Among Wolves: A Film that Builds Tension In Slow but Structured Pacing

AMONG WOLVES is a film depicting the struggle to heal after conflict and post traumatic stress disorder.

The Wolves are a multi-ethnic motorcycle club led by Bosnian War veterans. In the mountains where they once fought, they now defend the threatened herd of wild horses with whom they once shared the front line.

In helping others, they discover a sense of liberty that heals themselves as they make amends to their society. In cooperative humanitarian mission, they and emerge from the pain of war.

Jennie Kermode at Eye For Film has called this work visual poetry, Alex Salivev has called it “a statement on achieving redemption in a seemingly doomed place.”  John DeFore in his Hollywood Reporter review called scenes from Among Wolves “psychic soothing.”  All three positions represent significant descriptions detailing what it is to engage with PTSD or traumatic moments and come out on the other side a little stronger.

I would additionally describe the film as “a visually pleasing work that lends itself to immense emotional release.” The colorist and DP rendered images that are full of saturated coloration in a pleasing way despite its gritty stylings and seemingly ugly moments.

In this sense, Shawn Covey has created a film that builds an excellent amount of tension in slow, but structured pacing.

After sold out screenings (all of them) and winning the prestigious Chicago Award at its Chicago International world premiere, AMONG WOLVES has spent two years screening to great audience approval at festivals spanning 4 continents and has been awarded Best Director, Best of Fest, and Triumph of the Human Spirit.

Chicagoans still have time to see it at Music Box Theater on Wednesday Feb 13 and 14 as part of a special “and Friends” event featuring related films on themes that portray the complicated emotional nature of masculinity.

The First Man American Flag Controversy

Much has been made about the controversy surrounding the lack of Ryan Gosling’s Neil
Armstrong placing the American flag on the moon in Damien Chazelle’s just unleashed
First Man.

The outrage has led to massive 1-star ratings and user reviews on IMDB from people
who have yet to see the film. If the lack of the flag being placed on the moon are the
worst thing to happen in a film, it’s massively telling for the point America has reached
as a nation. Yet these people seem to have no problems with the awful problems that our
nation faces today.

The problem is that people are more than willing to pre-judge a film before it hits
theaters. I understand judging those films with abusers in them because I’ve done the
same and won’t stop that anytime soon. But what do these protesters have to say about
First Man when Armstrong’s own family is defending the film?

One excerpt of a statement from Armstrong’s sons, Rick and Matt, and author James
Hansen says everything we need to know about their feelings:

“Although Neil didn’t see himself that way, he was an American hero. He was also an
engineer and a pilot, a father and a friend, a man who suffered privately through great
tragedies with incredible grace. This is why, though there are numerous shots of the
American flag on the moon, the filmmakers chose to focus on Neil looking back at the
earth, his walk to Little West Crater, his unique, personal experience of completing this
journey, a journey that has seen so many incredible highs and devastating lows.”

This film, they say, should not be seen as anti-American. Give First Man a chance. I
know that I will.

29134970_10102083915109720_1906448420_nDanielle Solzman is a film critic and a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, Galeca: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and the Online Film & Television Association. She also writes for Solzy at the Movies.

 

Sarah Mondale; Director of Backpack Full of Cash — holds out on elaborating on some education concerns in her film.

Sarah Mondale, the director of Backpack Full of Cash, has created a film that’s meant to spark some impressive conversations. She and I had one recently, despite some malfunctioning equipment. 

So to attempt to elucidate some deep elements of our conversation that she stated “weren’t in the film” and “weren’t what she usually spoke about” . . . she as a filmmaker, and I in my strange combinant dedication in filmmaking, Texas politics and publishing talked about our experiences with publicly-funded charters and our concerns both financial and ideological/structural with these institutions.

Sarah’s greatest concern eclipsed my usual attention paid to line-items paid out to nebulous administrators contributing questionable items of technology and curricula. She denoted that some charters, specifically requested by parents who wanted a more “reformatory” or “punitive” style of education to reach their children they were worried were on the wrong track.

I will admit that this element within all forms of education concerns me too, especially when it is aimed at minority populations. It’s troubling when other areas are primed for the to-prison pipeline, ideologically, and students of all backgrounds aren’t given what they need to thrive intellectually and physically, in trade and post-secondary training.

I regret I cannot bring you her direct words because of an equipment glitch — but I can say this — she is worth hearing speak more than once at your state convention, a private screening, or a phone call if she has time to grant it.

Host a screening of hers yourself (and potentially hear her speak) by contacting her at http://www.backpackfullofcash.com/host/

Danielle Solzman Weighs In: The Proposed Oscar Changes Are Nonsense

The proposed changes by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences may be one of
the single-worst decisions in the organization’s history.

In 2009, the Academy decided to expand from five to ten Best Picture nominees in the
hopes of nominating popular films. This came following a backlash to The Dark Knight
not being nominated. While director Christopher Nolan is a critical darling, the film was
passed over by the Academy for Best Picture considerations. The film would win two
Oscars and receive a number of technical nominations.

The five films that did get Oscar nominations in 2008 were Frost/Nixon, The Reader,
Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Milk. These films
combined for $353,486,991 at the box office to The Dark Knight’s $533,345,348.
Despite an Oscar nomination, Frost/Nixon couldn’t even finish in the top 100 films at the
box office.

Once the changes were made for the next year, it’s hard to say which films benefited.
Avatar got a lot of nominations purely for its technical achievements alone. But come the
summer of 2011, the experiment was over. The Academy decided to award no less than
five but no more than ten films as a result.

The Best Popular Film idea seems to be nothing more than a ratings ploy at best. But
how do you decide the criteria for what constitutes the most popular film? IMDB
ratings? Most fresh reviews on Rotten Tomatoes? The number of people tweeting a
film’s hashtag? Twitter followers? Facebook likes? The Academy is going to have a lot
of questions to answer about this.

All of this nonsense notwithstanding, the Academy made even more moves. They are
aiming for a three-hour broadcast so they’re going to cut a few awards and air edited
speeches in broadcast. If it were me, I’d be the person talking after the music stopped
playing and would go on until after the commercial break! I hate that the Critics’ Choice
and SAG Awards release some of their winners during the red carpet. It’s not fair to
those films and people nominated.

The Oscars can and should do better. Most importantly, they need to reverse this
nonsense. It didn’t take well on social media. To quote the great Groucho, I’m against
it!

29134970_10102083915109720_1906448420_nDanielle Solzman is a film critic and a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, Galeca: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and the Online Film & Television Association. She also writes for Solzy at the Movies.

The Best Laughs at SXSW and Sundance: the Danielle Solzman Lowdown

Chicago Indie Critic Danielle Solzman reports to us from SXSW this year with the comedies she loves the most: 

While the early months of the year tend to be a dumping grounds for the studios, there’s a lot to be discovered at film festivals.

Sundance

Hearts Beat Loud is a beautifully made, music-driven film from Brett Haley.  What makes the film work isn’t just the screenplay Haley co-wrote with Marc Basch but it’s the music from songwriter/composer Keegan Dewitt that Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons shine through on screen.  To say that Clemons is phenomenal in this musical masterpiece is an understatement. (Featured Image Credit: Jon Pack)

Clara’s Ghost is the feature directorial debut from Bridey Elliott and offers us an exaggerated glimpse into the life of the comedic Elliott family.  While Chris, Abby, and Bridey may be the more familiar names, it’s Chris’s wife, Paula, who gets a substantial amount of material to work with in the film.  It’s a fun film that’s best watched with a glass of wine in your hands.

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Blockers is the feature directorial debut of comedy writer Kay Cannon.  It’s laugh-out-loud funny and I found myself falling out of my seat during the world premiere at SXSW.  The film offers a teen sex comedy from the female perspective with some great performances.  When it comes to R-rated comedies, this film is an instant classic and joins the likes of so many great films from the Judd Apatow brain machine.

What I love about Summer ’03 is that it comes from a first-time feature filmmaker and is so full of heart, emotion, and comedy.  Becca Gleason has a fresh voice and ought to be around for a long time to come.  It’s actress Joey King who carries this film from start to finish with an amazing performance.  That being said, everyone in the film, including improv pros Paul Scheer and Andrea Savage, get upstaged during June Squibb’s brief role as a dying grandmother whose biggest regret is never learning how to perform a proper blow job.

You Can Choose Your Family takes us back to 1992, where Jim Gaffigan’s Frank Hansen is married to two different women and has two children with both wives.  It’s going great for Frank until his son, Phillip (Logan Miller), discovers his secret and threatens to spill the beans unless his father gives him the money to attend NYU.  There’s times where it feels like the audience knows more than what the characters do and as such, there’s a few OMG moments late in the film.

I’m not ignoring Sorry to Bother You but I’m placing the satire into a category of it’s own.  It’s the new Get Out on so many levels but it’s not an outright comedy or drama.  Somewhere in between to be honest.

29134970_10102083915109720_1906448420_n   Danielle Solzman is a film critic and a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, Galeca: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and the Online Film & Television Association. She also writes for Solzy at the Movies.

Pharrell Williams and Forest Whittaker’s Roxanne Roxanne has its upcoming Netflix premiere. Hip Hop Legend Spyder D is conisdering bio/historical pic of his own.

The legendary Spyder D is headed to New York to see two of his tracks as they appear in the Netflix Premeire of Pharrell Williams and Forrest Whittaker’s Roxanne, Roxanne today. This film looks like a can’t miss watch, but considering a crowd at Sundance and a Limited Release has already declared that, my opinion is only adding to the obvious fanfare about the ambitious (and well-recieved) project. Chanté Adams’s performance is clearly that compelling.

Word also has it that Spyder D is strongly considering a bio/historical pic chronicling the life and times of the legendary Power Play Studios and is talking to the right team to get it done.

We are definitely excited about the prospects of this project, for all the right reasons. There’s something about the art of the mix and the oral history that is just . . . appealing.

 

Behind the Silence is raising production funds. It’s a film about families who cope with autism.

Crystal Joy has a story to tell about families who cope with a member displaying the symptoms of autism. She’s one of many talented members of IFP Chicago, a group that provides a lot of support and nurturing to filmmakers in its region.

In Crystal Joy’s own words as she explained her research process:

“How does the family foundation change when raising a child with special needs? How does the marriage change? I learned so much in my research process and I wanted to express that creatively through scriptwriting. I had the opportunity of talking with three different people, one by the name of Rob Gorski.

Rob writes on a very popular blog called The Autism Dad, formerly known as Lost and Tired. He gave an excellent and open insight on his life and how his marriage changed. What I learned through speaking with these parents is that every family is different-they may all have the same feelings and emotions about their child but how they handle the circumstances varies. No family is the same.”

She’s raising money on Indiegogo to support the rest of her production needs which include equipment rental and crew amenities.  If you’re as hopeful to see her production get started as I am, donate here.