Dances With Films: LA has announced the film lineup for the return of Los Angeles’ largest indie film-focused film festival (June 20-30) for its 27th edition. Adding a new co-presenting partnership with Outfest for additional LGBTQIA+ programming, a beefed-up Midnight Horror and Genre section, as well as continuing the celebration of music, dance, and family friendly programming in the Downbeat and Kidz sections, all will contribute to the most robust film schedule DWF has produced to date. That packed schedule will be bookended by the world premieres of Mahesh Pailoor’s heartfelt drama Paper Flowers as the Opening Night selection and Terre Weisman’s Max Dagan on Closing Night. All screenings will take place at the TCL Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Blvd).

Max Dagan

Among DWF: LA’s lineup of 232 films, including 38 narrative features, 17 documentary features, 25 television and streaming pilots, and 152 short films (101 narrative and 20 documentaries, 13 KIdz section, 18 Downbeat/Music), are an impressive number of films (117!) making world, international, North American, or U.S. premieres. That number includes 24 narrative features, 10 documentary features, 69 narrative shorts, 22 documentary shorts (including Downbeat), and 15 pilots which will have world premiere screenings at Dances With Films. 
Narrative features making their world premieres include: Patrick VanZandt’s Addy Daddy, Nayip Anthony Garcia’s Almost Popular, Benjamin-Shalom Rodriguez’ America’s Next Top Immigrant, Nida Chowdhry’s Anxious., Verner Maldonado’s Best Man Dead Man, Rich Ronat’s Culprit, Alec Wry, Sam Slade, and Kevin Mix’s Death Perception, Matt Warren’s Delicate Arch, Jack McCafferty’s Dreaming of You, Parker Brennon’s Hauntology, Emily Moss Wilson’s Inheritance, Ori Yardeni and Emil Ben Shimeon’s The Man Who Saved the Internet With a Sunflower, Jeff Wolfe’s Mourning Rock, Jean Barker’s Nobody Leaves ‘Til Jesus Comes, Kerry Ann Enright’s Nobody Wants to Shoot a Woman, David Beck and Jennifer Bobbi’s Regarding Us, Aaron Inman’s Shepherd, Nicholas Giuricich’sSpark, Carter Ward’s Step Back, Doors Closing, Craig Ouellette’s Straight On Till Morning, Jessica Boss’ Unnamed, Alonso Alvarez-Barreda’s The Wingwalker

Devin Lawrence’s The Disinvited, Ryan Barton-Grimley’s Listen Carefully, and Meg Rickards’ Snake will make their North American Premieres, and Matthew Leutwyler’s Fight Like a Girl will make its U.S. Premiere at Dances With Films LA.

Feature-length documentaries making their world premieres at DWF: LA include Leon Lozano’s A Little Hope for Chicago, Ryan S. Porush’s A School Grows in Watts, Christopher Riel’s The Big White House, Eryl Cochran’s Dance As You Are, Razieme Iborra’s How the West Was One, Jayson McNamara and Andrea Tortonese’s Norita, Rebecca Corry’s Saving Jones, Meredith Yinger’s Scars Unseen, Alec Goldberg and Boson Wang’s Sitting in the Fire, and Bill Guttentag’s Spyral

In the light of a challenging landscape for film festivals around the country, Dances With Films’ Founders Leslee Scallon and Michael Trent are happy to not simply be continuing the important work of being the leading platform for independent film in Los Angeles, but to actually expand their reach to include an additional thriving film festival in New York City as well.

Regarding that fact, they said, “And the beat goes on! This year’s lineup is another perfect example of wonderful, imaginative, challenging, and always entertaining work: narrative features, documentaries, pilots, shorts, and music videos that rarely have stars in their casts and almost never have big production companies footing the bill. We’re thrilled to be the film festival that introduces them to audiences and industry in the heart of Hollywood.” 

The Man Who Saved The Internet With A Sunflower

Thursday, June 20 features the World Premiere Opening Night presentation of Mahesh Pailoor’s Paper Flowers. Based on a true story, the film follows the poignant and inspirational journey of an ambitious USC graduate whose dream of making a difference as a Peace Corps volunteer is halted by a cancer diagnosis. Forced to return home and undergo treatment, he is immediately faced with the question “What is the true meaning of life when faced with limited time?” The international cast includes Kapil TalwalkarOlivia LiangKaran SoniFaran TahirMeera Simhan, and Tom Everett Scott.

Sunday, June 30, DWF offers another world premiere as its Closing Night selection, Terre Weisman’s Max Dagan. The film follows the title character’s efforts to race against time to free his terminally ill father from prison following hisconviction for the manslaughter of a California State Trooper. To do so, he’ll need to uncover the truth about what really happened, open old wounds, and somehow get the help of his estranged uncle and the daughter of the dead trooper, to find evidence that could set his father free. The impressive cast includes Rob MorrowZachary GordonMichael MadsenRob BrownsteinLindsey DresbachLisa Roumain, and Jay Mohr.

Additional narrative feature films making their world premieres are Nida Chowdhry’s surreal dark comedy Anxious. about a woman whose anxiety attack sends her down a rabbit hole where she meets versions of herself who take over her life. Verner Maldonado’s dark comedy Best Man Dead Man takes place during a bachelor party in the middle of nowhere which quickly turns into a night of murder and mystery when the best man ends up with a knife in his head. Everyone is a suspect and only an eccentric private eye can solve the crime. Kerry Ann Enright’s Nobody Wants to Shoot a Woman is a stark, intimate, yet unsentimental portrait of a mother marginalized by society who embraces a violent crime spree as a means to survive. Another title to look for will be Stimson Snead’s Tim Travers & The Time Travelers Paradox. Making its Southern California premiere, the Sci-Fi comedy is about a reclusive mad scientist who creates a time machine to kill his younger self to create the paradox over his ability to exist in a mission to stand alone with God at the end of time and tell the bastard off. The film features a cast of favorites including Samuel DunningFelicia DayJoel McHaleDanny Trejo, and Keith David.

Anxious

On the LGBTQIA+ programming front, David Beck and Jennifer Bobbi’s Regarding Us is an Outfest co-presented selection about a transgender woman who has a profound impact on the lives of two children after losing her teaching career. Nayip Anthony Garcia’s Almost Popular follows two high school juniors who go on a quest to fulfill their dream to become part of the elite POP Girls who rule the school. Parker Brennon’s queer horror anthology Hauntology is framed by a young woman taking her 12-year-old sister with runaway aspirations (on a journey around town, where she tells supernatural tales in which characters have more in common with the youngster than they first realize.

Once again, Dances With Films will please fans of horror and genre fare with its Midnight section of films led by four features making their world premieres. In Kevin Mix’s Death Perception, a group of college students at a screening party for a short film made by an aspiring filmmaker begin to get picked off one by one by a mysterious masked killer. Matt Warren’s Delicate Arch centers on four young friends who take a camping trip to Southern Utah in order to escape an ecological disaster. Alone in the desert, they soon realize they’re being observed by a mysterious cosmic force. Jeff Wolfe’s psychological thriller Mourning Rock stars Billy Burke as a state park ranger who, along with his wife, struggles to come to terms with their missing teenage son while dealing with a local mystery that questions their relationship. Craig Ouellette’s Straight On Till Morning follow a young couple falling for each other on a romantic road-trip — until they cross paths with a pious couple who have something much, much darker in mind.

Death Perception

Highlights among the feature-length documentaries making world premieres include Sarah Schoellkopf, Jayson McNamara, Francisco Villa, and Melissa Daniels Norita, Executive produced by Jane Fonda, the film takes viewers on a gripping journey through Argentina’s tumultuous history, where Norita’s personal tragedy becomes a catalyst for change. Featured in the Downbeat section, and filmed almost entirely on iPhones, Eryl Cochran’s Dance As You Are is a playful documentary following 100 strangers from around Los Angeles as they come together to form adult dance teams for a recital. Razieme Iborra’s How the West Was One focuses on three unconventional cowgirls as they reshape our vision of the American West. Rebecca Corry’s Saving Jones looks at the filmmaker’s dedication to educating, advocating, and saving the lives of pit bulls, who are arguably the most abused, discriminated against and murdered dogs on earth. Oscar-winner Bill Guttentag’s latest, Spyral, tells the tragic true story of the toll that bipolarism and drug abuse takes on a woman’s life and her family via a decade of home videos, diaries, and social media.

Notable in the film festival world for the screening and promotion of television, web series pilots, and episodics, Dances With Films also has a healthy number of world premieres in this section. Elizabeth Cox and Kirill Yeretsky’s animated entry Ada focuses on the title character as she heads to the first day of her new job at the public library. She’s got A LOT on her mind, but soon realizes her daily reality–mundane duties, grumpy boss–is completely at odds with the urgency she feels about the pressing problems facing humanity. Dave Seger’s George of Tujunga introduces us to a small-town moron who has his perfectly meaningless life upended when his eight-year-old niece shows up at his door with nowhere else to go. Noah Benjamin Miller’s Popped is about a washed-up ex-boyband member more famous for rehab stints than making music, who becomes mixed-up with the drug cartel that forces him to create a new album and world tour through which they intend to launder cartel money. Jason Lee Courson’s Seeking… centers on the growing pains of becoming a “chosen family” when three roommates (2 gay men, 1 straight man) all from different backgrounds, learn to cohabitate and navigate love and life in the big city. Brian Wallace and James Longley’s World Twistories explores eccentric people and their offbeat ideas throughout history. Presented by Tik-Tok sensation Paul Longley, the pilot episode looks at a coffee shop that opened in London in 1703 where you were required to speak Latin to get your coffee.
 
Along with a lineup of films overflowing with invention and innovation, Dances With Films’ short films also are spiced with several recognizable faces and names, including Russell Goldman’s Burn Out, which is executive produced by Jamie Lee Curtis and stars Tommie Earl Jenkins (Wednesday), Eli Vidis Newman’s Concrete, which stars four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris, Kestrin Pantera’s Dr. No Means No, which stars comedy duo The Sklar Brothers, and Breeda Wool (The Walking Dead), Mike Harris’ Mecánica, which stars Haley Joel Osment, and Olivia Sandoval(Fargo), and Danny Farber’s Thoughts and Prayers, which is executive produced by Amy Poehler.
 
For more information about the Dances With Films LA film lineup, events, passes, and tickets, go to: https://danceswithfilms.com/.

The 2024 Dances With Films: LA official selections:

OPENING NIGHT SELECTION
Paper Flowers  World Premiere
Director: Mahesh Pailoor 
Country: United States; Running Time: 100 min
Shalin Shah, an ambitious USC graduate, leaves behind his loving Indian American family and devoted girlfriend, Fiona, to pursue his dream of making a difference as a Peace Corps volunteer. However, his life takes a devastating turn when a check-up for a lingering cough reveals a shocking diagnosis: a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Forced to return home and undergo treatment, Shalin confronts the fundamental question: what is the true meaning of life when faced with limited time? Based on a true story, Paper Flowers is a poignant and inspirational journey of love, loss, and hope. It serves as a roadmap to cherish the moments we have and to remember to stop and enjoy every sunset.

CLOSING NIGHT SELECTION
Max Dagan     World Premiere
Director: Terre Weisman
Country: United States; Running Time: 92 min
After his father is sentenced to 15 years for the manslaughter of a California State Trooper, Max Dagan fights to uncover the truth and get his now terminally ill parent out of prison with a compassionate release. Max must open up old wounds, including seeking the help of his estranged uncle and the daughter of the dead trooper, to find evidence that could set his father free. In a race against time, two divided families discover they have more in common than they think.

ADDITIONAL NARRATIVE FEATURES

Addy Daddy    World Premiere
Director: Patrick VanZandt
Country: United States; Running Time: 119 min
A lonely young man introduces his new girlfriend to his parents and they immediately hate her for no reason.

Advanced Chemistry 
Director: Etana Jacobson
Country: United States; Running Time: 95 min
A scientist who has developed a compound to enhance bonding injects his married best friend to help her stop cheating on her wife, but when he also injects the wife, it backfires when she falls for him.

All Happy Families
Director: Haroula Rose
Country: United States; Running Time: 90 min
A lonely young man introduces his new girlfriend to his parents and they immediately hate her for no reason.

All the Weekend’s Drama
Director: John Robb Saunders
Country: United States; Running Time: 109 min
Chloe Rousseau is a misfit, gentle hearted twenty year-old. She’s hardly ever known anything outside of her wayward, poverty-stricken lifestyle. Surrounding her is nothing but trauma attached to young people who don’t deserve it. Her glimmers of hope: a well-adjusted, now estranged childhood best friend, Nina, a young sweetheart teenager named Benny, and a wise-beyond-her-years corner store clerk, Imara. After Chloe has an accidental pregnancy, she turns to Nina for support, to which Nina shows Chloe that no one should ever feel their destiny is predetermined, no matter where you come from.

Almost PopularWorld Premiere
Director: Nayip Anthony Garcia (aka Nayip Ramos)
Country: United States; Running Time: 95 min
Susie and Bobbie, high school juniors, go on a quest to fulfill their dream to become part of the elite POP Girls who rule the school. After a series of unfortunate and humiliating attempts, they learn what’s really important.

Alta California
Director: Andrés Taboada
Country: United States; Running Time: 64 min
“Carlos is a former Mexican aristocrat, now-undocumented college student living in Orange County. He longs for the privileged life he once had in Guadalajara and keeps his immigrant status a secret in fear of being grouped with “those other Mexicans

America’s Next Top Immigrant         World Premiere
Director: Benjamin-Shalom Rodriguez
Country: United States; Running Time: 84 min
Chronicling the last two episodes of a reality competition show in which the final five immigrants compete against one another for a US passport.

Anxious            World Premiere
Director: Nida Chowdhry
Country: United States; Running Time: 100 min
Anxious. is a surreal dark comedy about a woman named Ruby who has an anxiety attack and trips down the rabbit hole of her mind, where she meets versions of herself who take over her life. This fast-paced fashion film is set against the colorful backdrops of Little Saigon and Little India in Orange County, California. This debut feature is written, directed by and starring Nida Chowdhry.

Best Man Dead Man
Director: Verner Maldonado
Country: United States; Running Time: 83 min
A bachelor party in the middle of nowhere quickly turns into a night of murder and mystery when the best man ends up with a knife in his head. Everyone is a suspect and only an eccentric private eye can solve the crime.

Between the Lights
Director: Michael Groom
Country: UK; Running Time: 105 min
When skeptical scientist Alice falls for reluctant medium Jay, she’s taken on an odyssey of love, loss and discovery that will turn her world upside down. Between the Lights (made with support from Creative England and filmed in York and the Lake District) is a romantic drama with a liberal dose of the supernatural, in which we visit our characters over three consecutive Christmases.

Bound
Director: Isaac Hirotsu Woofter
Country: United States; Running Time: 99 min
To escape her overprotective drug-dealing stepfather, a young introverted artist flees to NYC with only her pet pocket squirrel, after successfully reinventing herself with the help of some found family.

Culprit              World Premiere
Director: Rich Ronat
Country: United States; Running Time: 94 min
Huntsville, Texas. A dark cloud of mystery looms over the locals, who whisper of the unsolved rape and murder of nine-year-old Katrina Walters, 27 years ago. The suspected ex-con, Jack Harris, has been released from prison exonerated of all charges. The older sister of Katrina, Lucy, desperate for justice, teams up with Jack in secret to find the real killer. The two unlikely partners begin to uncover long-buried secrets that lead them down a perilous path towards the truth.

Dreaming of You                        World Premiere
Director: Jack McCafferty
Country: Unites States; Running Time: 95 min
While attending a sleep study, Miles Puck meets Ren Helena, the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, he’s also diagnosed with anxiety driven night terrors. Now, his stress levels are going through the roof as he manages this new relationship, a job he hates and even more bad dreams. At least he has a teddy bear to help him through his nightmares in this mixed media rom-com.

Fight Like A Girl
Director: Matthew Leutwyler
Countries: DR Congo/Rwanda; Running Time: 118 min
A young Congolese woman forced to work in an illegal mineral mine, escapes her captors and finds a new life for herself after joining a renowned all-women boxing club in the border city of Goma. Based on the True Story events. Shot on location in DR Congo and Rwanda.

Future Date
Director: Stanley Wong
Country: United States; Running Time: 82 min
In the distant future where the outside climate is unlivable and everyone is forced to spend their lives alone in tiny rooms, two people win the rare opportunity to go on a very unusual date – in person.

Hauntology          World Premiere
Director: Parker Brennon
Country: United States; Running Time: 100 min
In this queer horror anthology, 12-year-old Venus (they/them) decides to run away from home, but their journey is cut short when their older sister, Jazmin (she/her), spots them wheeling a suitcase down the sidewalk. Jazmin then takes Venus on a journey around town, where Jazmin tells supernatural tales in which characters have more in common with Venus than they first realize.

Inhertiance           World Premiere
Director: Emily Moss Wilson
Country: United States; Running Time: 102 min
Estranged sisters Lucy and Paige reunite to bury their father, becoming entangled in the complicated web of their past as they realize that they have inherited more from their father than just money. Forced to reunite after years of not speaking, the two sisters are confronted by a whirlwind of resurfacing resentments, past traumas, well-kept secrets, and devastating losses, as they come to terms with their inner demons and work to mend their broken relationships.

Listen Carefully
Director: Ryan Barton-Grimley
Country: United States; Running Time: 81 min
When troubled assistant bank manager Andy McNeary’s baby daughter goes missing, he must follow the instructions of a mysterious voice on the other end of a baby monitor to save her before she disappears forever.

The Man Who Saved the Internet With a Sunflower                World Premiere
Directors: Ori Yardeni, Emil Ben Shimeon
Country: United States; Running Time: 101 min
The extraordinary true story of Rob Ryan, a brilliant mathematician with a rocky career in Silicon Valley, marked by numerous dismissals and resignations. Rob’s groundbreaking ‘Sunflower Code’ averts the internet’s collapse, transforming modern life. Despite being ousted from the company he founded sold for $24 billion Rob, like a phoenix, establishes three master companies, each worth billions, and earns the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Silicon Valley. A revered figure, Rob now mentors a new generation of entrepreneurs, while continuing to safeguard the internet from emerging dangers.

Mother Father Sister Brother Frank
Director: Caden Douglas
Country: Canada; Running Time: 85 min
The Jennings family couldn’t be more painfully suburban, but when asshole Uncle Frank crashes their weekly Sunday dinner with a nasty surprise, murder turns up on the menu. Can the Jennings’ overcome secrets and dysfunction to learn that, the family that slays together, stays together?

Nobody Leaves ’til Jesus Comes World Premiere
Director: Jean Barker
Country: United States; Running Time: 80 min
Seventeen-year-old Mati stares down a rabbit hole of drugs, sex, and self-delusion in an LA trap house full of desperate people who show her what she could become.

Nobody Wants to Shoot a WomanWorld Premiere
Director: Kerry Ann Enright
Country: United States; Running Time: 91 min
A stark, intimate, yet unsentimental portrait of a mother marginalized by society who embraces a violent crime spree as a means to survive.

Regarding UsWorld Premiere
Director: David Beck, Jennifer Bobbi
Country: United States; Running Time: 99 min
After losing her teaching career in the Catholic school system, a transgender woman has a profound impact on the lives of two children–one with two fathers in marital strife, and the other a recent transplant from a conservative household. When the children form a unique bond, new questions and old prejudices erupt.

Shepherd           World Premiere
Director: Aaron Inman
Country: United States; Running Time: 85 min
When a young minister struggles with the death of his only son, he is forced to question his faith as he searches for meaning in a time of suffering.

Snake
Director: Meg Rickards
Country: South Africa; Running Time: 109 min
When a luminous stranger arrives on the farm, Stella’s father stays sober and her mother begins to laugh again. But the man with the silver cross has not come to save them. As Jerry slithers his way into their hearts, his own dark wounds begin to show. Stella must shut up and watch him strangle her family or use the truth to fight for their lives.

Spark              World Premiere
Director: Nicholas Giuricich
Country: United States; Running Time: 89 min
Spark follows a hopeless romantic struggling to build intimacy with a man who inexplicably makes him time loop back a day every time they make love. As his feelings for the man grow, so do his suspicions that this stranger is aware of this cosmic insanity too.

Step Back, Doors Closing              World Premiere
Director: Carter Ward
Country: United States; Running Time: 98 min
This is a charming love story between Ryan and Julisa, two young adults who long for authentic and emotionally intelligent relationships. After a chance encounter on the DC metro, they spend the next twenty-four hours discussing their hopes, dreams, and fears. Slowly but surely, they reveal more and more about themselves, and fall in love.

Tallywacker
Director: Brendan Boogie
Country: United States; Running Time: 90 min
A rock and roll buddy comedy about a disabled musician who gets to live his rock star dreams while his best friend reluctantly tags along for the ride.

Tim Travers & the Time Travelers Paradox
Director: Stimson Snead
Country: United States; Running Time: 103 min
It is called the Time Travelers Paradox. In which a scientist creates a Time Machine and kills their younger self. So now a man who should not- can not- exist, somehow does. That is the Paradox, and Paradoxes are impossible. And the man who has created it, is Tim Travers. A reclusive mad scientist whose stated mission in life is to stand alone with God at the end of time, and tell the bastard off.

Unnamed          World Premiere
Director: Jessica Boss
Country: United States; Running Time: 95 min
Inspired by true events, Unnamed is a thriller about a young and beautiful Nigerian woman working as a hairstylist who meets a successful female producer on location in her country and convinces her to come to Hollywood. But her dreams of owning her own salon turn into a living nightmare when the producer forces her into sex trafficking.

The Wingwalker   World Premiere
Director: Alonso Alvarez-Barreda
Countries: US/Mexico; Running Time: 117 min
A young widower is deported as his daughter is scheduled for a heart transplant, this will lead him to orchestrate the boldest border crossing plan in history.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES

A Little Hope for Chicago               World Premiere
Director: Leon Lozano
Country: United States; Running Time: 74 min
Part narrative performance film, part documentary, A Little Hope For Chicago is a walk through the life of a Chicago hustler, narrowly avoiding the devastating consequences of death and incarceration, as he reflects on the systemic root causes of the violence and trauma that consume youth in urban centers like Chicago.

A School Grows in Watts             World Premiere
Director: Ryan S. Porush
Country: United States; Running Time: 75 min
In one of the most notoriously underserved cities in the country, an innovative charter elementary school works toward a reimagined future through a community-based approach to education. Weaving together the personal narratives of educators, families, students and community members involved with the Watts Learning Center, A School Grows in Watts paints a lyrical, immersive portrait of a vibrant yet misunderstood community and the ongoing work of a mighty school with humble beginnings.

The Big White House                    World Premiere
Director: Christopher Riel
Country: United States; Running Time: 67 min
In Montecito, California, The Big White House traces director Chris Riel’s journey from Bakersfield poverty to Santa Barbara opulence, reminiscent of The Beverly Hillbillies. Over 20 years, Riel captures the wild escapades of Montecito teens defying societal norms. From go-karting to mud sledding, their adventures unfold against upper-class expectations. Through laughter and loss, they forge unbreakable bonds, navigating grief, divorce, and addiction. This adrenaline-laced documentary offers a poignant reflection on friendship and resilience, emphasizing love over materialism.

Camp RicStar
Director: Sam McConnell
Country: United States; Running Time: 87 min
Camp Ricstar explores the heartbreaking history and profound impact of a one-of-a-kind camp for people with disabilities, the Eric ‘RicStar’ Winter Music Therapy Camp. On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, we follow eight spirited campers who embrace being uninhibited as they sing, dance, create, connect, and discover new ways to express themselves. 

Dance as You Are                       World Premiere
Director: Eryl Cochran
Country: United States; Running Time: 77 min
Filmed almost entirely on iPhones, this playful documentary follows 100 strangers from around Los Angeles as they come together to form adult dance teams for one recital. The dancers discover the incredible transformations that occur when they make time for joy and put on their dancing shoes.

The Donn of Tiki
Directors: Alex Lamb, Max Well
Country: United States; Running Time: 100 min
The life of Donn Beach has been re-written, embellished, and at times flat-out fabricated. He was an American maverick, constantly creating his own opportunities while reinventing himself, and embellishing the details of his extraordinary life. This documentary takes on the task of separating fact from exaggeration to finally tell Donn’s story, and how he inadvertently created the tiki subculture back in 1930s Hollywood. Mixing fun retro animation with newly found tapes of Donn’s last interview, the film explores universal truths behind Donn’s tall tales.

How the West Was One              World Premiere
Director: Razieme Iborra
Country: United States; Running Time: 91 min
Amid infamously unprecedented times, three unconventional cowgirls reshape our vision of the American West. From deep Queens, artist Annie Bercy flees West to uncover the whitewashed history of Black Cowboys. In Miami, Latina designer Elle Barbeito confronts her own survival hunting the invasive Burmese Python. On the West Coast, rodeo queen Morgan Laughlin vies for the title of Miss Rodeo America.

Interpreters Wanted
Director: Robert Ham
Country: United States; Running Time: 84 min
Saifullah and Ismail Haqmal are two brother interpreters who served alongside U.S. Forces in Afghanistan for over a decade. Interpreters Wanted follows the brothers from their childhood growing up during the Russian/Afghan war, through the Taliban era, then the invasion by NATO forces after 9/11. When Robert deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 he worked with the brothers and they all became close friends. After Robert’s unit leaves Afghanistan the brothers become desperate to escape and turn to their American friends to petition Congress and help them escape the Taliiban’s rise to power.

The Nita & Zita Project
Director: Marci Darling
Country: United States; Running Time: 79 min
The story of two Jewish immigrant sisters who rose to international burlesque stardom, then became recluses and the ultimate New Orleans eccentrics. Their journey, marked by both the dazzle of the spotlight and the shadows of solitude, is a testament to their unbreakable bond and their vibrant heritage. The film is designed to challenge Jewish stereotypes and gender norms, illuminating a slice of American culture rarely seen—the lives of burlesque dancers, acrobats, contortionists, and the courageous performers who dare to dream big.

Norita  World Premiere
Director: Jayson McNamara & Andrea Tortonese
Country: USA & Argentina; Running Time: 88 min
A mother’s search for her son accelerates the defeat of a dictatorship and inspires a new global generation of women fighting for their freedoms.

Saving Jones                    World Premiere
Director: Rebecca Corry
Country: United States; Running Time: 100 min
Saving Jones is a biographical social commentary about the abuse and discrimination of dogs as it directly relates to human abuse. Rebecca Corry is an actress, writer and comedian who has dedicated her life to educating, advocating and saving the lives of pit bull type dogs who are the most abused, discriminated against and murdered dogs on earth. Saving Jones is hilarious and heartwarming yet tragic and inspiring. A truthful look at the real reason she does what she does and why what happening to inherently good dogs is everyone’s problem and direct reflection of a broken society.

Scars Unseen                    World Premiere
Director: Meredith Yinger
Country: United States; Running Time: 70 min
‘Scars Unseen is a ‘triumph of the human spirit’ documentary, following three women who have overcome domestic violence and are paying it forward. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the statistic of 1 in 4 women affected by domestic violence went up to 1 in 3 women. This inspiring documentary focuses on the resiliency of these phenomenal women and encourages us all to be more trauma informed. Scars Unseen aims to illuminate the power of healing, de-stigmatize victimhood, and encourage open communication about the causes, treatment, and prevention of abuse.’

Sitting in the Fire             World Premiere
Directors: Alec Goldberg, Boson Wang
Country: United States; Running Time: 79 min
Arrested and sentenced to life in prison at age twenty, Vaughn Miles underwent decades of rehabilitation and was released after 24 years. Now, he’s back in his hometown working toward ending gun violence in the place he once helped destroy.

The South Got Something to Say
Directors: Ryon Horne, Tyson Horne
Country: United States; Running Time: 96 min
Hip-hop was born in New York and spread to LA, but its soul is in Atlanta. Shaped by the South’s complexities and contradictions – civil rights and racial tension, wealth and poverty, tradition and innovation, churches and strip clubs – Atlanta pioneers played up their roots and spread the gospel of Atlanta hip-hop. From 808s to trap to crunk and snap, Atlanta created a new musical language, dominated the charts and gained global influence. In 1995, it was declared “The South Got Something to Say.

Spyral  World Premiere
Director: Bill Guttentag
Country: United States; Running Time: 84 min
A tragic true story that reveals the mental health epidemic in america. This is a dramatic and powerful view of the toll that bipolarism takes on one woman’s life and the family she leaves behind. With over a decade of home videos, diaries and social media, Oscar -winning director, Bill Guttentag, stitches together the tragic story and the mystery behind it.

Unbroken
Director: Beth Lane
Countries: Germany/Israel; Running Time: 96 min
The daughter of a Holocaust survivor embarks on an international quest to uncover answers about the plight of her mother and her six siblings who, as mere children, escaped Nazi Germany relying solely on their own youthful bravado and the kindness of German strangers.

Unlikely Allies
Director: Anthony Pedone
Country: United States; Running Time: 95 min
Weldon Angelos’s budding music career is abruptly terminated when prosecutors weaponize federal laws against him, turning a low-level cannabis case into 20 felony charges with a potential 105-year sentence. His case ignited a nationwide movement to reform the criminal justice system, uniting unlikely allies from billionaire Charles Koch, Senator Mike Lee and liberal icons like Senator Cory Booker, Van Jones and Snoop Dogg.

MIDNIGHT FEATURES 

Death Perception                                                                                             World Premiere
Directors: Alec Wry, Sam Slade, Kevin Mix
Country: United States; Running Time: 106 min
A group of college students are invited to a screening party for a short film made by aspiring auteur filmmaker Sean Davis. The night takes a dark turn as each character gets picked off one by one by a mysterious masked killer. The story unfolds from the point-of-view of each of the six guests, and with each new perspective new clues come to light about the darkly comedic truth behind the violence.
 
Delicate Arch                                                                                                    World Premiere
Director: Matt Warren
Country: United States; Running Time: 86 min
Four young friends with fracturing relationships take a camping trip to Southern Utah in order to escape an ecological disaster in the northern part of the state. Alone in the desert, they begin to suspect that their reality might not be as it seems, and soon realize they’re being observed by a mysterious cosmic force.
 
The Disinvited                                                                                     
Director: Devin Lawrence
Country: United States; Running Time: 91 min
Against his-or-anyones better judgment, Carl decides to crash an event where he is no longer welcome, setting off a day filled with betrayal, violence, heartache, and exes who should never get back together. When Carl discovers he isn’t the only unwelcome guest in the desert, he is forced to decide whether to save himself or risk everything for those who have wronged him.
 
Mourning Rock                                                                                    World Premiere
Director: Jeff Wolfe
Country: United States; Running Time: 84 min
A Psychological Thriller about a state park ranger husband and his wife struggling to come to terms with their missing teenage son while dealing with a local mystery that questions their relationship and in the end, their grip on reality.
 
Straight On Till Morning                                                                      World Premiere
Director: Craig Ouellette
Country: United States; Running Time: 104 min
Dani and Kaitlin are two dreamers falling for each other on a romantic road-trip. The future is theirs — until they cross paths with a pious couple who have something much, much darker in mind.

Featured image: Paper Flowers