Point Park film students utilize crowdfunding to bring their 90s Nickelodeon-inspired short to life 

Willa Jane Shaw in “Mackenzie Pine and the Secret of the Fourth Door” (2016)

Many filmmakers use crowdfunding for a variety of reasons to help them finance their films. For Point Park cinema students, there is one simple reason.

“We need the money, and we don’t get any money from the school for senior-level productions,” senior cinema production major James Van said.

Van along with fellow senior cinema production majors Benjamin Jackson and Bischer Barmada launched a Kickstarter campaign in October for their senior thesis film “The Mackenzie Pine Chronicles,” which is a 12 minute short about a teenage girl detective. And it is $29 away from attaining its $2,500 donation goal.

“Money is a big deal for us,” the movie’s producer Barmada said. We’re small-time guys, and we will borrow what we can. But at the end of the day, we still need gas in our tanks and food for our guys.”

The short film, directed and co-written by Van, follows teenage detective Mackenzie Pine, played by actress Willa Jane Shaw, as she uncovers a conspiracy in her town with the help of her friend Colin Quinnis, played by actor Chris Cook, and her older sister Allison Pine, who isplayed by actress Lauren Albring.

“[Van and Jackson] have a very strong idea of how the film is going to look,” Barmada said. “And it’s written in a such a way that their look, their characters and their creative world all combine into this fun mystery.”

Chris Cook, Willa Jane Shaw and Lauren Albring in “Mackenzie Pine and the Secret of the Fourth Door” (2016)

Van and Jackson — who have been working on film projects together since their freshman year at Point Park — first brought the Mackenzie Pine character to life during the spring 2016 semester in a two minute video entitled “Mackenzie Pine and the Secret of the Fourth Door.” Van describes the short video as “an exercise of imitating an old Nickelodeon show.”

This summer, Van and Jackson decided they would expand upon universe they built in their rudimentary video to create a 12-minute short film for their Production IV class.  

While working on the script for “The Mackenzie Pine Chronicles,” Van had trouble progressing the plot, so he would send his work to Jackson for suggestions. 

Jackson, who is the film’s co-writer and cinematographer, would respond with ways to tighten up the script, so the story was free of unnecessary detail.

“I found ways to cut to the chase quicker,” Jackson said.

Van’s strength is in writing characters, and he knows the characters of “The Mackenzie Pine” universe well, but he required help with structuring the story, which is Jackson’s strong suit.

“During the writing process, I had these [characters], and I couldn’t figure out what I wanted them to do,” Van said. “And Ben was really good at coming up with stuff for them to do.”

Now, after going through a multitude of drafts for their short film, it is difficult for Van and Jackson to recall who came up with many of the ideas for the script.

However, Van remembered when they were working on the penultimate draft of the script, and he had trouble conjuring up new ideas. 

“I hit a complete lull,” Van said.

Luckily, Jackson came through. He sent Van a text message containing a full outline for the new draft, which helped tie up many of the plot’s loose ends.

“I was like, ‘This is great!'” Van said.

Ecstatic about Jackson’s breakthrough, Van wrote a full new draft following that outline.

Van and Jackson hope “The Mackenzie Pine Chronicles” pays homage to 90s Nickelodeon TV shows. They are studying how those programs were shot. They believe those TV shows possess a unique aesthetic that is not give a sufficient amount of praise.

“I think a lot of people look at those shows and think, ‘Oh, they’re just trashy, throwaway TV,'” Van said. “But the fact is professionals made them, and they had certain aesthetic goals. And it is a well to draw from, creatively.”

While the short film may evoke nostalgic feelings from viewers, Van and Jackson ensure they are not simply cloning a 90s Nickelodeon show — they want to deliver a fresh short with a familiar style. 

“We are coming at it from a slightly personalized perspective,” Jackson said. “We’re not trying to copy Nickelodeon, but a lot of our film is inspired by those sorts of shows.” 

In “The Mackenzie Pine Chronicles,” the titular character is faced with an arduous challenge, as she attempts to uncover more about her town’s sinister secret. Throughout her adventure, Mackenzie accomplishes amazing, superhero-esque feats, yet she still somewhat doubts herself. Van believes that makes her a compelling character.

“In a way, she’s aspirational. She’s the super smart, super capable, super courageous teenage hero that we’ve all read about and wanted to be,” Van said. “But at the same time, she’s not perfect.” 

When Van first thought about the Mackenzie Pine character, he pictured her as a girl. He created the character without consciously considering the gender. 

Now, he realizes that the gender of the character is significant, as there is a dearth of teenage female detective characters in fiction.

“The gender of the character has become important to me,” Van said. “I like that it is this sort of new kind of character that we can bring to some amount of people. There aren’t enough cool girl detectives.”

Van, Jackson and Barmada are surprised by the amount of money their film has raised, and they are also grateful for it.

“It’s very scary to go into a film without a budget, but that concern is just about over,” Jackson said. 

The largest donation that the short has received is $200. However, Jackson emphasized that the most shocking donation they have received was $76 from a sophomore student at Point Park. 

“I didn’t expect anybody from college to give more than $5,” Jackson said. “Seeing some people really go far with it is super encouraging, because it means they believe in our project too.”

The Kickstarter campaign has also shown Van, Jackson and Barmada that there is an audience who craves their work.

“At the very least, it’s really nice to know there is a minimum of 35 people in the world who want to watch this movie,” Van said. 

With production for “The Mackenzie Pine Chronicles” slated to commence next weekend, Van, Jackson and Barmada are eager to see how this project pans out.

“I’m really excited to see how this creative group of goons we put together is going to work,” Barmada said.

Director’s first feature film to debut at Austin Film Festival, provides learning experiences

“Quaker Oaths” (2016)

Filmgoers are attracted to odd and unique, which is why the feature film “Quaker Oaths” was successful on Kickstarter and landed a spot in the Austin Film Festival.

The film, which is directed and written by Louisiana Kreutz, focuses on a young Quaker couple going through divorce.

“There has never been a case when I told somebody about the premise, they didn’t say, ‘Wow, that’s a great idea,'” said David Hess, the film’s casting director and associate producer. “Everybody loves the idea.”

“Quaker Oaths,” which was partially funded through Kickstarter, premieres at the Austin Film Festival on Oct. 15.

The movie raised $9,000 of its $10,000 goal in just its third day on Kickstarter. Once its 30-day campaign wrapped up, the film amassed $13,509 in donations from 253 backers.

In fact, $5,000 of the donation money came from a man in Los Angeles, who had no personal connection to anybody involved with the film whatsoever.

“I can’t find any connection to him on Facebook,” said Kreutz. “He must have just really liked the project. So that’s kind of the wildest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

While the opening credits of “Quaker Oaths” roll, its main characters Joe (Alex Dobrenko) and Emily (Fede Rangel) are getting married. Soon thereafter, the film flashes forward six years into the future. Emily and Joe’s marriage is coming to a close, and they seek divorce.

However, Emily and Joe are Quakers. And when Quakers get married, every person who attends the wedding signs their name on the marriage certificate. In order for them to be officially divorced, they need every one of their wedding attendees to cross off their name.

“It’s a very unique tradition,” said Hess.

But the people who attended Joe and Emily’s wedding won’t let them divorce without throughly discussing their relationship’s problems.

“The Quaker community around Joe and Emily steps up and interrogates them throughout the entire movie about why they they’re splitting up,” said Kreutz. “They won’t let them split up for no reason.”

About six years ago, Louisiana Kreutz conjured up the premise for the movie. And when she discussed the topic around other people, it would elicit positive reactions.

Three years later, with the idea continuing to be bandied about, Kreutz realized she should pursue it as a feature film.

“I thought, ‘Man this idea hasn’t gone away, and it really makes everyone laugh whenever we talk about it,'” said Kreutz. “‘So maybe I should just go for it.'”

“Quaker Oaths” is Kreutz’s inaugural feature film as a director. She has directed four short films and a documentary. Therefore, it took her a while to adjust to the process of creating a feature-length film.

“I felt so out of my element at the beginning of it,” Kreutz said regarding working on “Quaker Oaths.”

Kreutz was used to smaller crews and working on the fly in documentary filmmaking, but she learned quickly that there is a lot more preparation in feature films. In feature filmmaking, every shot must be planned prior to filming.

“I kept having moments while working on this film where I assumed I could figure out [an issue] when it came up,” said Kreutz, and I realized if you have a crew of 15 people plus actors, that’s a really bad idea.”

One of the film’s characters Mikey (Pete Dahlberg), who is Emily’s new love interest, is a unicycle football player. Thus, Kreutz and her crew went to San Marcos, Texas — where the actual Unicycle Football League is based, and they performed those shots documentary-style.

Kreutz and her crew showed up during a regularly scheduled game, and after it was over, she filmed a scene in which Mikey scores a touchdown.

Before the cameras started rolling, Kreutz had one of her crew members implore the crowd at the game to cheer as if they were watching a real game.

Even though they had not informed the crowd of the character’s name, a woman on roller skates passed by as they were filming and yelled, “Go Mikey!”

“I was so moved to think somehow the word had gotten out about what the character’s name is and that she (lady on roller skates) was getting into part and doing her part by yelling,” said Kreutz.

Kreutz noticed her feature filmmaking naivety prior to filming a scene in which unicycle football players go into a van, which can be seen in the film’s Kickstarter video.

Kreutz had not planned to acquire a van for the scene, and one of her crew members asked where the van was before they headed to the unicycle football field.

“‘Oh, there will be one down there at the unicycle football game,'” Kreutz replied to her crew member. “‘I’m sure it will work out.'”

Luckily for her, it did work out, as there was a van. However, she realized that she should have made prior arrangements to have a van on set.

“That’s not the way you’re supposed to do things,” said Kreutz.

During the editing process, Kreutz noticed another significant difference between feature filmmaking and documentary filmmaking.

“In a documentary, you could be sitting in the editing room at the very end of the edit and realize that you need a lot more shots, and you can just go out and get those shots,” said Kreutz. “It’s not a big deal.”

With feature films, that’s not always possible. An actor may have changed their look, a certain set may not exist anymore, and doing additional shooting costs more money.

“You have to get all the shots you need when you can,” said Kreutz. “A year later [in the editing room], you can’t have an epiphany about this.”

The cast and crew had a great amount of fun putting this film together

Rangel, one of the movie’s stars, stated that working on this film was one of best experiences she’s had as an actress.

“[On set], it was very relaxed and easy going,” said Rangel. “It was really fun. It was so great hanging out with them. It was like playing honestly.”

Kreutz plans to make more feature films in the future, as she had a ball working on “Quaker Oaths.”

“It’s a sweet story,” said Kreutz. “We had a really small budget and a small community of people who came together to make this film.”

‘Queen of Earth’ possesses gorgeous imagery; Moss is stupendous

“Queen of Earth”

*NOTE: “Queen of Earth is avaible to rent or buy with behind-the-scenes extras at We Are Colony on July 4. 

The cinematography “Queen of Earth” is strategically beautiful; it begs the question: “Why don’t more movies have more pretty images?” Its lakeside setting creates a plethora of beautiful images from cinematographer Sean Price Williams. The imagery creates the quaint, isolated, peaceful feeling the main characters are supposed to be feeling, but are unable to under their current duress. It has a haunting score, which is interspersed throughout the movie perfectly. And it serves as a beautiful portrayal of depression. 

Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) reconvenes with her childhood friend, Virginia (Katherine Waterson) yearly at a lakeside vacation house. This year, the two learn how much they have grown apart, and they now seem like strangers to each other — they exchange several awkward silences. Moreover, Catherine recently broke up with her unfaithful boyfriend, and her father who suffered from depression died, which causes her to become depressed. 

Rich, who is Virginia’s next door neighbor, visits the two pals regularly. He witnesses Catherine’s outbursts of irrational anger. Subsequently, he castigates Catherine for her behavior — he calls her a “spoiled brat” a couple of times. Catherine claims people like Rich are the reason why depressed people commit suicide. 

The movie nails how ignorance negatively affects depressed people. In America, many people still treat depression lightly — Rich represents that demographic. Depression is a case-by-case basis, and this movie displays that well. The movie cannot make that more apparent. However, that strength doubles as a weakness. Catherine tells Rich a few times that he’s never “walked in her shoes,” which is painfully trite. 

Moss’s performance as Catherine is absolutely stunning. Through her facial expressions, the audience sees Catherine fall farther into the abyss of depression. The subject matter is complicated, and Moss portrays it flawlessly. It is mind boggling that Moss does not receive more high profile roles. She was a primary player in freakin’ “Mad Men”! C’mon, Hollywood! 

“Queen of Earth” is an independent film that deserves recognition. It is a gorgeous, character-driven, stupendously acted, morose experience. 

‘The Lobster’ is unapologetically weird

Few films revel in their ludicrousness as does “The Lobster.” Director and writer Yorgos Lanthimos and company meticulously crafted the film, ensuring that it persists its wacky logic.

Firstly, the film’s premise is absurd: In a dystopian world, when people become single, they must be taken to a hotel, where they have 45 days to find a new romantic partner. If they fail to do so, they are transformed into an animal of their choice, which is explained when the main character is introduced.

Colin Farrell leads as David, a man with a beer gut and a mustache. Farrell is hilarious in this role, which is extraordinary considering that he plays a drab, depressed fellow.

The way in which the film reveals the rules of its society is quite refreshing. We, the audience, learn through David and other hotel guests’ experiences. Evidently, Lanthimos enjoys to show the viewer, rather than tell the audience. The movie does not explain societal rules through dialogue; it describes them through funny, ridiculous actions. Lanthimos does not wish to waste viewers’ time with long, boring narrations or dialogue that set up the universe’s world. Of course, film is an audiovisual medium, and it is a simple detail many directors must realize. Lanthimos is an exception.

At the hotel, David becomes acquainted with two men, who are played by Ben Whishaw and John C. Reilly. Both of these guys are unsure how to sell themselves to a potential mate. They are products of the film’s society.

In the film’s universe, there are the people who obey the rules, and there are people who rebel. The obedient individuals believe in the society’s rules — they believe a life without a romantic partner is worthless. The ones who rebel — known as The Loners — rebuke romantic partnership. Both of these ideological groups possess strict rules. While the film’s protagonist David falls somewhere in the middle. It’s visible in his face when he’s viewing the hotel’s many seminars, which are corny, outlandish and full of rudimentary thinking.

However, David does force himself into a partnership. Shortly thereafter, he realizes that he’s only in the relationship because of fear. So he ditches the woman and joins The Loners. But he quickly realizes that he does not belong in that group either.

 “The Lobster” is a satire — it shows us a world that is not drastically different from our own. In our world, there is a societal pressure to find a romantic partner. In the film’s society that societal pressure exists but in a more dire manner.

While at the hotel, David meets a woman who is desperate for love. She calls him several times a time day, and she even tells him that she will kill herself soon if she does not find a mate. Due to society, this woman judges her self-worth on her marital status, which is common in our own real-life society. Throughout the movie, men and women masquerade as someone they’re not just so they can obtain a mate. One man pretends to have the same medical condition as another woman. That is another fault of society: the ridiculous belief that you must act or be a certain way to attract a partner.

“The Lobster” concludes with an interpretative ending. Seemingly, leaving the viewer wondering its stance on love. As David shows reluctance in the film’s final moments, it is clear he understands love. It is not about having similar qualities with somebody else; it is about tolerating your love’s differences. If you can’t do that, then love is impossible.

Two ambitious filmmakers are creating first two-person action movie

“In Action”

Portraying a car chase with two men in one room with strictly practical effects, and making it feel as intense as a big-budget, Hollywood action flick seems impossible. Making a riveting action film with $22,000, two dudes and one room is perceived as inconceivable in an era polluted by CGI-heavy films. Eric Silvera and Sean Kenealy are determined to prove it is possible with their movie, “In Action.”

“I know it sounds crazy,” Kenealy said regarding the film. “But it can be just as exciting as “‘Die Hard.'”

Kenealy and Silvera, who are infatuated with the action genre, claim their film, which possesses a thrifty budget, will be as exhilarating as a large studio’s action film. Moreover, they want to tell a good story — which is something that has taken a backseat to captivating special effects in many Hollywood blockbusters lately.

“As much as we love the action genre, there’s a passion that’s been lost,” said Kenealy. “It has cared so much about special effects, that it lost its storytelling appeal. We want to strip the genre to barebones.”

“In Action,” which will begin shooting this summer, follows a basic action movie plot. The two main characters are estranged pals. Kenealy’s character Sean is a stay-at-home dad, and Silvera’s character Eric is a successful businessman; both of whom are failed writers and live on separate ends of the country. They rekindle their friendship at a mutual friend’s wedding and decide to write a new screenplay together via emails, text messages and phone calls. The characters’ movie resembles 80’s and 90’s action films. When the NSA discovers their seemingly suspicious messages, they kidnap Sean and Eric, and they must fight for their lives.

Kenealy and Silvera use familiar tropes to satirize the action-comedy genre, while paying homage to the genre they respect dearly.

“I was immediately drawn to the meta aspect of it (“In Action”),” said one of the film’s producers, Eli Samuel.

Kenealy and Silvera’s love for action movies began early in their respective lives. Kenealy said he first watched “The Terminator” when he was four-years-old. One of Silvera’s earliest memories involved “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” And to this day, they still see every big action film released in theaters.

Kenealy and Silvera, who have been writing partners for three years, both have an MFA in Creative Writing from The City College of New York. Their love of action movies brought them together at school.

“When I met Sean, it was fun to have someone to B-S with about action movies,” Silvera said.

Silvera admires how Kenealy interprets action films — which is one of the reasons why he wanted to create a movie with him. Kenealy analyzes action movies in a more dexterous manner than most individuals, according to Silvera.

“When we talk about “Die Hard,” he (Kenealy) says, ‘The movie is really about a  guy who is trying to reconnect with his wife,'” said Silvera. “‘And he’s not the best person, and he’s learning to be good again and to try to communicate better.'”

A little over a year ago, after finishing another, unrelated screenplay, Kenealy and Silvera were discussing other project ideas. Then, Kenealy suggested that they do a two-person action movie. Silvera’s recalls giving Kenealy a confused reaction.

“I looked at him (Kenealy) and said, ‘Alright… well that sounds cool,'” said Silvera. “‘What are you talking about?’ He (Kenealy) said, ‘I want to make an awesome action movie on a shoestring budget.'”

After discussing the idea, Silvera started imagining how a two-person action movie can be made. In his head, he pictured the idea of car chase in one room with two people. With the usage of camera techniques, he realized that it is possible to make it feel as intense as a big-budget action move.

“I pictured the cameras dollying back-and-forth on the side where I would be and back-and-forth and rotating where Sean [Kenealy] would be,” described Silvera. “And then cut it in front. And putting it together in fast, Michael Bay style of quick edits.”

After realizing that the film is a possibility, they wrote the script in two months. However, the ambitious filmmakers understood that they had to convince others that their idea is conceivable.

“That’s the hard part,” said Kenealy. 

“In Action”

 The creators held a live reading of the “In Action” script in Silvera’s living room before several friends — many of whom work in entertainment. The audience reacted positively to their performance.

“We thought, ‘Oh, wow!'” said Silvera. “People laughed at our jokes, and they were silent when we were describing and acting out a car chase. People said, ‘We can see that car chase. We can close our eyes and feel it come together.'”

After receiving acclaim from friends, the creative collaborators were determined to bring “In Action” to life, and it made them believe they can make their movie as exciting as a big-budget, Hollywood action flick.

“In Action” reached its $22,000 goal on Kickstarter in July 2015. Throughout their month-long campaign, Kenealy and Silvera nervoulsy checked multiple times a day to see how much money their movie raised, hoping that people believe in this improbable project as much as they do. 
“With the right passion, we want to prove that anybody can do something different,” said Kenealy.  

Queer filmmaker developing documentary critical of LGBTQ pride


“Pride Denied” – Kami Chisholm

In June 2014, during the couple of weeks prior to the 2014 World Pride festivities began in Toronto, Canada, queer filmmaker Kami Chisholm, an inhabitant of Toronto, discussed her shared uncomfortableness of the assimilationist politics, corporate sponsorships and the exclusionary values that were coupled with the event amongst her friends.

“This world celebration was being undertaken, for the most part, to facilitate the travel and entertainment of white people, especially white gay men,” said Chisholm.

Some LGBTQ individuals left Toronto to avoid World Pride 2014, and others just ignored the celebration, according to Chisholm. However, she decided to face the issues she had with the event, prompting her decision to make the documentary, “Pride Denied: Homonationalism and the Future of Queer Politics.”

On July 19, 2015, the Kickstarter campaign for “Pride Denied” concluded, and it surpassed its donation goal of $3,500 Canadian dollars; it made $4,111.

The crowdfunded feature-length film delves into the ongoing oppression of LGBTQ people, it assesses how LGBTQ pride is perceived in mainstream media, and it highlights issues that are overshadowed by the marriage movement. Moreover, it looks beyond same-sex marriage to show that there is a myriad of more important LGBTQ issues. Chisholm — who has made several films about social issues and possesses a PhD in History of Consciousness and Feminist studies — directed “Pride Denied” and shot a majority of the film by herself.

“It’s (“Pride Denied”) unique in the sense that it goes to the extent to question corporations and politics,” said Danielle Waters, who is an associate producer for the documentary.

Most of the film was shot over a period of 30 days — which consisted of the lead-up to World Pride in Toronto, during the celebration and the aftermath of it. There are scenes of parades, marches and various other events that were held at or during World Pride 2014. Furthermore, there are interviews with a multitude of activists and educators.

IMG_0863 (1)

“Pride Denied”

Rounding up interviewees for her film was an easy task for Chisholm — as many of the people she approached were delighted to speak with her about LGBTQ concerns.

“I think what’s really powerful about making documentaries about issues that people really care about is that people are happy to join in with you,” said Chisholm. “And they are happy to think through and discuss the issues. That made the process go more smoothly.”

The interviews included in the film do not evoke personal anecdotes, but they conjure up impassioned discussions about events and issues prevalent in the LGBTQ community.

“I wanted to make their (interviewees’) anger and resistance visible on screen,” said Chisholm.

The negative effects and misconceptions of the marriage movement is a focal point in “Pride Denied.”

"Pride Denied"

“Pride Denied”

“It’s really hard to have access to healthcare, and the answer for the last 20 years in gay politics has been if we pass gay marriage, then those who have a job and have healthcare through their job will be able to share with their spouse, even though less and less people have jobs that have healthcare through them, says Dean Spade, who is an associate professor at Seattle University of Law, in the preview video for “Pride Denied.” “We have this horrible, racist immigration system, and the answer has been if we pass marriage, those who have immigration status will be able to marry someone who doesn’t, and they’ll be able to have it, even though most undocumented queer and trans people don’t have a partner with immigration status.”

In an interview via Skype, Chisholm referred to a well-documented incident that happened at the White House following the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. Latina transwoman Jennicet Gutierrez interrupted President Barack Obama’s celebratory press conference to mention the issues LGBTQ people are facing in the U.S. immigration dentition system. Obama admonished Gutierrez, which was followed by cheers from LGBTQ leaders.

“Not only is Obama’s reaction disgusting, but the LGBTQ leaders booed and hissed at her and clapped and cheered for Obama,” said Chisholm.

That event epitomizes the message Chisholm hopes to convey with her film.

“Mainstream LGBTQ politics excludes people of color, poor people, people who are not citizens, and doesn’t even see their concerns as relatable,” said Chisholm.

Furthermore, the event accentuates the exclusionary agendas of mainstream LGBTQ leaders, added Chisholm.

“It (incident at the White House) was a real sign that the mainstream LGBTQ establishment is focused on one thing, said Chisholm, “which is marriage, and the aspects of marriage they’re largely focusing on are property rights… about maintaining their own personal wealth.”

“Pride Denied” states that marriage equality is small progress for the LGBTQ community. The film begs the question: “What’s next?” It hopes to enlighten people on the oppression outside of the conventional concerns seen in the mainstream media.

The lack of financial resources has made the project strenuous. There were instances in which Chisholm had to choose between eating or buying necessary equipment for her film. She relied on food banks to provide her necessary nutrition for eight months whilst making the documentary. Nonetheless, Chisholm continues to stay motivated.

“Every time I get complacent or don’t think about it that much, something egregious happens, and I’m all worked up again,” Chisholm said with an optimistic chuckle.

‘Brooklyn’ states love is one’s home



“Brooklyn” is one immigrant woman’s journey to find her home — something she thought was a place. It is a movie that is unusually filled with optimism; it is an old-fashioned love story but with new facets. 

Saoirse Ronan stars as the film’s main character Eilis, a young Irish woman whose sister sends her to America, hoping it will allow her to reach her full potential. Eilis is a timid yet articulate girl. She rarely speaks her mind and is content to be obedient. Early in the film, a socially naïve Eilis responds to people in short sentences. One person even outright explains to her how to conduct a conversation, because she was frustrated with Eilis’s lack of participation in their dialogue.

In America, she works at a department store during the day and attends night classes in pursuit of an accounting degree. Moreover, she lives in a boarding house in Brooklyn with a few other young women. She excels in school; she’s the only woman who has gotten an A on an exam among her housemates. 

At an Irish dance, Eilis encounters an Italian man Tony (Emory Cohen), who charms her instantaneously. He’s a nice, simple guy. He wears his heart on his sleeve. Tony always informs Eilis of his feelings. This nice guy character is a minority in today’s cinema. Tony possesses the qualities many people look for in a partner — he is the quintessential gentleman. Tony is the romantic partner men should aspire to be. And with a gigantic heart-warming smile, Cohen performs wonderfully as Tony. He perfects the blend of cuteness, shyness, sweetness and charm that is Tony.    

Ronan and Cohen in “Brooklyn”

Eilis’s relationship with Tony elevates her as a person. She develops a knack for small talk, and she becomes more curious, which enlightens her. As her relationship strengthens, she becomes happier. Watching Eilis progress throughout the movie is fascinating, and the 21-year-old Ronan puts together a marvelous performance. Ronan’s facial expressions lighten the dialogue load in this movie. Eilis’s thoughts and emotions are easily discernible thanks to Ronan. There is a multitude of scenes in which Ronan’s facial expressions make the audience aware of how the plot progresses and how Eilis transforms — words are not needed. Ronan should be a guarantee to receive a nomination for Best Actress. 

Unfortunately, a death in the family sends Eilis back to Ireland, where she learns that life in Ireland is almost identical to life in America. She meets a guy, and she takes a part-time accounting job. Eilis is left with the choice of Ireland or America. She is unsure if she possesses a home. 

Eilis’s choice subtly tells the viewer that home is not a place. It is where the person you love resides. Yes, Eilis found career opportunities in America. However, career success does not create a home; a romantic partner does. There is a scene early in the movie where Eilis helps poor Irish Americans in a homeless shelter. At first, I felt sorry for these men, because they had yet to find opportunity in the land that breeds it. Once the film is over, I looked back on that scene with a new perspective. These men were indeed homeless, but they homeless in the film’s sense — they were without romantic partners. In this film, America is treated as a place of hope. When Eilis leaves the immigration building after her boat trip from Ireland, she is met with an abundance of sunlight, which basically states America is a place of hope and happiness — a place to call home. At the end of film, sun shines on Eilis and her romantic partner, as “Brooklyn” proclaims this as home. Love makes you feel at home. Love makes the adversities of life slip away. Love brings happiness. Geographic location and career success alone will not lead one to true happiness. 

“Brooklyn” is a new classic romance. It opines that career success, material goods and geographic location do not make a home — one’s most cherished person does. This film is an attempt to preserve love, and it works. It tells us why we, humans, still attempt this love thing. 

Rating: 8.5/10 

‘Happy Valley’ crafted one of the most empowering women characters in TV history

TV Lancashire 130700

“Happy Valley,” a BBC mini-series framed as a Netflix original in North America, never tries to be subtle, but that is not an issue — it makes the show amazingly effective, especially with its main character. The show never backs down. When it wants to make a point, it ensures that it is done in an overt manner — much like its 50-something, cognizant, discommodious, unwavering protagonist.

In the first scene of “Happy Valley,” the viewer is immediately tossed into protagonist Catherine Cawood’s hectic world: Catherine — police sergeant of a rural Yorkshire valley — tells a man who is threatening to kill himself how badly her life stinks — this is the show’s forthright way in which it introduces the character. Sarah Lancashire, who plays Catherine, already shines in the opening scene. Whilst rattling off her life’s miseries, you can see the pain in her facial expressions.


Catherine confronts suicidal man at children’s playground in episode one. (Netflix)

Yes, Catherine’s life has been crappy: her daughter committed suicide after being raped and birthing a son. And Catherine now takes care of that son with the help of her sister. Moreover, Catherine’s son refuses to speak to her.

Her life may not be ideal, but Catherine rarely gripes. She is a selfless person — unlike the many persons with whom she surrounds herself. Catherine loves to help people — you could call it her hobby. It helps her grief with the loss of her daughter. Catherine is extremely intelligent, with a keen sense of awareness; she has the ability to pick up small details at a crime scene. Catherine is brave; she is never reluctant to face danger without help from other cops, and she is not afraid to apprehend politicians in her town. Catherine faces issues head-on fearlessly; she refuses to ignore issues. There is a poster with the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.” printed on it that is hung in Catherine’s police office. She is the antithesis of that attitude — one that some of her male counterparts tend to follow. Catherine Cawood would likely even inspire pessimistic Rust Cohle from “True Detective.”

Furthermore, another intriguing facet of the character is how she compares and contrasts with the show’s main antagonist Tommy Lee Royce — the man who raped Catherine’s daughter and father of Catherine’ son. Tommy is adept like Catherine. Contrary to the other villainous individuals in this show, Tommy has a great analytical mind. However, he utilizes his intelligence only to help himself; he is selfish, which differs from the selfless Catherine. It’s fascinating to these characters battle mentally and physically — it’s like Batman versus the Joker.


Catherine comes face-to-face with Tommy in episode four. (Netflix)

Sally Wainwright, the lone writer and creator of this mini-series, crafted a beautifully empowering woman character — one that I have never seen on American television.

Lancashire, as the sturdy sergeant, put together one of the best performances as a lead actress in TV history. She splendidly displayed the dynamical nature of the character extremely well. From start to finish, Lancashire was perfect. The amount of emotion put into this character is astonishingly astronomical.

“Happy Valley” is a British import, and it was picked up by Netflix, so it could be shown in North America. It has been on the streaming service since late August 2014. There are six episodes in total of the mini-series, and it is a fantastic series for binge-watching. Americans, if you want to see a truly compelling woman lead TV character, start watching this fascinating mini-series now.

Listen: Two filmmakers desire to get Bill Wilson documentary on PBS

"Bill W."

“Bill W.” (2012)

Bill W.” recounts the story of Bill Wilson and the organization he founded, Alcoholic’s Anonymous (AA). The documentary originally released to select theaters in 2012. Now, director Kevin Hanlon and producer Dan Carracino are running a Kickstarter campaign, so they can air their documentary to a larger audience on PBS.

The filmmakers told me why their film deserves to be funded, and why more people should know Wilson’s story.