Monday, December 31, 2007

Most Inspiring Films of 2007!

  • The Great Debaters
  • Away from Her
  • The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)
  • Juno
  • Amazing Grace
  • The Darjeeling Limited
  • Once
  • The Namesake
  • Vitus
  • I'm Not There
  • Lars and the Real Girl
  • Noelle

After some consideration, I've chosen 12 films to be on my "Best of 2007" list. I've tried to select a diverse variety from the films that Reel Inspiration promoted this past year or films that I didn't get a chance to see while they were in the first run theaters but later ended up on my recommended movies list. All of these films fill Reel Inspiration's criteria of having entertaining, powerful stories that uplift, challenge, give hope or inspire human consciousness. We tend to review more independent films that can benefit from our grassroots promotions. We also promote studio films that aren't high concept blockbusters. Most of all, we promote outstanding films.

This was a great year for outstanding films. All of the films on my list have one thing in common -- something important to say.

If you read my review of The Great Debaters, (below) it will come as no surprise to you that I chose it for the most inspiring, empowering film of the year.
The message of this film is that it is our responsibility to speak up against injustice, even unjust laws. In fact, the main character risks his life fighting injustice. Amazing Grace * has this same important theme only presented on a more epic scale. I've chosen The Great Debaters as my number one film because it genuinely moved me. I get teary eyed just watching the trailer. Away from Her is so beautifully written, directed and acted. This truly original movie is about life long love and commitment. The suspense film, The Lives of Others, surprised me with its message that you can find life altering beauty even in the darkest, most suppressed environments. Get past the "clever" dialog and Juno is a very touching, human story with some weighty issues. The Darjeeling Limited is the off the beaten track to spirituality. In Once, a shared passion results in an unexpected kindness. The Namesake is about balancing cultural heritage with discovering yourself. Vitus is an empowering film for every kid that struggles with "less intelligent" adults running their lives. I chose, I'm Not There, for it's director's unique, intelligent vision about the burden and responsibility of fame.  Lars and the Real Girl is a heartwarming story about unconditional love for a rubber girl and the man who loves her. Finally, I've included Noelle with it's themes of forgiveness and church community. The quirky characters really grew on me. I want to watch it again for it's powerful ending.

Movie Blessings! 
Jana Segal

(The Diving Bell and the Butterfly hadn't opened in Tucson when I made my list. But it blew me away how accurately the visual point of view of the paralyzed man was captured.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reel Inspiration At the Family Arts Fest

Check out our Reel Inspiration booth at the Family Arts Festival, Sunday, January 13 from 11-a.m -5 p.m. Come by and say, "Hi!" or create your own "moving picture" in our hands-on Zoetrope Activity. You can find us inside the Tucson Convention Center with the Science exhibits.

The Family Arts Festival is Tucson's FREE annual celebration of the arts and our rich cultural heritage. The festival spans from the Tucson Convention Center through La Placita Village to El Presidio Park in downtown Tucson. Continuous entertainment and interactive activities for children of all ages!

To arrange to have Reel Inspiration conduct our Zoetrope Activity or screen our contest finalists at your event or organization, please, e-mail:

Chick the Arts Fest label (to the right) for more information about films.

"Away from Her"

guest reviewer Gary Ray

One Liner Review

Should Julie Christie’s inevitable Oscar nomination for Best Actress (and probable win) bring AWAY FROM HER back to the theaters in your town do not miss it! A film that slipped through the cracks to some extent in the US in May (although it’s grossed a respectable $4.5 million to-date), it’s one of THE film experiences of 2007.

Directed by twenty-something Sarah Polley (lead actress of such films as “MY LIFE WITHOUT ME") it has the assured directorial hand of an old master; in fact to me it was reminiscent of 1970s Ingmar Bergman. Julie Christie does indeed give a tour de force performance, but the entire ensemble is award-worthy.

The story (adapted by Polley from an Alice Munro short story) concerns Fiona Anderson (Christie), who has already begun losing her memory to Alzheimer’s disease as the film begins. She’s decided to have herself placed in a care facility to ease the struggle her husband will eventually face. At one point we see Fiona cross country skiing away from her wintery home as her husband Grant (Gordon Pinsent) watches her slip over a crest and disappear, just as she soon will from his life. In fact, when she wanders off following this excursion, it forces Grant’s hand in agreeing to put her into the Meadowlake care facility.

Her transformation is almost instantaneous in screen time, because the movie has little to do with observing Fiona’s progression into an addled state. Instead its about the discovery of how much her husband of 44 years is in love with her, seen in his actions over the next several months watching her from afar, mostly, as she is frequently disturbed by his presence, never quite remembering who he is. Pinsent plays Grant unsentimentally which is key to the characterization and pivotal to the film’s uniqueness.

In between the scenes at Meadowlake, are intercut Grant’s meeting with a woman named Marian (Olympia Dukakis). Marian is the wife of Aubrey (Michael Murphy), a man who the memory-lost Fiona grows attached to at Meadowlake. Dukakis plays the no-nonsense, almost fatalistic Marian flawlessly. Marian’s “such is life” philosophy in some way eases the audience along in accepting Fiona’s condition and thereby focusing the movie on the bond between Grant and Fiona, which, despite hinted at difficulties, has remained intact over their long marriage.

At several times during the movie the audience seems to be brought right out onto the edge of writing the film off as far-too-depressing, only to have a wrinkle in the plot refocus attention to the love story and away from the downbeat. Several times throughout the film Polley has a character walk away down a corridor at Meadowlake that’s designed to bring in the sunlight; at these perfectly timed moments that cap dramatic sequences, the celluloid brightens and your heart breaks just a little bit reflecting on what has just transpired.

As the end of the movie’s final scene approached, I found myself thinking: wow, this could end right here—and after one nice brief final touch, the credits began to roll. AWAY FROM HER has been out on DVD for a few months and may not suffer on the small screen, however, if you prefer the big screen, you may want to catch it while you have a second opportunity, it’s is a stunning achievement, a great film.

OSCAR UPDATE: Writer/Director Sarah Polley was nominated for Best Screenplay. Julie Christie was nominated for Best Actress!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"The Great Debaters"

"The Great Debaters," is easily the most inspiring, empowering movie of the year. I nearly floated out of the theater. I actually encouraged people in the ticket line not to miss it.

"The Great Debaters," directed by Denzel Washington and produced by Oprah, is Hollywood all the way. It is an empowering underdog story inspired by the true story of how the debating team from the small African American institution of Wiley College won the 1935 National Debating Championship. Outstanding performances by Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker make the picture.

The film, set in Texas during the Great Depression, starts out with hectic bits of activity to establish the setting, but it doesn't seem to match the tone of the rest of the picture. In fact, it moved so fast before I had a chance to catch my bearings, that I didn't catch much of it at all.

But soon enough we're in the classroom studying revolutionary ideas from the writers of the Harlem Renaissance with Professor Tolson. Denzel's passionate delivery is reminiscent of Robin William's in "Dead Poets Society. I suspect that Professor Tolson was much more interesting, controversial, and radical than the man presented here. However, it is so moving to hear these important ideas spoken by a African American teacher to African American students at a time when there was still lynching in their part of the country.

The film doesn't back down from the racism of the time. In fact, its an ongoing theme. The film asks if the power of words can really make any difference in the face of violent acts of racism.

The script adheres so tightly to formula that I knew that something bad had to follow the debating team's success. Despite being aware of this writing device, I was so involved in the story that I was actually afraid of what would happen to the characters next.

Through his example, Professor Tolson inspires his students to speak up for what is right despite how it might conflict with their personal lives or the dangerous world around them. Debate all you want about it, but don't miss this important story.

Please, send a message to Hollywood that you want more empowering films like, "The Great Debaters," by attending it on opening weekend and encouraging your friends to do the same.

Movie Blessings,
Jana Segal

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

My Cousin Willo sent this music video, "Christmas in the Trenches," with her Christmas e-card. The song is about a truce on Christmas eve on the Western front during WWI. It includes the songwriter John McCutcheon's, thoughts on writing the song.

It is so touching and inspiring. I had to share it with you! I hope you have time to listen to it. It made my day!

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth,

For more information:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"The Kite Runner"

"The Kite Runner," is an important film because it puts a human face and historical context on what happened in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, when many Americans think of Afghanistan, we think of Al-Qaida, terrorism and 9/11. "The Kite Runner," does much to humanize the conflict and break those stereotypes.

"The Kite Runner," starts out with an exhilarating sequence of kite flying showing off the city of Kabul in 1978 before the Russians and the Taliban wrecked it. The sky is filled with dancing, dueling kites. Two of the kite flyers are Amir (Zekiria Ebrahimi) and Amir's loyal friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada), the son of the family's longtime servant Ali. They cut other kites' strings with their own kite and then run to retrieve them. Hassan is the best kite runner in neighborhood, accurately predicting where the kite will land. But it also lands him in trouble as jealous bullies taunt him for being a "Hazara." This bullying foreshadows Pashtun/Hazara tribal tensions.

The theme of the changing times is expressed by Amir's father, Baba (played with commanding dignity by Homayoun Ershadi) - a somewhat westernized intellectual. "The Mullahs want to rule our souls and the communists tell us we don't have any," Baba laments. Baba has the strength of his convictions in contrast with his son, Amir, who doesn't seem to stand for anything. Amir overhears his father complain that there seems to be something missing in the boy when his friend Hassan must stick up for him because he won't. "A boy who won't stick up for himself won't stand for anything." I wanted to love, "The Kite Runner," but I was never entirely emotionally invested in the story. I think it is because the main character, Amir, wasn't. The kite contest was one way Amir could prove himself to his father. But he seemed disengaged even when he won. Then the bullies attack his friend and he doesn't stick up for him and eventually betrays him.

When the Russians invade the country, the family is forced to escape to America leaving his friend behind. After graduating community college, Amir aspires to be a writer. For a writer, he isn't very introspective. He never delves into the choices he made. Perhaps he writes about his lost childhood in his novel. (His love interest says that it made her cry.) But the director never lets us in on that. Even their marriage seems superficial. The marriage should raise the stakes when Amir must return to Afghanistan, but it doesn't work because he hasn't invested anything in it.

His father's friend calls from Afghanistan and he offers Amir, "A way to be good again," by going home. He has a chance to redeem himself by saving his friend's son. Back in Afghanistan, he seems like a tourist during the most important event of his life. The climactic moment feels like it's from another film -- an action film. By the end he has finally learned to stick up for the son of the friend he betrayed in a very satisfying scene.

Despite it's flaws, "The Kite Runner" has an important theme of guilt and redemption. The movie succeeds in putting a human face on what happened in Afghanistan, creating more understanding. A worthy goal.

OSCAR UPDATE: Nominated for Best Original Score.

Movie Blessings and Merry Christmas!
Jana Segal
Reel Inspiration

Roger Ebert was much more emotionally involved in the film. I really respect his opinion. So, to be fair, I've included a link to his review.

(Parental warning: Because of violent sexual content, this is not suitable for children.)

For an even greater understanding of the historical context of our involvement with Afghanistan, check out, Charlie Wilson's War.

Funny. When I first saw the trailer I thought, "Wow! Look at Julia Roberts hair!" Actually, I thought, "Wow! Look at what one flawed man can do!" Then I found out that he had actually arranged for us to supply weapons to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets during the Cold War. (So that's how they got all those weapons!)

It is a drama based on Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Just in time for the holidays, comes the Christian Christmas film, "NOЁLLE." If you liked, "Bella," you'll love, "NOЁLLE."

"Bella," (see review below) is a Christian movie for non-Christians reaffirming the Christian image of being kind and accepting. Because, "NOЁLLE," is set in a parish with two priests as the main characters, it seems created more for a church going audience.

The characters are much more human in Noelle. They have weaknesses. Father Johnathon Keene (David Wall) takes pride in being good at closing down dying parishes. He confides that he doesn't deal with the people aspect of the priesthood. It doesn't make for a very likable main character, but we're supposed to follow him as he goes to close down the parish of an old friend. He finds the church empty except for a lone older woman waiting in the confessional. The parish priest Father Simeon (Sean Patrick Brennan) is off at a local bar getting smashed with some of his congregation. There are funny moments as their designated driver takes them all home - if you're not too shocked to laugh. To be honest, the unlikeable protagonist along with a couple of stilted lines by Brennon made it difficult for me to get into the story at this point.

The bar scene seemed to signify that Father Simeon is resigned to the church closing. But later we discover that this is his way of communing with his members. Father Simeon believes that it is the people who matter the most in the church. He demonstrates this by using church money to pay the hospital bills of an dying man. Father Simeon believes in miracles. He believes that dying man will walk back into their thriving church someday.

Father Johnathon Keene doesn't believe in miracles. Though he does believe the church could use one. It's down to a handful of aging parishioners. This is one conflicted soul. Part of him wants to save the church - perhaps to help out his old friend or because he sees something of himself in the one younger woman (Kerry Wall) in the congregation. He makes a half hearted effort to help by suggesting that they host a living nativity scene to revitalize the church. There is some humor here as the elderly members perform a last ditch effort to save the church with a seemingly doomed production. Director/Writer/Actor David Wall does an admiral job overcoming the, "Lets put on a show!" cliche. In fact, an important theme is imparted here. The church's success isn't just the priest's responsibility, but all the members of the congregation.

The possibility of something miraculous happening is set up from the beginning as Father Keene sees flashes of a luminescent little girl. (I won't give it away here but it is worth the wait.) But the real magic comes in this cold priest's transformation. I was totally won over by the powerful ending.

"NOЁLLE," is a touching story of forgiveness and redemption reminding us of the real reason Christ was born. If you want more Christian entertainment, go see Noelle and share it with your friends.

Movie Blessings and a Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Jana Segal

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Reel Inspiration recommends: 51 Oscar Winners

At their best, films have the power to inspire, empower, enlighten, uplift, and challenge. Reel Inspiration promotes films at their best! R.I. promotes diverse narrative films with high production values and entertaining, meaningful stories. You know... movies you can watch more than once because they have something to say, movies that reflect the condition of our society, the nature of our relationships or the issues of our times - movies that move us.

I've compiled a list of 51 Oscar winners that I feel fit Reel Inspiration's criteria for promotion. The films are taken from the list of Best Picture, Best Adaptation, Best Screenplay, and
Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winners. You may notice that a majority of the Best Picture winners also won best screenplay or adaptation (or were nominated for these awards.) I believe that what made these films winners is that they had important themes -- that comes from great writing. So I've included the screenwriters when they won in their category.

Included on my list are: classic epic films (Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Gandhi) that not only inspire us with their grandeur
but with themes worthy of their stature, smart adult dramas (On the Water Front, Best Years of Our Lives, Coming Home, Kramer Vs. Kramer,In the Heat of the Night, Crash) that move us while putting a mirror to our society, honest dramas (On Golden Pond, Terms of Endearment, Driving Miss Daisy, Rain Man) that move us with their humanity, comedies (Little Miss Sunshine, Annie Hall) that deal truthfully with real relationships, classics (Casablanca, To Kill a Mockingbird, Schindler's List) with heroes that overcome great adversity to fight for what is right, musicals (Sound of Music, West Side Story, Oliver) that not only entertain but move us with powerful themes, wildly original dramas (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, American Beauty) that delight us with their creativity and new perspectives.

Feel free to recommend other inspiring, meaningful Oscar winners for the RI list or comment on the ones below.

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal
Reel Inspiration

Reel Inspiration recommends: 51 Oscar Winners

51 Oscar winners taken from a list of Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Adaptation, and Best Screenplay winners.

* Won Best Picture
** Won Best Picture and Best Screenplay or Adaptation
BA Best Adaptation
BS Best Screenplay
nom. Nominated
BFL Best
Language Film

*1941- How Green Was My Valley, nom. BA: Philip Dunne
1942- BS: Woman of the Year: Michael Kanin, Ring Lardner Jr
**1943- Casablanca - BA: Philip Epstein, Julius J. Epstein, Howard Koch
**1944- BA: Going My Way - Frank Butler, Frank Cavet
**1946- The Best Years of Our Lives - BA: Robert Sherwood
1947- BA- Miracle on 34th Street by George Seaton, nom. Best Picture
**1954- On the Waterfront, BS: Budd Schulberg
**1955- Marty, BA: Paddy Chayefsky
1956- BS: The Red Balloon - Albert Lamorisse
*1959- Ben-Hur, nom BA: Karl Tunberg
*1961- West Side Story, nom BA: Ernest Lehman
*1962- Lawrence of Arabia, nom BA: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson
1962- BA- To Kill a Mockingbird - Horton Foote, nom. Best Picture
*1964- My Fair Lady, nom. BA: Alan Jay Lerner
*1965-The Sound of Music
**1967- In the Heat of the Night, BA : Stirling Silliphant
*1968- Oliver!, nom. BA: Vernon Harris
**1975 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, BA: Bo Goldman, Laurence Hauben
**1976- Rocky, BS: Sylvester Stallone
1976-BA- All the President's Men - William Goldman, nom. Best Picture*1977- Annie Hall
1978- BS: Coming Home by Robert C. Jones, Waldo Salt
**1979- Kramer vs. Kramer, BA: Robert Benton
1979- BS- Breaking Away by Steve Tesich, nom. Best Picture
**1981- Chariots of Fire, BS: Colin Welland
1981- BA- On Golden Pond: Ernest Thompson, nom. Best Picture
**1982- Gandhi, BS: John Briley
**1983- Terms of Endearment, BA, James L. Brooks
**1985- Out of Africa, BA: Kurt Luedtke
1985- BS- Witness: William Kelley, Earl Wallace
1986- BA: A Room with a View: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, nom. Best Picture
1987- BS: Moonstruck: John Patrick Shanley, nom. Best Picture
**1988- Rain Man, BS: Ronald Bass, Barry Morrow
1988-BFL: Cinema Paradiso: Giuseppe Tornatore
**1989- Driving Miss Daisy, BA: Alfred Uhry
1989- BS- Dead Poets' Society: Tom Schulman, nom. Best Picture
*1990- Dances with Wolves
**1993- Schindler's List, BA: Steven Zaillian
1993- BS- The Piano by Jane Campion, nom. Best Picture
**1994- Forrest Gump, BA: Eric Roth
1995- BA - Sense and Sensibility: Emma Thompson
1997-BS-Good Will Hunting by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, nom. Best Picture
**1999- American Beauty, BS: Alan Ball
*2000-Gladiator, nom. BS: David Franzoni, John Logan, William Nicholson
2000- BA- Almost Famous: Cameron Crowe
**2001- A Beautiful Mind, BA: Akiva Goldsman
2003-BS - Lost in Translation - Sofia Coppola, nom. Best Picture
2004- BS- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Charlie Kaufman
**2005- BS- Crash: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco
2005-BFL The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarckt
2006- BS- Little Miss Sunshine: Michael Arnd, nom. Best Picture

Movie Blessings!

Jana Segal

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"I'm Not There"

by guest reviewer Josh Valentine

Every year there seems to be at least one or two biopics about famous musicians that garner a lot of attention. A few years ago “Ray” was released, and the year after that “Walk the Line” hit theaters. Both of those films became huge hits. Director Todd Haynes’ (“Far From Heaven”) new film “I’m Not There” is this year’s huge biopic and it tells the story of Bob Dylan. Unlike the previously mentioned films, “I’m Not There” is completely different in its delivery of its story. It is remarkably original, very funny, and also happens to be one of the best films of the year.

A total of six actors play different versions of the famous bard in this film, a fairly original idea that works perfectly. Dylan himself was so many different people throughout his career so it would have been hard to make a film with just one actor following a singular time line.

Ben Whishaw plays Arthur, the mysterious side of Dylan that the public saw in interviews. His character isn’t very developed but that’s done on purpose to show that mystifying side. Young Marcus Carl Franklin wonderfully plays a pre-adolescent version of Dylan named Woody. Franklin’s character is more abstract than Whishaw’s character in that he plays the young and excited characteristics of a very innocent Dylan (his character is named after Woody Guthrie, one of Dylan’s biggest inspirations as a musician).

Christian Bale plays Jack Rollins, a character that splits into two sides of Dylan: the folk legend and the preacher. Bale’s interpretation of Dylan is subtle yet very powerful especially during his unbelievable (albeit lip-synched) version of “Pressing On.” Bale is also the least featured character in the film, and while he pops up later in the film in some memorable scenes it would have been better to see more of him.

Heath Ledger is the weakest part of the film. He plays actor Robbie Clark who portrays the unpleasant celebrity side of Dylan. His relationship with French artist Claire (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) is drawn out throughout the film. Their general disdain for each other from the beginning makes one wonder why they got together in the first place. Ledger seems to play the same conflicted character in many of his films and it would be refreshing to see him in a more upbeat role.

Richard Gere plays the older, reclusive side of Dylan. His story is the most abstract part of the film. He plays Billy the Kid (the famous outlaw) in reclusion after breaking out of jail. Gere is surprisingly strong in his role and like Bale, he is very subtle yet undeniably moving.

The film truly belongs to Cate Blanchett. Her scenes as Jude Quinn depict the often frowned upon moment when Dylan dropped his acoustic guitar and became electric. Blanchett is almost unrecognizable both physically and in her voice and mannerisms. She is Dylan, and at times it is easy to forget that this is an actress playing a role in a movie. In fact, after seeing the film, it is very hard to think of any other actor or actress who could have performed as well as Blanchett. Her performance (her best ever) will land her an Oscar Nomination and possibly her second win.

OSCAR UPDATE: Cate Blanchett was nominated, but didn't win the Oscar.

Besides Cate Blanchett, the other star of the film is its soundtrack. Released about a month ago, it has received rave reviews and it deserves every bit of praise. It features all sorts of indie musicians such as Sufjan Stevens, Mason Jennings, Stephen Malkmus, Yo La Tengo, and Calexico. Charlotte Gainsbourg (who appears in the film) does an amazing rendition of “Just Like a Woman” that lingers long after it’s played. The movie does a very good job of infusing these covers with the performances of the actors.

The film is not perfect, but it is the perfect Bob Dylan biopic. Its non-linear storytelling fits its source material but may turn off a lot of viewers, especially those who aren’t familiar with Bob Dylan. For those who get the chance, it is highly recommended to watch Martin Scorsese’s documentary “Bob Dylan: No Direction Home” before seeing this film. It is very well made, and clears up a lot about what is going on in “I’m Not There.”

Otherwise, the film shows that this man who we’ve always seen as a mystery is a real person just dealing with the pressures of fame, love, loss, and life. If the film had depicted just one of the different aspects of Dylan, there would have still been a lot to be desired. All together, each section of the film forms one amazing movie that shines above many of the films of 2007 and is a genuine pleasant surprise. Grade: A- 

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


by guest reviewer Gary Ray
One Liner Review

If you’ve seen the trailer for Juno and decided that it’s
not for you, please read on: I’d like to change your mind.
I thought the same thing when I saw the trailer: here we
go again, another “quirky” movie peopled with characters
who’d never do or say half the things they door say and
with a lead character that spouts smart-alecky remarks
that no one could possibly dream up that didn’t have a
week to ponder them.
Then I saw the movie.  Arms folded.  Third row.  In
the first several scenes, my worst fears had come
true— yes, the film was exactly like the trailer.
Then, bit by bit, scene by scene, the story began to
surprise me.  My arms unfolded.  I relaxed. I laughed.
The characters were real.  And the acting— superb.
I know that lead Ellen Page is getting the lion’s share
of the praise (she was the only one nominated for an
Independent Spirit Award), but the rest of the ensemble
possibly give stronger performances than she does.
Michael Cera is astonishingly natural (and understatedly
funny). And one thing I love about the screenplay is
the relationship between him and his baby-mama Juno:
they’re just friends.  They had sex once.  But the script
doesn’t dwell on any “what are we gonna do!” madness.
And then there are Juno’s parents played by Allison
Janney (The West Wing)and J. K. Simmons (he plays Peter
Parker’s editor at the newspaper in the Spiderman movies)
who give stellar performances. And, finally— if I can
think of another superlative—there is Jennifer Garner and
Jason Bateman, who steal the show: both magnificent. It’s
the Garner storyline in particular that, in the final
analysis, won me over on Juno.

As with all great movies, it’s not just the beating of
one single note: but an array of subplots and minor
characters whose lives are affected by the lead
character’s trajectory that make for an ideal movie
experience.  We see how Juno is affecting so many
people’s lives. And, in her separate relationships
with the Garner and Bateman characters, we see an
evolution in her understanding of human nature. And
again, how many movies about teen pregnancy do you know
that aren’t about what a big, dumb mistake it is.
Juno is practically matter-of-fact about the pregnancy
itself. Instead it’s about the world we live in.  Its
about how less screwed up Juno is in light of how more
screwed up the adults are around her. And it’s about
how everything can be okay, no matter how bleak the
OSCAR UPDATE: Juno was nominated for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. Diablo Cody won a well deserved Best Screenplay Oscar for her witty and honest writing in Juno. She gave a moving acceptance speech thanking her amazing director (Jason Reitman), lead actress (Ellen Page), and her mom for "accepting me just the way I am."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Reel Inspiration update

I have an exciting new development for Reel Inspiration to share with you. I've always felt that for our grassroots promotional campaign to be effective, that we needed an active community -- most importantly attending the movies that sound good and sharing our favorites with our film loving friends. There is such power in that. Word or mouth and e-mail endorsements can make or break a film.

My dream is for our community to grow and become even more active in recommending inspiring, thought provoking films or even taking a stab at writing a RI review. I was delighted to post four new guest reviewers this past month. This is great because we can get more movies reviewed and posted on our blog in a timely manner -- sometimes even before the film opens nationally. This means that we can have an impact opening weekend grosses -- which are really significant to indicating the success of a film to Hollywood executives (who make the decisions of what movies get made.)

Having guest reviewers is also a sign that we we are building a true community of positive film lovers. It does, however, require me to let go of the reigns a bit to let other opinions and tastes be expressed. Reel Inspiration is all about diversity - including a diversity of taste. I hope you will discover and follow the reviewers that express your tastes in films.

Movie Blessings,
Jana Segal
Reel Inspiration

Sunday, December 02, 2007

How I choose films to review for Reel Inspiration

I thought you might like to know how I choose films to be promoted through Reel Inspiration's grassroots efforts. First, I look out for diverse films with entertaining, powerful stories that uplift, challenge, give hope, or inspire us. (Or someone recommends one.) The biggest indicator that I should review a film is how emotionally moved or inspired I feel when I leave the theater. Did it also make me think? Is the theme relevant to our issues today? If I'm writing the review in my head while I'm walking out to the parking lot, I will probably send that review. Beyond that, I try to review high quality films.

Quality, of course, is subjective. Whose opinion do you accept? Popular reviewers often pick edgy, sometimes depressing films for their top ten lists. These same reviewers call inspiring films, "sappy." To be honest, sometimes I want or need to see a "sappy" film. These movies lift my spirits and can even get me out of a bad mood. Of course, there is nothing more inspiring that a great film. To me, a great film has something important to express.

My own definition of quality includes: stellar acting, technical quality, and especially exceptional writing and storytelling. I'll admit, in the past I've been pretty picky about the acting and writing. (Hey, I've got degrees in acting/writing and I've even made a few short films myself.) There have been some cases where I didn't review a film because of poor writing or acting. When I attended, "The, Notebook," the audience of all ages was really moved by the picture. I, however, had a huge problem with a hole in the story at the climactic moment. This flaw kept me from promoting the film to RI members. After putting some time and thought into it, I decided that the theme of taking responsibility for your loved ones was more important than the hole in the plot. The film is now on the list of recommended films for new members. Live and learn. On my list of favorite films (see my profile) there are those with flaws that bothered me at first, but now I watch those same films over and over because there is something in them that touches me. Sometimes its the flaws that make it art. (Think most James Brooks movies.)

To be the most effective in our promotional efforts, I need to review films as soon as possible -- before opening weekend is best. I don't have time to mull over my recommendations. I've decided that the most important consideration for a RI review, is that the filmmaker have something meaningful to say.

Movie Blessings,
Jana Segal
Reel Inspiration

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What is Reel Inspiration?


Reel Inspiration is a grassroots, non-religious, apolitical organization created to encourage and promote the production and success of diverse films that inspire, give hope, or raise human consciousness.

THE IMPACT: Films have always had a huge impact on our society. At their best, films have the power to inspire, empower, enlighten, uplift, challenge and create change by reflecting the condition of our society and illuminating the issues of our times. We need more of these meaningful films.

THE BIZ: Filmmaking is a business. The cost of promoting films has skyrocketed, so studios need blockbusters to break even. The common misconception is that the only way to make money is to produce big event movies, remake current blockbusters, or to market movies towards a younger mind set. As a result, we have movies that are more about special effects, gross out humor and violence than good art and storytelling. Is this how we want our society reflected and our children influenced? You can make a difference.

THE CHALLENGE: Send a message to Hollywood by attending meaningful films on opening weekend (or at least while it's in it's first run.) Box Office numbers have a huge impact the film industry. You can help create a market for these films by sharing them with your friends. Join our grassroots campaign by becoming a REEL MEMBER. (There is no charge.) To become a REEL MEMBER and receive reviews of high quality, inspiring films, e-mail:

We invite filmmakers with distribution to submit their inspiring feature length narrative films to be considered for our grassroots promotional campaign. For guidelines, e-mail:

THE EDGE: Reel Inspiration hosts conferences and workshops to further develop the talents of those courageous filmmakers who choose to create films of substance. In 2005, we hosted the popular Reel Vision Filmmakers Conference in Tucson, AZ. COMING SOON: Reel Inspiration Directing Workshop: Working with Actors.

THE CELEBRATION: Reel Inspiration is proud to present a selection of the finalists of the 2004 Reel Inspiring Film Contest and the 2006 Pura Inspiracion Film Contest. We send our heartfelt thanks and congratulations to these filmmakers who chose to make movies about the good in the world. Look out for our upcoming Reel Inspiration film contest for filmmakers of all ages.

Reel Inspiration is about giving the movie audience another choice: films that leave us feeling hopeful about human potential. Films that inspire us to be heroes in our own lives. For more information on the contest or directing workshop, go to:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"August Rush"

"A boy stands in a wheat field conducting a symphony that only he can hear. As the wind picks up, the stalks of wheat bend and sway in rhythmic harmony, each sound of nature becoming a note flying off instruments in the boy's mind." The boy narrates, "The music is all around us. All we have to do is listen." This opening sets the mood for the soul lifting film, August Rush. The story is presented as a musical fairytale. I found it to be a spiritual parable.

"August Rush," is the story of a supposedly orphaned boy (Freddie Highmore) who can hear the harmonic connection between all living things -- including his musician parents. He believes his parents are communicating to him through the music in the world around him. He eventually runs away in search of his parents and his musical destiny.

First, the boy must deal with adults who don't understand his gift and orphanage bullies who try to silence the music by tormenting him. I think many artists will identify with the theme of society trying to squash their creativity. I know I did. It took years for me to silence the voices in my head, "When are you going to get a real job?" so I could live up to my potential as a writer. It was inspiring to watch him overcome the influence of the skeptics and reach his potential as a music prodigy. His parents' stories represent the other side of the coin - how we can sleep walk through life if we don't follow our dream.

Some skeptics, eh, reviewers called the movie hokey or schmaltzy, and there were times when the story treads into that territory with a wacky Oliver Twist storyline with Robin Williams playing the Wizard, a musical conman resembling Dicken's Fagon. I found myself wondering how director Kirsten Sheridan could build suspense when the ending is telegraphed in the film's trailers. It is actually the Wizard storyline that successfully builds that suspense. One reviewer couldn't tolerate the coincidences. If this is taken as a spiritual parable, those are serendipities. Serendipities signal that you are going down the right spiritual path.

If you thought it was hokey when Will (in Good Will Hunting) picked up the chalk and figured out advance math problems with no higher education, you may cringe when our hero picks up a guitar and expresses the music of his soul without prior training. To me this scene is nothing less than a miracle. To justify his sudden ability, Director
Kirsten Sheridan fashioned his guitar playing after the work of teenage Michael Hedges who used the same innovative method of slapping the guitar strings to make music. Sheridan was prepared to cast a real music prodigy in the role but was won over by Freddie Highmore. Freddie practiced for six months and does an amazing job with the musical performances. Another theme of the film is how music touches the soul and connects us with others. The music in August Rush uplifts the soul with its blend of ambient sound with rock, classical, and gospel.

“Raise It Up” was nominated for best Song. (See 2008 Academy Award Nominations for more details.)

August Rush received a standing ovation at the Heartland Film Festival. Why the mixed reviews? The audience at the Heartland Festival was looking for a heartwarming, moving experience and they got it. What do you bring to the movie as an audience member? I believe that if you go with an open heart, seeking a spiritual experience, you will find it in August Rush.
Read more about the music: Finding the Right Notes for 'August Rush' by Robert W. Welkos, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer. 

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Explorer News Article on Reel Inspiration (Life section)

More than film buffs

Local group Reel Inspiration aims to get everyone involved in movie-making process

November 21, 2007

If you keep waiting for Hollywood to flood the market with inspiring, uplifting films, Jana Segal has a tip: Make your own.

These days, amateur moviemaking requires nothing complicated.

All you need is a cheap video camera, free downloadable editing software and a venue for showcasing your work.

Segal has that last one covered.

Her organization, Reel Inspiration, holds a film festival once every two years to encourage local filmmakers to forget about gore, violence briefly and create short flicks that derive meaning from the world and people’s relationships.

Select films from the 2004 and 2006 contests received a viewing last month at the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council’s fall festival at Riverfront Park. Several of the filmmakers featured have Northwest connections.

“I started the contest to say there’s really an audience if you want to make meaningful films,” Segal said.

But if Reel Inspiration’s reaches seem geographically limited, you’re not seeing the broader picture. Not only does the organization support fledgling filmmakers that sometimes go on to receive wider acclaim, it also inspires ordinary moviegoers to vote with their feet, so to speak. Hollywood puts much stock in opening-weekend ticket sales, so Segal writes reviews of films that move her, and she encourages her organization’s 100 members by e-mail to see the films quickly and tell friends about them.

“All they have to do is forward the reviews,” she said.

Reel Inspiration began in 2003 after Segal, who holds a master’s degree in dramatic writing from Brandeis University, tried to market a screenplay she wrote in Hollywood. The work received praise at conferences in America’s movie capitol, but still, it ended up in a shoebox under her bed.

“I got good comments from people there who wanted to encourage me, but they said the screenplay didn’t have enough edge, and nobody wants to see a movie about old people,’” Segal said.

At the time, the Academy Award-winning movies depressed her, and she suspected such films also were darkening the collective conscious.

“When someone tells you something negative, it sticks with you all day,” she said. “It runs through your mind and becomes part of you.”

Segal believed consumers could consciously affect the success of movies. And if a movie of substance brought in big bucks the first weekend, Hollywood would likely take a chance on a movie again.

In 2005, Reel Inspiration held its first filmmaking conference featuring big names, such as Linda Seger, a top Hollywood writing consultant, and Pamela Jaye Smith, who consults with the big studios about how to incorporate myth into films.

A writers and directors workshop is planned for later this year.

Reel Inspiration’s top awards in its 2004 film festival went to Bill Kersey, who lived in Oro Valley at the time. Kersey’s short film “Solace,” about a man grieving the death of his son, won the audience’s choice award, and the film “Garpenfargle,” a joint project with a fellow University of Arizona student exploring what dogs do when their owners leave, won top honors in the juried category. “Garpenfargle” is what a dog hears when you say, “Stay out of the trash.”

By the time the organization’s film festival arrived, the short film made the rounds to 10 festivals, including ones in Toronto and Los Angeles. It also had earned the distinction of regional finalist for the Student Academy Awards.

Kersey’s prizes involved encounters with well-connected people in the filmmaking world.

“Winning these awards allowed me to put myself in very helpful situations,” he said.

Other films shown at the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council’s fall festival included “Just One Wish” by Warren Lazar, a short piece about a teenage daughter of a single mom whose life changes forever with just one wish.

Segal said she wants to see Reel Inspiration grow to the point at which members are taking an active role and are writing guest reviews. Last week, she posted the first guest review at her blog site,

“If they’re going to preach to me, that’s not what we’re about,” she said. “I want to be moved, and I want to see films that make me think.”
To become a REEL MEMBER and get FREE reviews of meaningful, inspiring films, please, e-mail:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


A New Kind of Love Story

After the success of the Passion of the Christ, there was new interest in the Christian market. Hollywood still wasn't sure how to handle this potential market. Some Christian films had come out, but most weren't good enough to show that this was a viable market. In 2005, I attended the Screenwriting Expo presentation on "The Christian Market." An experienced Hollywood Producer/Writer spoke about how Hollywood wasn't ready for overly Christian films. To break in, Christian filmmakers needed to produce films with Christian morals but not preach at the audience. I've been known to get a little preachy myself -- preaching that the theme or lesson should come out of the action. The consequence of the character's action proves the theme.

This Fall, two movies came out that took this concept to heart: "Bella," and, "Lars and the Real Girl." (Really!) The characters did not preach but demonstrated Christian values through their actions.

I went to Bella because it won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and sounded like an inspiring independent film to review for Reel Inspiration. I didn't even realize until I was well into it, that it was a Christian film. (It becomes clear that the main character is Christian when he prays silently before a meal.) When a waitress is fired from her job for being late, the owner's brother chases after her to see if she is alright. All around them is the hustle and bustle of New York, people busy making another dollar. The film seems to say that there are more important things than making money -- like taking care of each other. This guy takes the day off to comfort and listen to this woman without judging her. He gains her trust. This is a new kind of love story -- where people show love through acts of kindness.

This heartfelt film is beautifully acted and has some important themes. The only problem I had was that it took a while to get going probably because the conflict is internal. There's not a lot of conflict in sympathetic listening. I'm not a big fan of flashbacks and there's a few. It may seem a little talky to some people - reminiscent of Before Sunrise. 

"Bella," is the true love story that shows how one day in New York City changed three people's lives forever. Jose, an international soccer star (Eduardo Verastegui) is on his way to sign a multi-million dollar contract when a series of events unfold that bring his career to an abrupt end. He retreats from the world. A waitress (Tammy Blanchard) struggling to make it in New York City, discovers something she's unprepared for. In one irreversible moment, their lives are turned upside down...until a single gesture of kindness brings them both together, turning an ordinary day into a unforgettable experience.

"Lars and the Real Girl"

"Lars and the Real Girl," is a touching comedy about how a lovable, extreme introvert decides to open up to the possibility of love by ordering a rubber girlfriend on the internet. When the members of his church learn that Lars has a delusion, they decide to help Lars resolve his issues by embracing his silicone girlfriend without a hint of judgment. They accept her into the community even bringing casseroles and sitting with Lars when his girlfriend is sick.

I embraced the story because, like the congregation, I genuinely cared about Lars. This is in part because of excellent performances
poised between earnestness and farce. Don't miss this tender comedy. It is the feel good movie of the year.

Nancy Oliver was nominated for Best Screenplay. (One of four women writers nominated!)
Lars Lindstrom is a lovable introvert whose emotional baggage has kept him from fully embracing life. After years of what is almost solitude, he invites Bianca, a friend he met on the internet to visit him. He introduces Bianca to his brother Gus and his wife Karen and they are stunned. They don't know what to say to Lars or Bianca--because she is a life-size doll, not a real person and he is treating her as though she is alive. They consult the family doctor Dagmar who explains this is a delusion he's created--for what reason she doesn't yet know but they should all go along with it. What follows is an emotional journey for Lars and the people around him. 

If you're looking for movies where people are genuinely kind to each other -- a new kind of love story -- watch, "Bella," and, "Lars and the Real Girl." You'll be thankful you did.

Movie Blessings,
Jana Segal

Friday, November 16, 2007

Political Thrillers Flop at Box Office

Tis the season for Oscar caliber films. Why is it that so many of the political thrillers are currently flopping at the box office? After a poor opening weekend, Entertainment Magazine wondered if Tom's Cruise's heavy hitter, "Lions for Lambs," could be "Mission Possible?" for opening after the star-studded, political thrillers, "Rendition" and "In the Valley of Elah" flopped. Why is the public avoiding political films this fall?

After explaining Reel Inspiration's goal to promote thought provoking films to a reporter, she asked why I wasn't recommending any of this season's political dramas on my blog . Good question. They are certainly thought provoking. In the Fall of 2005, I was thrilled that Entertainment Magazine did an article about the trend of Hollywood filmmakers towards making more meaningful films like, "Syriana," and " Good Night, and Good Luck," and later "Babel." After a Summer of sequels and remakes, I think the movie audience was ready for something deeper. Why the lack of interest this year? Why aren't I recommending political films?

To tell the truth, after watching their heavy handed, star-studded trailers, I didn't want to see these films. I feel hopeless and frustrated about how our country is being polarized by opposing views on the war. I don't want to be hit over the head with it at the theater as well. I don't need to be force fed the medicine no matter how good it is supposed to be for me. So, for now, I prefer to share films that bring us together, not separate us. Films that show that we're more alike than different.

After a seemingly endless summer of action flicks, My Big Greek Wedding became big breakout hit of 2002. Film goers were looking for something different, something funny with heart. What is the current climate of the movie going audience? Apparently, it's not political thrillers. Are we longing for escapism? An epic or fantasy that transports us to another time and place? A belly-buster comedy? A good romance?

As for me, I could use a good laugh and a good cry. How about both in the same movie? Give me a great story that moves me and let the medicine go down.

Movie Blessings,
Jana Segal
Reel Inspiration

"The Darjeeling Limited"

By Guest Reviewer
Mike McMullen

You either like Wes Anderson movies or you don't. I have met few people who feel lukewarm about them. Not that they hate them, it's just "not their type". Well they are exactly my type. Quirky, awkward at times, but always with heart.

"The Darjeeling Limited," is no exception. Staring Owen Wilson (as Francis), Adrian Brody (Peter) and Jason Schwartzman (Jack) as three brothers who have had a distant relationship with one another since their father died. Francis gets them all together on a train in India to take a "spiritual journey and become brothers again". Francis is compulsive, having an itinerary written for the trip. Peter is a kleptomaniac (sort of) and is expecting a baby with his wife, which ruins his plans of eventually getting divorced. And Peter is, hard to nail down. He makes long distance calls to check in on his "ex"-girlfriends answering machine. He also has sex with the "stewardess" (Rita) on the train. You get the sense he feels rootless. Rita asks him what's wrong with him. He answers "let me think about that."

The film does take place in India, and you certainly do see a lot of the culture. It's not a living Places to See in India book though. It doesn't make any attempt to show us the India of 'Gandhi', or the India of 'Seven Years in Tibet'. It shows us the India of India. The characters walk among people, not around them. They buy trinkets (and a cobra) at the street market.

The film does weave, as Anderson films are prone to do, and arrives at the credits. Maybe not a solid point, or end. You do get the sense that through this journey, something deep has happened to these men. If it was spiritual or not, we are not told. Maybe the brothers don't know themselves. But there is healing, there is redemption in a way. The men at the end of the film are not the ones we meet at the beginning, but they are the same. The last shot is a train going to a new destination. Fitting, because that is the story of these brothers. At the end of the film, the next chapter in their lives is just starting.

This is a very nice film. It's not overbearing, but not listless either. It does meander, but knows that not all who wander are lost.

For more reviews from Mike, visit:

2006 Pura Inspiración Winners Announced

It was a fantastic screening at the Fox Tucson Theatre. I want to thank all the filmmakers for creating meaningful films! What a inspiring program! The ambiance was enhanced by our soulful singers Eric Hansen and Lupita Duran.

Thanks to Cox Communications for sponsoring the event and our partner Puro Mexicano: Tucson Film Festival and to all our generous prize sponsors. Also, thanks to our judges, hosts, entertainers, and volunteers. We couldn't have done it without you!

Reel Inspiration and the Puro Mexicano: Tucson Film Festival are proud to announce the winners of the 2006 Pura Inspiración Film Contest:

Celebrating Cultural Diversity Award: New York City Spirit by Muriel Stockdale of New York City.

Best of Tucson: Have Coffin, Will Travel by Sarah Sher.

Best Narrative: Linear Progression by Kat Kosmala from La Habra, CA.

Best Narrative, 2nd place: Mariposa Canyon by Ben Lobato

Best Documentary: 87 Topaz by Bill Kersey from Tucson

Best Documentary, 3rd place: Just Coffee by Roberto Gudins & Eli Cordova

*Bill Kersey also won Best Film for Garpenfargle and the Peoples Choice award for Solice in the 2004 competition!

TEEN COMPETITIONFirst Place: Multiple Choice by Teresa Tuan
Second Place: Atordecer by Oscar Rivera
Third Place: A Long Walk Home by James Curtis
Best of Tucson: Essence of Ironwood by Csenge Molnar
Cultural Diversity Award: Culture by Avijit Halder

CHILDREN'S SHOWCASEFirst Place: The Pen by Lineweaver Elementary Cub Club Advanced Media Arts Class
Second Place: The Amazing Defiant Monkeys by Joshua Segal
Third Place: Wheels by Lineweaver Cub Club
Best Use of Music: The Power of Music by Jeremy Nelson
Budding Writer Award: The Tamale Bully by Jeremy Segal
Most Creative Award: Gender Clash by Lineweaver Cub Club

Congratulations to our filmmakers! You all are winners!

Arrange for these films to be screened at your fest, church or organization, contact:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reel Inspiration Contest Winners Update.

Wonder what became of our Reel Inspiration Contest Winners? Here's what they're up to....

The 2004 Winners Reel has been screened at writers organizations, churches, schools, and the Arts Festivals around Tucson, AZ. All the winners were screened October 27 -28, 2007 to an appreciative audience at the Oro Valley ArtsFest. (See October archives for list of films.) Justin Mashouf (Morning Submission) represented the contest finalists on Arizona Illustrated.
Bill Kersey:
2004 RI Film Contest Winner for Garpenfargle
2004 RI Film Contest, Popular Choice Award for Solace
2006 PI Film Contest, Best Documentary, 87 Topaz
After playing the festival circuit around the world, Bill's award winning shorts are still popping up here and there. Garpenfargle recently played at CineGlobe in Switzerland.
Nicole Koschman's Black, White, and Yellow, (which Bill edited) was screened as part of the Loft's Cinema Lounge in Tucson, AZ. The short film, Life List (16 minutes) directed/produced by Tom Dunlap and edited/produced by Bill Kersey was also featured. Bill is currently editing another film.
For a complete list of Bill's screenings and awards or to watch his short films , go to:
Directed by Nicole Koschmann, Edited by Bill Kersey
BLACK, WHITE AND YELLOW is a compelling documentary look at racial identity, familial bonds and cultural differences. Growing up in a multi-racial family in three different countries, two sisters (one black, one white) struggle to define their own identities as well as their relationship with each other.
Black, White and Yellow won the 'Best of Arizona' award at the 2007 Arizona International Film Festival.LIFE LIST, an insightful and often humorous documentary, explores the world of birding by examining the philosophies and field behaviors of two master birders. It's been in several film festivals, including last year's AZ International Film Festival, and it won Best Documentary Short at the Northern Lights Film Festival in Massachusetts. It's been picked up by a short film distributor.

Derek Griffith
2004 RI Film Contest, Best of Tucson Award
Somebody Loves Me.

Derek writes,
"Somebody Loves Me," but not as much as Garpenfargle! Man, that was a classic film! Since that cool September night when that little white dog warmed the audience's heart, I have been working on several films that vary in an array of genres. From horror to comedy and from drama to musicals, I've dabbled in it all. Most recently, I'm working on a feature script entitled "Visors Down" that is a political-thriller depicting slanted political views. As I circulate my filmmaking-dabbling, I will once again cycle into a light-hearted comedy/drama in the vein of "Somebody Loves Me" but for now, I must plug away, plug away at my baby, "Visors Down".

For more on Derek, visit:

Muriel Stockdale,
2006 PI Film Contest, Cultural Diversity Award
New York City Spirit

Muriel Stockdale is an accomplished artist, writer, filmmaker, costume designer, and was a valued member of the teaching faculty at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Graduate Design Department for 14 years. She is completing a final draft of her second screenplay, Gabriel’s Flight, and she has won a commission to write the book for the musical version of the Indian epic myth, Ramayana. She is in pre-production on the feature length version of New York City Spirit.
New York City Spirit depicts a composite day in New York through rich and colorful images of New Yorkers practicing the diverse ways that they choose to connect to God or Spirit. The film travels through all five boroughs of New York City and presents an unbiased display of multiple cultural, religious and spiritual disciplines. It is about how individual New Yorkers choose to connect to a higher truth and meaning in everyday life.

Sarah Sher
2006 PI Film Contest, Best of Tucson
Have Coffin, Will Travel

Sarah Sher's film about Bisbee-based artist/activist Dale Clark, Traveling Coffin, has been picked up by Al Gore's TV Network, Current TV. Traveling Coffin -- originally titled Have Coffin, Will Travel -- follows Clark as he hitchhikes around the country with a coffin to draw attention to the deaths of children in Iraq, Afghanistan and other current war zones. Sher is the owner of Red Eagle Post (a post-production studio.) Visit the Current TV web site to see film:

Kat Kosmala
2006 PI Film Contest, Best Narrative
Linear Progression
Strange creatures! Beautiful animation! Grass! What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Such conundrums abound in this charming traditionally drawn and digitally painted short. Simple but rich in its design, and with a dialog track of only grunts and sighs, animation proves itself once again to be the universal story-telling language.

Linear Progression has won several awards since Pura Inspiracion including Best Animation at Hollyshorts, Veneration, Pencilheads Dusk 'til Dawn Animation Festival, and Woods Hole Film Festival, as well as winning the Ai Showcase at Dam Short Film Festival. It has screened at over 50 film festivals. Currently, Kat is working
as Supervising Animator at Animax, an LA based Flash Animation studio. A new film is in the works, but won't be finished until next year. For a list of screenings, visit:

Check back for more winners' updates as they come in.