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The Independent Critic

 2012 Heartland Film Festival: A-Z Reviews, Vol. 2 
All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert (74 Mins., Doc Feature)
All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert (74 Mins., Doc Feature)

Featuring: Winfred Rembert; Directed by: Vivian Ducat; OFFICIAL WEBSITE

All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert continues Heartland's rich tradition of presenting absolutely marvelous docs about artists whose works you may not necessarily recognize. Winfred Rembert is a 66-year-old artist whose rather incredible life informs his work. He learned to do leather work while in prison, and his culturally relevant folk art is reflective of his time in prison and his life filled with experiences both incredibly painful and remarkably celebratory. His artistry reminds me of the literary mastery of Etheridge Knight, and All Me beautifully captures it all. Most impressive of all, Rembert is a terrific storyteller who further brings his work to life through his own spoken words.

Directed by Vivian Ducat, All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert finds Rembert working to fulfill a goal - having a hometown show even as he is an artist who has been celebrated worldwide. The best docs, and certainly the best docs about artists, make you want to rush home and learn more about them and, envelope yourself in their works. So it was with All Me, a documentary that had me rushing home to learn all I could about this incredible artist in the faint hope that I could one day have one of his stunningly beautiful and deeply meaningful works in my home as a reminder of life, of hope, of pain and of the journey that ties it all together.

The Anderson Monarchs (76 Mins., Doc Feature)

Featuring: The Anderson Monarchs; Directed by: Eugene Martin; OFFICIAL FACEBOOK

The Anderson Monarchs is a perfect film for the 2012 Heartland Film Festival, yet in many ways it avoids being overtly a "Heartland" type of film. It's disappointing that the film isn't one of the festival's award-winners, but instead merely an "official selection." I know. I know. It's not supposed to matter - it's about the craft, after all. But, having seen all the feature docs in this year's festival I find myself incredibly disappointed that the judges this year appear to have stereotyped this film because it falls a tad too close to last year's Undefeated and has the makings of your typical inspirational "rah rah" doc about inner-city kids.

Nominated in 2008 as "Sports Team of the Year" by Sports Illustrated, The Anderson Monarchs are the only all girls, nationally competitive African American soccer club in the United States. The girls are all from a Philly neighborhood considered "at-risk," and director Eugene Martin's The Anderson Monarchs does an absolutely incredible job of painting both the reality of their lives and the escape, as much as it can be an escape, that comes through soccer.

The ever present racial component, white coach guiding a black soccer team, is wisely never made an issue by Martin, who spends more time capturing the spirit of these marvelous girls than he does stressing their challenges. That said, their challenges are immense and they're not ignored. The film focuses on two girls, Jlon Flippens and Kahlaa Cannady, but does so in a way that humanizes more than glorifies. The Anderson Monarchs isn't so much a "feel good" film as it is a "feel real" film.

The lensing by Jen Schneider excels at capturing both sides of the coin for these girls, their urban reality and their hopes, dreams and playful innocence. Rather than building coach Walter Stewart up for sainthood, director Eugene Martin plays things out honestly and, at times, Martin has the guts to ask the difficult questions that are usually left bouncing around in the audience's mind after a film such as this one.

Already quite popular on the fest circuit, The Anderson Monarchs should be a "must see" in every junior high and high school around the country, both inner-city and affluent. This may not be the best film of the 2012 Heartland Film Festival, but it's surely one of the films you won't forget.

Assemble' (22 Mins., Narrative Short)

Starring:  Sebastian Diaz, Sophie Gomez, Estefania Ugarte; Written and Directed by: Miguel Ferraez

Easily one of my favorites from the 2012 Heartland Film Festival, Assemble' is the recipient of a Jimmy Stewart Memorial Crystal Heart Award recognizing excellence from a student filmmaker.

Excellence indeed.

Ten-year-old Etienne (Sebastian Diaz) is consumed by loneliness and isolation when he arrives in Mexico to live with his estranged mother. His world is changed when he attends his mother's ballet class and meets Sara (Estefania Ugarte), who shows him that what is really important is not the way you say things but what is behind the words.

The camera work from Felipe Perez-Burchard helps Assemble' to reach a rather remarkable level of emotional resonance given its 22-minute running time, though it helps to have the film in the hands of the marvelous Sebastian Diaz and Estefania Ugarte. The two are terrific together, with their body language and unspoken silences also speaking volumes.

Filmed in Mexico by writer/director Miguel Ferraez, Assemble' doesn't so much slam you with its wonder as it bathes you in its words, images and sounds. One of the few student films that doesn't feel like a student film, Assemble' should be the beginning of a wonderful career in film for the talented Ferraez.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic