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Episode 280.3 – 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival – Part 3

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We wrap up our coverage of the 2015 LA Film Festival with a 3rd Podcast:


Ayanda and the Mechanic

(2015 , 112 min.)

Directed by: Sara Blecher
Screenwriter: Trish Malone
Producers: Terry Pheto, Busi Sizani, Robbie Thorpe
Cinematographer: Jonathan Kovel
Editor: Nicholas Costaras
Music: Tiago Correia-Paulo
Cast: Fulu Moguvhani, OC Ukeje, Nthati Moshesh, Kenneth Nkosi, Jafta Mamabolo, Thomas Gumede, Sihle Xaba, Venessa Cooke

In a vibrant and diverse Johannesburg community, 21-year-old Afro-hipster Ayanda has a knack for taking neglected pieces of furniture and “bringing them back to love.” Eight years after her father’s death, she is determined to revive his prized garage, which is in deep debt and in danger of being sold. Director Sara Blecher’s sophomore work crackles with infectious energy and style, capturing a vividly contemporary view of a South Africa where cooperation trumps xenophobia. This one-of-a-kind film melds gorgeous still-frame montages inspired by the possibilities of a modern African aesthetic and documentary-like techniques to explore its core theme: how do we let go of the things and people we love?


Atomic Heart

Madar-e Ghalb Atomi

(2014 , 97 min.)

Directed by: Ali Ahmadzadeh
Screenwriter: Ali Ahmadzadeh, Mani Baghbani
Producers: Amir Seyedzadeh
Cinematographer: Ashkan Ashkani
Editor: Ali Ahmadzadeh, Ehsan Vaseghi
Music: Sahand Mehdizadeh
Cast: Taraneh Alidoosti, Pegah Ahangarani, Mehrdad Sedighiyan, Reza Behboudi, Ehsan Amani, Mohammad Reza Golzar

Sometime around the witching hour, Arineh and Nobahar stumble out of a party giddy and spaced out. Donning brightly dyed hair covered just enough by their headscarves, the young women drive around Tehran, picking up their hipster buddy Kami along the way. In a moment of carefree distraction, they get into a car accident that pivots their night into a bizarre series of events, and the possibility of a parallel world. Symbolically lush with sharp dialogue about pop culture, the Western gaze and politics, Ali Ahmadzade’s sophomore directorial feat establishes him as a blazing new independent voice in Iranian cinema.


The Babushkas of Chernobyl

(2015 , 72 min.)

Directed by: Holly Morris, Anne Bogart
Producers: Holly Morris, Anne Bogart
Cinematographer: Japhet Weeks
Editor: Richard Howard, Mary Manhardt, Michael Taylor
Music: Rob Teehan
Cast: Valentyna Sochenok, Hanna Zavorotnya, Maria Shovkuta

For nearly 30 years a community of unlikely heroines have lived in Chernobyl’s post-nuclear disaster “dead zone.” Stylish and stubborn, these fascinating women have survived, and even thrived, on some of the most toxic land on Earth. They are the last survivors of a community who refused to leave their ancestral homes after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. But the babushkas aren’t the only risk-takers: scientists, bureaucrats and even young men called “Stalkers” (who break in illegally to pursue their video game-inspired fantasies) explore the dystopian Zone and seek out its radioactive grandmas. First-time filmmakers Anne Bogart and Holly Morris’ portrait of a community tells a remarkable tale about the pull of home, the healing power of shaping one’s own destiny and the subjective nature of risk.


No Más Bebés

(2015 , 79 min.)

Directed by: Renee Tajima-Peña
Producers: Virginia Espino, Renee Tajima-Peña
Cinematographer: Claudio Rocha
Editor: Johanna Demetrakas
Music: Bronwen Jones, Quetzal
Cast: Maria Hurtado, Consuelo Hermosillo, Antonia Hernandez, Bernard Rosenfeld

In 1960s and 70s Los Angeles, Mexican immigrant women allege they were coercively sterilized without their consent at LAC + USC Medical Center. Archival footage of the booming Chicano rights movement is juxtaposed with interviews in a long abandoned hospital. Interwoven are opinions from both sides of the landmark case Madrigal v. Quilligan. The women who brought the case to trial are represented by a young and fearless lawyer, Antonia Hernandez. Academy Award®-nominated director Renee Tajima-Peña (Who Killed Vincent Chin) saved this important case from becoming a forgotten footnote, facilitating a measure of closure and raising a timely topic amid the ongoing battles over reproductive rights and discriminatory practices.


In a Perfect World…

(2014 , 76 min.)

Directed by: Daphne McWilliams
Producers: Daphne McWilliams, Samuel D. Pollard, Brennan Rees, Mary Burns DeFuria
Cinematographer: Henry Adebonojo, Ana Dantas, Francis Augustine, Xavier Rodriguez
Editor: James Codoyannis
Music: Kathryn Bostic
Cast: John Cuevas, Eddie Cuevas, Damon Dash, Kevin Keenan, Ned Martin, Patrice McLeod, Chase Myles, Jason Lampkin, Craig Williams

Entering adulthood, Chase begins to feel the impact of his father’s inconsistent presence in his life. Curious about how boys negotiate the absence of their fathers and the kinds of relationships they forge with their mothers, Chase’s mother turns the camera on him. Daphne McWilliams’ directorial debut takes an astounding risk by grounding her sociological inquiry in the most vulnerable of all subjects: her teenage son, Chase. Revelatory, intimate interviews in this breakout documentary are structured with such grace and skill, they carry a transcendent universal perspective.

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