This Weekend: The Mustard Seed Film Festival

Bhuban Majhi screens on Sunday.

Many of the films in this year’s Mustard Seed Film Festival (Friday-Sunday, August 18-20) aren’t just making their Philly debut, they’re getting their first screenings for international audiences. Some of these movies were filmed places many Americans never get to see — India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal — while others offer views informed by the diaspora.

The films will be screened at venues all over town including Lightbox Film Center, Twelve Gates Arts and, on Friday, in a tunnel beneath the Reading Viaduct. Below are a few trailers that caught my eye. Click here for the full Mustard Seed lineup. Read more »

Q&A with Eric Bresler of the Philadelphia Psychotronic Film Society

From the poster for Never Too Young To Die (1986) starring Vanity and John Stamos, a past Philadelphia Psychotronic Selection. The lineup for Friday’s Action Movie Marathon is a mystery.

True, “psychotronic” has an easily Googled definition: “a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics.” But fans of the form might tell you it’s more of a “I know it when I see it” kind of situation.

The Philadelphia outpost of Psychotronic Film Society — there are iterations all over the world — has been operating for about a year, offering free, BYOB screenings of forgotten/forgettable screen gems to a growing fanbase. This Friday’s Action Movie Marathon seemed like a good excuse to talk to PPFS co-founder Eric Bresler, whom you might already know as the director/curator at PhilaMOCA and programmer of the Cinedelphia film fest. Turns out he was in Japan… Read more »

Jonathan Demme, Acclaimed Director of “Philadelphia,” Dies at 73

jonathan demme

Academy Award-winning film director Jonathan Demme has died at age 73 from complications stemming from esophageal cancer.

Demme, who took home the Oscar for Best Director for his 1991 thriller Silence of the Lambs, is perhaps best known in this city as the director behind 1993’s Philadelphia, which starred Tom Hanks as a gay Center City lawyer who is unjustly fired after disclosing that he contracted the virus that causes AIDS. Read more »

This Philly Woman Is Making Documentary About India’s “Marriage Cops”

A woman and her husband talk to the marriage cops.

A woman and her husband talk to the marriage cops.

When you and your spouse have a big problem that you can’t resolve, you might go to a marriage counselor or just get divorced. But that’s not so simple in a place like India. So one town came up with a novel idea: Marriage cops. South Philadelphia filmmaker Cheryl Hess stumbled upon these female police officers who resolve marital problems, and now she’s making a documentary about it. Her team currently has a Kickstarter campaign going to finish the editing, and we called Hess and asked her to tell us all about it. Read more »

Wednesday: Secret Cinema Delivers Famous Films

Elmer Fudd in 1957's What’s Opera, Doc?

Elmer Fudd in 1957’s What’s Opera, Doc?

Usually, Jay Schwartz of Secret Cinema likes to dig deep in his archives to come up with obscure gems that would otherwise never see the light of a projector. For Wednesday’s Famous Films program, however, he… still came up with some pretty rare stuff.

But these short films were once considered important, groundbreaking and/or necessary, to film students, cinephiles and general audiences alike.

Which is not to say they will all still “hold up” to today’s standards of taste and morals. In modern parlance, a few of them are “problematic” products of less enlightened (more racist) times. Read more »

Birth of a Nation, Luke Cage, and the Power of Black Resilience

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Over the last couple of years, several amazing reports were released that felt like throwbacks to an earlier America.

A 2000 Emory University study that found that 74 percent of whites, compared to only 50 percent of blacks, received painkillers for bone fractures. In 2016, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at the intersection of racial biases and black pain in a survey of more than 300 medically and non-medically trained whites and found that 58 percent of the participants believed that “black skin is thicker than white,” including 40 percent of first- and second-year medical students and 25 percent of residents.

In 2012, the study “Racial Bias in the Perception of Other’s Pain” looked at pain perception as it related to white and black NFL players, in addition to a series of pain-related comparison scenarios (accidentally stapling your hand versus someone of another race stapling their hand), finding that participants consistently rated the pain experience of blacks lower. And in 2014, Social Psychological & Personality Science found a “super-humanization bias” when whites looked at blacks, more quickly assigning terms like ghost, paranormal and spirit to black people. Read more »

The Must-See Films at This Year’s qFLIX Film Festival

qFLIX Philadelphia is from July 5-10, 2016.

qFLIX Philadelphia is from July 5-10, 2016.

Through July 10th, this year’s qFLIX film festival is screening 50 of the most inventive and unique LGBTQ films the city has to offer. Here’s our day-by-day cheat sheet to the standouts.

WEDNESDAY: Kiss Me, Kill Me, directed by Casper Andres
9:30 p.m. at Prince Theatre, 1412 Chestnut Street
Thought you were ready for a gay marriage? This mystery murder caper will have you guessing again. This brilliantly crafted film features so many famous LGBTQ stars that you will be stunned by the cameos while wondering whodunnit. Read more »

5 Questions: Todd Solondz on His New Film, Wiener-Dog

wiener-dog-940x540

Filmmaker Todd Solondz has been packing the art houses and subsequently bumming out his audience since the release of his 1995 dark comedy Welcome to the Dollhouse. Since then he has made the disturbing ensemble Happiness and its follow-up Life During Wartime, Storytelling, and Dark Horse, among other heavy works; call his particular brand of awkwardly confrontational humor Dispirit-Com. His new film, Wiener-Dog, follows along a similar trajectory of jet-black humor and despair. It uses a guileless dachshund to link together four different vignettes of characters suffering from one depressed malaise or another. In Solondz’s vision, the characters are invariably on the outside looking in, hoping for things to be different, but becoming more and more twisted around by their crippling loneliness. For all his on-screen bleakness, however, the director himself comes across as well-spoken and quite sociable. He spoke with Ticket about the quality of dogness, his disparagement of film school, and the small glimmer of hope he slips into the film. Read more »

LOCAL NEWS: LGBT Non-Discrimination Bills Look Stalled for Summer

harrisburg in half

The LGBT non-discrimination bills recently proposed in the Pennsylvania legislature might have to wait until the fall before being considered.

After all of the recent progress made by the state Senate in approving LGBT non-discrimination protections in committee, the possible passing of them seems to be stalled until the fall. Groups such as the Pennsylvania Family Organization have made the argument that such polices would infringe upon their “religious liberty,” and GOP legislators are using that opposition as a justification to hold back on a vote. “Since the House wasn’t going to act on it this week anyway, I’m allowing our chairmen some time to hold hearings and do what they need to do to deal with the bill, and then we’ll make a decision in the fall,” said Senate majority leader Jake Corman to the press. As of now, both parties will are expected to continue to make the case for their positions until lawmakers decided to finally consider a vote. According to Equality Pennsylvania, 68 percent of LGBT Pennsylvanians are not fully protected from discrimination practices in their local ordinances. As a result, Pennsylvania is ranked the lowest on the Human Rights Campaign’s State Equality Index. Read more »

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