Monday, April 20, 2009

"Sunshine Cleaning"

Sorry that I have gotten behind on my reviews for Reel Inspiration. With organizing Reel Inspiration's successful directing workshop and critiquing a powerful script from one of the directors, I just haven't had the time. Now the Arizona International Film Fest is here... But I'm delighted to introduce a new reviewer, Robin Farmer, who is helping out with a long awaited review of "Sunshine Cleaning." I think you will enjoy her succinct style and her positive take on the theme.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal

by guest reviewer Robin Farmer.

Sunshine Cleaning,” is a sweet story about the glories and grimness of personal shortcomings and family dysfunction. We all fail, but it’s our attitude that will determine if we repeat the experience or grow from it.

Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) and her sister, Norah, (Emily Blunt) are underachieving sisters who hope a new business cleaning up crime scenes will help them find their place in the world. Cleaning up murder scenes is a messy job but doing so provides the sisters an anchor in otherwise unstable lives.

Rose, a former high school cheerleader with self-esteem woes, works as a maid while caring for her son, the likely product of a dead-end relationship with her married high school love, Mac, (Steve Zahn). Norah, a stoner, still lives with her grumpy dad, Joe, (Alan Arkin) a get-rich schemer with responsibility issues of his own.

Mac, a police detective, gives Rose the idea to make more money by forming her biohazard business. She needs the cash to send her smart and troubled son to a private school. An inconsistent optimist, she calls her business “Sunshine Cleaning” because it restores order to places wrecked by the stench and stains of death.

One of the most memorable scenes has Adams explaining, and suddenly realizing, the power of what she does at a baby shower with former, clueless high school friends who live in gated communities.

Wonderfully acted by a strong ensemble cast, the story unfolds to reveal the reason for the tension and low-bar behavior between the siblings and their father in a way that feels organic.

Director Christine Jeffs
From the producers of the Sundance hit, “Little Miss Sunshine,” (and directed by Christine Jeffs) "Sunshine Cleaning," has the same quirky comedic tone just not in mega doses. The script, from first-time screenwriter Meg Holley, aptly examines family dynamics in a fresh, compelling manner full of emotional truth.

In learning how to clean up the dirty deaths of strangers, the sisters transform their troubled relationship and jump start a business that fuels a better life for the entire family.

From the acting, directing, writing and editing, this indie film delivers.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Arizona International Film Festival screens work of Reel Inspiration Contest Winner Bill Kersey

The Arizona International Film Festival has opened with a bang and will screen films for ten days. This year's fest is especially exciting because it celebrates the 15th Anniversary of PanLeft (Tucson's activist filmmaking group), there are also some great shorts in Cine Espanol and from all around the world.

What especially excites me is the tremendous number of youth films presented this year! There will be a free screening of some of the youth films at 11 today at the Screening Room, Downtown.

In addition, there are two films edited and/or produced by three time Reel Inspiration Film Contest winner Bill Kersey. (Some of you saw him at the Unity or Reel Vision Conference screening a few years back.) I've included the descriptions of the films Bill worked on (Rita of the Sky, Thicker than Water) because they are so inspiring and compelling.

But there are so many other great films this year! Between the Water and the Wood (about the U of A swim team), Weaving Worlds, The Gift of Mother Earth, Summer Trip, shorts and feature films from all over the world and what may be AIFF's best animation screening ever! There are also several free screenings. Please, check out the complete schedule at:

Don't forget the popular Arizona filmmakers Screening Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Screening Room!

I will catch as many of these film as possible (probably 15 of them!) Hope to see you there supporting our independents.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal

Rita of the Sky
Kathryn Ferguson, USA, 2009, 72 min.
In a story that prowls the edges between cultures, a judge sends a mysterious woman to a Kansas mental hospital because, to officials, her language resembles the "guttural noises" of a mentally ill person.

After 10 years, they learn she is a Tarahumara Indian from the Copper Canyon in Mexico, who had been speaking her native language all along. She had walked 1500 miles from her canyon village to Kansas. Emerging from captivity, she can no longer speak at all because of the drugs given to her in the hospital.

Rita Carillo Quintero Mancinas is from Urique in the Barranca del Cobre in Chihuahua, Mexico. The film introduces Rita's Tarahumara family and friends, Mexicans involved in her repatriation, and Kansas law enforcement and lawyers.

Parallel to the story of Rita’s incarceration, the film documents her route from Mexico to Kansas. Filmmakers recreated Rita’s walk by following the route she would have walked for 1500 miles—filming in the canyon where Rita’s journey began, into the Chihuahuan mountains, into the Chihuahuan desert, and, finally, into Kansas. The resulting footage is experimental in style, using subjective camera and other effects.

To complete its three-element structure, the film also contains excerpts from a production of La Mujer Que Cayo del Cielo (The Woman Who Fell from the Sky) by Mexican playwright Victor Hugo Rascon Banda. The excerpts are performed by Borderlands Theater in Tucson, Arizona. After that production, the play was produced in theaters worldwide. In the play, Rita is played by Luisa Huertas, a famous Mexican actress best known in the United States for her role in the Academy Award-nominated Mexican movie El Crimen de Padro Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro).

Producer: Kathryn Ferguson
Writer: Jimmy Santiago Baca, Kathryn Ferguson
Cinematographer: Rubin Ruiz, Tim O'Grady, David Valdez, Kathryn Ferguson
Editor/Sound Design: Bill Kersey

Thicker Than Water
Bradley Rappa, USA, 2009, 74 min.
World Premiere,US Premiere,Arizona Premiere
Tony is 11 years old. Hockey is his “absolutely, positively” favorite sport, and he is about to play his last game. Like his father and his father’s father, Tony has spent many of his best hours on the ice. Like his mother’s brother, Tony has severe hemophilia. That means that a bump or bruise could have catastrophic consequences for him.

The film is about hemophilia, a serious, but not unmanageable, illness; and it is about living with chronic disease. It is also about normality—being a normal child and being a parent raising normal children, one of whom has a chronic disease. Above all, the film is about loving life, doing what is possible, even if others are skeptical, and playing your last game as well as you can.

Bradley Rappa conveys a great deal of information about hemophilia and the changes in detection and treatment over the last 30 years. At the same time, and almost seamlessly, he explores the personal challenges faced by Tony and his family. Equally significant is Rappa’s willingness to share his perspective as a favorite uncle and loving brother and brother-in-law. Editor Bill Kersey has woven home movie footage, interviews, and lots of hockey action together for an engrossing mix.

The documentary is a gift, a gift first to Tony and his younger sister and brother, and then to the extended family. It is also a gift to viewers who enter the extended family circle as they watch.

Bradley Rappa received his M.F.A. in filmmaking from Syrcause University in 1995, and has directed nine films to date. He is also a professional cinematographer, with credits including four feature length documentaries, numerous shorts, and an extensive list of commercials, video documentaries, internet content, and music videos.

Producer: Bill Kersey, Nicole Koschmann and Bradley Rappa
Cinematographer: Bradley Rappa
Editor/Sound Design/Music Score: Bill Kersey