Starz Denver Film Festival: Day 8

Lost in America

Johanna Trujillo "Lake Los Angeles" (2014)

The residents of Los Angeles have a nickname for the Antelope Valley. They not-so-lovingly refer to it as “The Awful Valley,” and that’s not far from the truth. A residential development from the 1960s, Lake Los Angeles was promised as paradise, a resort town for all those who came. It was a lie, as they often are, and now the failed development hangs on for dear life while the wind and desert threaten to swallow it whole.

Francisco (Roberto Sanchez) hails from Havana, but he came to this country seeking a better life. What he has found is far from it. Looking for day-work when he can and acting as a trafficker for illegal aliens, Francisco does what he can to make ends meet. Cecilia (Johanna Trujillo) is a 10-year-old girl who has come to America illegally in search of her father after he mother has died. She finds no one waiting for her, and crosses paths with Francisco. Their lives run parallel as they both experience heartache and unrealized dreams.

Director and co-writer Mike Ott instills this piece of Americana with lyrical qualities, reflecting the work of Terrence Malick, David Gordon Green, and Josephine Decker. The camera is restless, like the characters, and is constantly seeking grace. It finds it, in the desolate landscape of the Antelope Valley, where the world appears to be in a perpetual winter of wind and dead trees. It isn’t until halfway through the movie when Francisco enters an employer’s house to use the bathroom, that the color green—or any color really—makes an appearance. Color is a luxury that does not exists in Francisco or Cecilia’s world.

Haunting in its beauty, Lake Los Angeles announces the talent and vision behind the camera, and it is a strong announcement.

Directed by: Mike Ott
Written by: Atsuko Okatsuka & Mike Ott
Produced by: Drea Clark, Alexandra Gioulakis, Atsuko Okatsuka, Trinity Shi, Frederick Thornton
Starring: Roberto Sanchez, Johanna Trujillo, Eloy Méndez
Haos Film, Running time 85 minutes, November 19, 20, 22, 2014

Love, in four acts

Héléna Noguerra "Alleluia" (2014)

Gloria (Lola Dueñas) is a single-mother in need of some male attention. She finds a man online, Michel (Laurent Lucas), and they agree to meet for lunch. Michel is charming, eloquent, and sexy. They return to Gloria’s apartment and make love, gently. Gloria is head-over-heels. The next day, Michel leaves, but not before getting Gloria to give him some money, and then he’s gone. For good. Gloria tracks Michel down and discovers something about him, he is a womanizing con man who suffers from debilitating migraines. She also learns something about herself, she cannot and will not live without Michel.

The word “Alleluia” is Hebrew for “Praise Yahweh” and as Artistic Director, Brit Withey remarked in his introduction, “You will find none of it here.” Director Fabrice Du Welz revels in the humor and sickness of Michel and Gloria, taking pleasure in their deeds and acts, and letting the audience in on the fun.

Alleluia is not a slickly made movie, often using handheld shaky camerawork to blur and confound the image, putting the viewer on uncertain grounds, but then again, what happens puts us on equally uncertain ground. Alleluia is pulp, delicious and sick pulp.

Directed by: Fabrice Du Welz
Written by: Fabrice Du Welz, Romain Protat, Vincent Tavier
Produced by: Clément Miserez, Vincent Tavier, Matthieu Warter
Starring: Lola Dueñas, Laurent Lucas, Anne-Marie Loop, Édith Le Merdy, Héléna Noguerra
Music Box Films, Running time 93 minutes, November 18 & 19, 2014

 Exposing the truth, one lie at a time

James Randi "An Honest Liar" (2014)

The Amazing Randi is just like any other magician, he’s a liar, a cheat and a thief. But, like any good gentleman, he tells you he is going to trick you before he does it. That is what separates Randi from the hokum and snake-oil salesmen that permeates talk shows and tent shows across this great nation.

Born in 1928, James Randi started off as an escape artist in the vein of Harry Houdini, boasting that he could get out of any device created by man. He could, and quite well. But Father Time isn’t easy on the body and Randi figured that he needed a new angle. His tactic, deceive the deceivers. With his sights set on an evangelist priest (Peter Popoff) who could exorcise physical aliments and a psychic (Uri Geller), Randi worked hard to train students to disprove the validity of these so-called studies and hopefully, expose the charlatans for what they were. His findings did not go over well, proving that people want to believe in a lie more than they want to accept a fact.

Shot over several years, An Honest Liar gathers together archive footage from Randi’s life and career alongside talking head interviews from the present day. Collecting Randi’s students, his partner Jose Alvarez and magicians (notably Penn Jillette, one of magic’s greatest enthusiasts), An Honest Liar gives a fairly even-handed look at the life of and work of The Amazing Randi, including the hard left turn in the third act.

Directed by: Tyler Measom & Justin Weinstein
Written by: Tyler Measom, Greg O’Toole, Justin Weinstein
Produced by: Tyler Measom & Justin Weinstein
Starring: James Randi, Deyvi Peña, Uri Geller, Peter Popoff, Penn Jillette
Pure Mutt Productions, Running time 90 minutes, November 18 & 19, 2014

2 thoughts on “Starz Denver Film Festival: Day 8

  1. Hey just a small type I noticed, Mike Ott is spelled Mike Orr in the Lake Los Angeles review.

Comments are closed.