20 Matches – Day 2 of the 2016 Sarasota Film Festival

Do you like Short Films.. I’m not talking about shorter feature films. I’m talking about short (in terns of time) films. On Day 2 of the 2016 Sarasota Film Festival, I attended one such film.

Now they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a picture from the film –

in fact, this is both the film’s poster, as well as nearly all the content from the film.

The film is called 20 Matches. It runs for about 10 minutes. The action of the entire film is almost exactly like what we see in the image. Only the camera angles change (albeit slightly) as do the angles in which she holds each burning match. Here is the synopsis of the film, from Cassava Films.

A young woman (Nina Rausch) sits alone in a pitch black room and lights twenty matches, one at a time.

Her face illuminated only by the flame from each match, the woman tells the story of a Viennese serial killer who kidnapped and murdered twenty immigrant women – one per year.

Over 20 years, and each murder involved 20 wooden matches just like the one in the actress’s hand in the image above.

This is not a cheerful film. In fact, the details will make you squirm in your seat. And if you ask me, making the viewer uncomfortable is the point of the film.

But here is the rub. There are no other actors in the film. There are no sets and no props aside from the matches that are struck one by one. All of what we hear is the actress’s voice, and the sound of each match being struck. So when we are told of the true horror behind these murders, there’s no way to avoid ‘seeing’ this activity conceptually in our mind’s eye.

And that is why this is indeed a very scary film. Without blood, and also lacking weapons and screams – the story is told to us by this woman on-screen.

The film was written, produced, and directed by Mark Tapio Kines. The auteur got the idea back around 2010. And while he originally intended to make the film in conjunction with another film maker Susanne Wuest, their schedules did not align properly, and so, via crowdfunding, Kines was able to raise about $6,600, which enabled him to make the film himself.

So the film was finally shot in July of 2015, and finished by September of last year. Kines is working to get the film on the festival circuit, and so I was able to see it last night.

There’s no way to write a compelling review of the film. What you see is what you get. But, on the other hand, if you want to let  your imagination run with the idea – then this is indeed, a strong film.

Here is a list of the upcoming (following Sarasota) festival dates for 20 Matches

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Let Me Tell You About NYC – A Film by Andrei Shah

Let Me Tell You About NYC

Once upon a time the place was called (among other things) the center of the world. That’s along with The City that Never Sleeps. And New York is famous for The Great White Way (aka Broadway and Times Square) as well as having a Little Italy, and a Chinatown which make up just two of a multitude of neighborhoods – what you might call ‘villages’ within the overall confines of New York.

I know this for a fact as I am a former New Yorker who lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (East 91st Street between Park and Madison Avenues) through parts of four decades. My neighbors at times were Woody Allen, journalist and author Carl Bernstein, film director Sidney Lumet, actor Burt Young, hockey star Wayne Gretzky to name but a few.

Across the street was The Dalton School – First Program where the children of Diana Ross and Donald Sutherland attended and napped in their very first classrooms. I think I saw Kiefer Sutherland in a pram before he was even old enough to count to 24. Across Madison, but still on 91st was the The Spence School, an all-girls school. The daughters of the Bouviers, Bloombergs, Fricks, Astors, and Bianca Jagger went to school there. And at the end of the block – on the corner of 91st Street and Fifth Avenue is the Convent of the Sacred Heart, once a private home, now a private school.

Let’s see, Ethel, Joan, and Caroline Kennedy went to school there. As did Gloria Vanderbilt, Elaine Stritch, Suri Cruise (yes, that would be Tom’s daughter), as well as Stefani Germanotta who these days is widely known around the world by her working name – Lady Gaga.

That was my neighborhood.

Nowadays I take the sun, my morning coffee, and when I shave, the cuttings circle down the drain in Sarasota, Florida. So I’ve lived in the Big Apple, rooted for the Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers for so long that I can recite the New York anthem, called New York, New York and made famous by Frank Sinatra – by heart.

But that’s just me.

For others, visiting or living in New York is either a strong desire, a fond wish, or a bucket-list item, so they come, and they’ll struggle to survive (to make it) and maybe they do, or maybe they don’t. But they continue to come and give it a try.

New York is not the easiest place to live – just have a look at the lyrics from Tom Waits crooning about the Downtown Train

Or Billy Joel singing about coming back because he’s in a New York State of Mind.

Then there’s Alicia Keys known best for her stirring and hopeful Empire State of Mind.

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York!
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New Yooork!

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Transindia – A Documentary by Meera Darji


From the USA Today newspaper:

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Monday issued two directives moving the Pentagon closer to allowing transgender men and women to serve openly in the military.

First, Carter ordered the creation of a Pentagon working group “to study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly,” Carter said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

Earlier this year, it was announced that TV and Film actor Taye Diggs, who can currently be seen playing a San Francisco PD Homicide detective in the TNT television series Murder in the First, has agreed to perform in the live theatrical production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This production won the 2014 Tony for Best Musical Revival. Mr. Diggs will take over the role of Hedwig on July 22nd at the Belasco Theater on West 44th Street – the epicenter of New York’s theatrical zone known as Broadway.

Then there’s the near constant coverage of Caitlyn Jenner in the supermarket tabloids and the gossip press and media.

We are all aware of the success of the TV series Orange is the New Black, as well as the award-winning TV series Transparent.

All of the above are references to transgenders in the news and in the media, as well as in the arts. But what about the transgenders who you don’t read about. The ones that are living their lives not only here in the States, or in the European Union, but in other places in the world.

UK filmmaker Meera Darji has recently completed her Documentary Short called Transindia. It is a moving documentary that explores the Transgender community (Hijras) in Ahmedabad, India. The Hijras, long ago, in the days of the Mughal Empire, were accepted in society, where they earned a good sense of respect.

The days of the Mughal Empire were followed by the era of the British Raj, when Britain had colonized India. During this period, in 1871, a law was passed. Section 26 of the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 – basically classified all Hijras as criminals. The nuts and bolts of the act basically allowed that any Hijra, appearing in public places or streets, either dressed or ornamented as a woman, who plays music, dances, or performs any public exhibition, could be arrested without warrant, and would face either 2 years of imprisonment, or fines, or both.

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A Young Film Maker Talks with JMM

A bit more than a week ago, at the IIFA (International India Film Awards) in nearby Tampa, I watched 2 short films made by a brother and a sister, Arosh and Sabreena Sarkian. I think they went to a film school in LA. They were students and they wrote, produced, and directed two films that were shown at this important event.
That got me interested in more short films. I found an outfit called Meera Productions. Meera Darji is a second year student at Coventry University in the UK. She’s enrolled in the Media Production Honours course at the school. She writes, produces, directs, and edits her own films under the banner of Meera Productions. She also works as a cinematographer, and has manned the cameras for other folks. I’ve watched a number of her short films, and I like what I see. I like the way she frames a shot – a technique that can be taught but I believe is mostly instinctual. One isn’t born knowing how to use a camera, or frame a shot, but someone can be far better at it – even without training – than others.

There’s a second component to film making that is also invaluable, and that is the editing. Knowing when to cut, to change the perspective or angle, to choose a one shot then pull back for a two shot, is very important in keeping a viewer’s interest. A stationary camera conveys information that is endlessly repeated, but a moving camera, whether it be the camera that is in motion, or a series by edits, simply heightens the amount of information that is offered to a viewer. Each change edit offers a fresh perspective. New information is delivered, and the eyes are attracted again and again. I think Meera excels in camera positioning, locations, and the framing of the subjects. And when you factor in the editing – that’s where it really gets interesting.

To kick off this post, please have a look at Meera’s showreel:

So my subject for this post is the young film maker Meera Darji. I’ve asked some questions and I found her answers to be compelling, insightful, honest, and most worthy of your consideration. Some of the films in the showreel will be discussed. Wasn’t Meera’s showreel quite exciting? So without further preamble let’s get started. Continue reading

I Went Shopping For Robert De Niro: The IIFA Opens in Tampa

I picked up my press credentials for the IIFA yesterday. If you don’t recognize the acronym, it stands for International Indian Film Awards, and with full sponsor heading it becomes Videocon d2H IIFA Weekend. But in reality, as in plainer English – It is the ‘Oscars’ of India, the 15th annual such event. Last year it was held in Macau, this year in nearby Tampa, Florida.

When I picked up my photo ID badge, I was told that I was the first person who had shown up and requested the press ID badge who actually appeared on a list of accredited journalists and whose badge was actually there on the table. This was at about 5:15 PM on Wednesday the 23rd. For that, I will thank Lizel Noronha and Michelle Rocha (of WizSpk) for their efforts. And all of that took place at the Tampa Downtown Hilton Hotel.

Day Two’s first event was a Business Forum at the Tampa Convention Center. Rather than sit in on that, I directed my feet to the glorious and ancient (it was built in 1926) Tampa Theater. The theater is notable for its exquisite design which includes indoors a city skyline and a starry sky overhead. If you must know, it is all stone, alabaster, paint, and lights, but when you sit under it, in the orchestra section, you really do think you’re under the night sky and stars.

2014_4$largeimg224_Apr_2014_133759957The event was called the IIFA Film Premiere & Workshop with Anupam Kher. Mr.Kher is one of India’s most noted actors. He was introduced as India’s Dean of Acting and India’s Bible of Acting. Mr. Kher was there to give his film a World Premiere. This new film is entitled – I Went Shopping For Robert De Niro.

Before we get to that, there were two short films shown. Directed by a brother and sister, Arosh Sarkian and Sabrina Sarkian, the two of them used their Film school skills to make interesting and moving films about life and death.

The first was entitled In Search of Dreams, and the second, Spice for Grandma.

In Search of Dreams was about an 8 Minute short film. An elderly woman interacts with her husband. He seems to come and go. There’s a reason for this – he’s dead, What we are seeing is from within the mind of the wife, who is dealing with advancing Alzheimer’s.

The second short was about the mother of an 7-year-old daughter. She cannot bring herself to tell this young girl that her grandmother has passed away. So she brings the daughter to her father’s home, and leaves it to him.

When the young girls asks, Where is Grandma, the old-timer points at the sun and says, You see that sun, Grandma has gone at least that far.

The point of the two films is that death and disease are universal, Both films were quite well received by the crowd. We were later told that nearly 800 people were in the auditorium which hold only 400 plus. I think that was a bit of an exaggeration.

Among the notables in the house were Shabana Azmi, who was once the reigning queen of the Indian Parallel Cinema back in the 70’s. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, a current star of what is called India’s Independent Cinema. I just saw this actor in The Lunch Box, which is playing in cinemas in the US these days. Also on hand was Ritesh Deshmukh, a talented character actor. Finally, Anil Kapoor, the superstar actor with 117 film credits to his name. He appeared in the Tom Cruise thriller Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.Or you might know him when he appeared for a few seasons on 24.

Okay, back to I went Shopping for Robert De Niro. Kher has long been a fan of De Niro who to Kher is the epitome of an actor with skilled craftsmanship, the ability to make any character come alive, and to thrill audiences everywhere.

Mr. Kher with De Niro - For Press

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The Vision Quest – Day Five at the Sarasota Film Festival

Day Five at the Sarasota Film Festival – Short Film Program # 4

I took in a Short Film called The Vision Quest. It clocked in at a rapid 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Written and directed by Andrea Sisson and Pete Ohs, though the film began and concluded quickly, the pace was leisurely.

The film was about two brothers, Wes and Dave, who are extremely near-sighted. That means they have trouble with anything that is further away than a few inches. We meet them as they stumble along in the country.

The film is in black and white, and has no audio dialogue. When the brothers speak we see text at the bottom of the screen. There is a musical soundtrack with instruments by Olafur Arnalds from Iceland and Charles Watson from London.

The brothers find they are in front of a wall – which is actually a farm’s barn. They decide to split so they can double their chances in the forage for food. One brother is able to find some twigs, and some glass, and so he fashions a pair of make-shift eye-glasses.

He’s amazed with his newly improved vision. So he decides to return to the field where his brother was foraging. But he’s tired and hungry. He lies down in the field and falls asleep. The other brother, purely by chance, stumbles upon him. And so they are re-united.

The one brother finds (by touch) the eye glasses. He tries them on, and just like the first brother, he is amazed by the glasses. He tells his reclining brother something like – These glasses. They’re amazing. You have to see them. And the answer is I know.

And at that point the film changes from black and white to color. Then the fade to black and the credits.

That’s it. The b&w will remind you of films from long ago as will the text cards. The natural lighting is unusual and is a strong point, as is the framing of the subjects. The camera never rushes, and this makes for a solid impact.The story as it appears on-screen is not complex at all – but obviously, there are meanings to what we see. I took away such concepts as:

Love thy brother, the act of sharing is its own reward, and good things come to those with hope and perseverance. While I didn’t see this fable as having a religious undertone, clearly we are to take away something deeper than the visuals.

The film makers have been showing the film at some festivals, and the co-directors have been chosen for inclusion in Film Magazine’s 25 Faces for 2013.While this short film was produced for a small amount of money, it is not meant to be money-maker. Rather it is an example of what creative minds can do with a miniscule budget. I wish them well.

The film was produced by Lauren Edward. Below find the link to the website.