68 episodes

Master the art of shared film festival experiences coming together in the digital age of cinema.

Film Festival reViews Christina Kotlar

    • TV & Film

Master the art of shared film festival experiences coming together in the digital age of cinema.

    Film Festival reViews EP113 The Rainbow on a NYC Corner VESELKA

    Film Festival reViews EP113 The Rainbow on a NYC Corner VESELKA

    A rainbow is an optical phenomenon. A captivating sight– the colors never change, and neither does the sequence. Rainbows symbolize good luck, wellness, happiness, health, inclusivity, and diversity, an all-embracing image of love and friendship. A Rainbow makes people Happy because it symbolizes Hope. In Life, something beautiful can be produced after pain and struggle.According to film critic Stephen Whitty, "Veselka: The Rainbow on the Corner at the Center of the World" directed by Michael Fiore, “is a lovely doc that starts out being about a venerable East Village restaurant and ends up being about freedom and family.”  I had the good fortune to speak with Michael about his work. It started as an intimate look at a father-and-son relationship in a family business that their Ukrainian patriarch started after World War II, which galvanized when the war broke out in Ukraine in 2022.It opened their world and outlook to include affected persons in their employ, eventually becoming an integral part as their extended family. It’s an American classic of an immigrant’s dream to work hard and create a refuge for friends while keeping his love for his homeland, Ukraine, at the forefront. His dream, his rainbow, Veselka, a symbol of hope and beauty after dark times, remains to this day. Listen in…For more current information go to VESELKA movie Facebook page.

    • 29 min
    Episode 112

    Episode 112

    What brought us together that included our many trips to Sundance Film Festival, hosting panels and programming, and speaking engagements, was a connection to a very special mentor, guru, and guiding star – Alice Guy Blache.Celebrating, Alice, Kimberly Skyrme casting director, producer, writer, and director, in short, A STORYTELLER shares insights into her most recent work and the upcoming Chesapeake Film Festival. She's into so many things that her 27-year dedication to the art of nontraditional casting has earned her a stellar reputation in the industry. Honestly; I don’t know where she finds the time. But she does. And she does it very well.We followed the white rabbit and fell into the rabbit hole, going after the stories of the first woman film director, Alice Guy Blache, and what makes Alice, well, Alice. Today, we are celebrating her one-hundred-fiftieth birthday, July 1st. Happy Birthday Alice Guy Blache!

    A Lost Visionary Found

    Alice Guy Blache (July 1, 1873 - March 24, 1968) was the first woman film director and the first to make fiction films before women had the right to vote, according to Alison McMahon, author of Alice Guy Blache Lost Visionary of the Cinema. Alice Guy developed narrative film stories at a time when it really didn’t exist. She owned and operated the Solax Studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey. As a director for twenty-eight years, she accomplished things that no one was doing at the time, special effects, super imposition, synchronized sound films between 1902 and 1906 and up until 1912, she was the only woman film director who was producing a consistent body of work in the world. In 1912, women didn’t have the right to vote.

    an original screenplay inspired by real events

    by Christina KotlarTHEME“Art challenges the technology. The technology inspires the art.” – John LasseterTaking risks as a woman in a man’s world, Alice in Movieland is on par with indomitable spirit biopics of dynamic, accomplished women living their art– La Vie en Rose + Frida challenging male-dominated realms as in The Queen’s Gambit.DESCRIPTIONAs the bourgeois-repressed social order opened up at the turn of the century, artists and free thinkers joined industrialists to achieve their goals. Consequently, super-tech chick Alice Guy Blache arrives on the scene, influencing the likes of Picasso and Braque, impressing inventors and entrepreneurs– Eiffel and Einstein –while embarking on an unconventional woman’s journey launching a filmmaking industry with an upside-down, topsy-turvy, breaking-the-rules approach to life’s absurdities and scenarios.

    • 28 min
    Sonoma International Film Fest

    Sonoma International Film Fest

    Twenty-Five Years! One of the best on my list. I’ve been there and you can’t beat the hospitality that comes along with top-notch programming, in California wine country. Steve Shor has the magic touch as program director for the Sonoma International Film Festival with 120 films from 35 countries, chefs preparing food, and sommeliers pouring the wine. What more can you ask for?

    Our conversation touches on subjects from the gems that Steve finds like The Stork Man, a Croatian man nurses and injured stork, makes a nest on his roof for the stork to return to for 23 years. Food-centric films remind us of the Chefs of the World and their enormous humanitarian efforts feeding people during natural disasters, currently on the border of Poland feeding thousands of people a day during the Russian invasion and war on Ukraine.

    Steve has over 40 years of industry experience in studio, production, and management positions including ten years at Columbia/Tristar Pictures. Currently, an independent producer and is program director for Long Beach International Film Festival and industry liaison for the Newport Beach Film Festival. Before that he programmed for the AFI Fest, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, and the Jackson Hole Film Festival. He knows how to make it work.

    He tells me he programs for his audience not for his ego. The filmmakers get an opportunity to meet A-list industry players who are on the jury, celebrities like Jacqueline Bisset, Jacque Pepin, and Karen Allen mingle with the filmgoers under the hospitality tent where there are no red carpets or paparazzi around, just great food, great wine, great films. We talk about what he looks for in a film and how to integrate an event that complements a true film festival experience. Steve tells me that with an emphasis on hospitality in wine country, he is sure that everyone will find and fall into a beautiful movie. That’s important to him and I couldn’t agree with him more.

    It’s interesting that The Stork Man was one of several movies he talked about. The stork is considered to be the national bird of Ukraine. It’s a symbol of parental love, family welfare, and patriotism. The stork is believed to be a sacred bird, its nest, built on the roof of the house, brings fortune and happiness to its hosts. These are all things that Steve Shor brings to the Sonoma International Film Festival.

    Steve, may the stork be with you.

    • 36 min
    Light From The East Still Shines

    Light From The East Still Shines

    My guests are Virlana Tkacz, who heads the Yara Arts Group in New York City creating original theatre productions in Yara’s signature style of multilingual dialogue and songs supported by evocative visuals, music, and movement. And award-winning, writer-director, Amy Grappell, whose documentary LIGHT FROM THE EAST is about an extraordinary Ukrainian American stage production taking place during a coup in August 1991, in Kyiv, Ukraine.Virlana had a dream and started the Yara Arts Group in 1990 with a show about the dreams of young people– what they wanted to do in the theater. The show became A LIGHT FROM THE EAST, experimental theater interpreting excerpts from the diary of an early Ukrainian theater director, Les Kurbas, in Kyiv in 1919, whose ideas challenged the repressive authority coming into power after the Russian Revolution by giving voice to the people. His work evoked thought that would educate the masses, unite the community, and liberate the human spirit.Amy Grappell was one of those young stage players working in New York. She auditioned and was part of a very successful show. An unexpected opportunity and invitation to become the first Ukrainian American theatre production in a seminal cultural exchange was too good to pass up and Amy eagerly went along. The troupe traveled to Kyiv in August 1991, where they immersed in Ukrainian culture, lived with host families, survived the often inedible food, limited in stock and obtainability. They suddenly found themselves in the middle of political upheaval, a coup was announced. Mr. Gorbachev was missing. The following days, they witnessed a revolution and Independence Day for Ukraine. They were told very little except to keep working, after all, the show must go on and it did.The stage play, written by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps became the subject of Amy Grappell’s film, LIGHT FROM THE EAST, a documentary, following a dream that crossed decades, transcending time, for young people of two countries, United States and Ukraine, finding a common ground, a common language in the Arts.Unbelievably in 2022, Ukraine is under attack by a Russian dictator determined to destroy a sovereign nation and kill the dream of freedom-loving people who want a better life for themselves and their children. Some dreams of young people in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol are of cluster bombs and war around them. But just as the dangers of arrest and destruction occurred in Kyiv in 1919, the dream remains stronger than death, and Artists’ voices are always relevant. Les Kurbas’ murder was ordered by Stalin in 1937 but his work lives on to this day.In the final scene in LIGHT FROM THE EAST, we see the theater troupe in a circle holding onto one another. Virlana says (in Ukrainian): We all learned something about ourselves, about each other during the time we’ve worked with each other. I want to remind us to give this art to someone else so that this circle becomes much bigger, much richer. So the next time we stand in the circle and embrace, we’ll embrace the whole city.Finally, a quote from Les Kurbas’ diary 1921. Art is where the unity of humanity is manifest… where our true selves converse with one another."Oblivion" music by Astor Piazsolla, violin by Yuri Turchyn  YURI TURCHYNVIRLANA TKACZ heads the Yara Arts Group and has directed almost forty original shows at La MaMa Theatre in New York, as well as in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Bishkek, Ulaanbaatar, and Ulan Ude. The first show she created with Yara was A LIGHT FROM THE EAST, which traveled to Kyiv in the summer of 1990 to become the first Ukrainian American theatre production and the subject of Amy Grappell’s film.Amy Grappell’s short documentary KINDERLAND, about the history of progressive Jewish summer camps, won Best Documentary Short at Santa Fe Ind. Film Festival and screened at DOC NYC (2021). Her documentary QUADRANGLE,

    • 30 min
    What Do You Look For In a Short Film?

    What Do You Look For In a Short Film?

    After 40 years with Asbury Shorts USA, and still going strong, Doug LeClaire shares his secrets to a successful four-decade run that compares this theatrical event with an off-off-Broadway production.

    From the Best in Film festivals, worldwide submissions, and just plain scouting the world of the short, there's always an easter egg surprise that delights audiences. Asbury Shorts USA is the source of short films for show bookers, cinema programmers, and theatrical exhibitors. So what makes a successful short film that finds its way in this two-hour program? It's all about a good story and a great ending.

    Getting back on track after a COVID hiatus, finding the Asbury Shorts USA quality short film is their biggest challenge. I love the optimism!

    Doug LeClaire worked as a Line Producer and Production Supervisor of national television commercials independently produced feature films and major cable network promos in the New York metro area for 35 years. He produced television advertising & web content campaigns for Lifetime TV; WE-TV; Comedy Central; MTV; Spike, Oxygen as well as the CBS, NBC, PBS, and ABC networks.  He won a “Clio” for an MTV promotional campaign directed by Barbara Kanowitz. He served as Unit Production Supervisor on national commercial projects directed by Michel Bay, Martin Scorsese, Herb Ritts, Laura Murphy, and Robert Altman among other noted directors.

    Doug was the Unit Production Supervisor on a series of national public service announcements created by the City of New York soon after September 11, 2001. Mayor Giuliani recruited legendary TV commercial director Joe Pytka to shoot multi metro area location spots emphasizing how New York City was “back in business” post 9/11.  The PSA’s featured Kevin Bacon, Ben Stiller, Derek Jeter, Susan Sarandon, Henry Kissinger, Al Roker, Harrison Ford, Vanessa Williams, and Woody Allen.

    He has line produced two independent feature films: Greetings from the Shore, directed by Greg Chwerchak, starring Kim Shaw, David Fumero, Paul Sorvino, and Jay O. Sanders. Also: Broadway’s Finest, winner of over 10 national film festival awards, directed by Stephen Marro. Doug was the Line Producer on a series of concert background videos for Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame through Breathe Productions in New York and the Te A Me Tea global promo sensation: Drink the Tea Donald Trump for the FishEye Creative ad agency from India. He was Joe Pyka’s NY Production Supervisor for 19 years working on national TV commercials for Nike, Pepsi, IBM, Budweiser to name just a few.

    In 1981 Doug & partners founded Asbury Shorts USA, now New York City’s longest-running short film exhibition and touring show.  Asbury Short’s mission is to keep award-winning short films in theaters as opposed to YouTube, computers, or smartphones. Asbury Shorts has presented its short film “concerts” in historic venues from Los Angeles to Berlin. Guest Hosts of Asbury Shorts shows have included: Edie Falco, Adrian Grenier, Bob Giraldi, Melvin Van Peebles, Richard Belzer, Harvey Keitel, Olympia Dukakis, Dylan McDermott, and Jason Reitman. Doug directed two award-winning shorts in the 1980s: “The Problem,” and “Surprise.” Both played on HBO.

    He was the Director of the Shorts Program at The Lake Placid Film Forum from 2000-2004 and served as an Operations Manager at the Garden State Film Festival from 2007-2021. Doug has been an instructor and guest lecturer at the School of Visual Arts; the New York Institute of Technology; the State University of New York; New York University, Monmouth University, Upstate Independents; Film/Video Arts and One Day University.

    • 34 min
    A Fiercely Independent Film Fest Spirit Meira Blaustein

    A Fiercely Independent Film Fest Spirit Meira Blaustein

    I start the New Year and the sixteenth season of Film Festival reViews catching up with Meira Blaustein Co-Founder/Executive & Artistic Director of the Woodstock Film Festival. Fiercely independent is her motto.

    • 34 min

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