Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged independent film

Zero Bridge

Scenes from this film and the emotions they elicited continued to resonate in my mind for hours after I saw it. Zero Bridge is an understated yet profound film that shows us a slice of life in Kashmir, a place most of us know little about. The story follows Dilawar, a seventeen-year-old Kashmiri boy that lives with his uncle and is struggling to find his way. He is driven by a desire to leave Kashmir and hopefully join his adoptive mother in Delhi.

Threads of Hope

I have to admit to watching this film with much trepidation. Too many films and documentaries are dedicated to analyzing the poor state of women’s lives in the developing world, but few dedicate their focus to researching and explicating the systemic inequalities rooted in patriarchy, that exist to reinforce women’s conditions. However, while watching I was determined to keep an open mind and value the work and perspective of a young woman of color, endeavoring to make a difference in the world by documenting women’s lives in Kolkata, India.


Trailerpark is a student-made feature length production by Ohio University’s MDIA 419 course. It is based on the book of the same title by award–winning author Russell Banks. Despite an initial comment by another viewer that the sound quality was not good, we both agreed that visually, the film had much to offer, and that story-wise, there was a lot of (mostly) intriguing information to absorb.

Los Canallas (Podría Ser Peor)

Los Canallas are a jolly group of scoundrels, featured in this film, written, shot, edited and promoted by a gang of enthusiastic Acting and Directing students. These young people make up the very first promotion of the newly minted film program in Ecuador. This strange and stimulating film received third place at the Montreal World Film Festival in 2008, for the best opera prima, and is now available to English-speaking audiences (and well subtitled, be it said in passing).

The Girl on the Train

Upon watching The Girl on the Train, it may not be immediately obvious that this is based on a real event: the 2004 scandal in which Marie-Leonie Leblanc fabricated an anti-Semitic attack by six Arab youth. In fact, the film’s lead character, Jeanne (Émilie Dequenne), seems like a typical teen in need of inspiration.

Maria's Story: Twenty Years Later

Earlier this month, I saw a twentieth anniversary screening of Maria's Story: A Documentary Portrait Of Love And Survival In El Salvador's Civil War at The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco. Before attending, I had an abbreviated understanding El Salvadorian politics, and the subject of the documentary, Maria Serrano.

The Last Days of Emma Blank

Emma Blank believes death is eminent. Surrounded by a sulky if compliant staff in her large home near the Dutch dunes, she shouts absurd orders in between bemoaning her fate. “Don’t worry,” she assures her impatient employees. “Before winter, I’ll be dead.” Emma’s character is frustratingly distempered. Seemingly with no idea what is good for her, she demands an eel for breakfast, then violently vomits while her staff stands around shaking their heads with annoyance. It’s clear no one in the house has any sympathy for her condition, whatever mysterious ailment it may be.

Leading Ladies

It may seem quite an impossibility, but the film Leading Ladies is, simply put, a quietly revolutionary dance musical. While most dance musicals (think Dirty Dancing, Save the Last Dance) center on the boy-meets-girl heterosexual love match, Leading Ladies is a beautifully wrought girl-meets-girl story.

And Then Came Lola

Based loosely on the art-house classic Run Lola Run, And Then Came Lola shows photographer Lola’s desperate attempt to get to a crucial meeting on time, with her girlfriend’s career and their relationship on the line if she fails.

Zombies of Mass Destruction: A Political Zomedy

Is there anything more delightful than a well-done zombie film? How about a well-done zombie film with an obvious 9/11 parallel and smart, witty female, minority, and gay protagonists? All this and more can be yours with Zombies of Mass Destruction, which is as much social satire and metaphor as a gory, jolly, bloody good undead time. Zombies of Mass Destruction is set in idyllic Port Gamble, Washington, on the date of September 25th, 2003.

Travel Queeries

I perform a comedy show with my partner at Ladyfest Berlin every year. One of the vague memories I have of our first performance was of a U.S. filmmaker named Elliat politely introducing herself at some of the shows and workshops, then asking permission to film parts of the festival for a documentary she was making. She was warm and welcoming, and people were happy to oblige.

It Was Great, But I Was Ready To Come Home

The mythical tropical vacation: surfing, tequila, half-naked beauties, sunsets, dancing, delicious food, and life-changing vistas. It Was Great, But I Was Ready To Come Home strips the glorified ideal of self-discovery down to its reality: bugs, dodgy tacos, heat, dodgy people, heat, dodgy beds, and heat. I watched this film with a half dozen expatriate women living in Mexico City. All of us are travelers; we've backpacked and we have our own stories that could fill up the big screen. So why would this movie be worth watching?


From the get-go, I felt like I was cheating by reading director Cat Tyc’s explanation of her intentions for this film. But how could I not? They were listed directly below the film clip I watched on Vimeo.

Sheltered Life

Sheltered Life is a very confusing film to watch and to review. For the first hour or so, it’s brilliant. For the last ten or fifteen minutes, it’s absurd and rather disappointing. The acting ranges from the passable to the extraordinary as does the editing and cinematography. There isn’t much I can write without wanting to take it back a few sentences later, but be patient; I’ll try to find a point somewhere. The film is set in a domestic violence shelter in Canada where a wealthy mother and daughter find themselves after the mother takes yet another beating from her husband.

Dunya and Desie

Dunya and Desie is a 2006 Dutch film with English subtitles from director Dana Nachushtan. In the same vein as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Dunya and Desie is the fun story of two best friends from opposite upbringings and how they find what they are looking for in life.

White on Rice

I have something to admit upfront: comedies really aren’t my bag. I have a strange sense of humor that only seems to come alive with the zaniest of screwball antics and irreverent, satirical banter. Dick and fart jokes, stand-up, and most slices of modern romcom leave me yawning.

He Likes Guys

As a member of my college cinema club, I would show a film a couple of nights every month. Usually, the featured movie would be preceded by a surprise short film—nothing too long, but always something entertaining. Recently, I showed "Laundromat" by Edward Gunawan from a collection of acclaimed gay short films, He Likes Guys, to my unsuspecting audience.

Cute Couple

Kendra and Zach are cute. So cute, in fact, that they are the cutest couple in their circle of friends, and everyone tells them so. Repeatedly. However, in writer/director Courtney Moorehead Balaker’s first film, Cute Couple, Kendra and Zach undergo a couplehood identity crisis when an even more adorable couple comes along and changes the group dynamic. Balaker’s clever short comedy was the audience favorite at the Jackson Hole Film Festival in 2008, and it’s easy to see why.


How much of filmmaking is documentary? Even when an actor is performing onscreen, we can sometimes still see traces of the real person underneath the character. And when a camera is turned on us—at a wedding reception or for a home video—we instantly become performers ourselves. If a small city is constructed for a film set, does that make it any less real than a city that already exists? Though most certainly a narrative film, Tao Ruspoli’s Fix blends fiction with reality to such a degree that at the end, I was left wondering what I had just seen.

Nerdcore Rising

The disclaimer at the beginning of the Nerdcore Rising DVD reads: "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been made more awesome to fit this screen." Needless to say, I was immediately prepared to not take the film too seriously.

Must Read After My Death

Familial dysfunction is rarely poetic, but archival footage can be visually stunning, especially paired with painfully honest audio recordings of diaries, intimate correspondence, and therapy sessions. After his grandmother Allis’ death in 2001, filmmaker Morgan Dews stumbled upon more than 200 home movies and fifty hours of tape-recorded diaries and Dictaphone correspondence which revealed a complicated story previously unknown to Dews.

No One Belongs Here More Than You

Full disclosure: I’m a longtime fan of and contributor to Miranda July’s collaborative website, Learning To Love You More. Last year’s Me and You and Everyone We Know is a film I regularly dream of making. So despite my anticipation of July’s premiere short story collection and real fascination and appreciation for her work as a writer, filmmaker and performer; I give this anthology a centrist’s recommendation.

Big Dreams Little Tokyo: A Half Japanese Comedy

Big Dreams Little Tokyo is written by, directed by and stars David Boyle, who plays the character of Boyd, an awkward American who speaks perfect Japanese. Boyd is a well-dressed young man who claims to be a businessman, yet his most successful business only has one client. The relationship that subtly develops between Boyd and Mai, a nurse and his only English student, is the most enjoyable aspect of the movie.


The untimely murder of indie heroine director and producer Adrienne Shelley was inevitably on my mind as I watched her supporting performance. Waitress is set up to make you love it, and for many reasons, one can. Lush colors, laugh out loud humor and delicious-looking pies are enticing.

The Actress

The Actress is nothing more than another chauvinist movie that transforms the woman into the “foul temptress.” The “foul temptress” in this movie is an actress who moves in with three roommates: two men and a lesbian woman. The men have less than glamorous jobs, and one is a chronic masturbator. The lesbian roommate seems to be the most level-headed of the three, although she and her girlfriend have just broken up when the actress comes to stay. This "actress" never goes to an audition while staying with the roommates and never pays rent.


Once is a dreamy film set against the green-grey hues of wintry Dublin and accompanied by the plaintive music of that city's residents. The film's deceptively simple story centers around one of Ireland's unnamed poetic denizens, billed just as "guy," and played by wide-eyed Frames frontman Glen Hansard. He is a busker who croons longing songs, accompanied by a broken guitar, standing alone with his muse on a fancy shopping thoroughfare.

Anna’s Summer

Anna’s Summer, is a lovely and introspective film about life, death, remembrance and discovery. Anna, played evocatively by Angela Molina, is reminded of the loss of her loved ones and their qualities that made them not only lovable, but vulnerable and fallible. She has grace, countenance and an expressive nature reminiscent of Penelope Cruz in recent Pedro Almodóvar films. Her visage proves absolutely perfect for a role centering so much around reflection and the memories of her past.

Ms. Films DIY Guide to Film & Video, Third Edition

This anthology of DIY film techniques and ideas is nothing short of inspiring. It takes what I had thought of as a corporate and very difficult to break into medium and brings it to the level where anyone can become a filmmaker. Comprehensive and fascinating, with a lot of spirit, Ms. Films DIY Guide to Film & Video looks and feels like a zine, but is bound durably as a book. Geared toward women and girls, as women and girls are under-represented as film-makers, this book serves a meaningful purpose. I had never felt the desire to make films, but _Ms.


Raw. Overwhelming. Exposed. Hot. Emotionally messy. I'm describing the much lauded, controversial, and groundbreaking film Shortbus from John Cameron Mitchell, but I’m also telling you how I feel in this moment having just watched it for the first time. My friends have been telling me to see this film since its theatrical release in October 2006.

The Hollywood Machine

The Hollywood Machine is similar to an op-ed: it may make the writer feel better, but chances are it will never get noticed. And if her message is heard, it will be by those sympathetic or already in agreement with the meaning. This is the message the artist is sending.