Dark Meridian, written directed by Rankin Hickman

It has been said, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Suspenseful and engaging, Rankin Hickman’s film, Dark Meridian creeps up on you and keeps you in its grip for the entire journey. Set in New Orleans, the world is one of crime and not so neatly defined roles, because even criminals have rules and “codes of honor.” This criminal world is predictably karmic but not as clearly polarized as it may seem. One can easily be led to believe most things are black or white without the benefit of all the necessary details. We first see a man who has been injured dragging himself across the floor. This man is Detective Spencer Solano (James Moses Black) a crooked cop connected to Tevi Merek’s family (Dave Davis) and the underbelly of the crime world. Tevi and his father’s henchmen have been working towards finding the murderer of Tevi’s brother and his brother’s wife and daughters. We are switched back and forth and in flashbacks placed exactly where the filmmaker wants us. The journey is focused mainly on Tevi, Det. Solano and the alleged murderer Patrick (Billy Slaughter). Patrick’s encounter with a homeless woman, Dot (Deneen Tyler) foreshadows what we come to learn of Patrick. the others and resulting events. Dot may seem crazy but she is streetwise, observant and not to be messed with.

A great supporting cast and cinematography add immensely to the mood, the seedier side of New Orleans and the French Quarter playing as important a role as the characters. Gritty and sublime, it allows the viewer to marinate in the performances. Even though there is plenty of violence, the movie was not a constant assault of the senses. There were notes and influences of directors Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, David Fincher and Michael Mann, while remaining thoroughly fresh and original. There are quieter moments, but still the constant undercurrent of tension, the feeling that you have a moment to catch your breath at the top of the roller coaster before the big drop. The pace slows and quickens, but never lags. Just when you think you know, you don’t. I went for the ride and didn’t regret it.

Review by Shirley Rodriguez

Dark Meridian screened at the Kew Gardens Film Festival on August 9, 2017.

Visit the IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5846628/

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

IFN interviews In Winter co-writer/co-director Alexander Gutterman

InWinterTrailer from Alexander P Gutterman on Vimeo.

A small team of US midwest filmmakers offered its first effort, In Winter, to NYC film fans on Thursday the 10th of August at 3:30 P.M. as part of the inaugural running of the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.

The film finds its center in the character ANNIKA (Nora Targonski O’Brien), a young woman in constrained circumstances, caring for an aging and senile GRANDFATHER (Dale R. Botten) who is haunted by memories of war. Its setting is a small northern town in the dead of winter. When MARK (Charles Hubbell), a wealthy married man stops in her town to visit affluent friends on his way to the Coast, an intense emotional and sexual entanglement develops between him and ANNIKA, whose powerful emotional depth hides beneath the stoic exterior of the small town underclass.

Under the chaste but passionate eye of local pastor FATHER JIM (John Cromwell), in the milieu of Annika’s world of small town bars and Mark’s background of jaded old money, the affair unfolds. Below the blanket of the bleak frigid sky, ANNIKA opens to possibilities previously inconceivable, while MARK is slowly swallowed by the merciless cold and solitude of the setting and the affair.

IndependentFilmNow interviewed Alexander Gutterman, co-writer and co-director of feature film In Winter (with Aboubacar M. Camara) by e-mail. Excerprts from their interview follow.

Mike Fishman for IndependentFilmNow (IFN): Where did the idea for the story and its Minnesota setting come from?

Alexander Gutterman: The original inspiration for In Winter came from a powerful and painful experience I had over a series of months with a young woman from Vermont. This was around 2006 or so. This intense sexual and emotional entanglement was deeply gratifying but also deeply traumatizing, and at some point after it ended, I wrote and began to develop a short film called Loss which I was planning to shoot in Vermont with some colleagues. After moving to MN to be near my children, the original concept and core emotional tone of Loss developed organically into the In Winter script, informed by the severe cold, bleak emptiness, and post-Us-Steel depressed majestic industry of the Duluth region and the peoples and atmosphere of Northern MN.

IFN: You co-wrote and co-directed In Winter with Aboubacar Camara. How did that process unfold? Did you work remotely by e-mailing back and forth drafts of the screenplay? Did you each work on certain aspects or sections of the story? How did you work out the daily directing of the film?

Alexander Gutterman: When I first met Bouba there was this sense that it was NECESSARY that we collaborate. We met with the In Winter team from 2010 or so on, in study sessions, script reads, brainstorms, casting, and exploratory shoots to develop our understanding of the project. We overlapped to a degree creatively, but once on set Bouba focused primarily on technical oversight of the camera and lighting team while I periodically guided shot set up with the DP and gave most of my attention to the performances. The story was mine, as was the screenplay, but Bouba was both responsible for the formatting of the screenplay and led the editing process. Bouba’s significant work in the editing room was substantive enough to generate a writing credit, as key choices of his made major structural alterations in the unfolding of the film when viewed structurally.

IFN: The direction is at times almost austere and reminiscent of certain European auteurs. In many shots, the camera remains fixed while a character moves in or out of the frame. In one scene, for example, set in a kitchen, the camera remains focused on one character (the grandfather) while Annika (his granddaughter and the film’s main character) moves about just off-screen making him lunch, her body eventually entering the frame but not her face, and holding on that shot. What was your intention with such specific use of the camera and framing?

Alexander Gutterman: A tremendous amount of energy and thought went into the film’s cinematography. At the meta level, we looked closely at Bergman, Ozu, and Kubrick, taking what we thought relevant to our piece from each of them. We also examined each major location from a theoretical and symbolic perspective, and designed a signature use of the camera for each of these locations which remained consistent throughout the work. For example, at the Lake House of the wealthy we lookd to Kubrick’s limpid, clear presentation, at the Church we looked to a chiaroscuro reminiscent of Bergman. We developed our own approach to the Grandfather’s house, where we strove to create a sense of voyeurism by making sure that each shot was occluded or partially blocked by a doorway, wall, or some other aspect of the structure. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our motto for the construction of composition was “every shot a painting.” I worked with Joah Colby and Dan FItzpatrick and Bouba very closely on every single set up, looking for compelling composition, asymmetry, intrugueing depth exploration, and so forth.

With reference to the “kitchen shot” – we wanted to challenge the audience with a painful, lonely, silent and legthy experience where Annika’s frustration and anger is only knowable from the sounds of her opening cans and working with the microwave – in that same kitchen sequence, Annika’s status as an object (which she occupies in the lives of so many men) is explored through presenting only her elbows, hips, legs, buttocks and so forth. In this way her dehumanized situation receives symbolic visual expression.

Visit the films website: http://inwinterfilm.com

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Dark Meridian, written & directed by Rankin Hickman

Synopsis: A New Orleans detective gets caught up in a fight between two rival criminal factions while on a stake out. To survive the night, he must find a killer on the run and make things right before the killer reaches his other targets.

Dark Meridian will make its North American premiere on August 9th at the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.

Visit the film’s IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5846628/

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

The Lost Idea, directed by Amartya Bhattacharyya

Who is in control of your life?
What is most important to you?
What is reality? Perception?
Is it easier to follow and be passive?
Are most problems self-imposed?

So many more questions to be asked, but so necessary if you wish to move forward. The idea is to keep moving and asking and learning. Humanity and its complexities are examined in Amartya Bhattacharyya’s at times surreal film, The Lost Idea.

Our first image is of a young woman in a field seemingly giving birth. She is the embodiment the idea and Idea (Amrita Choudhury) is her name. She is the muse chased by many looking to birth their personal dreams and creations.

Two men, one older and one younger who seem to be on very different wavelengths converge. The older man (Lazy Man played by Susant Misra) who is married, sits daily doing nothing but reading his newspaper and being nagged by his frustrated wife. His frame of reference is external from whatever the news feeds him. His wife complains he is useless, but she is suspicious, jealous and unsupportive of anything that may come between them. She does not like his laziness, but does not want him to succeed either. It is as if some part of her prefers the routine of him sitting around and her nagging him to actually accomplishing something and possibly leaving her behind. In a few of the Lazy Man’s news article “visions”, he sees a well dressed woman rambling on about celebrity headlines, young women protesting the mistreatment of women and a belligerent political protester speaking against the effects of industrialization, colonization and its perpetrators. The serious and important matters of humanity, dignity and a better life take a backseat and backpages to the fluff and nonsense.

The younger man (Swastik Choudhury), is a self-described poet who sends his poems via village messenger to his girlfriend in London. He lives in a romantic, dreamy state in which he fancies himself the great poet and is seen communicating with the girlfriend about his aspirations in dreamlike sequences. He assumes she is having them published and mailing compensation back to him. We see that he has entrusted and handed over his poems (dreams) to someone who cares nothing about them in the messenger. No one will give your creation the same care and priority that you can. Inspiration is personal and trying to live another person’s life, dream or ideology is like wearing shoes not your size. If you wait to be inspired, you will keep waiting. The key is to search inside yourself, not someone else’s idea which can feel inauthentic and empty.

The subjects of Fear, Loneliness, Apathy, Envy, with the concepts of Good and Evil are expressed. How much do we question and do we follow blindly? The “mob mentality” no one dares veer from for fear of reprisals is detrimental to free thinking and contributions to make things better. One haunting vision is of a young woman wearing a red mask and a sackcloth dress with bloodstains. The film is set in India, where terrible acts towards women are not unique but well documented. This young woman represents the shame carried by the victim and guilt for being born a “weak” female. Any shame brought on families at times just by even talking to a boy or man regardless of how benign may be met with acid attacks or murder to “rectify” the situation.

As humans we are assaulted daily with what we “should” and “should not” be doing. Any deviation from the set norms of society are cause for derision and/or alienation. Even if results are detrimental, as long as the majority have decided on an approved action, common sense goes out the window. Humanity and compassion can be seen as weak because the goal is to crush, conquer and control. The town Mad Man (Choudhury Bikash Das) as labeled by his fellow residents, actually knows more than he is given credit for. But his fate is decided by the mob mentality and their disapproval and anger towards his actions of following his dream.

The movie is mostly set outdoors and lends itself to show the unpredictability and instability of life, humans are always looking to have power over. We love the feeling of control whether with our environments and/or purpose. There is a freedom and enlightenment to letting go and realizing the more we hold onto the less free we are. You make yourself a prisoner of your desires and obsessions instead of nurturing and letting it evolve naturally. Yes, an order is necessary in the world, but holding too tightly and squeezing the life out of something and perverting or destroying it is a tragedy. An interesting choice of music for a montage was The Prayer of Saint Francis: “Make Me A Channel of Your Peace”. I have sung that prayer many times and it is a message for everyone. The message of being a conduit for good, helping and having compassion towards each other.

The Lazy Man and The Poet compete for ownership of the Idea as if there is only one, not recognizing it is infinite. They ask a scary looking man representing Fate (played by Hrushikesh Bhoi) to be granted ownership of said Idea. He orders them to come back with proof expressed in a creation of their making, to see who deserves it. They each desperately try to find a way to top each other, but soon realize cooperation is a better solution. There is room for all expression, not that one is better than the other, which is subjective.

Children possess the ability to be in the moment and have that natural non-conformist attitude. It is after being continually indoctrinated that those innate feelings become clouded by doubt. In the end each of us must decide for ourselves the choices and the consequences for those choices. It makes you question plenty and that is something I enjoy. Life is never tied into a neat little package, but requires constant vigilance and evaluation. Even though the film might feel scattered, it actually flows and comes together. It has its heaviness and humor in balance and humanity throughout.

IMDb link – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5926914/

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

In Winter, written & directed by Alexander P. Gutterman & Aboubacar M. Camara

InWinterTrailer from Alexander P Gutterman on Vimeo.

In Winter will have its World Theatrical Premiere at Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema, Thursday August 10, 2017, 3:30 PM. The writer/director, editor/director, lead actor, and numerous other team members will be in attendance for this theatrical world premiere as part of the inaugural running of the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.

The film finds its center in the character ANNIKA (Nora Targonski O’Brien), a young woman in constrained circumstances, caring for an aging and senile GRANDFATHER (Dale R. Botten) who is haunted by memories of war. Its setting is a small northern town in the dead of winter. When MARK (Charles Hubbell), a wealthy married man stops in her town to visit affluent friends on his way to the Coast, an intense emotional and sexual entanglement develops between him and ANNIKA, whose powerful emotional depth hides beneath the stoic exterior of the small town underclass.

Under the chaste but passionate eye of local pastor FATHER JIM (John Cromwell), in the milieu of Annika’s world of small town bars and Mark’s background of jaded old money, the affair unfolds. Below the blanket of the bleak frigid sky, ANNIKA opens to possibilities previously inconceivable, while MARK is slowly swallowed by the merciless cold and solitude of the setting and the affair.

Directed by a Minnesota duo originally from NYC (Alexander P. Gutterman) and Africa (Aboubacar M. Camara), and shot in Northern MN during a bleak winter, the film emerges as a fresh voice reminiscent of the European minimalist art film tradition. In Winter breaks new ground in its approach to story, cinematography, editing, and sound. Formulaic work is eschewed in favour of a rich, poetic, and subtle unpredictability in movement from scene to scene, and a risky existential expose of human sexual, emotional, and spiritual vulnerability. All is underlaid by the subtle exploratory soundscape by Tom Hambleton of Undertone Music Inc. which masterfully interweaves the sounds of winter, the human voice, and electronics and tibetan meditation bowls into an evocative and delicate exploration of the audible soul of winter and solitude.

Visit the website: www.inwinterfilm.com

See the IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6749002/?ref_=nv_sr_

Like on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/In-Winter-120807251356169/

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Grand Unified Theory, written and directed by David Ray

Grand Unified Theory Trailer from David Ray on Vimeo.

SYNOPSIS: During one fateful weekend, the family of brilliant astrophysicist Albert James has a complete meltdown, setting in motion a raucous and hilarious series of events that mirror his radical theories of the behaviour of the universe.

The film will be screening as part of the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema on August 10th and is in competition for five awards, including Best Feature Narrative, Best Screenplay, and Best Director. Its world premiere took place at the Beijing International Film Festival in April 2016.

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

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