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Exclusive: Michael Clarke Duncan’s Last Film to Open 2015 Dances With Films Festival + Alumni Feature & Dances With Kidz Lineups Announced

Exclusive: Michael Clarke Duncan’s Last Film to Open 2015 Dances With Films Festival + Alumni Feature & Dances With Kidz Lineups Announced

Los Angeles-based “fiercely independent” Dances With Films festival has announced this year’s Alumni Spotlight screening – the critically acclaimed “Knucklehead,” a hard-hitting, modest drama that takes a look at a man’s struggle with illness and circumstance, starring  Gbenga Akinnagbe and Alfre Woodard (2 revered actors who’ve received lots of ink on this blog over the years).

Written and directed by Ben Bowman (his feature debut), the Alumni Spotlight Screening, along with their innovative Dances With Kidz! program, both showcasing the works of emerging artists for the festival’s 18th edition, are all part of a 27-film lineup that includes a record 15 premieres – 7 World, 2 North American, 4 Southern California, 1 West Coast, and 1 Los Angeles – selected from more than 2,000 submissions.

“We decided to create the DWKidz! program because we realized that there is no age range when it comes to inventive and authentic creativity. The creative tools that we have as filmmakers are leveling the playing field and bringing the industry back to the true basic – the story. And kids definitely have no limits on their imagination the way many adults do,” said Michael Trent, Festival Founder.

“It’s very exciting to present ‘Knucklehead,’ celebrating a talented production team headed by DWF alum, Producer Re’Shaun Frear,” said Festival Co-Founder, Leslee Scallon, adding, “‘Knucklehead’ tackles the serious subject of mental illness and brings light to a stigmatized disease that can no longer be ignored.”

The indie drama sees Alfre Woodard and Gbenga Akinnagbe as a dysfunctional mother-son pair. When his brother disappears, mentally disabled Langston Bellows (Akinnagbe) is left without a protector in Brooklyn’s housing projects. Now under the control of his abusive mother (Woodard) Langston must take his future into his own hands. He sets out to find the one doctor he believes can cure him, a celebrity magazine columnist who touts questionable prescription drug cocktails. If Langston can become “mentally excellent”, it will mean moving into an apartment of his own with his girlfriend, who may herself be a creation of his wishful thinking. Landing in the unscrupulous world of pharmaceutical marketing, the search for his mysterious doctor and hero leads to some unwanted discoveries. Langston strives for independence from his prior life; from his mother, from his neighborhood and from his fractured mind – while all around him people are not who they seem.

Amari Cheatom, Nikiya Mathis, Carla Duren, Justin Myrick, Lauren Hudges, Manuel Herrera, David Lavine, and DeWanda Wise round out the cast of the Brooklyn-set drama, penned by Bryan Abrams and director Ben Bowman, who also produces, along with Akinnagbe.

Also worth noting, this year’s opening night film will be Kent Moran’s “The Challenger,” the late Michael Clarke Duncan’s last film, which features S. Epatha Merkerson and Justin Hartley. Described as a powerful and inspiring tale of a man overcoming adversity, “The Challenger” tells the tale of struggling Bronx auto mechanic Jaden Miller (Moran), who turns to boxing to save he and his mother (S. Epatha Merkerson) from living on the streets, all with the help of legendary boxing trainer, Duane Taylor (Michael Clarke Duncan).


The festival’s lineup will screen over 11 days, beginning with an opening night party on May 28th and culminating in the closing awards ceremony & after party on June 7th, all centrally located in the Hollywood & Highland complex.

Screenings of Dances With Films 2015 Film Festival edition will take place at the TCL Chinese Theaters, located at: Hollywood & Highland, 6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028.

Individual profiles of festival highlights will be published on this blog leading into its kick-off. In the meantime, check out the 
Alumni Spotlight and DWKidz! program lineups below.

For festival passes and ticket information, visit www.danceswithfilms.com.

You’re also encouraged to follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danceswithfilms?ref=br_rs; and on 
Twitter: @danceswithfilms.

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT SCREENING

KNUCKLEHEAD (WEST COAST PREMIERE)

DIR: Ben Bowman

WRITERS: Bryan Abrams, Ben Bowman

PRODS: Gbenga Akinnagbe, Ben Bowman, Todd Wiseman, Jo Henriquez, Milos Silber, Re’Shaun Frear, Jonathan Gray, Debra Azemar, Tony Harding

CAST: Gbenga Akinnagbe, Alfre Woodard, Amari Cheatom

SYNOPSIS: Mentally disabled Langston Bellows (Akinnagbe) is left without a protector in Brooklyn’s public housing projects when his brother (Amari Cheatom “Night Catches Us”) is shot. Now under the control of his violent mother (Woodard) Langston must take his future into his own hands. He sets out to find the one doctor he believes can cure him, a celebrity magazine columnist who touts questionable prescription drug cocktails. If Langston can become “mentally excellent,” it will mean moving into an apartment of his own with his girlfriend, who may herself be a creation of his wishful thinking. Landing in the unscrupulous world of pharmaceutical marketing, the search for his mysterious doctor and hero leads to some unwanted discoveries. Langston strives for independence from his prior life; from his mother, from his neighborhood and from his fractured mind — while all around him people are not who they seem.


DWK BY KIDZ!

A PROBLEM

WRITER/DIR: Zoe Tether

PRODS: Zoe Tether

SYNOPSIS: A man has a problem… and develops a creative way to solve it!

 
CHRIS

WRITER/DIR: Zachary Oschin

WRITER: Zachary Oschin, Sarah Evans

PRODS: Zachary Oschin, Sarah Evans

CAST: Sarah Evans, Josh Knoller, Eliza Frakes, Nick Zakari, Keith Carr

SYNOPSIS: A high school girl has one day to ask her dream date to prom. Can she work up the courage to do it?

 

F IS FOR FREEDOM (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: Theo Taplitz

PRODS: Theo Taplitz

CAST: Theo Taplitz, Nicholas Taplitz, Mila Ryder, Roz Moore

SYNOPSIS: Tortured by an evil, stalker bad grade and his diabolical little brother, Freddy will do anything to escape to freedom.

 

FLAWS

WRITER/DIR: Gabrielle Banks Giacomo

PRODS: Gabrielle Banks Giacomo

CAST: Gabrielle Banks Giacomo

SYNOPSIS: “Flaws” is a music video that depicts the struggle of a teenage girl to overcome bullying. She is constantly berated with harsh words, the insults haunting her until they consume her life. However, when she learns to look at things in a positive light, the insults of others no longer dominate her life. She gains self-confidence, unchaining herself from the constraints of doubt, and finally allowing herself to be free.

 

HER EYES OPEN (WORLD PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: Stephen Cook

PRODS: Josh Beauchamp

CAST: Haley White, Jacob Young

SYNOPSIS: Shelby Ross, a teenage optimistic girl, struggles to get through the reality of her life with an abusive alcoholic mother and a life-threatening disease in her ankle that could affect her dancing career. She must regain her hope through her one and only friend Lucas, an introverted pessimist.

 

JILL THE GIANT SLAYER (WORLD PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: AJ de Vos, David de Vos

WRITER: AJ de Vos

PRODS: AJ de Vos, David de Vos, Stephanie de Vos

CAST: AJ de Vos, David de Vos, John Ferraro, Madison Hagge, Mandy de Vos

SYNOPSIS: As Jack descends the beanstalk, he boasts to his sister, Jill, that he has stolen the golden goose. But when Jack is captured by the evil giant, Jill must enlist the help of her best friend Ruby to rescue him. The two girls embark on an adventure above the clouds, where, in this tween-twist on the classic fairy tale, it is Jill who must become the hero and save the day.

 

LUMINOSITY (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: Alexia Salingaros

PRODS: Will Underwood

SYNOPSIS: In a fast-deteriorating world, a lonely hero must join together with an unlikely crew of misfits to uncover the secret needed to save their dying civilization.

 

MR. MCBOB (LOS ANGELES PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: Pierre Schantz

PRODS: Lisa Schantz

CAST:  Mel Schantz, Pierre Schantz, Lisa Schantz

SYNOPSIS: For years, school had been anything but exciting for 9 year-old Pierre. It was always the same boring routine. Until one day, his fourth grade teacher took a break from the traditional schoolwork. Mr. McBob showed the class something different, something creative, something, “Outside the box,” which sparked Pierre’s interest and ultimately changed his life.

 

MY ONLY CHRISTMAS (WORLD PREMIERE)

DIR: Makenna Cannon

WRITER: Makenna Cannon, Molly Cannon, Ryan Cannon

PRODS: Ryan Cannon

CAST: Amelie Cannon, Ryan Cannon

SYNOPSIS: How does your tree feel about Christmas? 33 million Christmas trees have spent about seven years getting ready to enter our lives for this Holiday season. Experience the bittersweet 12 days of Christmas through the eyes of your Christmas tree.

 

OPERHATOR

WRITER/DIR: Tara-Nicole Azarian

PRODS: Duane A. Sikes

CAST: Tara-Nicole Azarian, Dave Tunik, Nick Azarian, Vanelle

SYNOPSIS: Tina’s being stalked…her Mother is oblivious…no wonder Tina is hiding! Hide Tina hide! Filmed with a nod toward the thriller classics of the 1960’s, “OperHator”, written and directed by Tara-Nicole Azarian, at just 13 years old, is a must see. 

REDEMPTION (NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE)

DIR: Gillian Annis

WRITER: Lorraine Shaller

PRODS: Anthony Leichti

CAST: Clancy Karotkin, Joseph Mello, Jake Tribe, Grayson Gothard, Avery Mann

SYNOPSIS: A short film about 4 boys returning home from the Civil War.

 

REDEMPTION OF ALLEN LINEMAN (LOS ANGELES PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: Jeremy Basset, Tyler Colvin, Adam Eagle, Skylar Fisher-Duddy, Tom Gaberman, Isaac Harris, Josh Lopez, Victoria Rafaelian

WRITER: Jeremy Basset
PRODS: Karen Bennett, Genevieve Colvin, Deana Payne

CAST: Bobby Gilliam, Pete Gardner, Michael Ghadban

SYNOPSIS: An 1860′s Western about a man with one last shot at making things right.

 

SNAP

WRITER/DIR: Predrag Vukosavljevic

PRODS: Predrag Vukosavljevic

CAST: Mihailo Pejakovic, Jana Spasov

SYNOPSIS: If you have one wish what would it be?”  It’s a theme about ourself and wishes in movie “Snap”. We have a lot of ideas when we are 10.

 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR PURCHASE

DIR: Alina Foley, Sara Ghadban, Hannah Lascher, Theo Taplitz, James Thornton

WRITER: Theo Taplitz

PRODS: Karen Bennett

CAST: Jack Massee, Sunny Keller

SYNOPSIS: A short film about a boy with a crush and an infuriating vending machine.

DWK BY PROS
 
BACKWARDS (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: Patrick Fritz

PRODS: Katie Waldron

CAST: William Johnson

SYNOPSIS: A backwards-walking man goes on a quest for love in order to find the ultimate, lasting companionship.

 

DREAMS OF THE LAST BUTTERFLIES

WRITER/DIR: Zina Brown

PRODS: Gavin Behrman, Kea Kelly Alcock

CAST: Evgeniya Radilova, Flambeaux Fire, Sal Genna, Candice Vincent

SYNOPSIS: Dreams of the Last Butterflies is a live-action ‘dark faerie tale’ with an urgent environmental message.  A tale about the loss of butterflies in our world, and why they are disappearing, as told by the last Butterfly Queens themselves.  Each Butterfly Queen represents an endangered butterfly from around the world, and together they enter human dreams hoping to save the last of their kind.

 

FALLEN PHOENIX

WRITER/DIR: Gwen Barriac, Heather Larkin

PRODS: Heather Larkin

CAST: CAST

SYNOPSIS: The Fallen Phoenix’ is the story of an established composer who struggles to write a masterpiece that pleases both himself and his sponsor. Ultimately, he realizes he has to choose between staying true to his art and pleasing those around him. The fable of the Phoenix is used as a framework for the story. Though the Phoenix may fall in flames, his music lives on triumphantly!

 

GLOBE TROT

WRITER/DIR: Mitchell Rose

PRODS: Mitchell Rose

CAST: People found on the street.

SYNOPSIS: An international crowd-sourced dance-film project, as 50 filmmakers on all seven continents each shoot two seconds of dance by choreographer Bebe Miller.

PLAY DATE (WORLD PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: Paige Morrow Kimball

PRODS: Paige Morrow Kimball, Terry Walters, Kristina Kondrath, Toby Lawless

CAST: Terry Walters, Tami Roman, Isabella Spencer, Marcuis Harris

SYNOPSIS: When a little girl discovers a homeless woman in her backyard she invites her inside for a play date, which goes unnoticed by her distracted parents. ‘Play Date’ invites us to take a deeper look at ourselves and explores what being ‘homeless’ really means.

 

PLAYGROUND POLITIX

WRITER/DIR: Doreen Spicer-Dannelly

PRODS: Romell Foster-Owens, Liinus Hietaniemi, George Blake
CAST: Charlize Glass, Noah Citek, Jodryn Jones, Big Will Simmons, Malia Tinay, Elijah Vasquez, Angel Gibbs

SYNOPSIS: When a group of girls meet resistance by a group of boys to enter a playground a dance battle ensues. Both groups stand their ground and through a series of dance styles a mutual respect is earned.

 

RED THUNDER (NORTH AMERICA PREMIERE)

DIR: Alvaro Ron

WRITER: Rafael Alvarez, Clara Viola, Alvaro Ron

PRODS: Alvaro Ron, Rosana Tomas, Greg Haggart

CAST: Allie Grant, Miles Heizer, Karen Strassman, Doug Olear.

SYNOPSIS: Sarah, (Allie Grant) a nerdy teenager, steals her mom’s brand new car to go on a date with Danny, (Miles Heizer) the boy she is in love with. Little does she know the vehicle hides a secret that will change her life forever…

 

SAVE MYSELF (WORLD PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: Harlan Hegna

PRODS: Harlan Hegna

CAST: Katie Ray, Kolton Oie, McKenzie Locke, Austin Van Geest

SYNOPSIS: The music video ‘Save Myself’ is about a young girl coming to the realization that she can’t count on the boy in her life to save her so she must learn to save herself.

 

SIGNING (WORLD PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: Gina Catalfo Nelson

PRODS: Alfred Thomas Catalfo, Amanda Duquette

CAST: Brooke Nevins, Joseph Stevens, Morgan Dudley, Donna Phofolos, Kylie Sanborn

SYNOPSIS: A heartwarming teenage love story about trust and accepting others for exactly who the are. Noah begins to fall in love with his new neighbor Becky, only to find out she has a secret.

 

TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE (WORLD PREMIERE)

DIR: Maria Capp

WRITER: Raffaela Capp, Steve Capp

PRODS: Cappricielli, Inc.

CAST: Raffaela Capp, Natasha Capp, Ashley Stauffer

SYNOPSIS: A romantic comedy about friends helping friends find love in the most unexpected places. Filled with laughs, tears, and a few scoops of double-fudge ice cream, ‘Taking a Chance on Love’ is the story of Brittany, a young woman in her 20s who can’t seem to find the right guy… that is, until her bubbly roommates, Jill and Shoshanna, give her a book by relationship specialist Daniel Poussey. His advice, and a nudge from her roommates, encourages her to take risks and search deeper in the hopes of finding true romance.

 

TICK TOCK

WRITER/DIR: Zeynep Kocak

PRODS: Zeynep Kocak

SYNOPSIS: An old man wakes up to a routine day with his cat, who is his only friend. After making his breakfast, while drinking his coffee near a window, he watches the street, people, and life. He wants to be inside this life like he used to be. Then he comes up with an idea to break this routine circle, and end his loneliness.

 

WITHOUT A DOUBT (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PREMIERE)

WRITER/DIR: Gerald Guthrie

PRODS: Gerald Guthrie

SYNOPSIS: Without a Doubt’ is a digital animation that illustrates one variation of the 17th century philosopher Rene Descartes’ view of the world. This time-based visual metaphor draws together Descartes’ understanding of geometry, expressly the invention of the Cartesian co-ordinates (X,Y,Z), and his most famous statement, ‘I think, therefore I am,’ to create an introspective dimension within our own understanding.

Again, additional information about Dances With Films (including festival passes and ticket information) is available at http://www.danceswithfilms.com/.

You’re also encouraged to follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danceswithfilms?ref=br_rs; and on 
Twitter: @danceswithfilms.

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