INDIESTREET

Pop the champagne! Grab those noise makers! Get lost in a sea of balloons, confetti and kissing couples. It’s a New Year! 2016 was one heck of a ride - a true rollercoaster that threw us for loop after loop. However, you can’t deny at least one exhilarating high that the big bad ol' 2-0-1-6 presented to us: the magic of cinema. The past year can definitely brag about that one bright spot, as we’ve seen an onslaught of breathtaking shorts and features presented both online and in cinemas and festivals around the world. Before we start all over again in a fresh, new year, the Indie Street and Indie Street Film Festival staff would like to present our favorite films from ISFF 2016 and beyond! From our inaugural year favorites to other indie hits and theatrical releases, we thank you 2016 for allowing us to throw one heck of a new festival and for showcasing some beautiful, smart and thought-provoking films. Let’s hit the corner of Indie Street and Memory Lane before looking ahead to what the new year has to offer!

 

 

 

 

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Romeo is Bleeding, dir. by Jason Zeldes

Documentary Feature (ISFF 2016 Selection)

 

Short Synopsis: Donte Clark's poetic voice was honed on the violent street corners of a struggling city. Yet rather than succumb to the pressures of Richmond, CA, Clark uses his artistic perspective to help save his city from itself.

 

 

Why we love it: It’s important to remember that, throughout history, one person can ignite change. Romeo is Bleeding, which won the Jury Award for Best Documentary at ISFF 2016, is a must-see doc if you’re looking for an inspirational, beautifully shot raw human story that seems more relevant than ever.

 

 ----------

 

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The Lobster, dir. by Yorgos Lanthimos

Narrative Feature 

 

Short Synopsis: In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

 

 

Why we love it: A kind of macabre black comedy, here unfolds a story about single loners that must find a partner before their time runs out and they are forced to be turned into an animal of their choice. This dark and twisted film is a love story unlike any we've ever seen. A Cannes Jury Prize Winner, this peculiar festival pleaser and critic favorite should peak interest in both lovers of the unusual and ones simply interested in the intricacies of human connections. 

  

 ----------

 

Image and video hosting by TinyPic 

Thunder Road, dir. by Jim Cummings

Narrative Short (ISFF 2016 Selection)

 

Short Synopsis: Officer Arnaud loved his Mom.

 

 

Why we love it: The Boss should be honored...Jim Cummings gives this classic song new depths of humor and humanity. A one take film with a million dynamics, get ready for a short film that will have you go from crying tears of laughter to suddenly crying tears of sorrow. The 2016 Indie Street Film Festival Jury Prize Winner for best Narrative Short, if you’ve not seen this incredible ode to loss, what are you waiting for?!

  

 ----------

 

 Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The Boatman, dir. by Zack Godshall

Documentary Short (ISFF 2016 Selection)

 

Short Synopsis: As Joseph and Selina Gonzales approach their 71st wedding anniversary, they reflect on endurance, love and fortitude after years of living outside the flood walls in Yscloskey Beach, Louisiana.

 

 

Why we love it: Sometimes all it takes is the jarring grit of reality to form a story that will linger long within both your mind and your heart. A portrait of love, perseverance and endurance throughout hardship, The Boatman is an Indie Street Film Festival short doc selection well worth your time. Have the tissues ready - this one is quite the beautifully human tearjerker.

  

 ----------

 

 Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The Past Inside The Present, dir. by James Siewert

Animated Short (ISFF 2016 Selection)

 

Short Synopsis: An allegorical tale of a couple who attempt to renew their dying relationship by plugging directly into recordings of their memories.  Available for download on Bit Torrent Now.

 

 

Why we love it: No dialogue and no words to describe this genius hand-crafted animation. Showcasing the mad, twisted rotoscoped world of a couple reliving and renewing moments from their relationship, this jaw-dropping and intricately created film will have you in awe of both its depiction of our relation to time as well as its layers of art and storytelling.

  

---------- 

 

Image and video hosting by TinyPic 

Moonlight, dir. by Barry Jenkins

Narrative Feature

 

Short Synopsis: A young man deals with his dysfunctional home life and comes of age in Miami during the "War on Drugs" era.

 

 

Why we love it: Well, first of all, who doesn’t love it?! Moonlight has taken the indie community and beyond by storm. A haunting portrait of African-American identity and repression, here masculinity, desire, and sexuality are all explored in a tender, emotional way. This is a film well worth the acclaim it's finding with audiences and critics alike.

 

 ----------

 

Image and video hosting by TinyPic 

Sonita, dir. by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami

Documentary Feature (ISFF 2016 Special Screening)

 

Short Synopsis: A young Afghani refugee in Iran channels her frustrations and seizes her destiny through music after her family tries to sell her into a marriage.

 

 

Why we love it: Should a filmmaker get involved with their subject even if it means a new chance at life? Winner of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize for Best World Cinema Documentary, Sonita goes beyond the story of a young girl following her dream to be a rapper and becomes a must-see film about politics, culture and fighting against obstacles in order to find opportunity and identity outside of expectations.

  

---------- 

 

 

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Hunt for the Wilderpeople, dir. by Taika Waititi

Narrative Feature

 

Short Synopsis: A boy and his “uncle” become the subjects of a manhunt after they get stranded in the New Zealand wilderness.

 

 

Why we love it: A misfit adventure between an unwanted, troublemaker orphan and a misunderstood foster uncle through the wilderness of New Zealand? Count us in! The wit and acting alone within this hilarious offering from writer/director Taika Waititi should put this film on your must-see list. Add in the million other positives on display within this unique production and we think it should definitely jump to the top of your list!

 

 ----------

 

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Whale Valley, dir. by Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson

Narrative Short

 

Short Synopsis: Two brothers live in a remote fjord with their parents. We look into their world through the eyes of the younger brother and follow them on a journey that marks a turning point in both of their lives.

 

 

 

Why we love it: A haunting portrait of two brothers, their deep bond & the feeling of isolation that comes from living within an overpowering, remote landscape, we don't think there has been a more beautiful, cinematic short film released this year. This Cannes Special Mention Winner is a film that goes beyond words, best enjoyed in feeling and trust. An absolute must-see!

 

 

A cathartically paced portrait of a community branded by its own self-aware dependency on prescription drugs, Sean Dunne’s directorial feature film debut, “Oxyana”, is a controversial yet necessary and affecting offering.  The film plays out like a patient yet evocative conversation that lets the audience draw their own opinions.  Dunne's documentary portraits Oceana, a small once thriving coal mining town in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia.  This is a community that that has been so stricken by prescription pill epidemic that it's residences have nicknamed it Oxyana.  What we see is a people shaped by a failed system and the failed war on drugs.

Recognizing the innate beauty of Oceana and its surrounding areas, it doesn’t take long to also recognize the ghostly reminder of what once.  As Dunne states, “Yet there it was, a constant and growing hum of anxiety. So we started to ask questions, and we started to get answers, all pointing towards a familiar narrative.”  By leaving the camera on the subjects of the film and allowing their words to naturally flow, you get an honest, staunch depiction of dependency and addiction through the eyes of the ones that are suffering.  We get their stories, and it’s a heartbreaking reality to face.

 

 

 Winner of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival Best New Documentary Director Award, clearly both “Oxyana” and Dunne have earned their prestige.  It is because this is a film that is as hauntingly memorable as it is a pretty necessary conversation starter to have on the film scene.  It doesn’t set up the film’s subjects as failures of society to be laughed off and forgotten.  It sets them up as tragic heroes, failed by something way bigger than we can imagine.  The secrets buried deep within the rolling mountains and forests of this West Virginian region are laid bare, raw and untouched.  In “Oxyana”, scandal and sensationalism are pushed aside for the true depth and revelation of honesty, pain, and darkness suffered through drug addiction.  Dunne’s skillful ability to uncover that realistic, objective narrative regarding the outskirts of America is on full display.  Produced by Cass Greener and Nadine Brown, “Oxyana” is being re-released on VOD and is truly a masterful, meditative documentary worth the watch, if only to see how well Oceana finds and displays its own unique, troubled voice for the rest of the world to try and understand.

Quite the unparalleled cinematic offering, Kornél Mundruczó’s “White God” and its plot can actually be summarized in a fairly straightforward manner: Girl loves dog.  Dog trusts girl.  Girl’s Father, as well as the rest of society, scorns dog.  Dog, after experiencing the harsh realities of life, trains, rounds up a military-like legion of mutts, and goes on a revenge-seeking rampage.  While the synopsis flows off the tongue like the reciting of a campy, B-movie plot, “White God” is anything but that.  It’s locked and loaded, unrelenting in its depiction of both a girl and her dog’s adjustments to the injustices and changes around them.  Below the surface, this is also a curiously metaphorical depiction of social inequalities within contemporary Europe.  Telling this through the guise of a dog lover’s revenge flick, be warned: “White God” is no “Homeward Bound”.

 

We enter into this sort of part familiar, part darker reality as 13-year-old Lili (Zsófia Psotta) and her dog Hagen are temporarily left in the care of her father Daniel (Sándor Zsótér).  When Daniel refuses to pay the taxes necessary to keep the mix breed dog at home, he promptly releases the mutt out into the wild, unknowingly starting an eye opening turn of events for the whole city.  As Hagen starts to experience brutality at the hands of humans, he becomes the scene stealer of the film.  Lili also stands out with her own particular stoic, rebellious demeanor.  Her growth as a teenager is told in parallel with Hagen’s own dog troubles, creating an interesting narrative formula.  Sometimes the parallel storytelling has its flaws, but as the credits play, it's hard to find fault.  For this, credit should be given to the trainers that managed to create dog-centric scenes that were often more captivating than any shared between the human actors.  Luke and Bodie, the two mixed breed dogs that shared the role of Hagen, are remarkable.  That Mundruczó and crew were able to create moments where you actually feel the dogs’ emotions exuding from the screen is a feat well worth applauding.

 

 

Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, “White God” easily fits within the award’s predilection for original and different work.  It’s a gripping fantasy about a world where humans, so often asserting their authority as an all-powerful being, are finally punished for their “sins”.  Whether we are talking dogs or just using them as a metaphor for ethnic inequality, the message is clear.  Now widely available on several VOD platforms, “White God” is the type of filmic fare that should be consumed, if only to finally see the hand that feeds get rightfully bitten back.

 

 

White God – Hungary, 121 MINS

Directed by Kornél Mundruczó

Starring Zsófia Psotta and Sándor Zsótér

Link to Trailer: https://vimeo.com/114052375

Link to VOD Links (July 28, 2015 Release): http://www.magpictures.com/whitegod/

 

 

One mind’s manifestations, challenged by new and total blindness, are the main focus of Eskil Vogt’s highly inspired debut drama “Blind”.  A somewhat self-reflexive portrait of one woman’s creative struggle with recent loss of vision, the film explores the consequences of both sightlessness and loneliness.  With the shutting down of one sense, every other sense becomes heightened.  Taking this direction, “Blind” allows the audience an amplified and surreal viewing experience completely withdrawn into fantasy.

 

The film follows newly blind Ingrid, played by standout Ellen Dorrit Petersen, as she copes with the darkness by embracing her vivid imagination. We learn early on that Ingrid’s blindness came without much warning.  She now spends her days constantly awaiting the return of her elusive architect husband, Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen).  During his absence, and sometimes even in his presence, she imagines the world he must surely be inhabiting, or craving to inhabit.  Is he present in the room, secretly watching her, or is he off seeking physical satisfaction from other women?  These doubts are what drive the entire film and start to create the nuanced narratives and characters within her mind.  Ingrid's narration introduces us to two peripheral characters: a single mother and a porn addicted loner.  These characters, complete with backstories, effortlessly blend into both her imagined world and reality with Morten.  It’s not until the absurdity of her creations start to unravel into more serious territory that we see the true reality behind her paranoia.

 

 

 

Bathed in a whitened glow, the ethereal Petersen creates an almost animalistic Ingrid.  Hungry for knowledge of the space around her, we become part of her desperation and playful demeanor.  As Ingrid states at the beginning: “They say that my ability to visualize will fade away.  That the optic lens wither without new impressions ... but I can maintain it”.  And maintain it she does.  Like one of the film's standout scenes, we stand with Ingrid, pressed against the surface of her apartment window, craving to see and be seen.  Currently available on DVD and UK/Ireland VOD platforms, Vogt has created a debut film that leaves behind a haunting, lingering memory of derailed reality long after watching.

 

Reviewed By: Indie Street's  Sarah Rice 

I Believe in Unicorns Film Review: an honest, raw look at how it

With a title like “I Believe in Unicorns”, audiences could easily be forgiven for expecting light, cheery fare.  It’s easy to see the fairytale charm on the surface of this story as it is the bind that visually holds the narrative’s progression together.  However, there is also a darker reality behind that whimsy.  This is more than your classic tale of young love and the intertwining magic that accompanies it.  Director Leah Meyerhoff’s offering often steers away from solely being a positive portrayal of love in order to show a much more raw perspective.  In this world of unicorns and fantasy, reality steps in to help tell the tale of a lustrous young girl’s sexual awakening.

 

As we are introduced to Davina (Natalia Dyer), we see the juxtaposition of her life: she is left both naïve and hardened by her home situation.  She exists as the sole caretaker of her disabled mother but constantly dreams of escaping that reality.  This has left her no choice but to escape via her vivid imagination.  As we get to know her character, we enter into her creation - an animated fairytale of unicorns and dragons.  Dyer is able to realistically embody that dueling mix of endearing youth and caged maturity evident within Davina.  However, this all starts to change when she falls in love with an older skateboarding punk named Sterling (Peter Vack).  Abandoned by his abusive father, Sterling draws Davina in with his carefree, dangerous attitude.  He’s everything her world hasn’t been able to be.  And as soon as they set their sights on each other, their wild and mad journey begins. 

 

There is something candidly real about this relationship as they discover each other and parts of themselves.  As the second half of the film shifts into more of a road trip movie, we twist down a road that starts to reveal more of its winding curves.  The contrast between the two lovers as they escape their pasts complements the fight between reality and fantasy constantly going on within Davina’s mind.  By escaping reality, they ironically get closer to their real existence.  As Sterling falls back on the abusive traits learned from his upbringing, fear starts to interrupt Davina’s fantasies, leaving her to crawl back into a now tainted, made up world.

 

Together, Director Leah Meyerhoff and actress Natalia Dyer make a visceral duo.  Meyerhoff’s direction coupled with Dyer’s natural approach to her character’s transition is evocative.  Meyerhoff is able to create a disarmingly simple yet complex world that, as a female director, enables her to show this story through the eyes of female youth and wonder.  Yet, this isn’t simply a story about a curious girl.  This is the story of a girl that wants to chase more, and for the first time in her life, feel more.  Her sexual awakening paints a nuanced portrait of a headstrong girl that gets in a bit over her head.  For both Davina and Sterling, upbringing has stained every part of their existence: past, present and future.  And at the end, as their road trip screeches to a halt, the weight of reality falls hard.  Fantasies must end.  We want a return to the safety of our initial understanding of our main female character.  We want, at least for now, her innocence restructured.

 

Sometimes “I Believe in Unicorns” gets lost within its own brand of whimsy.  However, beneath the hazy glow of its cinematography, this is effectively an honest, raw look at how it feels to grow up.  Similar to the mythical unicorn, Davina is like a beautiful, misunderstood creature.  It's through her eyes that the audience is guided on a voyage into the very human concepts of awakening and freedom.  Though sometimes the lessons are harsh, “I Believe in Unicorns” deals with that brutality in an original way.  Fantasy, in this case, is not a distancing technique.  Ironically, the addition of fantasy shows us more truth than reality would alone.  Currently available on Vimeo on Demand, it’s that innovative blend of two worlds that makes “I Believe in Unicorns” a worthwhile experience and a unique cinematic journey.

 

Reviewed by Indie Street's Sarah R Rice

When claiming a band is "real indie", there is always a risk of being perceived as pompous, because a “real” indie artist probably wouldn't claim themselves as such.  So first of all, the members of Tangerine didn't make this claim because they are genuinely too badass for that. And to make things clear: here is the definition of “real Indie” on our street:

An artist or group who is authentic and effortlessly cool while embracing the beautiful tight rope walk of creative expression and financial sustainability.

We were lucky enough to be invited to a garage venue at SXSW this year that made the artists and attendees feel like they stumbled upon a truly independent event.  The small home was hidden in the outshoots of Austin, where only faint sounds of the huge crowds and Bud Light promotions could be heard in the distance.  This is not to take away anything from SXSW and its efforts, the festival has just grown to such enormity that there is probably enough room to hold a second even more indie festival along side of it ala Slamdance/Sundance.

At this venue, this budding Indie pop band from Seattle, WA literally rocked the house.  The burgers and dogs, the sweat drops flying from the musicians (naturally they had to keep the garage door shut since the cops had already given a warning), and the accessibility of the artists after the show all added up to a rekindled love affair with the Indie Rock show.  I felt like a kid in the candy store, so naturally I filled up my now empty 20 oz can of Uber road soda and cooled myself down with whatever was in the keg.

Indie music garage band

Getting to sit with the band after gave me re-assurance of what they were as musicians and people (which usually go hand and hand).  

 

They were impressive on stage and authentically weird and magnetic while sitting on the lawn. 

Tangerine band on the lawnTangerine girls Indie Burger

 

Here is one of their music videos, so you can judge them musically for yourself...their ripping lead guitarist is probably the featured talent amongst a group of very fun and talented musical artists.  

 

 

Below is my brief interview with the lead singer, Marika where she talks about the band and their naviagtion of the Indie distribution landscape:

 

JWebb: How did Tangerine get started? 

 Marika: well Miro and I are sisters, and having been jamming on our instruments together since we were maybe 11 and 13 years old. I met Toby in high school and found that he's probably my favorite person to write music with. A couple years ago we decided to form Tangerine. I had just started working with Ryan, we booked bands for our university, and it was sort of like fate- he was a bass player looking for  band right when we needed one. It all came together very naturally and it's honestly just been a lot of fun since day one. 

 

JWebb: Who are some bands that have inspired you, and name a few non-existing band names of the future that you would love to inspire.  

Marika: There's so many bands that have inspired what we do it's hard to know where to start..mazzy star, hole, haim, breeders, black lips, charli xcx, el perro del mar, velvet underground, sky ferreira, hinds, max martin, the strokes, lana del rey, lorde to name a few! As I said before, I'm inspired by things from both ends of the spectrum: everything from Taylor Swift to the Clash and the Strokes. Our music is kind of a melting pot. 

 As for future band names that we'd love to inspire...I've never been asked that before haha. Maybe we'll inspire more fruit-based names? There could be a whole fruit-based revolution. When I was sixteen i thought Leopard Limo was a great band name. No one else did though. 

 

JWebb: We were lucky enough to watch one of your shows at a house garage venue at SXSW which really was an amazing intimate experience.  How have you guys tried to balance "Staying indie" with the very real world need for artists to continue to generate revenue.   

Marika: That was such a fun show! I'm glad you guys were able to make it, we love Austin. Musically, we naturally end up in a place that sort of straddles the indie/pop worlds. I like to think of our music as the Breeders meets the Strokes meets Charlie XCX. We've played some really amazing venues and some super DIY dingy spots and at the end of the day if the crowd is feeling it and giving off great vibes that's what makes it a good show.

 

JWebb: From your experience to date do you feel that it is more effective to hit the pavement and concentrate locally or have you found that there are any unexpected demographics or regions that have discovered and loved your music from internet sources. 

Marika: Honestly we've wondered ourselves what's most important and I'm not sure I can give you an answer. the internet is amazing in terms of connecting you with people across large distances- we've been interviewed by people in the UK and have sold digital downloads all around the world, in places we've never been to. Nothing beats connecting with people in person on tour though. 

 

JWebb: What has been your most successful fan building technique in the digital/internet realm?  Any type of social media you guys really dislike? 

 Marika: facebook has been really instrumental in us reaching people but it's also incredibly frustrating. sometimes a huge number of people will see something you post from it, and sometimes almost no one will and it feels very arbitrary. I'm pretty sure it's all a ploy to convince you to pay for sponsored ads. 

 

JWebb: Quick Story time - what is the best story that the band or one of its members has had (could be funny, inspiring, frightening, or all of above) 

Marika: I'll keep this short because it's not really my story to tell but both Toby and Ryan have been robbed at gunpoint at different times. One of the stories is way more fucked up than the other but I think i'll leave that to your imagination. They both lived to laugh about it! 

 

And the growing Tangerine band fan base is stoked about that!  Sitting on the dirt patch outside the garage was really one of those moments where you feel you might be hanging with some people who are destined for greatness...and even if that train doesn't come fully into the station, it was still great to meet some genuinely cool people.  I think their bass player summed up the gist of what it takes to be a real indie success.  He told me his first key was to get honest about what kind of music you personally like and move your head too. Most of the stuff he listened to actually had some pop elements with a catchy beat and tempo.  Trying to go completely outside of what you honestly jive to is doing a disservice to your work, your fans and in this case your wallet even.  He explained that staying indie was more simply to stay working, because most musical artists have to pay rent and eat food to survive, which Indie filmmakers can relate to since we are also human!  So mixing up venues from bars to garages to sponsored festival stages is all a part of it, while you work your ass of to collaborate and make music that you are proud of and that your growing fan base will love.  

 

- Jay Webb, Indie Street.

 

You can follow all things Tangerine on Facebook.  (photography by Nina Christensen)

 

Stop making products, deliver Relationships & Experience.

The Hollywood Reporter named Ted Hope one of the 25 most powerful people in the indie film business. The former CEO of Fandor and producer of 68 films was recently tapped as the Head of Production for Amazon Original Movies. In this first byte-size interview with Ondi Timoner, Hope explains how digital platforms are the future of bold, independent filmmaking and how technology is helping advance the “language of cinema."

L.A. Hack: The Time An Artist Installed a Sign Over The State

Truly one of the greatest stories in the history of Los Angeles is that of Richard Ankrom and his quest to install a freeway sign that made the lives of L.A. drivers just a little bit easier.

It began more than a decade ago when Ankrom moved to downtown Los Angeles and took notice of a curious omission on the 110 Freeway. The I-5 exit, Ankrom saw, wasn’t indicated on the green overhead sign that directed drivers as the freeway split between the 5, 110, and 101. Whether intentional or not, it was clear that the California Department of Transportation (known as Caltrans) had made a mistake.

Ankrom, an artist and sign painter by trade, decided to make it his personal mission to fix the error, install the correct sign,  and do us all what he would later call an act of “guerrilla public service.”

Read More