There seems to be a new meme in indie film: scary ladies. Last year I identified two femme fatales at the LA Film Festival. This year, the “Danger: Crazy Lady Ahead” award goes to a pair of films shown at the Dances With Films Festival (#DWF19), earlier this month in Hollywood: Wolf Mother and I Live for You. The ladies in these films could not only steal your heart, but, also your soul and your life.
I went into this film without reading anything about it, assuming from the title it was going to be some backwoods tale. The producers reinforced this impression, when, just before the film began, they handed out knit beanies with “Wolf Mother” embroidered on them. Boy, was I wrong.
Wolf Mother, a film by writer/director Erik Peter Carlson, takes us on a crazy ride with a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque couple, Ben, played by Kevin Pinassi, and Zelda, played by Najarra Townsend (The Toy Soldiers, Contracted). Ben is a petty thief, down on his luck. Zelda, a former child-star, works as a streetwalker. The two team up, hoping to find redemption by rescuing a little girl in a high-profile child-abduction case.
The first 15 minutes of the film are devoted to introducing Ben. If there was also an award for creating dislikable, misogynistic, amoral jerk characters, writer/director Carlson would win it. During the Q&A after the film, Carlson said he wanted to make sure there was a character arc for Jon. He gave him quite an arc to climb. Jon does one thing during those fifteen minutes that actually made the sophisticated Hollywood audience gasp out loud.
The other interesting thing about this character is his voice-over narration. It gives this very contemporary film a 1940s film-noir feel.
Then there is the scary lady played by Townsend. We discover her background, bit by bit, but there are enough mysteries left to let our subconscious fill in the blanks. Before the film is over, we learn that Zelda is good in the sack and good with an automatic weapon.
I Live for You
The loss of a parent can be devastating. Sean, played by Rob Hook, leaves his father’s funeral to find a note on his windshield informing him that he has a half-brother whom he has never met. Following up on the note, he encounters our second scary lady, Kate, played by Hannah Telle.
Kate tells Rob about his half-brother Henry, a drug dealer. She seduces him into his first real relationship and leads him into a mystery involving murder, drugs, deception, intimidation, and illusion on the streets of Los Angeles. The mystery and relationship, twisted like a double helix, will keep you fascinated and worried for Rob.
After the screening, the cast, crew, and writer/director Monika Wesley answered questions from the audience.
Filming in LA is often a challenge for indie filmmakers as the city is oriented toward big studio productions. One audience member asked about a chase scene in the film. The filmmakers said that they did have a permit for filming on that street, but not for the stunt. “We just did it,” one of them explained.
Wesley recalled shooting a scene with a camera rig hanging off the side of the car, driving into a tunnel along the Pacific Ocean near Malibu. “A police car came up behind us, then just passed us. He didn’t stop us,” she said. Smiling she added, “He must have figured that if we were doing that, we must have a permit.” Close one. That’s why it’s called “guerilla filmmaking.”
Telle, who gives a stunning performance as Kate, is also a singer and gets to sing in the film. She has a haunting sound that fits well with the character of Kate, and reminds me of folk singers from the 1960s.
An audience member asked Hook, who is English, why he didn’t do an American accent for the California based character, Sean. Hook explained, “One day, during rehearsals, I decided to try my American accent. After about an hour, Monika called cut. She told us we were doing great, but then said, ‘Let’s do that again, but this time, Rob, try it with an American accent.’ I guess I’m going to have to work on that.”