By Howard Pousner
The Atlanta Film Festival has released a list of 15 films that will be shown during this year’s cinema extravaganza, March 26-April 6 at the Plaza Theatre and 7 Stages.
The list should be taken as a sampler platter of the full lineup still to come, an indication of the diversity Atlanta’s oldest film fest typically delivers, not necessarily the most significant films in the fest’s lineup. The films that will be featured in the prestige opening and closing night slots will be announced later.
“We are pleased to announce the first wave of narrative features — an incredibly diverse group of films, ranging from local filmmakers and up-and-coming American indie auteurs to hyper-imaginative animation and foreign language festival hits,” said Kristy Breneman, the festival’s programmer for features and special programs.
Probably the most recognizable title in the initial group is “1982,” starring Hill Harper (”CSI: NY,” “Soul Food”) as an African-American father struggling to raise his daughter in the face of his wife’s crack cocaine addiction. Tommy Oliver’s debut feature received favorable attention at the Toronto International Film Festival last September.
“Following in the tradition of movies like Spike Lee’s ‘Crooklyn,’ the movie is a generally well crafted portrait of black life in 1980s Philadelphia, with a straightforward but engaging narrative that breaks down this general, hazy idea we may have of the ‘crack epidemic’ into a deeply personal, human story,” said the review on indiewire.com.
Two of the 15 films are products of Atlanta growing film scene: Alex Orr’s “A is for Alex” and Bret Wood’s “The Unwanted.”
Here is a listing of the 15, with descriptions provided by the festival.
Directed by Tommy Oliver
Set in Philadelphia at the very onset of the crack cocaine epidemic, “1982″ tells the story of a black father dealing with his wife’s addiction and his efforts to shield his 10-year old daughter from the ill effects of having a drug addicted mother. Inspired by true events, “1982″ is about a father who does whatever it takes to protect his family.
Directed by Juli Jackson
Charlie Clark is a struggling artist seeking a connection between her work and her deceased father’s music. Out of her element in Memphis, Charlie meets Louie Traxler, a record store owner and an obsessive collector who sees a chance to do what he does best. The two of them scour the South in search of an elusive copy of her father’s only 45RPM record.
“A is for Alex”
Directed by Alex Orr
“A is for Alex” is the story of unconventional inventor/filmmaker, Alex Orr. Struggling with life’s daily challenges, Alex seeks support from his business partner, Daniel. As his once-revolutionary invention crashes and burns — literally — he must also cope with the impending birth of his son, his mother’s imprisonment for child pornography, and the complications of shooting a film. When you have a new child coming into the world, A is for “anxiety.”
“Beside Still Waters”
Directed by Chris Lowell
When Daniel Thatcher’s parents died in a car accident, none of his friends came to the funeral. Now he’s losing the family home. The weekend before he has to move out, Daniel hosts a memorial celebration and insists that his friends attend. Daniel also invites his ex-girlfriend, Olivia, to the house, with the hopes of rekindling their old romance.
Directed by Inês Oliveira
Two Lisbon women, a privileged architectural illustrator and a cheerful housekeeper from the city’s Guinean community, join together to save a young Guinean girl from ritual genital mutilation. “Bobô” is a sensitive and intimate look at both the cultural and personal implications of long-held traditions.
Directed by Bill Plympton
In a fateful bumper car collision, Jake and Ella meet and become the most loving couple in the long history of romance. But when a scheming “other” woman drives a wedge of jealousy into their perfect courtship, insecurity and hatred spell out an untimely fate. With only the help of a disgraced magician and his forbidden “soul machine,” Ella takes the form of Jake’s numerous lovers, desperately fighting through the malfunction and deceit as they try to reclaim their destiny.
Directed by Ari Folman
Robin Wright, playing a washed-up future version of herself, receives an unusual offer from Mirramount Studios. They would like to scan her entire being into their computers and purchase ownership of her image for an astronomical fee. Now that her digital image is secure, Wright goes on to be an ageless movie star for years to come. “The Congress” is both bizarre and enchanting, a kaleidoscopic mix of live-action and animation.
Directed by Molly Green and James Leffler
On their road trip to Phoenix, neighbors Pete and Sophie jokingly decide to get married but actually develop unspoken feelings for one another. Things get complicated when Pete’s sister Jess gets a drifter to agree to perform the wedding. Confused and under pressure, Sophie returns home unsure of what the two will become. It is left up to Jess to get her brother to say all the things he has been holding in.
Directed by Vincenzo Cosentino
More of a one-hand-show than a one-man-show, “Handy” is the first feature film about the life of a hand. After a lifetime spent as the primary tool for a bad writer, Handy decides to detach from the human body in order to prove that a stand alone hand can be the best writer ever. Unfortunately, Handy’s detachment has ramifications for all other hands worldwide.
“I Believe in Unicorns”
Directed by Leah Meyerhoff
With her father absent and her mother disabled, teenage Davina seeks escape through a burgeoning romance with an older boy. As her relationship turns increasingly more violent and she is forced into a sexual awakening, Davina retreats further into a beautiful fantasy world.
Directed by Ragnar Bragason
Hera Karlsdottir is born on the cowshed floor at her parents farm in rural Iceland in 1970, right as Black Sabbath record their first album and signal the start of heavy metal. Years later, Hera finds solace in the music after her older brother’s tragic death. Rebellious and dreaming of a rock-star future, she is forced to grow up and make some tough choices when her childhood friend returns intent on marrying her and a young priest moves into the quiet farming community.
“Nothing Bad Can Happen”
Directed by Katrin Gebbe
Young Tore belongs to the Jesus Freaks, a Christian punk movement rebelling against established religion while simultaneously following Jesus’ precepts of love. One day, in what appears to be a miracle, Tore manages to repair a car which has broken down and gets to know the driver, Benno. Before long, Tore moves into a tent in Benno’s garden and gradually becomes part of his family. But Benno can’t resist playing cruel game, designed to test Tore’s faith. As the violence becomes more and more extreme, Tore’s capacity for love is pushed to its limits.
Directed by Noah Harald
Setting aside ancient history and tense relationships, a group of friends reunite for the wedding of Tommy and Anna. As the night unfolds, old offenses and fresh scandals plunge the group back into a pool of high-school drama.
“The Sublime and Beautiful”
Directed by Blake Robbins
The superficially perfect life that David Conrad took for granted collides with unexpected tragedy on a Midwestern winter’s night. His foundations shaken apart, David descends into depression, guilt, and an obsession with the stranger he holds responsible. Can David pull himself out of this spiral before he pushes away everything he has left? Writer-director Blake Robbins explores the emotional impact of shattering loss, and the struggle of the survivors left in its wake.
Directed Bret Wood
Carmilla comes to a rural town where her mother mysteriously disappeared years earlier. She is aided in her quest by an emotionally troubled local girl, with whom she becomes romantically involved. Their relationship ignites the wrath of the girl’s father, who holds the key to the dreadful truth Carmilla is seeking. Inspired by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s famed Gothic novella.