Short Film: THE BLESSING AND THE CURSE, 5min., Music Documentary

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The Blessing and the Curse is the surprising and inspiring story of folk, Americana, and rockabilly musician Lance Canales, who rose from humble California Central Valley farmworker beginnings to prominence in the international music scene.

Starting from his modest upbringing in the small campesino town of Orosi, California, we follow Canales on his journey from childhood to adulthood to his ongoing drive to bring working-class folk music to the masses.

Canales garnered a reputation as a child of being able to train wild horses, and for years took lumps to help his family make ends-meet. It wasn’t until he confiscated an older sister’s beat-up guitar and combined it with his vocals that he discovered (in his mother’s fire-and-brimstone church) that he was able to pursue music as a way to slowly carve out a path from his hard-toil life.

Following Canales into adulthood, we learn about his deep-seated desire to bring working-class spiritual folk music to the masses. Through sweat and determination, Canales records over five albums and tours throughout the world to enthusiastic audiences. He recently completed a two-month European tour, where his album hit number five on the European charts in the Americana category.

Additionally, Canales collaborated with Nora Guthrie, the Guthrie Foundation, and his childhood friend, American Book Award-winning Valley author Tim Z. Hernandez, on a concert to raise $10,000 for a memorial headstone for the 28 deportees project. Canales initiated the idea and fundraising effort to place a memorial headstone with the names of the 28 deportees and plane crash victims who were discovered buried nameless in a mass grave in Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, California. Canales’ idea was to record and read the names of the deportees in the background of Canales’ cover of the famous Woody Guthrie song about the incident.

In September 2013, in a historic moment, the headstone was unveiled and hundreds of people attended from all over the country, including coverage by The New York Times. A Los Angeles Times reporter captured a shot of Canales kneeling down to the unveiled monument in a moment of clear emotional triumph next to the grandson of one of the plane crash victims. Hernandez’ corresponding book, All They Will Call You, was recently released in January 2017 and is a genre-bending work labeled a “documentary novel” based on the Woody Guthrie song, Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee).

Today, Canales is with Americana folk label Music Road Records, which put out his album, The Blessing and the Curse.

Canales recently ended a two-month European tour in tandem with his internationally and critically acclaimed album. Yet, with all that, Canales stays local and rooted in the Central Valley. He plans to “make it” while keeping his home-base in the heart of California. The question is, can a local artist truly thrive internationally while staying based in the Valley? Is it imperative for a musician or artist to move to LA, NYC or Nashville to make a career? Or can that be achieved while living in the Valley, and if so, what are the challenges and benefits of doing so?

But in addition to his personal journey, we are now seeking funding for a feature-length documentary to simultaneously tell the unusual story of Americana’s enormous and surprising popularity abroad, a particularly noteworthy oddity in today’s political climate. It’s a cultural subject we haven’t yet seen fully explored.

In general, the entire documentary would be told through interviews, live events, and theatrical recreations. Animations and other motion graphics elements would be incorporated into the video. The visual feel will be that of a retro vibe.

Project Links

Director Biography – Mitch Bax (DANCE WITH A DEMON)

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Mitch Bax is a sought after camera technician with intentions to carry his success into writing and directing.
He’s directed and produced several MuchFACT sponsored music videos, an award winning short film, and the stylized Docu-Mini Series The Art of Expression. His latest story, Sidekick, was recently turned into a successful viral short film staring Josh Dallas.

Outside of his passion for directing, he works as a Digital Imaging Technician for many high profile movies shot in Vancouver. From Deadpool and Star Trek, to Power Rangers and Robocop, he’s work along side many talented and passionate artists. Having helped these people bring their stories to life, with his penchant for technology he’s now focusing his attention on crafting his own stories by bringing together the talented crews of people he’s met over the years.

Director Statement

Making this film was a very personal undertaking of exploration on a topic that affects many people.

I was drawn to it after a tragedy in my family, and it was only then I realized that the public conversation up to this point around mental health, had been muted.

As I delved deeper into this topic I realized that depression was often the cause of a tragic event. Tragedies come in many forms, so I explored the perspective of different people in my life who had been affected, and then subsequently what other relationships around me had been affected.

I realized the story I wanted to tell was about a family, a Mother struggling to cope and a daughter struggling to understand. Both perspectives are being affected by this single monster, and ultimately both perspectives are part of the solution.

We don’t talk about depression enough, and that’s what gives it power; the goal of this project is to spread awareness of a deeply disturbing and often taboo topic.

Short Film: DANCE WITH A DEMON, 13min., Canada, Dance

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A Demon stalks its prey within the mind of a child, and the consequences of imagination start to seem like reality.
Lost inside a fantasy world of dance, a lost Mother must fight for her survival, or become another victim of the demonic clutches of depression.

Project Links

Director Biography – Lauren Wolkstein (TAKAKO VS NINE LIVES)

Lauren Wolkstein is a NYC-based filmmaker originally from Baltimore, Maryland. In 2017, her debut feature THE STRANGE ONES, starring James Freedson-Jackson and Alex Pettyfer, premiered at SXSW to critical acclaim. She co-directed the film with Christopher Radcliff, based on their Sundance short of the same name. Lauren’s previous shorts, including SOCIAL BUTTERFLY (Sundance ’13) and CIGARETTE CANDY (SXSW ’10 Grand Jury Prize), have played festivals around the world. She most recently directed an episode of QUEEN SUGAR for the show’s third season. In 2013, Filmmaker Magazine listed her as one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” Wolkstein is a 2017-2018 Women at Sundance Fellow through the Sundance Institute, and she is a MacDowell Colony Fellow for Summer 2018. Lauren received her MFA in film directing from Columbia University and is an assistant professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple University.

Short Film: TAKAKO VS NINE LIVES, 9min., USA, Dance

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Takako Vs. Nine Lives is screen dance that uses a hybrid dance language and multiple camera perspectives to create parodic feminist interpretation of a three act balletic pas de deux/ three round wrestling match. The choreography, performed to an original score, draws upon vocabulary and aesthetic imagery from professional wrestling, classical ballet, comic books and Japanese manga. The action follows a mythological narrative, with characters behaving according to codes employed in Greek mythology, fairy tales and commedia dell’ arte. A battle unfolds, reflecting the interconnectedness of love and violence, beauty and monstrosity, strength and vulnerability.

Project Links

Short Film: MONK, 15min., Shanghai, Dance

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A son is brought to a monastery by his parents and left there. He struggles to become a monk and on his journey inward finds protection and solace in three female immortals. This dance for camera is depicted through five sections: root, heart, will, mind and body.

  • Project Title (Original Language):
    尚.和 :孝 忠 德 贤 礼
  • Film Type:
    Experimental, Short, Other
  • Genres:
    Narrative Fiction, Dance for Camera
  • Runtime:
    15 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 1, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    6,800 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    China
  • Country of Filming:
    China
  • Film Language:
    Chinese
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital

HIGHLIGHTS & VIDEOS: Experimental & Music & Dance Festival – October 24, 2019

AUDIENCE AWARD WINNERS:
BEST FILM: SUCKR FOR LOVE
BEST DANCE FILM: BRUTE
BEST PERFORMANCES: LEADING ME STRAIGHT performers
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: ANIMAL
BEST MUSIC: THE FIRE WITHIN

Theme of night: Trapped and searching for something else.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Videos:

festival posterEldur Á Himni – Fire in the Sky, 7min., Iceland, Experimental

festival posterSUCKR FOR LOVE, 4min., Germany, Music Video

festival posterECLOSION, 5min., Canada, Experimental

festival posterTHE FIRE WITHIN, 5min., USA, Music Video

festival posterPLASTICPOEMS, 2min., Canada, Experimental/Animation

festival posterLEADING ME STRAIGHT, 8min., USA, Music Video

festival poster14, 3min., Japan, Dance/Music

festival posterTHE SHE-WOLF, 10min., France, Dance

festival posterBRUTE, 4min., Australia, Dance

festival posterINCLINATIONS, 5min., Canada, Dance

festival posterKADDUME, 3min., Columbia, Dance

festival posterANIMAL, 7min., France, Dance

The 20th event in Toronto in 2019.
13 more festival events in 2019.

See you at the festivals.

– Matthew Toffolo