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New Release Review (VOD) – Badsville


Opening with a gruff voiceover wistfully enumerating the grim ghettopia of its setting – ‘a shit stain on map’ – Badsville wastes no time in establishing the civil hopelessness of its lower-working/criminal class as they eke out an existence within the titular ‘ville’; a rundown, gang ridden town, forgotten at the far south of California. The monologue, gruff as the edge of a matchbox, outlines the limited opportunities for young men within the area; “I learnt at a young age a king does what he’s got to do to stay on top,” recounting the sort of ruthless clichés that all men secretly love to believe, and which constitute a societal contract within this ghost town where lead roadman and speaker Wink (who is probably getting a bit old for all of this nonsense), resides in sleazy splendour. To cap off the badboy bleakness of Badsville’s outlook, this desolation is expressed over scenes of petty violence, sinister mischief and, in unforgiving dusty close up, the dead as disco face of Wink himself.

Badsville Movie

In flashback, we learn more about Wink (Ian McLaren, who also scripts) as he was, with his de rigueur slicked back hair and tight-jeans-vest combo barely covering a body sculpted from shining muscle, and, in time honoured gangster tradition, his abiding affection for his dear old mam. We see that a heart thumps beneath Wink’s knife-edge physique as he cares for the dying woman, and thus sympathy is built for when she soon passes away, prompting our hero to consider a change in his ways. And here is where it gets interesting. The anti-hero-with-Oedipal-complex trope is expounded by Benjamin Barrett and McLaren’s screenplay, as Wink falls, almost immediately, for cute Suzy (Tamara Duarte) a waitress in the diner where Wink is a short order cook. Problem is, as ever, that Wink’s boy Benny (Barrett, also multitasking) is gay, a disposition which everyone else seems to realise and accept, except for Benny himself, who is at odds with his desire for the fellas and his own conditioned homophobia (he’ll pick up rough trade in a stupor, and then duff up the poor chap in self-disgust when they’re done). This explication of the gangster bromance trope is fascinating, probing what other blokey films coyly imply, but don’t dare to explore, with unflinching sensitivity.

But here’s the thing: nothing much changes in Badsville. Wink takes Suzy on a double date with Benny, and it’s ruined by Benny’s disregard of his own (female) partner. Poor Wink really made the effort too, bringing along the gift of a cheap teddy bear for Suzy, a woman who is in her early twenties. Travis Bickle taking Cybil Shepard to a porn film has nothing on the cluelessness of our guy, whose complete inexperience in relationships that aren’t coded within gang rules and regs is made sweetly clear. And, as these things generally do, the situation goes from bad to worse with some sort of beef (the details of which are irrelevant in their inevitability) with another gang, impacting upon the tentative couple and initiated by the most kinetic bar room brawl this side of Terminator 2.

One of the most impressive aspects of Badsville is how its clumsy and realistic violence contrasts the emotive dignity of character based sequences. Renaissance woman April Mullen directs with a sympathetic understanding of who these people are, and what limits their potential: Wink, Benny et al may live as stereotypes, but Mullen crafts characterisation that reveals deeper capacities and draws upon deep wells of sadness. DoP Russ De Jong’s iconography creates the sort of high plains Hispanic look that Robert Rodriguez would die for.

The burnished mise-en-scene looks incredible, with a night time composed of electric blues and deep reds, a sensual and dangerously seductive world that contrasts the dirty, sun worn day time; it’s telling that Badsville’s major acts of violence usually happen in daytime, giving such territorial pissings a flat and pointless feeling. In a further bonus, the main baddie is played by Prison Break’s Robert Knepper, whose campy menace is put to its usual scary use. As the patriarch of a rival bunch, he’s too far gone to change now, and perpetuates the violence that establishes Badsville’s society; a lingering close-up on his visibly shocked son, whom he has beaten for being a ‘pussy’, finally goading him into a shocking act of violence, compounds the cycle.

As Badsville’s bros race about to a score of screaming guitars, and leather jackets are scuffed in further skirmishes, Mullen indulges every trope in the greaser gang book: but only because these characters live by a strict and repetitive code of cliché themselves. In a forgotten area of economic desperation and circumscribed opportunity, conforming to gang principles is a way to forge an identity, a way to fit in, with an ad hoc macho status tempered from stereotype and juvenile ideals. This film, which I loved, is a tragedy that takes masculinity as its psychomachia; the fatal tension between the expectation of the crowd and the hopes of the individual, between image and the person beneath. What does it mean to be a man in this town where love is contraband, and instead violence, love’s very opposite, abides? As befits this sincere and heartfelt film, at Badsville’s fatal conclusion, Mullen offers us no easy answers.

Badsville is due to release on VOD in February following a Canadian theatrical run on January 26th.

Source : The Movie Waffler (20/01/2018)

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5 Questions with April Mullen and David J Phillips “Badsville” filmmakers


“Badsville” will have a special screening at the Borrego Springs Film Festival in California on January 11, 2018.

Borrego Springs Film Festival 2017

FRIDAY | BLOCK F | 7:30 |
Badsville (96 min) dir: April Mullen

#1: Can you describe your movie and why somebody should see it in less than 280 characters?

Badsville is a Badass film, and like the L.A. Times said it is “a powerful, deeply felt crime drama about letting go of the past and getting out of Dodge — before it’s too late.”

#2: What do you want the Borrego Springs Film Festival audience to know about your film that isn’t obvious from its title?

Although it is a greaser gang movie with a lot of action and fun, at its heart it is a love story.

#3: What is your movie making background?  Tell us about yourself.

David J Phillips, Producer: Originally a gameshow host and professional Shakespeare actor, David has now produced a dozen feature films that have appeared in various festivals and in theatres, netflix, and television. I started my own production company Phillm Productions of which Badsville is the 2nd film.

April Mullen, Director:
Ian McLaren and Benjamin Barrett, writers + lead actors: Ian played hockey for many years until a back injury kept him away.  Ben was a wrestler who attended University of Santa Barbara on scholarship. They met in an acting class and decided to write Badsville… the rest is history.

#4: What was the biggest lesson learned in getting your film made?

Working as a team gets you further, and there is no such thing as a bad idea – only that some ideas are better than others 🙂
Ultimately, collaboration gets you the best result.

#5: What does the future hold for your film and you?

This is our final film festival, as the film will be available on multiple platforms in March – InDemand, iTunes, Amazon, etc etc..

 

April in Standing in Solidarity for women


Truthfully I’ve always allowed or ignored the comments and misconduct because deep down I thought they would stop me from doing what I love most… in the last 10 years only 4 % of top grossing directors were female – only 7 of these were women of colour to this I say #TIMESUP ” #whywewearblack #aprilmullen #timesupnow

April Mullen @ TimesUp 08.01.2018

DGC Ontario Director : April Mullen


April Mullen is the Director of Below Her Mouth which pushes the boundaries for cinematic sex and premiered this past September at TIFF 2016. Shot by an all-female crew,  TIFF programers called it “one of the boldest and sexiest dramas of the year.”

Below her mouth - set 09.2015 (24)

This film was shot using an entirely female crew. What was the inspiration for this?

AM: With Below Her Mouth, we wanted to bring to life something audiences had never seen before on screen: an honest depiction of a truly female perspective on desire, love, intimacy, sex and heartbreak. The goal was to capture an electrifying moment of intense chemistry between two people when they least expected it.

In every department we wanted to bring a female touch and gaze to the screen when it came to love and sex. This “female gaze” included lighting, sound, wardrobe, camera movement, editing and music etc.  In order to bring this story to life we needed to expose our female voice, creativity and truth.  Hiring an all female crew allowed our original intention to be strengthened because everything came from women. It was also an essential part in allowing our actresses, Erika Linder and Natalie Krill, to have a safe and comfortable place to reveal their desires and be intimate. They needed to know they were supported and had the trust of all involved in order to go to the extremes they went to in their performances.  There was so much respect on set for them and our mission. It was a unique and transformative experience.

Can you talk about your experience working with these women on the film?

AM: On set we were able to create a supportive environment that allowed every woman to stay true to herself. The voice of the film is so strong and honest because of that.  Working with all of these women we found a very fluid communication style and seamless work flow to enhance the experience. It was rewarding and empowering to watch each key woman excel in her department.  Everyone brought so much of themselves and their truth to the table; it was an honour to bring that to the screen in all forms.  I believe the results of having an all-female crew can be seen on the screen.

The film is being called sexy and bold. Can you talk about your experience directing this content and the benefits and challenges?

AM: 99% of my exposure to sex in film, TV and media is something that was written by a man, directed by a man, and made to turn men on. This fact was something that was always on my mind while filming Below Her Mouth. I struggled trying to stay true to my inner sense of sexuality as a woman, and create a filmic narrative that was free from the usual images, positions, sex you would normally see in a male driven film. I had to constantly remind myself to forget all of the “movie sex” I had seen before.  Instead, I reflected inwardly on what turned me on as a woman – what were my inner desires, what made me want to be physical with another person. These are the moments I wanted to bring to the screen.   Another one of my big goals and challenges was to isolate our leads, Natalie and Erika, so that the rest of the world would disappear as it does in life when we fall in love. To allow the actors to feel extra protected and safe to break down any barriers and be vulnerable; to champion their connection and allow them freedom to express themselves.

What is your background in directing and how has the DGC helped you in your journey?

AM: My background in directing is through creating my own work with Wango Films; Tim Doiron and I started the production company after graduating from Ryerson Theatre School.  I started in the industry as an actress and spent years on set observing behind and in front of the monitor.  I am from the indie feature film scene and have slowly gone up in budget levels when it comes to features, that being said I just recently joined the DGC.  Since joining I have found it to be a very supportive community of very talented people.  The DGC has been there recently on my new journey into the TV world and they have been very helpful with the transition.  It’s fantastic to be a part of such an important union of creative minds here in Canada; I look forward to getting to know more members and the DGC as a whole.

What advice do you have for female directors and other directors looking to make their film sets more diverse and inclusive?

AM: It’s an exciting time in the industry. There is so much talent and so many new voices out there.  I love working with the younger generation as much as I do the older one.   The mix of experience and wonder is intriguing and creates an interesting dynamic. Each film is so specific with its own creative needs, it’s important to find the right fit every time.  I love hiring women; there are so many talented ones out there to recognize, you just have to find them.  I hope the percentages of women in film continue to increase.  It’s a long-term transition as we are still a long way away from a balance, but I believe awareness is important so the younger generation of women know it’s possible.  In terms of advice, I would say, stay open minded and pick the best individual for the job.

A director known as much for her versatility as she is for her passion, April Mullen’s latest directorial offer Below Her Mouth is a relentless love story shot entirely by an all female crew.  She was recently honoured with the Birks Diamond Tribute to the Year’s Women in Film.  Her previous features include: 88, an action thriller and Dead Before Dawn 3D, which confirmed April Mullen as the youngest person and first female to direct a live action stereoscopic 3D feature film. The film was celebrated for its technological achievements and awarded the Perron Crystal Award. Mullen is co-founder of the independent production company Wango Films, alongside Tim Doiron. The company has produced five films to date. A true maverick in the feature film world, Miss Mullen is known for her bold and stunning visuals, ambitious shooting style, strong performances and unique voice.

Source : DGC Online (28/08/2017)

D Films expands into film, TV production


Toronto-based distributor D Films has launched a production division in partnership with Brain On Fire producer Rob Merilees.

The venture will develop film and TV content in Canada and launches with the series Headhunter, an eight-part series based on criminal lawyer Michael Slade’s bestselling Mountie Noir thrillers about the Special X psycho-hunters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The production division’s upcoming slate includes co-productions with Luxembourg and Belgium on Bruce MacDonald’s Dreamland, Ireland on April Mullen’s Bloody Knuckles, and Dolphin Tale director Charles Martin Smith’s The Maclean Boys.

“Vertically expanding the company through content creation has been a key business objective for D Films,” D Films CEO and president Jim Sherry said. “Launching this new division with Rob, one of the most successful producers in North America, realises that goal and strengthens the company’s position for future growth.”

Synopsis : A feuding rock band on their final tour steal two million dollars in drug money and soon become caught up in a deadly small town crime syndicate.

All-female ‘Below Her Mouth’ stretches boundaries at Bucheon film fest


One of the big issues in the film world today is getting more female perspectives on to the silver screen, and perhaps no film better exemplifies those efforts than director April Mullen’s “Below Her Mouth,” which made its Korean premiere at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival on July 14.

april-mullen-la-times-shooting-11-09-2016-2

Not content with just a female director for the lesbian love story, the film generated buzz with its all-female crew, from sets and lighting to catering.

“We wanted the actresses to feel really, really comfortable and at ease,” Mullen tells The Korea Herald at a coffeehouse on Saturday in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province. “And we knew it was going to be a closed set and kind of sensitive material, and we wanted to allow them to feel very isolated from the world.” The idea started just with the floor crew, she adds, but extended when word got out and women started to recommend other women.

While she says she’s unlikely to follow such a hiring practice again, on others following suit she says, “I would encourage it, especially given that the percentages (of women in film production) are very low.”

“Below Her Mouth” is an 18-rated romantic drama that tells the story of Dallas, played by Swedish supermodel and actress Erika Linder, and her seduction of Natalie Krill’s Jasmine while her fiance is on a weekend business trip. Similar in a vein to last year’s breakout Korean lesbian romance “Our Love Story,” the Canadian film goes much further in its depiction of raw female physicality and the lust that intertwines itself into the love story.

“The sex in it is very much like an emotional journey and kind of exploring the laws of attraction and what propels people to want to be with another person physically, and why do we do it, and how it feels,” Mullen explains.

“I think very few films explore the female orgasm,” Mullen adds. “And that’s kind of taboo in a way. … We don’t really talk about that.”

Among other goals the flick seeks is normalizing the depiction of strap-on sexual aides. “It’s just part of our main character’s way of seducing women,” the director says. “It’s very authentic to the community — the LGBT — and what women do.”

“That’s maybe why we’re in the Forbidden section,” Mullen reflects, referring to the film being programmed in BIFAN’s Forbidden Zone. “I love that we’re forbidden. I think it’s tantalizing, and makes me want to see the film even more.”

“I think the film is very much a universal theme that ‘love is love,’ and it really comes from an honest, truthful, raw place,” she adds.

Mullen further set out to reimagine how sex is portrayed on screen. “(The struggle) was preparing for the sex scenes and making sure they were authentically from a female’s point of view, and not things that have been brainwashed into my head,” she says, pointing out that so much of what is out there is from male fantasy and that idea of what “sexy” is. The female perspective is very emotional,” the director opines. I had recently fallen desperately in love, and it came with a lot of heartbreak,” Mullen says about what led up to her making “Below Her Mouth.” “I wanted to try and express what that electrical feeling of falling in love very quickly was like — in 90 minutes.”

“Below Her Mouth” has been making its rounds on the film festival circuit since premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, but critical response has been less than stellar, with some reviews pointing to a lack of direction in dramatic narrative.

“You kind of have to walk in very open-minded and let go of this traditional moviemaking and movie-viewing experience,” Mullen says, brushing off critics. “The movie is meant to just be very simple — a slice of life in 78 hours — and it’s supposed to leave you with a feeling.”

There is a kind of response to the film the director has enjoyed, however: young women who approach her in cinema halls after screenings. “It’s way more about the impact that it’s making on the ground floor and when people come up to me and say … ‘You’ve allowed me to feel like myself,’” she emotes, “That means so much more to me.”

The director, whose previous works included teen horror flick “Dead Before Dawn 3D” and thriller “88,” is hopping genres again. She begins filming an action musical tentatively titled “Bloody Knuckles” in Ireland in October. “I hope to keep making all kinds of different films,” Muller explains. “I hope to be sort of a multigenre director. Maybe I’ll break that mold, too.”

The final screening of “Below Her Mouth” at BIFAN is at 8 p.m. on Friday. The film also appears at the 17th Korea Queer Film Festival at Lotte Cinema Broadway near Sinsa Station in Seoul at midnight on Friday and at 10 a.m. on Sunday. It is set for a nationwide release in October.

Source : Korea Herald (20/07/2017)

‘Below her Mouth’ screening in South Africa


This year Videovision will be screening four movies at the festival. This includes the opening night’s Serpent‚ a thriller about the interaction between a husband and his unfaithful wife who are trapped in a tent with a black mamba.

Serpent is a feature debut from writer-director Amanda Evans. This will be its South African premiere after it got its international premier at the Cannes Film Festival.

Sanjeev Singh‚ director of distribution and acquisition at Videovision‚ said the film festival had taken a conscious decision to feature more accessible and high-profile films at its opening.

“It’s a different approach‚” he said. “Even Cannes‚ the greatest film festival in the world‚ open with highly commercial films. In 1992 they opened with Basic Instinct.”

Videovision has produced more than 80 feature films over the past 30 years.

This year the festival will be screening three more of their productions and acquisitions: the Canadian erotic drama Below Her Mouth; The Killing Floor‚ a local drama set in Zululand and featuring Durban theatre impresario Themi Venturas; and Viceroy’s House‚ a movie about Lord Mountbatten‚ the last Viceroy of India‚ who oversaw the transition of British India to independence. It stars Downton Abby’s Hugh Bonneville as well as Gillian Anderson‚ Michael Gambon‚ Manish Dayal and Om Puri.

The 38th Durban International Film Festival runs from 13 to 23 July at venues across the city.

Source : Times S.A. (11/07/2017)