#PENDANCE: 2020 PENDANCE FILM FESTIVAL PREVIEW
Running February 20 – 23, 2020, the Pendance Film Festival returns once again in its third edition at TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX and AGO‘s JACKMALL HALL! Giving a platform to innovative storytellers, the Festival features films, short films, special screenings, conferences, workshops, and panels. Expect lots of hidden gems which have gone through a stringent approval process. Our Team have been lucky enough to get a sneak preview of some of the Films playing at the Festival. See their thoughts below:
Review by Justin Waldman
First-time feature Director Alex Thompson teams-up with first-time Writer/Actress Kelly O’Sullivan to bring a story of love, compassion, understanding and family to life in the beautifully-crafted Saint Frances. The Film stars O’Sullivan and feels a lot like Jason Reitman’s Tully but lays it on a little thicker, while being more poignant and captivating. Saint Frances is a beautiful take at what life can bring you in the most unexpected ways.
The Film focuses on Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) after she aborts an accidental pregnancy and befriends the six year old girl Frances (Ramona Edith Williams) whom she is tasked with babysitting as she is trying to get her life in order and escape her dead-end job. What she never expected was to create a bond with Frances’ mothers and to create an undeniable bond with Frances herself that will carry on for a lifetime. The story is truly touching and redefines some clichés, especially those regarding millennials.
O’Sullivan’s Script and Thompson’s direction brings Saint Frances to life along with great performances by O’Sullivan herself and that of her young Co-Star Ramona Edith Williams. The two lead actresses are remarkable as their on-screen chemistry is something truly special.
Saint Frances plays Pendance Film Festival on Saturday February 22, 2020 at 9:30 PM.
THE SHORT HISTORY OF THE LONG ROAD
By Amanda Gilmore
Teenager Nola (Sabrina Carpenter) and her father Clint (Steve Ogg) have been living out of a van for as long as she can remember. When tragedy strikes, Nola finds herself at a crossroads: One leading to a continued life on the road or one where she integrates herself into a society she has never known.
This heartfelt coming-of-age film is a love letter to living on the road while also examining the importance of relationships and socialization. However, the Film could have been a grittier look at the subject. This is because every obstacle that Nola finds herself faced with seems to have a quick and easy solution. Writer-Director Ani Simon-Kennedy creates a steady pace and a central character to root for. And Carpenter is striking onscreen expressing the anxiety, fear, thrill and happiness that comes along with the freedom of Nola‘s age and lifestyle.
The Short History of the Long Road screens at Pendance on Saturday, February 22 at 4 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
THE LAST TREE
By Amanda Gilmore
Femi (Sam Adewunmi) spent his childhood in the English countryside with his foster mother (Denise Black). When Femi’s biological mother (Gbemisola Ikumelo) comes back for him the two move to south London. Thrusting a child and teenage Femi into this new world that he has to learn to navigate.
This semi-autobiographical film by Writer-Director Shola Amoo tells a specific yet universal coming-of-age story. With each scene, Amoo examines the influence of the community in which we live effects and shapes us. He does this while also examining the lasting emotional scars our parents give us from birth. Through these two themes, the audience is brought on the moving and beautiful journey Femi is on and empathizes with him in his darkest moments. The Cinematography by Stil Williams is gorgeous, particularly in the scenes of Femi’s childhood playing in the English countryside. And talented newcomer Adewunmi is a powerful force with a magnetic presence. He’s definitely one-to-watch.
The Last Tree screens at Pendance on Saturday, February 22, 1 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
By George Kozera
After two disastrous romantic attempts with guys, STRAIGHT UP opens with a whippet-fast monologue from Todd telling his two closest friends that, despite loving cashmere sweaters and Legally Blonde, he may really not be gay and that he could meet a girl who will see his flamboyance as more “metro/hipster”. His first heterosexual tryst ends in a hilarious, never-saw-that-coming event. Rory is an inept waitress/aspiring Actress with a penchant for inappropriate jokes and observations. Todd and Rory meet in the self-help section of a library and a relationship is born.
As Todd, James Sweeney (who also co-produced, wrote and directed this Movie) creates a character filled with neuroses, unapologetic intelligence and off-kilter humour and is brilliantly and equally matched with Windsor, Ontario native, Katie Findlay’s performance as Rory. The chemistry between these two talented big screen newcomers is perfection personified as are their rapid-fire exchanges.
Anchored with stellar supporting performances from Tracie Thoms, Betsy Brandt, Russell Park and James Scully as Ryder, STRAIGHT UP is Pop Culture-savvy, uniquely filmed with a glorious Score and, I’m afraid to admit, had me laughing out loud consistently and often. It touches on topics about relationships, love, sexuality and friendships with intelligent insights. Sweeney is a name to watch for as I see great things coming from him in the future. It’s been a long time since I loved a gay-themed movie this much. See STRAIGHT UP. That’s an order!!
STRAIGHT UP screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the on February 21, 8:00 PM.
More on the 2020 Pendance Film Festival here.
(Photo/video credit: )
#FIRSTLOOK: 2019 PENDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
Now in its second year, the PENDANCE FILM FESTIVAL runs Friday, January 31 – Monday, February 3, 2019 at Toronto’s Regent Theatre. The fast-growing Festival showcases independent Cinema from around the world and will premiere 50 Shorts and Features.
Highlighting the Festival are FRIDAY’S CHILD by A.J. Edwards, starring Ty Sheridan (Ready Player One) as a young drifter who befriends an unlikely friend; Psychological Thriller TO THE NIGHT by Peter Brunner starring Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) as an Artist who tries piecing together his tormented past and the fire that killed his parents; and QUEST by Santiago Rizzo starring Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You), which is about the between a teacher and a troubled child, addicted to graffiti.
Some of our Team had the pleasure of previewing a couple marquee titles at the Festival in advance.
George Kozera (@PartyG) tells us about QUEST:
As QUEST opens with a dedication to one teacher followed by the tagline “based on promises never broken”, Director Santiago Rizzo’s semi-autobiographical debut feature quickly establishes that we are in for a heartfelt, emotional ride. 12 year old Mills (an astonishing Gregory Kasyan) is a skilled graffiti artist using the tag Quest. Obviously skilled and bright, his home life is in shambles due to an abusive stepfather (Lou Diamond Phillips, surprisingly menacing) and a clueless, self-absorbed mother (Betsy Brandt). Mills streets smarts education comes from Diego (an effective Lakeith Stanfield), a fellow graffiti artist who hides his weed in a hollowed out hardcover book and spouts platitudes on how to survive. Destined to a life that will go nowhere and spiral downwards even more, Mills life changes when he attracts the attention of the high school football coach Tim (Dash Mihok in a cinematic breakthrough performance) who senses something genuine in Mills. Suspicious at first, a mentor relationship between the two develops that is, most importantly, based on trust.
It is virtually impossible not to be moved by QUEST. Santiago Rizzo’s love towards the man who changed the course of his life is apparent in every scene between the coach and boy. It is genuinely sincere and involving. There are few false moments in the movie and the performance by young Gregory Kasyan in his movie debut is letter perfect. To those who think the coach may have been written too saintly, I will suggest that they never had a teacher that influenced them. My mentor was my grade six teacher, Mr. Matthews, who will always be my role model.
QUEST is assured, wonderfully photographed and exquisitely acted. It’s a must see. It screens Monday, February 3rd at 3:00 PM.
Justin Waldman (@DubsReviews) shares his thoughts on LOST HOLIDAY:
Writers and Directors Michael Kerry Matthews and Thomas Matthews give their first Feature go at in Lost Holiday, and it is not unenjoyable.
The Film focuses on Margaret (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Henry (Thomas Matthews) and the exploits they get into trying to find a kidnapped socialite while Margaret is back visiting her home town. While they might not be the sharpest tools in the shed, the clumsy antics they get involved in are rather entertaining.
The Plot has various twists and turns and both Sheil and Matthews do their best with the material given.
Lost Holiday screens at PENDANCE FILM FESTIVAL on February 2nd at 9:30 PM.
Justin on IN REALITY:
Ann Lupo writes, directs and stars in In Reality and it amounts to a fun, honest look at dating, relationships, and loving one’s self in the age of the Millennial. There is so much truth behind what Ann (Lupo) goes through, as she finds herself pining after a man who just wants to ‘friend zone’ her.
What makes In Reality such a joy to watch is the craziness that Ann puts herself through. She creates these characters that she brings life to in her mind, and what results is something truly comical. We can’t wait to see what’s next for her.
In Reality screens at Pendance Film Festival Monday, February 3rd at 1 PM.
More on the Pendance Film Festival including showtimes and tickets, here.