twisted and disgusting describe filmmaking that brings smiles to their faces and cheers to their lips. I’m far from being a prude, but being in the same room where people think necrophilia is entertaining makes me very uncomfortable and speaks volumes to the state of our society. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
Postmarked is an extremely fun and entertaining Arizona production. It’s a Tarantino-esque gangster flick – with AZ postal workers! Written originally as a stage play, by local hero Ron Hunting, and directed by Gene Ganssle, this comedy-drama has ordinary, everyday postmen (and an accountant) facing off against hardened gangsters in a war of tightly written words with a local flavor.
It’s heartwarming to know that the amazing talent on display in this very good film, from the actors to the writer, director and crew, came from right here in our community. Bravo to everyone involved. Find a screening by visiting postmarkedmovie.com.
Patagonia Treasure Trail
We went from one Arizona feature straight into another, Patagonia Treasure Trail, the story of an estranged mother and daughter bonding with each other on a camping trip in the majestic Patagonia Mountains of southeastern Arizona.
Directed by Michele Gisser and starring Isabella Schloss and Faye Jackson, this film does a great job of showing off our Amazing state while making a case for preserving its natural beauty and environment, all wrapped in the heartwarming story of a Mom and daughter finding love and respect for each other. It’s got humor, heart, beautiful actresses and beautiful scenery. I really enjoyed this locally created film.
I wrapped up my #PFF2016 experience the way I started it, with another time-traveling film, Displacement; but this one just didn’t have the time/dimension-altering magic going for it.
A beautiful (and maybe too young) woman develops the key formula for traveling through time; but she has to juggle the space/time continuum in order to save her mother and her boyfriend, and keep a greedy corporation from abusing her discovery.
Displacement has great production values and fine acting, but it felt a little too long with a plot that is somewhat convoluted and confusing (even for a time-travel movie.) That said, I’d travel back in time to see again at an earlier screening time (Man, was I getting tired after fourteen hours in a dark theater…)
And that’s it for our Phoenix Film Festival adventure this year, but the excitement continues in Scottsdale through next Thursday. So get in on the fun and get the latest information on the festivals’ films, see trailers, review showtimes and purchase tickets at: phoenixfilmfestival.com.