LCIFF Profiles: Mohamed Kamel

Director of Wintry Spring, Mohamed Kamel.

Director of Wintry Spring, Mohamed Kamel.

One of the especially charming films from this past LCIFF was Wintry Spring, a touching and perceptive coming of age drama from Egypt.  Spring's director, Mohammed Kamel, has graciously accepted our invitation to answer a few questions about the film ahead of our encore screening of the film this Saturday at the Microfest.  (Maya Saroj interviews.)

LCIFF:  One of the things most impressive about this film is the acting. Some scenes have little dialogue but convey many emotions. What are some of your favorite scenes in the film? 

Mohamed Kamel:  I like to work with the actors/actresses way much before the shooting of the film, as i believe that a mutual trust relationship should be built between the actor/actress and the director in order to have a productive artistic co-operation, as we sit together and talk in depth about each tiny detail in the film while making rehearsals, from the biggning I knew that Mr. Ahmed Kamal will fits perfectly for the role of the father, while for the girl I made a lot of auditions and meetings just to find the right girl that fits the role of the schoolgirl until I've met Eman Moustafa (Nour) and after I auditioned her I knew that she fits perfectly for the role, I just have to mention here that she is not a professional actress and never had preformed anywhere before as this role was her first attempt ever as an actress, which i hope that eventually succeeded in expressing the crisis of what the Nour been through in the film. As for the scene, it's difficult for me to favorite one over another as I look for them all as a one unite, but for example the scene were the father and the daughter sitting on the eating table in complete silence after the father saw his daughter steal the money and each one of them is having his/her own internal dialogue while eating but we only hear the sounds of spoons and forks are hitting the plates.

Ahmed Kamal as the father of Nour.

Ahmed Kamal as the father of Nour.

LCIFF:  Wintry Spring deals with issues of a motherless daughter and a complicated father/daughter relationship in the film. How difficult was it to portray both sides with such depth in a short film? 

MK: I believe more in the drama that based on the human conditions not the good or the bad or who's right or who's wrong, as I believe that human behavior is way more complex and unpredictable than that. And in the film just wanted to tell a simple story about the change through a father/daughter relationship as the girl goes through a crisis of the arrival of her puberty (which happens naturally in our daily life) and from the biggning i wanted to present the both sides of the story the father/daughter equally not using the cliché of portraying the father as a conservative oppressor or the daughter as broken helpless girl, after all the father loves his daughter even though the misunderstanding that happened as a result of this complex situation which I believe it raises questions rather than just condemning one side over another, and I believe this specific aspect gives the story the dynamics needed in developing the father/daughter relationship based on that compact situation which is very tensed and confusing for both sides as the girl finds her self in solitude while having these physical and psychological changes and cannot tell her dad about it which made the father gets worry and suspicious about his daughter behavior which results the tensions and made the dialogue naturally becomes very limited between them both and that drive me to find different alternative ways for each character to express about themselves and to communicate with even with no words as we see it in the final scene for instant.

LCIFF:  Even though the film is set in Egypt, the topics addressed are quite universal.  Was that something you set out to accomplish from the beginning? 

MK:  I'm always concern to tell the stories that puts the human condition as priority in the story line that raises questions about ourselves and makes us think, as I believe that the human have many similarities and shares same qualities no matter what the difference in the language or the cultures or the race, there's always something that unite us that we can relate to, something more powerful than any boundaries or barriers that try to divide us, and that's what i believe that the cinema has this power to gather us to share our human qualities and stories with each other.

Eman Moustafa as Nour.

Eman Moustafa as Nour.

LCIFF:  In terms of filmmaking style, the camera goes between the solitude of a small space like a bedroom or bathroom, to a documentary like appearance especially in the street scenes. What are some of the challenges you had in shooting in these different spaces? 

MK:  I prefer not use too much camera movement as I like my camera to play the role of the observer rather than to be invasive in the narrative, and I knew from the beginning that most of the story is happening inside the small apartment portrays the small world of this family, and the challenge for me was how to find place with nearly close to what I've imagined with a certain interior design that could eventually serve the idea of separating the both worlds of the girl and the father even with small spaces given to serve this perspective, as for the image I’ve chosen the natural lighting over the artificial lighting as I prefer to shoot in real actual places and use it's natural source of light as key guide for each scene to build a real atmosphere for the film, after all aren't we all try tell the audience that this a real life in the first place?

LCIFF:  Ultimately what do you hope the audience takes away after viewing the film?

MK:  I hope that the audience would find something that they could relates them even if it's a minor thing and eventually I hope they enjoy their time watching the film.


Wintry Spring will be featured on April 22nd as part of Microfest.


72 Hour Cell Phone Contest is ON!!!

72 Hour Cell Phone Contest is ON!!!

Right now, across Plattsburgh, cinema is being made.  At 3pm Thursday afternoon, over a dozen teams were sent instructions.  And on Sunday October 30th at the Strand Theatre, these films will be screened.  A couple sleepless nights.  Creativity and coffee percolating into the wee hours.  It will be a treat.  So, come out on Sunday to share in the excitement of art made on the fly!

LCIFF Profiles: Hamish Downie

LCIFF Profiles: Hamish Downie

One of the most talked about films from the first LCIFF was "An American Piano".  It told the try story of a young girl who played the piano for American POWs during WWII.  This film went on to garner multiple awards at festivals around the world.  The writer of that film is back with a film he directed this time.  The man is Hamish Downie and the film is "Silence".

LCIFF Intern Joseph Lewis conducted an interview with Mr. Downie.  Let's read...

Hamish Downey, director of "Silence".  Star of  Road House ?

Hamish Downey, director of "Silence".  Star of Road House?

LCIFF:  What inspired you to title the film "Silence"?

Hamish Downie (HD):  The original title was actually "The Last Time", but it was changed at the suggestion of Paul Leeming, the cinematographer and colorist on the film. As the film is about same-sex domestic violence, which is shrouded in silence in the LGBT community, we both agreed that the new title really fit the story we were trying to tell. The other nice thing about the word 'Silence' is that it is the same in both English and French. "Silence" is a film with no dialogue, so in part it is a nod to that, but also, with a French title, it is a little nod to the great French Animations that also don't use language. I remember the great Silent Film star Gloria Swanson once saying that we lost something special when films moved to sound. With language comes limitations, whereas silent films were universal, something that could bring the world together.

LCIFF:  Does this short film reflect your background at all? How were you inspired to do this short film?

HD: Yes, it does. The film is inspired by two events that I went through during a toxic relationship I was in. As a member of the LGBT community, I felt that it was an important issue to talk about. There has been some great articles done in recent years on this topic, but nothing has been done on film. And as film is an audio-visual beast, I believe that it's a more powerful communication tool. Plus, an added bonus is, making the film was cheaper and more cathartic than counselling. I got the idea to make the film while we were having our first screening of 'An American Piano', and luckily, the incredible actress Qyoko Kudo, who was in both films, was very open to the idea. So, I felt some confidence to pursue the idea. I initially wanted Paul Leeming to direct again, but he encouraged me to try my hands at directing, so I set out to follow in his footsteps. What made it easier is that I'd worked with everyone on the set before and they really supported me and the film, as it was a very emotional experience for me, especially as a first time director. 


LCIFF:  What made you decide to make this film in black and white with an old film style?

HD:  It's all in service of the story. We're telling the story of a person trapped in a toxic relationship. Usually, in these relationships, the abuser restricts every aspect of the victim's life. So, we wanted to tell this visually. Through the restrictive fashion and hair styles of Japan in the early 60s, the restricted color of the film noir style in the 1940s, the mask, and through shooting the film in a old ghost town. In order to be true to the period we were portraying, I believe Black and White was the way to go. Paul spent a lot of time getting the color right, to truly reflect the old film stock of the era, which produced very high contrast images.

LCIFF:  Do you get inspiration from any other directors? If so, how did they influence you on making "Silence"?

HD:  The film was definitely influenced by Yasujiro Ozu, specifically "Tokyo Story". The look, the feel and the cinematography was mostly from Ozu. Also, Howard Hawks directing "The Big Sleep". I'm very influenced by David Lynch in telling a story set in our dream life, rather than our waking life. I love the world of "Silent Hill", the games and the first film. The idea of setting a film in purgatory is very interesting to me. But, mostly, I'm influenced by my mentor and friend Paul Leeming, who directed the short film I wrote, "An American Piano". The way I direct, and managed a set is directly influenced from him. Also, I remember going to a talk given by Ridley Scott where he said that directing was 80% choosing the right cast and crew. And, I think I definitely lucked out with very talented group.


Thanks, Joe!


LCIFF Profiles: Deb Ellis

LCIFF Profiles: Deb Ellis

Directors of  Peace Has No Borders : Deb Ellis and Dennis Mueller.

Directors of Peace Has No Borders: Deb Ellis and Dennis Mueller.

One of LCIFF's enlightening feature films this year is the documentary Peace Has No Borders, directed by Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller. It follows the experiences of Iraq War veterans seeking asylum in Canada and political activists there who support their claim. This documentary sheds light on a controversial social and political issue that came to light during the Vietnam War, and hasn't faded away since.

This overarching theme is common throughout Ellis and Mueller's work together. They are passionate about the subjects they choose, and Ellis says, "our films express counter-narratives, stories not told by the mainstream press. We fill a gap."

Read on for more insight into the directors' journey in bringing this story to light in LCIFF intern Samantha Johnson's interview with Deb Ellis:

LCIFF: When and how did you first become familiar with this subject?

Deb Ellis (DE): In 2006, we learned about a bi-national event called “Peace Has No Borders” held in support of Iraq War resisters who crossed the border to Canada instead of returning to war. We decided to check it out, and were compelled. Taking place near the U.S./Canadian border in Buffalo, NY and Ft. Erie, ON, we met draft dodgers and deserters from the Vietnam War era, including members from Vets For Peace (VFP) and Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), and representatives from Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), all there to support a new generation of vets who had crossed the border in recent years, refusing participation in current wars.

We quickly decided that this was a story that interested us, and initially thought of making a short film. That was our idea, but we soon found ourselves following the story over time. Now, ten years later, we have finished the film, but the story of the resisters who crossed the border is ongoing.   

For better or worse, we didn’t know what we were getting into. But, we felt strongly about following an activist movement, and this story seemed perfect for us. Initially, we started following one family. As we continued to shoot, we saw a bigger picture. There were multiple characters, and the War Resisters Support Campaign, led by Michelle Robidous, became a character as well. There were tremendous ups and downs over the years. Reality has a funny way of intervening in the best laid plans! We got ourselves into the story and didn’t crawl out until the Harper government was voted out of power by the Canadian electorate in 2015.


LCIFF: How does this film relate to other work you have done?

DE: Our films examine significant social and political movements. "Howard Zinn: You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train" (short-listed for an Academy Award) is an overview of social movements of the 20th century through the eyes of activist and historian Howard Zinn. "The FBI’s War on Black America" is a rigorous examination of the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO program. An underground classic, the film remains a relevant cautionary tale about the dangers of government surveillance. "Peace Has No Borders" is yet another chapter, reflecting on the impact of social activism and resistance to war.

Our prior films are important reminders that some people make great sacrifices to talk truth to power and that often they pay a price. “Peace Has No Borders” follows the story of a few contemporary soldiers for peace, revealing both the power and limitations of activism.

When we began working on this film there were several good films being made about the Iraq War and we didn’t want to duplicate those efforts. Instead, we found the beginning of a parallel, but untold, story about Iraq War veterans who crossed the border to Canada seeking asylum, much like their Vietnam era counterparts. “Peace Has No Borders” keeps their story alive for future generations who will face their own decisions in the face of war.

LCIFF: What insight did this film give you into the relationship between Canada’s government and public opinion?

DE: Working on this film has reinforced our sense that public opinion and what a government wants can be very different. A 2008 Angus Reid poll showed that 64% of Canadians believed U.S. Iraq War resisters should be allowed to stay in Canada. A new 2016 Insights West public opinion poll confirms this sentiment. A majority of Canadians agree with allowing U.S. soldiers - who fled to Canada after refusing to take part in the Iraq War - to become permanent residents. But, the politicians have been either strongly adverse, or silent.

In 2006, Canada’s Conservative Party was elected into power and Stephen Harper was appointed Prime Minister. Harper was vehimantly opposed to allowing the resisters to stay in Canada. A lot of our film takes place during his reign. Today, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party is in power. Despite Trudeau’s support of the resisters in Parliament, and in our film, he has has been silent since taking power. The remaining resisters in Canada continue to live in limbo. Change is difficult. That’s one of the things our film is about.


Great job, Samantha!  Keep up the good work!

LCIFF Profiles: Chris Moraitis

LCIFF Profiles: Chris Moraitis

Christos Liakouris (pseudonym Chris Moraitis) Film Director & Producer of  PET .

Christos Liakouris (pseudonym Chris Moraitis) Film Director & Producer of PET.

It's that time of year again when we start highlighting the directors of the films that will play at the November fest.  In anticipation of the Third LCIFF, we begin our profiles with the director of one of the fest's most enigmatic and powerful films: Greek filmmaker Chris Moraitis, director of PET.  

In PET, Dimitris (a 10 years old boy) is the only child of a rich family. The only person that took care of him, his grandma, is dead. Now his only companion is his pet guinea pig. When Dimitris’ parents decide a cruel future for him, Dimitris in order to survive he “cripples” the most pure side of himself. PET: “A film about childhood and the time you have to leave behind your innocence in order to survive.”

You can check out the film's trailer here and its Facebook page here.  Also, a recent Huffington Post article about the film's Oscar hopes can be found here.

LCIFF intern Anthony Scalzo spoke with the director about this strange and potent work:

LCIFF: Does this short film reflect your background at all? How were you inspired to do this short film?

Chris Moraitis (CM): No, PET its not a biographical film, although [it] has many of my unconscious aspects.  I committed to that story because it concerns me very strongly how a child can [be] mentally deformed due to the treatment of his parents. As I am also concerned of the consequences of materialism. That "race" of demonstrating wealth and power, for the sake of which we losing ourselves and our children. We lose the moment... and the future.

The eponymous star of  PET .

The eponymous star of PET.

LCIFF: It was interesting how you never showed the parent's faces. Was that a conscious decision made prior to shooting? And why did you decide to shoot that way? 

CM: Not showing the parents faces was a conscious decision made prior to shooting. I chose to do that for three reasons. First because I am not talking about two specific parents but about parents in general. Second, I am not showing their eyes because these people are "Blind". And the third reason is that in the scene of the living room I wanted to present a male-female "monster" shape.

LCIFF: What other Directors do you draw inspiration from? 

CM: I can't think [of] a director that inspires me in a determinant way. But I can think some directors that I admire their work. David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sam Mendes and David Fincher are some of them.

New Submission Option

New Submission Option

As a young film festival, we have been exploring different services in order to figure out which works best for us.  Case in point, online film submission sites.  Currently, LCIFF has accounts open on FilmFestivalLife and FilmFreeway.  Today, we are announcing our latest account on FestHome. The numbers we get from these various platforms will help us figure out what works best for the festival.  What do we need you to do?....


Submit your latest masterwork.  Choose the platform you prefer.  Remember our normal deadline is on August 31st.  We do have a late submission period ending on September 10th as well.  We want your films!

Here are links to our submission sites:

Happy Submitting!!!

Q & A with Simon Conroy director of Grass Farm Chicken

Q & A with Simon Conroy director of Grass Farm Chicken


As a preview for our local filmmaker showcase we have a Q & A with Simon Conroy one of our board members and director of the film Grass Farm Chicken which is playing this Friday May 6th at The Strand Center. Doors open 6:30pm Tickets $5... Students (with I.D.) and under 18 get in free! 

Simon Conroy discusses some of the challenges of documentary filmmaking and profiling artisanal farming in the area. 

LCIFF:  Once you had the idea for the film, how long did it take to shoot and finish the production?

SC:   The two music scenes in the film are from an open house I bought my family to.  This was my first time on the farm & I asked if I could return to film on a processing day.  I did and shot the majority of the footage one misty july morning from 6-9am.  The plowing footage was a bonus that I captured one afternoon when I was passing through in an effort to get a few images to round out the story. 


LCIFF:  Did you experience any challenges through out the production? 

SC:  The challenge with documenting is to not influence the subject.  You want to tell a true story and show the audience what the daily scene is like when the filmmaker is not there and the camera is not rolling. 


LCIFF:  What do you hope the audience takes away from the film's message about artisanal farming? 

SC:  Americans consume an incredible amount of industrial chicken.  This film shines light on one of the thousands of sustainable & quality small farm models playing out across the country to bring consumers another choice 

LCIFF:  What other mediums (film, written, etc.) inspired you to make this film? 

SC:  When I saw Ben Stechulte's "Small Farm Rising" I felt many of the scenes shot & stories told were ones that I would capture and tell similarly.  I am constantly inspired by people who share the most fascinating experiences that are going on every day and would otherwise only be known by those living within them.  Bringing to life on the big screen that which seems ordinary to some and extraordinary to many is the goal. 

LCIFF:  What did you learn the most about yourself or your subject after completing your film? 

SC: I did not want to shy away from the slaughtering process. It is messy and labor intensive and these are challenges in increasing the availability and affordability of this meat.  The first time we showed this to a large audience I realized it was ok to make them feel discomfort as the benefits of opening eyes outweighed the risk that some would choose to shield theirs.