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Monday, May 6, 2013
Mike Ott's Pearblossom Hwy is meant as a film about a generation of lost youth. Unfortunately, it just can't engage with the concerns that it raises, leaving viewers with no real way to empathize with the film's main characters.

Pearblossom Hwy, director Mike Ott’s follow-up to Littlerock, is billed as a movie that champions downtrodden, aimless youth trying to survive in suburban desert communities north of Los Angeles. The film raises many important issues, from the abuse of nitrous oxide to the sorrow of not knowing one’s father to the tragedy of prostitution as a last-ditch employment option for immigrants who are awaiting citizenship exams and the right to work in the U.S. without restrictions. While actors Atsuko Okatsuka (Atsuko) and Cory Zacharia (Cory) turn in strong performances, the film leaves too many serious questions unanswered.


As we watch Pearblossom Hwy, we are either immediately drawn to or repulsed by Cory. A jobless young man who dreams of making it big with his punk band, Cory is the epitome of an aimless drifter. In the beginning of the film he says that he always wanted to be “a rebel without a cause,” but we have to confront the fact that he can never attain this romantic vision of self. This is actually one of the more problematic aspects of the movie precisely because we sense that Ott wants us to empathize with Cory, but we have a hard time doing so because he just isn’t all that likable. He has no interest in taking responsibility for himself as a human being, so why should we be interested?


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Thursday, May 2, 2013
The 2013 NYIFF is holding screenings at Tribeca Cinemas and NYU's Skirball Center through May 4th.

The 13th Annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) is underway, having begun on April 30th with the film Dekh Tamasha Dekh by director Feroz Abbas Khan. To celebrate the opening night, the NYIFF organizers invited Indian filmmakers, actors and more to partake in the red carpet and gala dinner following the film screening. PopMatters has the schedule of screenings below some red carpet photos. To see the slate and to purchase tickets for any of the remaining NYIFF movies, please visit their website.


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Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Atiq Rahimi's new movie is a powerful portrait of a woman struggling to care for her comatose husband and protect her two young daughters in war-torn Afghanistan.

Atiq Rahimi’s second film, The Passion Stone, explores the meetings and divergences of duty and love in an almost folkloric fashion. The director was present for the first showing of the film at the San Francisco Film Festival on Monday. The film is based on the book of the same name, which Rahimi also wrote. Before the screening, he talked a bit about the syngué sabour (patience stone) that lies at the heart of the film. According to Persian myth, this mystical stone sometimes appears to individuals who are burdened. They tell their worries to the stone, unburdening their hearts in full. One day, the stone simply shatters. As it falls out of existence, so do the burdens and worries of the individual who has confided in the stone.


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Friday, Mar 15, 2013
Holy Ghost People takes viewers on a trip through a snake-handling church in the heart of the Appalachian mountains as a young woman attempts to discover what happened to her sister with the help of a downtrodden, alcoholic ex-Marine.

Mitchell Altieri’s Holy Ghost People is billed as a psychological thriller set deep in the Appalachian mountains. The film is a sometimes-hypnotic journey into a snake-handling church hidden from modern, mainstream society. Charlotte (Emma Greenwell) and Wayne (Brendan McCarthy) attempt to infiltrate the church to rescue Charlotte’s sister, who she believes is hidden somewhere on the mountain. It’s an eerie film that touches on the relationship between power and religion, especially in communities largely populated by those who have somehow been shunned or tossed out of polite society.


Sometimes called holy rollers, the religious community that Altieri has chosen for his film is very real. Some of the footage in Holy Ghost People seems to be borrowed from Peter Adair’s 1967 documentary of the same name. The mix of the largely ethnographic old, black and white footage with Altieri’s storyline is compelling but also psychologically disturbing. It makes a movie that we might otherwise be able to dismiss as not very realistic seem a lot more accurate. As Charlotte and Wayne travel into the heart of the Church of One Accord, they meet the congregation’s leader, Brother Billy (Joe Egender). They also meet a trouble woman, Sister Sheila (Cameron Richardson), who seems to be hiding in the community more than she is reveling in religious ecstasy.


Tagged as: sxsw, sxsw 2013
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Thursday, Mar 14, 2013
Carlos Puga's first feature-length film since The S1gnificance of Se7eventeen is a thoughtful family drama that invites contemplation and deserves praise for its excellent ensemble cast.

Before we go any further, I have to confess something: Burma wasn’t on my original SXSW to-do list. It wasn’t even on the second revision of the list. Nothing about it jumped out at me. In fact, the only reason I went to see Burma at all was because I badly needed dinner and it was being shown at the Alamo, which just happens to offer full, in-your-seat food service. Seeing Burma was really just an accident.


And what a happy accident it was. Carlos Puga’s film is an emotionally heady family drama that takes on how we related to each other, and how sometimes we are least able to see clearly those who are closest to us. The film starts with a fairly basic premise: Dr. Lynn (Christopher McCann) returns to tell his adult children something nine years after abandoning them along with his dying wife. The range of emotions felt by siblings Christian (Christopher Abbott), Susan (Gaby Hoffman) and Win (Dan Bittner) seems a bit stereotypical at first. Okay, it’s a family drama with all the attendant sibling issues. However, as Burma progresses, so much more comes to the surface.


Tagged as: sxsw, sxsw 2013
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