Monday, October 25, 2021

Streaming service releases new Lebanese series

Posted by Elena del Valle on March 17, 2021


Photo: Mhz Choice

Last month Awake, a 16 part series from Lebanon, became available on Mhz Choice, a subscription streaming video on demand service known for its international offerings. According to a press release it is the first Arabic-language release on its platform. Mhz Choice acquired the series from Videoplugger, a United Kingdom distributor. It is in Arabic with English subtitles. The episodes are about 40 minutes long.

Awake, released in 2019, is set in Beirut. It is about Dana (Flavia Bechara), a young woman who wakes up from a coma after twelve years. She is unable to speak or interact with others. Her sisters Lama (Stephanie Atallah) and Jinane (Ruba Zaarour) and family members help her slowly understand what happened to her, unveiling family secrets and how the world has changed. Nadia Tabbara created the series and Mazen Fayad directed it.

Los Angeles company offers indie film streaming worldwide

Posted by Elena del Valle on December 16, 2020

The Velocipastor poster
The Velocipastor poster

Photos: Filmocracy

Established in 2018 Filmocracy offers 2,800 independent films in a variety of genres in shorts, documentaries, feature length and series, except music videos, for an audience mainly between 25 and 40 years of age. The selection includes foreign language films with subtitles. One film, Road To Your Heart, was in Afrikaans without subtitles.

“Filmocracy is the only site that offers virtual film festivals and also rewards users for watching and rating movies,” said Paul Jun, chief executive officer, Filmocracy, by email when asked what makes the streaming platform stand out. “Users earn virtual popcorn which they can spend in our shop on things like gift cards, movie tickets, and festival passes. Most of our subscribers come through the virtual film festivals we host.”

Paul Jun, chief executive officer, Filmocracy
Paul Jun, chief executive officer, Filmocracy

According to the website subscriptions range from free with ads to Festival Premium for $29.99 a month. Most of the 17,000 users are in the United States, mainly Los Angeles and New York, with large user groups in Spain, India, and Brazil, according to Jun.

Eight categories of rating options (Plot, Characters, Cinematography, Performances, Dialogue, Sound/Music and Overall) appeared whenever I paused the videos. A rating number appeared at the top of videos that had been rated. As of this writing a drop down menu at the top of the homepage listed eleven categories. There were also featured films and upcoming virtual film festivals, including the Blastoff Film Festival, DC Chinese Film Festival, Diorama Film Festival, Around Films International Film Festival Barcelona for the remainder of 2020.

The three most watched films in 2020? The Velocipastor, Temp to Perm (disturbing short), and Extra Innings. Top genres in number of films: Drama, Documentary. The company markets mostly on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube. In addition to Jun the Los Angeles based company is owned by Kasia Jun Kaczmarczyk, Phillip Jun, Pawel Drzewiecki, and Jasper Grey.

New thriller from Argentina, Spain

Posted by Elena del Valle on November 18, 2020

A scene from The Weasel's Tale (El Cuento de las Comodrejas)
Graciela Borges is Mara in The Weasel’s Tale (El Cuento de las Comadrejas)

Photo: Outsider Pictures

The Weasel’s Tale (El cuento de las comadrejas), a new suspense film with touches of dark humor and romance, will open in United States theaters December 11, 2020. The unrated film is in Spanish with English subtitles. No video clip file was made available.

Four long-time friends sharing a stately home in Argentina find themselves the victims of an unscrupulous greedy couple seeking to con them out of their home permanently. A Spanish Argentina collaboration copyrighted 2019 the 129-minute film was directed and written by Juan José Campanella (The Secret in Their Eyes). It appears to be a remake of Los muchachos de antes no usaban arsénico, a 1976 film from Argentina by José A. Martínez Suárez.

The film was distributed by Latido in Spain and Outsider Pictures and Strand Releasing in the United States. The cast features Graciela Borges as Mara, Oscar Martínez as Norberto, Luis Brandoni as Pedro, Marcos Mundstock as Martin, Clara Lago Grau as Bárbara, and Nicolas Francella as Francisco.

With video – Brazilian film explores cult, religion in near future

Posted by Elena del Valle on November 10, 2020

Divine Love poster
Divine Love poster

Photo, video: Outsider Pictures

Divine Love (Divino Amor), a 95-minute unrated futuristic drama from Globo Films and Vitrine Films in Portuguese with English subtitles, will premier in United States theaters November 13, 2020. A joint release of Outsider Pictures and Strand Releasing it stars Dira Paes and Julio Machado as a couple experiencing marital malaise and difficulty conceiving while living in Brazil of 2027. Directed by Gabriel Mascaro (Neon Bull) promotional materials recommend it for adult viewing only (nudity, explicit sexual scenes). Scroll down to watch a trailer in Portuguese with English subtitles.

Set in what appears to be an oppressive regime the film tells the story of Joana, a woman desperate to have a child. She visits a drive-through religious counselor regularly. She uses her position in a government office to convince divorcing couples to stay together, often directing them to Divine Love, an evangelical cult she belongs to that mixes group therapy, swinging, traditional prayers and bible study. A male child’s voice narrates part of the dark story.

“The film takes place in a time when the majority of Brazil’s population are now Evangelical, but the state still claims to be secular,” said Mascaro in a press release. “It is a film that speculates the near future through an extraordinary allegory. Divine Love is a commentary on the conservative, fanatical and nationalist agenda that is spreading throughout the world and the way those that don’t espouse it, engage with it. Brazil has traditionally been referred to as a liberal and united country, where the annual Carnaval celebrations espouse the country’s diversity and cordiality. But the fact is that during the past few years, a cultural, social and political transformation led by powerful, ultra-conservative forces, has taken hold in the country. Instead of telling the story of a character fighting against against this conservative shift, I wanted to tell the story of a woman consumed by a desire to advance the conservative religious agenda in a very personal way. If a societal chasm has emerged as a result of hatred and misunderstanding, cinema is a space where I can fantasize improbable encounters.”

Divine Love received government funding and funding from Sor Fond Norwegian South Film Fund, Programa Ibermedia Mascaro, World Cinema Fund Europe, and Creative Europe Media. Mascaro is a Brazilian film director, scriptwriter and artist who lives and works in Recife, in the Northeast of Brazil. Initially known for his documentary work, his first fiction film premiered in the international competition of Locarno Film Festival in 2014. In 2015, he released his Neon Bull, which won the Orrizzonti Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival and was Brazil’s entry to the Goya Awards in 2016. Divine Love, his third narrative feature, was an award winner at the Guadalajara International Film Festival and an official selection the Sundance Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival and Miami Film Festival.

With video – New Zealand thriller miniseries showcases beautiful waterscapes

Posted by Elena del Valle on October 28, 2020

Rachelle Lefevre and Matt Whelan play a Canadian couple in The Sounds
Rachelle Lefevre and Matt Whelan play a Canadian couple in The Sounds

Photo: Acorn TV

Video: South Pacific Pictures

Rachelle Lefevre and Matt Whelan play Maggie and Tom Cabbott, a Canadian couple in The Sounds, a psychological thriller from Shaftesbury in Canada and South Pacific Pictures in New Zealand. When Tom disappears, dark secrets and family plots complicate matters for Maggie. The TV miniseries is available in the United States via Acorn TV, a commercial free subscription streaming service offering foreign programing. Scroll down to watch a video trailers.

In the eight episode miniseries the happily married Canadian couple start a new life and a new salmon fishery business in a small harbor town. What starts as a promising adventure for the couple seeking to escape Tom’s oppressive family quickly spirals into an unsettling story.

“It was made for Acorn TV and CBC and Sky TV NZ,” said Rachael Keereweer, head of Communications, South Pacific Pictures. “The primary target audience here in New Zealand was a relatively broad, 25-54 demo. From idea, the show was several years in the making. The actual production schedule, including pre-production was 6 1/2 months with a shoot period of 13 weeks from mid-August to late November 2019.”

The visually stunning background scenery in The Sounds is in New Zealand. The series was filmed in Whangaroa at the top of the North Island in an area called the Bay of Islands and in Auckland.

“It’s a mystical, magical, wonderful, beautiful place,” said Lefevre about the Malborough Sounds in a series press kit. And when asked about the most enjoyable aspect of working on The Sounds Whelan said, according to the same promotional materials, “Shooting up North in Whangaroa, I’d never been there before and spending a couple of weeks out on the water, on yachts and kayaking and doing all sorts of cool things in beautiful locations around New Zealand.”

The program was created and written by Sarah-Kate Lynch (Blessed Are the Cheesemakers, The House of Daughters). Other creative staff include Peter Stebbings, director, and executive producers Kelly Martin and Sally Campbell.

South Pacific Pictures, in operation for 32 years, has produced more than 5,600 hours of drama series and serials, feature films, reality programming and documentaries for New Zealand, Australian, Canadian and United Kingdom broadcasters, according to the company website.

Shaftesbury is a Toronto based creator and producer of original content for television, film, and digital content, according to the company website. That includes 13 seasons of Murdoch Mysteries, three seasons of Frankie Drake Mysteries, three seasons of Slasher, Hudson & Rex, Departure, Dead Still, and The Sounds.


With video – California PBS station to release eleventh season of art series

Posted by Elena del Valle on September 17, 2020

KCET Light and Space

Light and Space

Photo, video: KECT

For serious art lovers California PBS station KCET will premier the eleventh season of Artbound at 9 p.m. P.T. Wednesday September 30. The hour long program featuring three artists and their work will focus on The Light and Space movement of a group of artists in California in the 1960s who explored minimalism with attention to the interaction of light and space. The materials the artists relied on to create their “perceptual experiences,” such as polyurethane, fiberglass and plastics, emerged from the postwar aerospace industry. The artists are Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and Helen Pashgian. Primary production was December 2019 to February 2020. Scroll down to watch a video preview.

Artbound is an Emmy award-winning arts and culture series that examines the lives and works of arts of culture innovators, especially those making an impact in Southern California. The first episode will air again at 8 p.m. P.T. on Friday October 2 on PBS SoCal and at 10 p.m. E.T./P.T. Tuesday October 6 on Link TV (DirecTV channel 375 / Dish Network channel 9410). The episodes should also be available for online streaming following their initial broadcast on, and as well as on Amazon, YouTube, Roku, Apple TV and the free PBS App.

With video – LA Philharmonic launches online concert series from past decade with Mexican music

Posted by Elena del Valle on August 19, 2020

Gustavo Dudamel, music and artistic director, LA Philharmonic

Gustavo Dudamel, host of the new series In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl

Photo, video: Adam Latham, KCET, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

Southern California station KCET and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association (LA Phil) will offer In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl, a six episode series of performances from the past 10 years. Hosted by Gustavo Dudamel, music and artistic director of the Philharmonic, the series will launch Wednesday, August 19, 2020 at 9 p.m. P.T. on KCET with Hecho in Mexico (Made in Mexico). It is scheduled to be broadcast on PBS stations around the country in early 2021, according to a press release. Scroll down to watch a video.

Hecho en Mexico features Dudamel and the LA Phil, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Natalia Lafourcade, Los Angeles Azules, YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles), and La Santa Cecilia. Gustavo and Friends is scheduled to air a week later at the same time featuring Dudamel, LA Phil, Misty Copeland, Pablo Ferrández, Amanda Majeski, J’Nai Bridges, Issachah Savage, Ryan Speedo Green, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale (LAMC).

On September 2 at 9 p.m the series will feature Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl Featuring Dianne Reeves with Ivan Lins, Christian McBride, Chucho Valdes, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Kamasi Washington and Mega Nova (Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana and Wayne Shorter). Musicals and the Movies is scheduled for the following Wednesday featuring Dudamel, LA Phil, Kristin Chenoweth with Kevin Stites Audra McDonald with Bramwell Tovey, and Sutton Foster with Brian Stokes Mitchell.

Música Sin Fronteras (Music Without Borders) is scheduled to air Wednesday September 16 at 9 p.m. P.T. to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Scully, Dudamel and LA Phil, Carlos Vives, Café Tacvba, Siudy Garrido Flamenco Dance Theater, and Paolo Bortolameolli. Fireworks! is scheduled for the following Wednesday at the same time featuring Katy Perry, Pink Martini, Thomas Wilkins, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Diego El Cigala, Dudamel and LA Phil, and John Williams.

With a seating capacity of nearly 18,000, the Hollywood Bowl is among the largest natural amphitheaters in the world. KCET, a content channel of the Public Media Group of Southern California, is a donor-supported community institution, according to press materials. The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association presents live performances of orchestral, pop, rock, country, jazz, blues, Latin, world music, opera, chamber, Baroque, organ and celebrity recitals, theatrical performances, explorations of film music, dance, comedy, and multimedia productions.

With video – Chilean film among LALIFF 2020 features

Posted by Elena del Valle on June 3, 2020

Ella Es Cristina Poster

This Is Cristina (Ella Es Cristina) poster

Photo: Figa Films

One of the feature films in this year’s 19th Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), part of the Festival’s Official Selection, was This is Cristina (Ella Es Cristina). The 82-minute Chilean film from Mar Humano and Primate Lab, in Spanish with English subtitles, was directed by Gonzalo Maza and distributed by Figa Films. Scroll down to watch a trailer.

Salma Hayek was executive producer along with José Tamez and Siobhan Flynn. The film received support from the Fondo de Fomento Audiovisual. The 2018 film, starring Mariana Derderian, Paloma Salas, Roberto Farias, Daniella Castillo, Nestor Cantillana, Alejandro Goic and Claudia Celedon, tells the story of two women in their thirties, Cristina and Susana, who have been best friends since high school. As their lives change their friendship suffers and is tested. There is a surprise ending. The film should be available at festivals and online beginning in September.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s Los Angeles based Festival, established in 1997, included seven feature films and 23 short films from 12 countries. The festival took place May 5 to 31, 2020. The countries represented were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Spain, United States and Uruguay.

Other features included Paper Children and The Last Rafter. Shorts included: 1, 2, 3, All Eyes On Me Accents; Acuitzeramo; Ailin on the Moon; Baby; Blanes and St. Muller; Borrachero; Flesh; Flowers Within; Lady Justice; María; Miguel; Muy Gay Too Mexicano; Napo; Ode to the Beans; Rizo; Say You Will; Status Pending; The Undocumented Lawyer; and Wilderness.

An organization spokesperson declined to identify the names of the individuals responsible for selecting films for inclusion in this year’s festival. Funding, she said, is from “sponsors, donors and grants.” As of this writing the only contact information available on the event website is via a contact form. No street address or phone number are listed.

According to a press release for the festival “LALIFF is presented by the Latino Film Institute (LFI), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with the mission to showcase, strengthen, and celebrate the richness of Latino lives through the audio-visual event. According to the LALIFF About Us page, “The Latino Film Institute (LFI) showcases, strengthens, and celebrates the richness of Latino lives by providing a pipeline, platform, and launching pad from our community into the entertainment industry.” It describes LALIFF as “dedicated to showcasing the entirety of human experience from the Latino perspective, whether through film, television, digital, music, art, or any other vehicle, regardless of platform.”

Film showcases internationally famous artist

Posted by Elena del Valle on May 13, 2020

Botero poster
Botero poster

Photo: Corinth Films

An 84-minute long film showcasing the life and art of Fernando Botero, known internationally for his paintings and sculptures, was released by Corinth Films this month in several California, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Louisiana and Colorado theaters. It has appeared in 13 film festivals. A trailer was not available.

It features interviews with the author, his adult children and other relatives as well as art curators, academics and historians. It is in Spanish, English, Italian, and French with English subtitles. The 2018 film was directed by Don Millar, written by Millar and Hart Snider. According to promotional materials, it includes original footage shot in 10 cities across China, Europe, New York and Colombia, with decades of family photos and archival video. His daughter, Lina Botero Zea, is listed as chief creative consultant and executive producer. This may account for the film’s access to the artist and his family as well as family homes and the artist’s studio in Monaco.

Millar is a Canadian film and television director based in Vancouver. His previous directorial credits include the climate change documentary Oil Slick, Full Force about rugby star Harry Jones, and the scripted narrative Off the Clock. Corinth Films has been distributing foreign and independent arthouse cinema in the United States and Canada since 1977.

With video – film examines dark period of Guatemala history

Posted by Elena del Valle on May 6, 2020

Nuestras Madres poster

Nuestras Madres poster

Photo, video: Outsider Pictures

Nuestras Madres (Our Mothers), a 78-minute documentary style drama in Spanish with English subtitles from Outsider Pictures had its virtual theater release at 15 locations in the United States last week. The somber film was Winner Camera D’or, Cannes Film Festival and Belgian Entry to 92nd Academy Awards. Scroll down to watch a trailer.

It features Mexican actor Armando Espitia as Ernesto, a young anthropologist working for the Forensic Foundation in Guatemala in 2018 during the trial of the soldiers who sparked the civil war. Charged with identifying the bodies of the missing he has a personal mission. Emma Dib is Cristina, his mother.

The account of an older woman from a small village convinces Ernesto he has a promising clue to find his father, who went missing during the war. Although his mother and his boss urge him to leave well enough alone he presses forward.

César Díaz, director, heard from his mother about his father, also a “disappeared” guerrilla fighter. He began the project as a documentary about military massacres during the Guatemalan civil war in the 1970-80s. After meeting women in the villages where the fighting took place he turned it into a feature drama. According to promotional materials, their testimonies, often full of violent tales, reveal the story of Guatemala’s history as one of the first Central Intelligence Agency “Black Operations.”

“In Guatemala, fathers are absent as a general rule,” Díaz said in a press release (he was not available for a podcast interview). “Many children born of rape think that their father just left at some point. I therefore wanted the mother to reveal her secret, because it is a way of accepting and living with the consequences of what has happened. In a post-dictatorship, post-war situation, I think there must be collective acceptance, which can then be followed by individual moving on. Nuestras Madres is, to my knowledge, the first film to deal with this subject head-on.”

According to press materials for the film only 1 percent of the disappeared have been identified after over 20 years of searches. The genocide trial in the film is a mixture of many trials taking place, as is the uncovering of mass graves and returning the bodies to the families.

The film was made with the support of Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie Bruxelles Proximus Eurimages. Born in Guatemala in 1978 Díaz studied in Mexico and Belgium. He attended a  screenwriting workshop at La Fémis (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Métiers de l’Image et du Son, the FEMIS Film School) in Paris, France. He has been a fiction and documentary film editor for more than a decade. He directed the short documentary films Semillas de Cenizas screened in twenty international film festivals. Nuestras Madres is his first feature film.

Beginning May 1, 2020 Our Mothers became available nationally via local art house cinemas for $12 per ticket, split equally with the local cinema to help support them during the pandemic. As of this writing the theaters are: in California: Los Angeles at Laemmle Theaters, Davis at Varsity Theater, Larkspur at The Lark, Santa Ana at The Frida Cinema, San Diego at Digital Gym Cinema; in Denver, Colorado at SIE Film Center; in Florida: Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood at Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, in Miami at Tower, in Tampa at Tampa Theater; in Michigan: Detroit at Cinema Lamont, Ann Arbor at Michigan Theater; in St Louis, Missouri at Webster University Film Series; Albuquerque, New Mexico at The Guild Cinema; in Buffalo New York at North Park Theater; in Cleveland, Ohio at Cleveland Cinematheque; and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Cinespeak.