Ponies, by Nick Sandow
While searching for their small piece of the American Dream, immigrants Drazen (John Ventimiglia) and Wallace (Kevin Corrigan) get sidetracked by the world of off-track betting, dragging Drazen’s cabdriver friend Ken along with them. Though Wallace knows to quit while he’s ahead, Drazen can’t seem to stop, slowly driving himself into a dangerous addiction, telling himself that if he can just win some more money he can buy his daughter a fancy First Communion dress. Eventually bad luck begins to get the best of him, and one last act of desperation leads to an explosive ending.
Sahkanaga, by John Henry Summerour
Based on true events, “Sahkanaga” is a chilling Southern gothic drama that follows Paul, a rural teenager with a dark side who is alienated from his emotionally distant family. After the sudden death of the corrupt town sheriff, he is hypnotically drawn to the sheriff’s granddaughter, the mysterious Lyla. When Paul stumbles on the sheriff’s body in the woods, he is so haunted by the discovery he returns to the scene and makes an even more horrific discovery – one that might involve his undertaker father. Paul is faced with a wrenching moral dilemma and forced to examine the ties that hold a family together in the face of a tragedy that brings a community to its knees.
Union Square by Nancy Savoca
Jenny (Tammy Blanchard) is on the verge of marriage, Lucy (Mira Sorvino) on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Both struggle with truths they’re hiding from each other — and from themselves. Jenny has rejected her tumultuous family and cut off communication, seeking a more ordered life far from her roots in the Bronx. And she’s almost ready to commit to her longtime fiancé when her wildly outrageous sister Lucy — the personification of all that Jenny has been trying to flee — surprises her at this critical time. Lucy and Jenny’s combustible reunion brings both of them to unforeseen places, shattering and reconstructing the worlds they have both carefully constructed. Terrific performances, a pitch-perfect script, surprising twists and turns and stunning character development highlight this funny, smart, tumultuous tale of the reluctant, passionate reunion of two estranged sisters.
96 Minutes by Aimeé Lagos
In a single shocking act, four young lives are irrevocably changed. Thrillingly told in an interlocking structure, “96 Minutes” centers around Dre, a precocious student on his way to university. Still tied to his violent neighborhood, Dre attempts to show his troubled friend, Kevin, other possibilities in life. On the other side are Carley and Lena, two smart and beautiful soon-to-be college graduates out for a night of fun, who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. In an instant, the four collide in a dreadful scenario with an acutely uncertain outcome. With incredible performances by a multicultural cast, this spellbinding and riveting moral tale deftly touches on the issues of race, class, friendship and our connections to the past. And that no matter how small the choice may be, it can change our lives forever.
Dolphin Boy by Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir
Seventeen-year-old Morad, an Israeli Arab, sustained a brutal beating. Severely traumatized and in a constant state of agitation, the boy can no longer speak. When conventional therapy fails, his psychiatrist suggests a novel approach, dolphin therapy, as a last-ditch attempt to reconnect the boy with reality. “They took his soul,” his father laments, and the devastated parents sell nearly all their possessions to give Morad a chance at recovery. Filmed over a four-year period, superb underwater cinematography documents this astonishing tale of transformation and love between species. No ordinary tale of swimming with the dolphins, we watch as Morad faces painful choices if he chooses to reconnect with the world of humans. Will he have the strength to face his attackers in court? Is he too damaged to feel human love? This extraordinary film inspires as it explores parental sacrifice, trust and human-animal bonding.
Cape Spin: An American Power Struggle by Robbie Gemmel and John Kirby
In 2001, entrepreneur Jim Gordon proposed building a major wind farm in the middle of Nantucket Sound, fabled playground for America’s rich and famous. Gordon billed the project as a clean, green power plant that should be welcomed by all. To his chagrin, “Cape Wind” became one of the decade’s most confounding political battles. Green energy champions like the Kennedys allied with fossil fuel magnates, congressmen, everyday Joes, and a well-funded Alliance to oppose the project. Meanwhile, Greenpeace, labor unions and environmental groups led a counter attack, endorsing the wind farm. The surprising twists of this story will have the viewer switching sides as often as the players, as environmentalists become hypocrites, reporters choose sides, and Republicans and Democrats alike take on unlikely bedfellows. Fueled by a satiric “revolutionary” soundtrack, “Cape Spin” is a gripping and entertaining study of eco-capitalism and grassroots democracy.
Deaf Jam by Judy Lieff
Aneta embraces the opportunity to perform the newest form of ASL, Slam Poetry, with “spoken word” poets, and later, collaborates with a young Palestinian poet, Tahani Salah. Poetry, friendship and respect transcend politics, just as we learn music can be “heard” by feeling the “vibe.” Delightful and endearing, utilizing upbeat music and clever graphics, “Deaf Jam” immerses us in the richness and complexity of deaf culture and gives us a unique perspective into a world so vibrant, so diverse, it may forever change the way we see the non-hearing.
I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad and the Beautiful by Jonathan Demme
Carolyn Parker was the last to leave her neighborhood when a mandatory evacuation order was decreed as Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans in the summer of 2005. After the floodwaters subsided, Mrs. Parker was the first resident to return to her now flood-devastated community with what many thought was the “impossible dream” of bringing her ruined home back to life. Award-winning director Jonathan Demme creates an inspiring portrait of a woman who was raised in the segregated Lower 9th Ward, joined the front lines in the Civil Rights movement, worked for 30 years as a cook-turned-chef, and became one of the most outspoken voices in the fight for every New Orleanian’s right to return home after the devastation of the floods. That Carolyn faced these odds with unbridled wit, spirituality and an abiding sense of social justice borne of her life in New Orleans makes for a unique cinematic tale of personal triumph.