Posted by Larry Gleeson
Filmocracy, LA’s hybrid boutique festival, returns for its third edition with in-person screenings 14-17. July at Lumiere cinema at the Music Hall in Beverly Hills, with the full lineup of twenty-six films available online to stream nationwide via Filmocracy digital platform.
Filmocracy Fest got its start during the pandemic, when former AFI Fest programmer and Slamdance co-founder Jon Fitzgerald worked with Filmocracy, then a 3-D digital film festival engine and a new streamer. “I had done some work with Filmocracy, supporting their various departments, including their virtual festival initiative,” Fitzgerald recalls. “Paul Jun, Filmocracy CEO and I talked about creating our own festival, as a showcase for the innovative programs the team continued to develop.”
After Filmocracy Fest II last December, Fest co-founder Fitzgerald and his partners chose to move the film exhibition portion of the festival into the summer. The festival incorporates an Impact Expo, networking and the second iteration of its Digital Film Market, where filmmakers vie to get their projects in front of 45 acquisitions executives from Disney+, Myriad Pictures and XYZ Films, among others. They will hold their Film Festival Summit in December, which will incorporate a new Film Festival Awards program.
The festival screens eight narrative and documentary titles in person. There will also be two personal short programs with five films each. However, Filmocracy is committed to the hybrid model. Fitzgerald believes, “Filmmakers always want to see their film on the big screen, engage with audiences and participate in Q&As, but they can’t always make it to every festival. We’ve seen ticket sales double by giving audiences who don’t can come to Sundance or Los Angeles, for example, the opportunity to see and appreciate these emerging talents in their home theaters.” He predicts that “hybrid will be the way to go for most parties, with a few exceptions for traditionalists. It will be up to filmmakers to know their goals, understand what each party can do for them, and carve out the path that works for them and their project.”
Filmocracy Fest continues to focus on socially relevant storytellers, which includes most of the films selected for the 2022 slate. “One of our four key pillars is discovery,” says Fitzgerald. “We really like to support emerging artists, especially those with a visual flair. The narrative filmmakers take every chance, and we have a range of social impact stories – shorts and features, narratives and documentaries – covering topics from police brutality to diabetes diagnosis, all with subjects that celebrate the human spirit.” As with the 2021 edition, these films will be connected to related causes via the Impact Expo, allowing in-person and virtual audiences to learn more about the issues and take action.
“Last year’s MY DEAD DAD, which sold to HBOmax on the heels of its sold-out Filmocracy Fest premiere, is a great example of what can happen when filmmakers are met with support to get their stories to audiences,” concludes Liquid Media Group chairman Josh Jackson, who delivered closing remarks to kick off the awards program during the December festival. “Liquid is proud to stand with Filmocracy Fest in support of solving the current and future needs of filmmakers.”
Choice of feature narrative includes:
THE ALCHEMY OF THE SPIRIT directed by Steve Balderson. Midway through his festival run, veteran director Steve Balderson (FIRECRACKER, BECOMING ED) deftly and beautifully blurs the lines between character study, magical realism and horror. In the film, the famous artist Oliver Black (Xander Berkeley: The Walking DeadTERMINATOR 2, AIR FORCE ONE) wakes up to discover his wife Evelyn (Sarah Clarke: 24, TWILIGHT) has died in their bed overnight. Disoriented and grief-stricken, Oliver tells no one and tries to preserve his body. Meanwhile, Oliver’s agent (Mink Stole: SERIAL MOM, HAIRSPRAY) calls with a big commission – a new sculpture for a leading museum. Oliver passionately and poetically creates the sculpture as a copy of Evelyn’s face – a death mask. As he works, Evelyn’s senses awaken one by one until she seems fully present. But is it really her? Or is Oliver hallucinating? Balderson also world premiered tantric sex card from YouTuber Davey Wavey at Outfest right after Filmocracy.
BUCK ALAMO directed by Ben Epstein. Emptying his existential chamber like a Texas folk song, this Austin and Calgary Film Festival veteran is a dreamlike portrait of a modern musical outlaw as he duels with Death. The film stars Sonny Carl Davis, Lorelei Linklater, Chase Joliet, Kriston Woodreaux, Lee Eddy, CK McFarland, James Epstein, George Ensle and Bruce Dern.
DEATH OF A LADY’S HUSBAND directed by Matthew Bissonnette. Starring Gabriel Byrne (THE USUAL SUSPECTS, THE MILLER’S TRANSITION, HEREDITARY), this film follows the life of a carousing college professor as it takes a series of unimaginable turns. All the old stories get a new twist when he starts having surreal hallucinations and discovers that he may not be long for this world.
1-800-HOT-NITE directed by Nick Richey. This second feature from award-winning writer/director Nick Richey (LOW, LOW) features Dallas Young (Cobra KaiTHE ROYALMixed-ish), Gerrison Machado (The power), Mylen Bradford (Abbott Elementary), and Ali Richey (LOW, LOW). From the moment the police break down Tommy’s (young) door and arrest his father, his world is turned upside down. Faced with an orphaned future, Tommy escapes the custody of Child Protective Services with his best friends Steve (Bradford) and O’Neill (Machado) into the streets of LA – filled with men trying to rob them, cops chasing them, a python, a fist fight, a first kiss and phone sex. Through it all, Tommy keeps calling an 800 number, feeling that the woman on the line (Ali Richey) is the only adult he can confide in. By the end of the night, the boys’ brotherhood crumbles as they cross the threshold into adulthood. Quiver Distribution snapped up the film after playing at Dances with Films last month, and will be released on November 8.
Documentary selections include:
THE HUMAN TRIAL directed by Lisa Hepner. In 2011, Lisa Hepner and her husband Guy Mossman heard about a radical stem cell treatment for diabetes, a disease that shockingly kills more than five million people each year. Driven by a desire to cure Lisa of her own type 1 diabetes (T1D), the filmmakers gained unprecedented real-time access to a clinical trial – only the sixth embryonic stem cell trial ever conducted in the world. What follows is an intimate journey with the patients and scientists who put themselves on the line to be first.
KAEPERNICK & AMERICA directed by Tommy Walker and Ross Hockrow. Ever since he began opposing police brutality, civil rights activist and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s actions have resonated around the world, as shown in this documentary. The Hollywood Reporter reviewed the film from Tribeca, saying “If we step back, we can see the faint outlines of another, more urgent, narrative thread in Kaepernick and America—one that encourages an all-too-rare kind of integrity and commitment to creating a more just world.”
ART & ART CRIME BY CRIME directed by Alysa Nahmias. While locked up for six years in federal prison, artist Jesse Krimes secretly creates monumental works of art—including an astonishing 30-foot mural made with prison bedding, hair gel, and newspaper. He smuggles out each panel piece by piece with the help of other artists, and only sees the mural in its entirety when he gets home. As Jesse’s work captures the attention of the art world, he struggles to adjust to life outside and lives with the threat that any misstep will trigger a life sentence.
ONE PINT AT A TIME directed by Aaron Hose. Craft beer generates tens of billions of dollars annually for the American economy. Despite beer’s Egyptian and African heritage, these traditions have been mostly forgotten and are rarely found in American brewing culture. Today, black-owned breweries make up less than 1% of the nearly 9,000 breweries operating in the United States. Eager to change the historical perception of who makes and drinks beer, black brewers, brand owners and influencers across the country are reshaping the craft beer industry and the future of America’s favorite adult beverage. Thrillist said ONE PINT AT A TIME was “…a priceless and visually arresting spotlight on the plight of black Americans realizing their dreams of owning a brewery.”
Fitzgerald is wistful as he looks back on the history and forward to the future of Filmocracy. “It’s been bittersweet as the creativity of the Filmocracy team continues to develop exciting new elements to integrate into the virtual play, anchored by the virtual map “Filmocracyland,” the 3-D map of festivals that Filmocracy builds for online festival goers to navigate.” Yet one of the key components of a successful film festival is creating personalized experiences for audiences, filmmakers and industry professionals. Of course, this was not possible during Covid. We went from virtual to hybrid, and 2022 will be more of a boutique hybrid that we look forward to sharing with Los Angeles and the world.”