Tag Archives: Thao’s Library

The Third Annual Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival

I am excited to announce that, after the success of the last two Oakton Pop-Up Film Festivals in 2014 and 2015, I have programmed and will be hosting P.U.F.F. again. The screenings of this year’s four acclaimed independent American films, spanning various genres and styles, will all take place at Oakton Community College’s Footlik Theater (room 1344) in Des Plaines, Illinois, from Tuesday, November 1 through Friday, November 4. The first three screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, moderated by various Oakton Humanities professors, including yours truly. The screenings are all FREE and open to the public. Any of my students who attend a screening will receive extra credit points towards his or her final grade (see the extra credit page of your course website for more information). Don’t you dare miss it!

The full schedule:

Thao’s Library (Elizabeth Van Meter, 2015, 88 minutes)
Tuesday, November 1 at 2:00pm


Winner of the Audience hoice Award at Geena Davis’ inaugural Bentonville Film Festival, this extraordinary movie depicts the unlikely friendship between two women: NYC-based actress Elizabeth Van Meter, grieving in the wake of the suicide of her younger sister (famed child aviator Vicki Van Meter), and Thanh Thao Huynh, a Vietnamese woman whose body has been ravaged by exposure to Agent Orange. One day, Van Meter saw a photograph of Thao by chance and learned that this young woman had created a makeshift library for the children in her small village. Van Meter reached out to Thao, and the two set out to build a permanent library, the journey of which is documented in this poignant, poetic and ultimately cathartic debut feature. Co-sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies program.
Followed by a live Q&A with director Elizabeth Van Meter conducted by Kathleen Carot.

Bloomin Mud Shuffle (Frank V. Ross, 2015, 75 minutes)
Wednesday, November 2 at 12:30pm

James Ransone (The Wire) and Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) star in this bittersweet “anti-romantic comedy” about aimless 30-somethings living in the suburbs of Chicago. Lonnie’s life hasn’t changed much in the 16 years since he graduated high school. Still painting houses, still drinking too much, still hanging out with the same old friends. As far as he can see, his only hope for the future lies in taking his physical relationship with coworker Monica to the next level. Written and directed by “mumblecore” veteran Ross (Audrey the Trainwreck). “Ross is so in tune with his characters that they never seem written or contrived… Ross’ directorial adroitness suggests a mature auteurism that is extremely rare in American lo-fi, micro-budget cinema.” – Don Simpson, Smells Like Screen Spirit
Followed by a live Q&A with director Frank V. Ross conducted by Michael Smith.

A F**kload of Scotch Tape (Julian Grant, 2012, 94 minutes)
Thursday, November 3 at 2:00pm

A musical neo-noir drama where a patsy is set up to take the fall for a kidnapping that leads to murder. When the money he is paid is stolen, he embarks on a rampage of revenge. Things go from bad to perverse as Benji (Graham Jenkins) must fight his way through father figures, hookers with no hearts, marauding men and the hopelessly lost. All singing, all-fighting – FLOST is a throwback to the crime films of yesteryear mixed with the music of Kevin Quain. Based on the writings of pulp-fiction writer Jed Ayres, FLOST mashes up film noir, musical drama and hard-hitting social injustice. Not for the faint of heart or humor. “Truly one-of-a-kind, a film that is destined to generate a substantial amount of buzz with indie film fanatics looking for something original, something outside of the proverbial box.” – Todd Rigney, Beyond Hollywood
Followed by a live Q&A with director Julian Grant conducted by Therese Grisham.

Buzzard (Joel Potrykus, 2014, 97 minutes)
Friday, November 4 at 12:30pm


This pitch-black comedy from regional Michigan filmmaker Joel Potrykus (The Alchemist Cookbook) has been accurately described as “Office Space on Crack” (Indiewire). Paranoia forces small-time scam artist Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge) to flee his hometown and hide out in a dangerous Detroit. With nothing but a pocket full of bogus checks, his Power Glove, and a bad temper, the horror metal slacker lashes out. “Potrykus has fashioned a vigorous and strangely compelling character study, a sustained burst of punk-rock ferocity, and one of the most original American films to emerge in some time.”- Calum Marsh, Village Voice

This film festival is sponsored by the Oakton Community College Educational Foundation and its generous donors.


WCCRH Episode 3: Thao’s Library / Nahid and Stinking Heaven at CIFF


The third episode of my White City Cinema Radio Hour podcast is now online. It features a Google-chat between me and New York City-based filmmaker Elizabeth Van Meter whose excellent documentary Thao’s Library recently won the Audience Choice award at Geena Davis’s inaugural Bentonville Film Festival. Thao’s Library, Van Meter’s first feature film, will open across the U.S. at AMC theaters today. Incredibly, Van Meter is also an old high-school classmate of mine; we studied theater together at the North Carolina School of the Arts during our senior year of 1992-1993. This interview marks the first time we’ve spoken in over 22 years! I think it’s a fun listen. I also throw out some recommendations of films to see at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival where I recently served on the Animated Shorts jury. You can listen to the episode here.

I also have two short capsule reviews of films playing at the Chicago International Film Festival in today’s Cine-File: the Iranian drama Nahid and the American indie Stinking Heaven. Because Cine-File’s listings for this week will not appear on their website (and will be sent out via e-mail only), I’m reproducing them in their entirety below:

Ida Panahandeh’s NAHID (New Iranian)
AMC River East – Sunday, 7:30pm and Monday, 8:30pm

This impressive first feature by the young female Iranian director Ida Panahandeh recalls Asghar Farhadi’s A SEPARATION in the way that it examines, in a completely naturalistic way, the intersection of a unique legal quagmire with the intimate emotions of the principal characters affected by it. Specifically, the title character (the terrific Sareh Bayat) is a divorced single mother and hardworking admin assistant who, under Iranian law, will lose custody of her son if she ever decides to remarry, throwing a wrench into her new romance with nice-guy widower Masoud (Pejman Bazeghi). Panahandeh shows with great lucidity and in a completely non-didactic way how Iranian law favors the husband in a custody battle through the depiction of Nahid’s former husband (Navid Mohammad Zadeh), a deadbeat dad and former junkie with a gambling problem who hopes to reconcile with his ex-wife. It was a major coup for the Chicago International Film Festival to snag the U.S. premiere of this incisive Cannes prizewinner, which does not yet have distribution and may not return to local cinema screens.

Nathan Silver’s STINKING HEAVEN (New American)
AMC River East – Saturday, 9pm and Monday, 8:45pm

Films tagged with the “mumblecore” label have often come in for criticism for their structural formlessness and aesthetic blandness. What a treat it is then to see this largely improvised black-comedy/drama by prolific director Nathan Silver, who vividly recreates life in a New Jersey “sober living commune” circa 1990. Shot on lo-fi Betacam video, to reflect the consumer-grade visual style of the era, this remarkable microbudget sleeper also boasts convincing pre-internet-era production design as well as a fine ensemble cast of brave actors (headed by indie stalwarts Keith Poulson and Tallie Medel) whose characters videotape themselves re-enacting past traumatic events as a dubious form of self-therapy. The result is an atmosphere of almost unbearable intensity where, as in the work of Jacques Rivette, “real life” and performance mingle, giving the distinct impression that the potent onscreen drama must have reflected the off-screen drama of how the film was made.

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