Elevate Difference

Reviews of First Run Features

Eyes Wide Open

Viewing Eyes Wide Open is like watching a wrecking ball swing towards a beloved old building from afar; you can see the destructive aftermath coming, but are powerless to stop it. It is a gorgeously filmed demolition, filled with exquisite tenderness and emotion, but a demolition nonetheless. The story follows the love between two Orthodox Jews living in Jerusalem.


Award-winning filmmakers Jessica Hope Woodworth and Peter Brosens come together again to make the visually stunning Altiplano. Shot primarily in the mountains of Peru, Altiplano tells the story of two women: Grace, an ex-war photographer from Belgium, and Saturnina, a woman about to be married in the village of Turubamba, high in the Andes. The main narrative strain in the film is the story of Saturnina’s village as it interacts with the Belgian miners, who are mining for gold in the Andes, and the Belgian doctors who run a cataract clinic. Tensions around the gringos increases as the people of Turumbamba begin to suffer from mercury poisoning, which Saturnina connects to the miners.

The Tiger Next Door

"Experts estimate that there are now more tigers in private captivity in the USA than there are roaming wild in the world." This is the opening line from The Tiger Next Door, a compelling documentary about the surprisingly widespread practice of breeding, selling, and owning exotic animals in the United States. The film focuses on Dennis Hill, a big cat owner who resides in Indiana.

Fish Out of Water

In Fish Out of Water, Ky Dickens recalls her effort to reconcile her devout, Christian faith with her homosexuality. She claims she feels like a “fish out of water,” because, after coming out during her senior year of college at Vanderbilt, she was ostracized from her academic community, but, at the same time, didn’t quit feel an affinity to the gay community at large.

Behind the Burly Q

We can't deny that we're in the midst of a Burlesque Renaissance, at least in New York City—go to any club downtown and see for yourself.

Off and Running

Considering the number of children in need of adoption—and the number of children who are actually adopted each year—it's surprising there aren't more adoption stories being told. Aside from The Locator, we've had especially limited access to stories about adopted children reaching out to their birth parents. The delicate, vulnerable position of someone sending a letter out into the world, waiting and hoping to hear back about where they come from, is still a bit of a mystery, and more than worthwhile.

Off and Running

Off and Running is a very non-traditional coming-of-age story told in a way that deftly conveys one young woman’s unique situation as well as more universal themes. Filmmaker Nicole Opper was afforded intimate access to her subjects, which enabled her to invite the viewer to take a sensitive and warm perspective as the events unfold. The film’s central subject, a high school track star named Avery Klein-Cloud, is honest and likable.

A Jihad For Love

To ponder the relationship between Islam and homosexuality is to consider something that does not exist. Parvez Sharma’s groundbreaking documentary, A Jihad for Love, calls this frequently held assumption what it is: a lie.


In his first few shots, all very wide angles and washed-out greens, Abdullah Oguz shows his cards as an ambitious, technically brilliant filmmaker. In the Anatolian countryside, a flock of sheep turns a slow circle as the camera, peering down on a girl’s body, does the same. A melody—composed by Zülfü Livaneli, who also wrote the book on which this film was based—hums through the valley.

Inside The Koran

Inside the Koran is an excellent insight into Islam through the interpretations of a vast category of people from ayatollahs, clerics, and scholars to farmers, activists, housewives, and modern Muslim women.

The Bible Unearthed: The Making of a Religion

The Bible Unearthed is a French documentary based on the 2001 bestselling book by the same name authored by Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, Director of the Ename Centre for Public Archaeology and Heritage Presen

Alicia en el Pueblo de Maravillas (Alice in Wondertown)

As Alice in Wondertown begins, a sense of foreboding emanates from the screen. Alice is running along a beach, away from an invisible threat, and her ill-fitting boots are impeding her progress. She makes it to the main road, screaming to a truck full of workers for help. After what seems like a full minute of Alice screaming, the truck finally screeches to a halt and the occupants acknowledge the distressed woman in the street.

A Wink and a Smile

Deirdre Timmons' documentary A Wink and a Smile is a love letter to Seattle's thriving burlesque scene. Our tour guide is Miss Indigo Blue, veteran performer and headmistress of the Academy of Burlesque, which offers classes including a six-week Burlesque 101 course culminating in a public performance. The film focuses partly on the ten women who took the Fall 2007 course.

A Hole In A Fence

For most films under an hour long, the first ten minutes are critical. In this short window, the story’s framework is established, point of view is explained, and the viewer basically gets to decide if they’re half as committed to following the plot as the film’s director was to sharing his or her vision.  During the first few minutes in A Hole In A Fence, I had no idea what I was watching.

The 3 Marias

The 3 Marias, a gritty 2002 Brazilian film directed by Aluizio Abranches, revisits the age-old theme of revenge, but with a delightful empowering twist. The film opens with haunting opening credits, and the story begins with a rather cryptic yet powerfully operatic scene. The plot then steamrolls forward, introducing the victims of unwelcome murder, and off we go.

The Bridesmaid

Claude Chabrol is a grandfather of French cinema; he is one of the major figures of the French New Wave who is still making frequent, full-length films.