Rare Chance: Dancing With Films + New Media

There's a chance, if you dare, to see films you might never see; films at film festivals hope to nab distributors, yet most won't make it. You might get lucky enough to find them, one day, somewhere...

That's what film festivals do; they curate, they cherry-pick, they create one splendid moment where their unusual finds come to you before their distribution hopes are crushed, or more likely, may get to join that heap of films you could never unearth.

You have the prospect to see things that may never appear elsewhere: some are quirky, even odd; some are fun, some ooze serious...

And there's a barn full of new media to be exposed; you may have not seen these new types of media, or like many, you may not even know they exist.

"Dancing With Films," a name so evocative it conjures images that play in our minds. The Dancing With Films Film Festival is right now, continuing through the weekend. Even the festival's tagline sparkles with a difference: "Defiantly Independent Since 1998" is how they self-describe.

Thought-provoking, cutting edge, contemporary: Opening night's star film was "No Alternative." I can't stop running it through my head; it could not be more of-the-moment.

In a week when fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain both took their own lives, suicide unnaturally permeates thoughts. "No Alternative" looks, hard, at the leadup to a person's thinking there's no way out. Starring Harry Hamlin, of LA Law fame, as an uncompromising, ever-grim father, it examines the lengths teenagers may go to in escaping from impossible to meet parental expectations.

I asked Hamlin why he made the film. His answer reeked of praise for Director William Dickerson; he said he'd want to be in anything Dickerson made. Dickerson's inspiration: the sad tale of his own family's need to cope, and understand, a sibling's suicide.

"The story has been in my head all my life," said Dickerson, speaking about his sister's death. Of the carefully made film, Dickerson confessed: "I'm a little OCD, but every director is."

"A lot of teens struggle with mental illness," Hamlin told me. "The takeaway: there are alternatives for teens; they need to get help."

Hamlin had that successful-actor color of blond in his hair. He looked striking; older, but better looking than he did in LA Law. He definitely wasn't a smiley-super friendly person; even in trying to sell the film, he looked as if type-casting would have gotten him the too-grumpy father part, even if the director weren't his friend.

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"The Best People" is the closing night film at Dances With Films.

"It's anti-Rom Com," Director Dan Levy told me. In its Southern California premiere, the film's a look at issues of growing up and abandonment set against a family trying to save itself from happiness. When a sister gets engaged, well-meaning people do their best to cause a break-up. Two of the stars themselves are married, part of an interesting ensemble.

My pick of what to see: "Purdah," also chosen for closing night Sunday. Also making its Southern California premiere, this intriguing look at the limits religion can pose on extraordinary ability. Kaikasha Mirza was allowed to remove her burka for the first time in order to become a competitive athlete; the movie shows her battle to become one of the only Muslims ever selected for the prestigious Mumbai Senior Women's Cricket Team. While Americans might know little of cricket, around the world, it's huge; this story's a key to understanding.

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The New Media Film Festival is packed with surprises; they even examine the work of drones. They work hard to present new creators, refusing to play politics. They say there's no pay to play. This is a unique festival that tries to find distribution for most works submitted, not just what's shown.

Interested in new technology? Spend time this weekend at this intriguing film festival; it only lasts two days, Saturday through Sunday.

The festival walks its talk, giving back; past non-profit recipients include EyeCare4Kids, Sea Research Foundation, Toys For Tots, EIC, Solartopia, Izzy Foundation, weSpark, Women’s Empowerment, and The Caucus.

What a weekend! Wishing you a happy time learning.


Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything.

You can write to her at: smartspicy1@gmail.com


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