By Lauren Clarke-Bennett
Photos Courtesy of HIFF
August: Osage County
HIFF Center Piece Film
This powerful star studded cast piloted by the electrifying Meryl Streep and mesmerizing Julia Roberts brings Tracy Lett’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, then Tony Award winning play, August: Osage County to the big screen. The Iconic Sam Shepard who plays Beverly Weston is an aging poet afflicted with alcoholism while Violet his wife played by Streep battles cancer and drug addiction. When Beverly disappears the family comes together to search for him and discovers their relationships are in dire straight. Roberts who plays the irate older daughter shows the disturbing truth of what can happen in a grossly dysfunctional family as their secrets are unraveled at a disturbing pace. This must see film holds one’s attention from beginning to end, where the only critical thing that may be said is at times, Streep and Roberts bigger than life personas’ seem to overpower the roles they play.
12 Years a Slave
HIFF Closing Night Film
Based on a true story, 12 Years a Slave tells the tale of a musically talented, upstanding, free black man from New York State named Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor who is abducted and sold into slavery. Up against a brutal existence, embodied by a cruel slave owner portrayed by Michael Fassbender, Northup chooses to remain dignified as he lives out his new life in captivity not knowing if he shall ever return to his beloved family again. A moving and profound story enjoyed by those interested in narratives about overcoming adversity and the history of American slavery in the mid 1800’s. Ejiofor and Fassbender do an outstanding job in portraying two men of opposing views with one forced to succumb for survival as newcomer Lupita Nyong’o a ‘Variety’s 2013, 10 Actors To Watch’, show’s a passionate and courageous portrayal of a human being, enslaved at one of our nations darkest times.
Synopsis and Interview
Long Island born and bred Kevin Connelly, star of HBO’s Entourage and NBC’s, soon to be released ‘Friends With Better Lives’, has ventured into his first documentary directorial entitled, ‘Big Shot’. The true story is about a charismatic Dallas businessman named John Spano who nearly bought the troubled New York Islander’s hockey team without his own financial means. Spano with fake documents attempts to dupe a bank into fronting the $165 million for the purchase but an additional fee starts to unravel the mega deal. But before it came crashing down, “He slipped into the owner’s box, fired the coach and for four months ran the team,” Kevin muses. “Then someone said, wait who are you again?” Crazy as it seems, Spano is heard in the documentary saying, “It was easier to take out an $80 million dollar loan than it was to take out a $12,000 car loan,” and he thought he could get away with it. As far as the audience, Kevin states, “Any sports or hockey fan will totally love this documentary but it is also a ‘Catch Me If You Can’ type of film that thrills.” The actor, who has gone to the other side now, revels in his new found occupation. “I love being on the other side of the camera but it’s a lot more worry and a lot more work.” Connelly declares, “The least favorite part is the financial aspect of film making and I try my best not to get too much involved but I’m good at it and I help where I can.” So travel on this journey back to the late 1990’s where this kind of thing was possible and experience the con-game as if you were there.
Jennifer Steinman directs this thrilling documentary called ‘Dessert Runners’ about extraordinary people who endure four 150-mile ultra-marathons in one year, traveling through some of the world’s most treacherous deserts: the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara in Egypt, and Antarctica. The documentary takes you on a roller coaster ride alongside these determined runners who endure huge amounts of physical stress and overwhelming personal obstacles in order to conquer the elements. Filled with physical and emotional highs and low, the film goes beyond the rugged turf to expose their obsessive determination. This captivating story combines the striking cinematic scenery with the runner’s human condition to give the viewer a glimpse into why man will sometimes risk going to the edge of death to feel and live life at its fullest.
A Short History of Decay
Synopsis & Interview
First time director Michael Marin brings the comedy ‘A Short History of Decay’ to life through his rich characters played by Emmanuelle Chriqui, Bryan Greenberg, Linda Lavin and Harris Yulin. Greenberg plays a failed writer with love troubles, who goes to Florida to visit his mother (Lavin) with Alzheimer’s and father (Yulin) who had recently suffered a stroke. Seeing the frailties and demise of his ailing parents hit home for the blocked playwright. “It’s that moment where things begin to change in your life…a subtle change that starts one thinking about what is going to make them happy in life,” Greenberg expresses. “My Character wakes up at age 35 and says wait I haven’t grown up yet, I haven’t become a man or chosen a path yet,” he notes as if from personal experience. “Being an artist, insecurities are abundant so that well is not hard to draw from.” Marin has an even more personal stake in the film. “The gem of the idea was when I was dealing with my mother’s Alzheimers,” Marin stated, as he saw heartbreak and some comedy in what was taking place. Erika, played by Chiriqui of ‘Zohan’ acclaim is Nathan’s driven live in girlfriend who is on her way to literary fame. However she sees Nathan as a liability to her trajectory towards notoriety and is not happy with his failure.” My character is the one that gives Nathan a kick in the pants to get motivated.” Chiriqui reminisces about the movie. “It’s a beautiful story that needs to be told. We make films so people can walk away from them being changed and inspired and this film does that…and I am happy to have been a part of it,” she adds.