Art & Culture

Published on June 8th, 2019 | by Tyson Thompson

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Retrospective: 2019 Las Vegas Film Festival

Independent cinema was alive and well in downtown Vegas under the city’s brightest lights. The Las Vegas Film Festival delivered in its 12th year another lively experience for those seeking a break from the monotony of typical films. The selections of films encompassing the week long fest were as unique as they were culturally diversified. There was lots of creative energy in the air as filmmakers and crew interacted with attendees to share a mutual passion for film in between screenings. The festival volunteers were accommodating and in good spirits to discuss a variety of film topics with guests. Equipped with a full bar and lounge area for the artists, the Inspire Theater served as a perfect venue for the film festivities. This eclectic Festival in Las Vegas has become known for hosting films that share an unconventional perspective, and this year didn’t disappoint.

Notable Films

Las Sandinistas! Director: Jenny Murray

A gritty documentary that comes straight from the source and shows us the struggle of those willing to fight for freedom under a Tyrannical government. Through candid archival footage we get a firsthand look at the Female Nicaraguan Revolution that took rise in the early 1970’s and 80’s. These women known as Sandinistas, played a pivotal role in the warfare and tactical force that opposed the corrupted system imposing fear into the impoverished lower class. Although the bravery of these trained assassins is definitely worth admiring, some of the accounts of the brutality are equally as gut wrenching.

Dona Maria Tellez, one of the central leaders and activists engaging in the war against former Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, is the voice of many women silenced by this very government. Director Jenny Murray is careful not to embellish any of the stories of these female soldiers who often operated in secrecy, but to leave the facts clearly on the table. The brunt of the emotional impact comes from the sacrifice and disillusionment these women faced that forced them to pick up a gun and pull a trigger. All this done with the hopes of a better life and future for their families. Still none of the women we see leading their squads into battle against the dictatorship regime become bigger than the movement itself. “We had this idea that we were thousands, and then we realized we were just hundreds of kids fighting,” said one soldier. This isn’t a glorious ride with a storybook ending, but one that is extremely relevant today more than ever.

Death To False Hipsters – Director: Kathrina Bognot

There was some anticipation and hype behind this local feature project that was nearly five years in the making, and shot against the backdrop of downtown Vegas. Director Kathrina Bognot won the Johnny Brenden Filmmaker grant as a UNLV student, and used the funds to create this clever offbeat comedy about the misadventures of two best friends named Alan and Phil, played amazingly by Kevin Smith and Andrew Jacobsen. They aren’t too happy about a new breed of hipsters on the scene wreaking havoc in their town. Even a true hipster would tip their cap to the accuracy depicted with the wardrobe and mannerisms of these so called “false hipsters.” The talented Ashley Campbell plays Cherise, the modest but gullible damsel caught in the middle of this emotional mess. The colors in the film are loud and vibrant and there is an underlying message on human nature that may get lost among all the crude jokes and millennial slang. Through the missteps of these misguided characters there is even a small touch of heartfelt emotion that comes in the form of romance. Now putting all seriousness aside, brace yourself for a wacky ending.

Alternative Therapy – Director: Roberto Raad

A short film that shows some intensity and intrigue before we are blindsided with a barrage of in your face humor. This not so subtle comedy directed by Roberto Raad who is also in the lead role, received the most festival laughs by far. Alternative Therapy is relatively simple in its approach and sustains its balance with genuine and spontaneous character interaction. The Las Vegas based Raad is in his element as the oddly eccentric therapist faced with helping his hapless patients deal with everyday life issues. His somewhat cynical character eventually breaks character and his true colors are openly exposed to the bewilderment and indulgence of his patients. The personality dynamics at play in each session are definitely fun to watch develop. Versatile actress Mabel Maultsby has the most awkward encounter with Raad’s character leading to a memorable substance induced frenzy. Supporting actor Cody LeBeoeuf and the rest of the cast also pull their acting weight with a dialogue driven script centered around one setting. Some interesting camera work and use of lighting from cinematographer Joel Martinez helped to make the film visually appealing.  It is a potent mix of boisterous and witty, paired together with great on screen chemistry that makes Alternative Therapy a beautiful spectacle to watch.

 


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