The Phoenix Film Festival was a phenomenal onslaught of films, movie culture, meeting directors/writers/actors, and celebrating every aspect of film with parties and wine. As a festival judge, I had access to the 62 new feature films (yes, 62!) screening throughout the week- ranging from world premieres to first-time efforts from fledgling filmmakers.
I caught 19 of the Phoenix Film Festival's movies and I want to tell you about my favorite 5. For each entry I'll give you a short description, the reasons it's great, and how you can watch it in the future. Then, I'm off to hunt down the 43 movies I couldn't catch.
Seek these out! Nothing is more festive than good film!
5. ANTI MATTER
-written and directed by Keir Burrows
Why bother? Anti Matter, the feature debut from visionary Keir Burrows, is for those who enjoy screaming "what the hell is going on!?" A talented team of students at Oxford invent teleportation by harnessing wormhole technology, which goes an insane level of haywire when they first try teleporting a human being. The resulting series of plot twists and reality deconstruction is like watching Memento or Primer after staying awake for three days straight. It's a ballsy thrill ride for those who don't mind surrendering their sanity.
How can I watch it? The director told me on twitter that it'll have a limited theatrical run and video on-demand release "in the fall". I'll update if there's a follow-up tweet.
4. THE LOST CITY OF Z
-written and directed by James Gray
Why bother? Indie auteur James Gray takes a stab at making a blockbuster and succeeds wildly. The Lost City of Z tells the true story of Percy Fawcett, a 20th century British explorer who made it his life's work to discover an ancient city in Brazil- thus proving civilized humanity existed long before the reign of the Christian white man. Admittedly, the first act plays out like a boring Indiana Jones, but it wins the award for 'most improvement' once it digs its teeth into the value of understanding the unknown. And Robert Pattinson gives a nuanced performance. You read that right.
How can I watch it? It comes out most everywhere on Friday, April 21st. You can buy your tickets now, proactive people.
3. THE TRANSFIGURATION
-written and directed by Michael O'Shea
Why bother? Milo is a young teenager who lives in a rough neighborhood. It's a bit rougher for the people around him though, because Milo is occasionally struck by the insatiable urge to drink human blood. This dehumanizing appetite is challenged when he falls for fellow outcast Sophie. Michael O'Shea's feature debut is less a vampire movie; more an arthouse film with ambiguous vampirism. Its exploration of the morality of monsters- and what constitutes such a label in the first place- is unsettling and thoughtful in equal measure.
How can I watch it? You can either take a trip to the UK, or wait until it hits indie theaters in the US- hopefully later this year. It's still on its festival run.
2. A DARK SONG
-written and directed by Liam Gavin
Why bother? Now this is a horror movie. Liam Gavin's feature debut is hell for those who would freak out at the sight of a pentagram on their living room floor. Sophia's young son was murdered, so she hires a belligerent master of the occult to perform a ritual that will allow her to communicate with the dearly departed. The Satanic proceedings require the two to lock themselves up in a house for months on end: A Dark Song is 75% glorious buildup, cultivating a suspenseful atmosphere that refuses to give reprieve. Rarely do horrors offer such unrelenting tension and so complete a character arc.
How can I watch it? It releases to select indie theaters and video on-demand on April 28th. See it in as dark a room as possible.
-directed by Amanda Lipitz
Why bother? Step is an immensely powerful documentary about the first graduating class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. The film particularly follows three members of the school's step (a mix of percussive dance and spoken word) team as they attempt to lead the team to its first victory and be the first members of their families to make it into college. It features vivacious personalities, inspiring families, an honest look at inner city life, and a passionate Black Lives Matter heart beating throughout- I cheered more than I cried (and I cried 16 times).
How can I watch it? It earned a theater release on August 4th. I'll pay for your ticket.
There you have it. Now go forth and sit in cinemas- all of those are worth the wait or the trip.