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Art Is Alive Film Fest

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

Art is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #1

Last night’s movie was Quatre-Mains directed by Lander Havervals. Nominated for Best Dramatic Short Film and Best Director of a Short Film.

Shot in black and white, this film features two old men artistically telling their stories about their childhood experiences during World War II.

*Simon Gronowski was born in 1931 in Poland to what he calls a simple family. He begins his tale with why his father had to flee Poland due to poverty and brutal anti-semitism, where entire villages were massacred.

He lands in Etterbeek, Belgium to raise his family. Even though Simon was a child, he remembers the descriptions of how Jews were seeing the early results of Nazi occupation. Signs that were put on the storefronts alerting the public that they were Jewish run businesses. Being required to wear yellow stars and generally dealing with blatant anti-semitism in their village.

He vividly recalls the day the Gestapo came to their house and forced them to leave their home as they were sent to a transit camp known as the Dossin barracks, a place where Jews would be detained before being deported to concentration camps.

The day that Simon, his mother, and his sister are to be deported, he has to say goodbye to his sister and later his mother as he makes a daring escape by jumping off of the train.

*Koenraad Tinel was born in 1934 in Ghent, Belgium to a family of artists. His father was pro-German and embraced the Nazi occupation. Koenraad was taught to hate Jews at a very young age.

When the time came, his father and his brothers joined the Nazis. Getting word that the Normandy invasion was about to happen, they moved to Germany thinking that they would be safer there. Obviously they were wrong. He recalls the bombs exploding while hiding in a bomb shelter, and when he finally goes outside, he sees hundreds of planes covering the skies and destruction around him.

As both Simon and Koenraad complete their individual stories, we learn that these two old men had become friends later in life. It’s so endearing that these guys, having been through what they’d been through on opposite sides of the war, are so loving to one another. They even play piano duets together, hence the title, Quatre-Mains. 5 Clapperboards for Quatre-Mains 🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬.


Art Is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #2

Feeling Through starring Robert Tarango and Steven Prescod. Directed by Doug Roland. Winner of Best Writing for Film.

Tereek (Prescod) is a homeless teen wandering the night streets of New York City who has exhausted his couch surfing options. He does end up getting a return text from a girlfriend of his who says he can come over, however she is obviously annoyed about how late it is.

As he begins to make his trek to her place, he comes across a man with a cane (Tarango) standing on a street corner who looks like he might need some help. He goes over to the man and finds that he’s holding a sign that reads: I am blind and deaf. Tap me if you can help me cross the street. Tereek tries to speak to the man but quickly realizes he’ll need another way to communicate with him and taps him instead. The blind/deaf man takes out a notebook and a pen and writes that he needs to catch a certain bus to a certain destination.

Tereek is running late to meet his girlfriend and has a decision to make. He decides to help the man and takes him to the bus stop and waits with him. Tereek then figured out a way to communicate with him by using his finger to write invisible words in the man’s hand. He finds out that his name is Artie and they hang for awhile and even fall asleep at the bus stop.

There is plenty more that happens in this truly amazing short film. It’s ultimately about the bright side of human nature coming from someone in need himself.

There is a wonderful documentary about the making of this film that shows us how they cast the character, Artie. The director contacted Helen Keller Services to help. They find their man in Robert Tarango who is deaf and not totally blind, but legally blind. The idea for them to cast an ACTUAL deaf/blind person is, in my mind, the greatest thing about this great flick.

What has stuck with me the most after watching this is the growing sense of desperation of being homeless with diminishing options that Tereek faces in the the first half of it. I just can’t imagine. We never find out why he’s homeless, but that’s not the point. The way this film was made was almost like it was composed instead of just pieced together. I highly recommend this film and its companion documentary. 5 Clapperboards for Feeling Through 🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬


Art Is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #3

Hopeless Romantic starring Marx Mitchell, Jeff Freeman and Amie Bishop. Directed by Stephen Beason. Winner Best Male Actor in a Short Film.

The problem with making a crime/dark comedy film that is obviously inspired by Quentin Tarantino is that the bar is set high and the genre itself is so heavily explored. You generally need to have a couple of really great tough guy characters with some witty banter, a violent crime gone wrong, and a saucy female character never hurts.

This flick checks off all of those boxes in a short 15 minute run time, with a good style. There are two main highlights in this. Number one is the performance of Marx Mitchell as Matt. He’s a perfectly grizzled, older, low level gangster type whose expressions show danger and his past experiences. This is an actor who would be excellent in a tough cop role, as well as any boss like bad guy. He’s scary and comforting at the same time.

The other highlight of this film is the photography and the filtering of the photography. The scene of the crime is really intense due to the fine editing and the super sharp camera work. It’s truly artistic.

Matt’s slacker sidekick, Sammy (Freeman) is reminiscent of Sam Rockwell in the way that he’s got a friendly, carefree vibe that gives comic relief in serious situations when needed. He’s a whiskey drinking, coke snorting womanizer that demands a good time.

All of these ingredients have all of the flavors to make a delicious dish, but then the chef forgot to add some key spices to actually make this work. While the dialogue is pretty good, it is kind of forced and I hope that the newish writer/director, Stephen Beason begins to find his own style in his upcoming work.

The story itself is really trying to be a short QT type of story but lacks the cleverness that I think they were trying to go for. And the second to the last scene in a lounge where Sammy introduces Matt to a (smokin’ hot) woman named Lizzy (Bishop) seemed to try to cram a couple of weeks into one evening. I just didn’t buy that Matt and Lizzy fell that strong about each other in such a short period of time.

All of that being said, I hope to see a more refined and complete flick with Marx Mitchell and Jeff Freeman as the main duo in the future. 3 Clapperboards for Hopeless Romantic 🎬🎬🎬.


Art Is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #4

Family Snapshot starring Eigh8t The Chosen One and Bob Glazier. Written and directed by Chris Wood. Winner of Best Feature Film.

Of the dozens of adjectives you could use to describe this flick, I would say “provocative” would be at the top of the list. Coming in at #2 would be “conflictive”, with “confusing” following closely in 3rd place.

I’ll start with “provocative”. This story is about a father (Glazier) and son (Eigh8t) who are basically January 6th Proud Boy, Trump sheep style white supremacists being reunited after Dad gets out of a long prison stint. Their relationship is strained yet still bound together by the nature of family. Throughout this film we are to come to terms with the fact that they are still actual people with tragic human issues no matter how deplorable they are.

“Conflicting”… The son is obviously who he is because of the way he was raised by his dad who, before he went to jail, was a leader of a Neo-Nazi group. Their hate for minorities runs deep, but the son’s racism has weakened a little bit over time. It’s conflicting because I actually felt compassion for the son as he struggled with his identity, drug abuse, and depression. I could really identify with this character as I was also raised by a racist and hateful father and had to learn how to break away from it.

The “Confusing” part of this is that it was difficult to tell, for much of this film, if the filmmaker was for or against the racist positions that the characters embodied. I don’t think that he was trying to make a pro-Trump loving, Oath Keeper anthem, but it sure seemed like it for much of the 90 minute run time. (There’s also a 2 plus hour version that I’ll hopefully see later).

The craft of this film was sometimes very, Very good, and sometimes embarrassingly amateur. The lead actor, Eigh8t The Chosen One is an incredibly talented dude. So much so that I looked him up and discovered that he’s a prolific artist in the hip hop world as well an actor in B movies. His overall performance in this was really great but had some downsides, probably due to a bit of poor direction. He came across as a truly gifted and professional actor only to have fleeting moments in scenes that probably should have been redone.

Bob Glazier was excellent in his hateful role. He was actually almost too good, as he made the other actors look like beginners at times. And my favorite characters were the husband and wife televangelists played by Joel D. Wynkoop and M. Catherine Wynkoop. Their creepy yet realistic mega-church personas were perfectly perfect. They would have been considered comedy relief if they weren’t so realistic. I’m amazed that people actually still follow evangelists like them.

4 Clapperboards for Family Snapshot 🎬🎬🎬🎬


Art Is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #5

Timo’s Winter. Winner of Best Director. Directed by Giulio Mastromauro.

This story (based on a true story) is about a Greek family that works at a county fair grade amusement park. Timo is the youngest member of the family (maybe 8 years old?) and is proud of any opportunity to help out.

Unfortunately, the family faces a couple of devastating problems. First of all, they are about to encounter an extremely harsh winter that will impact their already impoverished condition. Secondly, the Mother is terminally ill, which would obviously devastate everyone.

We only see the amusement park while it’s closed without any patrons. The sparse coloring of a few of the attractions gives you a sense of the fun that happens there, however, this isn’t about the park (or Funfair as it’s called), it’s about family.

What is remarkable about this flick is how, in just over 16 minutes, it makes you feel everything that is happening to Timo. You feel his pride in being asked to help out with the family work. You feel his loneliness in living in such an isolated environment. And you REALLY feel his despair about his mother.

Christian Petaroscia, the young actor who plays Timo is so remarkably beautiful and expressive in his role. His innocence and eagerness make you just want to give him a hug and take care of him. His final scene made me cry. Hard.

The overall emotion of this film is conveyed by the way we see the environment through Timo’s eyes. The details of small and desperate pleasures such as the family goldfish in it’s own shabby fishbowl seemed to sum up a lot of the story itself in one shot. It’s like a sad song.

One of the great decisions the filmmaker made was the filter with which it was filmed. I know nothing about filmmaking, but if I were to name the filter they used, it would be called “Cold”. You can actually feel the winter coming in this so much that I recommend wearing a parka while viewing it yourself.

Ultimately, this is a short and effective film about despair and desperation. It’s quiet and lonely. It’s meaningful and endearing. The way it depicts the connection between the members of the family, the father, the older brother, the dying mother, and young Timo himself, is perfectly conveyed.

All of this is held together with a truly beautiful soundtrack by Bruno Falanga. The music is atmospheric, simple, dramatic and tense. Just like this film. 5 Clapperboards for Timo’s Winter 🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬.


Art Is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #6

Coffin Decolleté starring Menna Ashraf. Directed by Nancy Kamal. Nominee for Best Female Actor.

This flick starts out quite innocently as we watch a little Egyptian girl of, I’m guessing around 9 or 10 years old, drawing and coloring in her room. The birds are chirping. She is gleeful in every way and seems content in her lower middle class living situation.

However, her carefree day is interrupted by her mother (I’m assuming, we only see her hands) who begins to remove all of the little girl’s plastic children’s accessories. Rainbow beads and smiley faced necklace etc.

We suddenly see true fear and anguish in the little girl’s eyes. Her plastic beaded necklace is replaced with a heavy and more adult silver piece. She is clearly not happy about it.

What’s happening here is that this 9 or 10 year old girl is being prepped for an arranged marriage to a man who looks to be almost 3 times her age. Her hair is being blown out and makeup applied. It’s actually pretty frightening as we see how frightened she is facing the starkness of her reality. She is going to miss out on the rest of her childhood and we’re there to witness the final moments.

The filmmaking here is really good. The middle eastern music is beautiful and harsh at the same time. There is some super sound design trickery and it’s artfully photographed.

I looked up “child marriage in Egypt” and found that it is a problem there with families basically selling off their daughters. However, the age of the daughters are usually 15 and up. The girl in this film looks far younger than that. I would truly love to hear the story behind this story.

Whenever I review a film, I almost always pretend that I made it myself (even though I don’t know a damn thing about filmmaking) and try to imagine what kind of feeling I would have upon it’s completion. Had I made this one I would have been patting myself on the back and giving myself high fives. 4 Clapperboards for Coffin Decolleté 🎬🎬🎬🎬. ❤️You

Art Is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #7

Into the Valli starring Ignacio Borderes and Nathalie Rock. Written and directed by Pat Bradley and Nick Buscarino. Winner - Best Director - Feature Film and Best Male Actor in a Feature Film.

I’m assuming that the intention of the filmmaker was for the audience to hate the main character, Chris (Borderes) with a vengeance. The intention succeeded with me, I hate Chris with all my heart. He’s truly one of the biggest assholes I’ve ever seen in any flick.

I’ll give the story in this film this much…it certainly is unique. But, for me, it just didn’t work. Asshole Chris has decided to dedicate his life to being as much like Frankie Valli as he can be, in the form of a local champion karaoke singer. So much so, that he fucks his entire family life up to a deplorable degree in order to do it. This can all be traced back to a ridiculous daddy issue.

Now, I love a good degenerate character like Brockmire or Kenny Powers. Chris is certainly a degenerate with his hookers and drugs and such but in this flick there is no comedy. In fact it’s quite depressing and very serious, except for the fact that the premise is that he just wants to be like Frankie Valli and, um, whatever.

Perhaps this film was supposed to be more like “Joker”, a human interest study in mental illness? I would buy that had Chris’ circumstances been more realistic. But Chris had a bank account full of settlement money, a loving wife and two daughters. There is a back story on the more difficult aspects of his childhood, but none of it added up to the bullshit that Chris would pull as an adult. God I hate this dude!

Another problem with this movie is that the horrible things that happen to his daughters don’t seem to have the proper effect on Chris. I’m guessing the filmmakers were just chalking it up to his obvious mental illness, but it never connects. A ridiculous story told poorly.

Ok..not everything sucked in this flick. There were some really good performances by some very talented actors. Borderes did a great job in his douchebag role and Tia Link is awesome (and SMOKIN’ HOT!) as Chris’ hooker girlfriend. The technicians behind the scenes were all obvious pros as everything looked great and was edited pretty well. But I’m sorry to say that it just seemed like the director was surrounded by too many “yes men” and could have used some advice before going after many of the things in this.

2 Clapperboards for Into the Valli 🎬🎬


Art Is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #8

An Act of War starring Russ Russo and Natasha Alam. Directed by Ryan M. Kennedy

Winner of Best Feature Film and Best Male Actor in a Feature Film.

Do you know the rock band Tool? They’re a stylish progressive metal band from LA that writes and performs super long and rhythmically complicated songs that delve into disturbing subject matter, while showing off their incredible artistic skills.

This flick reminded me of a Tool song. It’s dark and disturbing. It’s complicated and skillfully artistic. By the way, I really like Tool and I really liked this movie.

Russo plays Jacob Nicks who is back home in New York from duty in a nameless war. He’s struggling with PTSD and getting back into the groove of a more normal life. He has a shitty night job as a projectionist in a shitty theatre working for a shitty boss. He has a hooker girlfriend named Ivana (the Smokin Hot Alam) whom he seems to hate. He has a homie named Marlon (played by the awesome Doug E. Doug) who supplies him with a heroin addiction. Ultimately, Jacob lives a lonely and depressing life.

What is so impressive about this flick is the craft itself. It’s basically made in a noir style with lots of close-up shots with strategic lighting of not just the actors, but the actions they’re doing with the instruments provided. It’s noir mixed with Scorcese and Tarentino while being inspired by the hotel scene in Apocalypse Now. All of this is fueled by an intense soundtrack by Spyros Poulos who has an impressive career in the Hollywood music and sound business.

The story is a slow burn of atmosphere and character study that has a patient and effective payoff. It’s not something I would call entertaining but something real that I just personally witnessed. It’s intense and profound, just like a Tool song.

4 Clapperboards for An Act Of War 🎬🎬🎬🎬. ❤️You

Art Is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #9

Discovery starring Anton Shlyamer and Galina Boyarskikh. Written and directed by Mikhail Saburov. Nominee for Best Experimental/Avant Garde Film and Best Writing for Film

While watching this film, I was reminded of reading one of those cardboard children’s books to my kids that has the perfect life lesson at the end. This flick is just like one of those books, but the lesson is for us parents. It’s like my kids just read me a bedtime story and tucked me in.

A father in what looks like his 40’s (Shlyamer) and his daughter (Boyarskikh) who looks about 5 or 6 drive out into the cold Russian countryside to go fishing from the shore. It looks like its about 0 degrees outside, but the sun is shining and all looks quite pleasant. The little girl asks her dad to stop the car as her child’s imagination discovers a big rock that looks like an elephant. Her dad pays little attention as he probably has a lot of adult concerns on his mind.

The little girl is understandably impatient with the slow process of catching a fish and asks to go play in the woods. Dad gives her permission as long as she doesn’t stray too far. Out in the woods her imagination takes over again and she is excited to show her dad the imaginary castle she has come upon. Her preoccupied father becomes as impatient with her as she was with fishing.

Just as his hook gets a bite, he finds that his daughter has run off. In a panic, he goes out into the woods to find her, with every passing second more terrifying than the last. He finally finds her staring off into the wilderness where she tries to show him the castle accompanied by the knight watchman and the tower where the princess lives. Dad is not having it and tells her it’s time to go.

This is when we learn that they are a recent broken family, where mom and dad trade weeks taking care of her. The girl is just coming to terms with this and wants to know when mommy is coming back. Seeing her face as he reminds her of their new circumstances, he makes a personal discovery. (I’m crying as I write this)…He now recognizes that his time with his daughter as an imaginative little girl is fleeting and begins to see the world through her eyes. A beautiful discovery.

This film is so endearing and thoughtful that I wanna go hug my kids so bad right now. Just this morning my son was going on and on about some super hero movie that he loves and I know that I only paid attention to about half of it. This flick has reminded me of the short time we have with our children and will continue to do so.

It’s beautifully paced and the vibe of the whole thing is perfectly perfect. Thank you for the life lesson Mikhail Saburov. 5 Clapperboards for Discovery 🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬.

Art Is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #10

7045 Steps starring Woodrow Procter and Melissa Lawson. Written and directed by Skukai Wang. Nominee for Best Dramatic Short Film and Best Male Actor in a Short Film.

This very clever and artistic flick is almost like being in a dream state. I just watched it and I feel like I just woke up trying to remember what I was dreaming about.

First of all, this film was made with some beautiful and subtle details. It seemed like each character and location received their own camera filter and there are some truly wonderful decisions made in regard to photography. I want to say they were inspired by Wes Anderson, but not quite. I really have no idea what the inspiration was, perhaps this filmmaker is innovative enough to be his own inspiration. There are a number of shots in this that I would hang on my wall. Really cool.

The story reminded me of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”… “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year”. Our hero, Vincent (Procter) lives a mundane, repetitive and depressing life. So much so that one of his few joys is to count the steps it takes to walk to work, hence the title. He works for a Scrabble tile manufacturer where his job is to find the Q tiles in these massive piles of tiles (I rhyme all the time). A somewhat absurd ingredient in such a serious flick but it’s kind of Monty Pythonesque and it actually works just fine.

Beyond his tedious and meaningless job, he lives above a bakery/cafe in a small apartment with his sister Kayla (Gianina Arana). They both suffer from depression as their parents committed mutual suicide.

Luckily for Vincent, there’s a girl his age named Joanne (Lawson) that works with her gracious mother in the cafe downstairs. She is a sweetheart of a girl and a good friend to Kayla. She also professes her crush on Vincent at just the right time giving him a new meaning of life. The world needs more Joannes.

All in all, this film is a Valentine’s Day card to those who are stuck in a rut in their lives and need some new blessings to count. It’s beautifully made and easy to recommend. 4 Clapperboards for 7045 Steps 🎬🎬🎬🎬. ❤️You

Art is Alive Film Fest With Billy Disaster #11

Sunset In Winter starring Kelley Lockman and Kimberly Hamilton. Written, directed and edited by Kelley Lockman. Winner Best Actor

We all deal with losing a loved one at some point in our lives. And we all need to go through that period of emotion that follows. Sadness, anger, loneliness, fear, repeat. And then (as so many people will annoyingly tell you) it becomes easier over time. That’s what this flick is about.

It’s the middle of the night and Zach (Lockman) and Beth (Hamilton) are in bed sharing some of Beth’s last moments of her life together. She has cancer, but she also has Zach, who is very much in love with her. She seems to have found peace and is quite appreciative of her companionship with Zach. But then he leaves for a moment and she is now alone with just her thoughts. The tears begin to well up in her eyes and her expression shows the true fear that she doesn’t want to seem to burden Zach with. It’s a powerful moment.

After she dies, Zach goes through his grief in some of the darkest possible ways. He has kind of given up and finds himself in a spiral of depression, self medication and isolation. Luckily he has that one friend, that hopefully everyone has (Charlton Hoag), that wants to help by taking him camping to get him out of his funk.

Without telling you the WHOLE story, we get to see Zach at the back end of his recovery and it feels really good. And that is what is so great about this flick. I really felt the loss of Beth, and the intensity of Zach’s despair was something that I had to recover from myself.

The reason that all of this was so effective was the artistry and craft that went into making this film. The occasional focus on the ceramic statue that represented the love of Zach and Beth, the cinematography that (for me) represented the hope beyond despair and the attention to nature, were all so very effective. All of the performances were terrific and it’s easy to see why this won Best Actor. 5 Clapperboards for Sunset In Winter 🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬. ♥️You


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