Monday, March 28, 2011

My 2011 Palm Beach International Film Festival Favorite

On March 24 and 25 I attended screenings of a feature documentary and a feature film at the 16th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival in Palm Beach County, Florida, March 24-31. I enjoy film festivals as they showcase independent films, and the filmmakers who really have a passion for the craft.  Being someone who appreciates how challenging it can be to maintain a career in the arts, I like to support those who continue to carry the torch.
Michael King

 The Rescuers  
 If the issue of genocide ever crossed your mind, you need to see the documentary, “The Rescuers” (90 minutes) directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Michael King. King's PBS documentary "Bangin," regarding youth violence in America, won the Emmy and International Television and Video Association Award for Best Documentary and Best Editing in 1999.
Previous to watching "The Rescuers," in regards to the Holocaust, I had only been educated on the atrocity of the genocide. The film helped confirm my belief that in the presence of evil there is always good to counteract it. Viewers learn, through the knowledge of Sir Martin Gilbert, a renowned 20th century and Holocaust historian who lost relatives during Holocaust, of 13 diplomats who saved tens of thousands of Jews during World War II. The diplomats were Polish, German, American and Japanese to name a few. But, the film doesn’t stop there. In order to get the audience to understand modern-day genocide, it includes the perspective of Stephanie Nyombayire, a young Rwandan anti-genocide activist who lost 100 members of her family in the Rwandan Genocide of the 1990s. Sir Martin Gilbert and Nyombayire travel across three continents and 15 countries where they interview survivors and descendants of the diplomats.

To describe the film in one word, three syllables: Pow-er-ful.
During the Q&A session after the film, producer Joyce D. Mandell asked how many people in the audience knew of the story of the diplomats prior to the screening. Only about 2 percent of the audience, in a packed theater, raised their hands. We also heard testimonials from two audience members who said if it were not for the courageous acts of the diplomats, their family would not have survived, they wouldn’t be here today. Mandell and King also shared the film was screened at the 2011 NAACP Image Awards, and the audience was really receptive. It also won Best of the Fest at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
After the Q&A, I had the opportunity to meet King and express to him how I appreciated the film connecting the dots: Genocide is genocide whether it is in Darfur in 2011 or in eastern Europe 1944. The practice is horrific. Modern-day diplomats need to take a cue from those courageous 13.
For more information, and to see the trailer, visit:

Fully Loaded
I met director Shira Piven at the screening of “The Rescuers” when we both spoke with Michael King after the screening. She was really friendly, and had a great perspective on the film.
From our interaction, I definitely wanted to check out the world premiere of her film showing the following day, March 25, “Fully Loaded” (80 minutes). 
The film, a dark-comedy set in Los Angeles, is about two single mothers (Paula Killen and Lisa Orkin) who go out for a night on the town. The majority of the film takes place in the vehicle coming home, where they talk about the night at the bar, especially a chance encounter with a stranger (Dweezil Zappa), thoughts on relationships and personal issues, including surving breast cancer and how to break up with a guy. The two even manage to engage in a car chase during their talks. The screenplay is based on a two-person play staring Killen and Orkin, and directed by Piven. Piven, also an actress, comes from a theatrical background. She is on the Advisory Board of the Piven Theatre Workshop.
I thought the acting in the film was great. The chemistry between the two, and the quirky dialog, made me feel like I was on a three-person phone call, except I just listened, chuckling, while thinking to myself “No she just didn’t say that!” I enjoyed getting a feel for the late night/ early morning L.A. scene while the two chatted during the drive. I also liked the ‘70s influence throughout the film.
An interesting tidbit for HBO’s “Entourage” fans is co-producer of “Fully Loaded” is Piven’s brother, Jeremy Piven, “Ari Gold” on the series. If you’re in the area, “Fully Loaded” will be playing again at Muvico Parisian 20 at CityPlace in West Palm Beach at 2:15 p.m. today, March 28.
Visit the film's website at:

For more info on the Palm Beach International Film Festival, visit:

UPDATE:  The winners of the Palm Beach International Film Festival have been announced. “The Rescuers,” Michael King, was awarded Best Documentary Feature. And, “Fully Loaded,” Shira Piven, was awarded Audience Favorite Award for Best Feature

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