'Film Maudit 2.0' Inaugural Film Festival Comes to 'Highways'


Monique LeBleu

Monique LeBleu

Event Editor, Registered Critic, Writer


Highways Performance Space & Gallery in Santa Monica will present four days dedicated to Outré Films its Inaugural Film Festival, Film Maudit 2.0, Thursday, November 14 Through Sunday, November 17, 2019.

Festival Founder and Highways’ Artistic Director, Patrick Kennelly, curates this festival program to include six feature films and 40 shorts from around the world, with work from Belgium, Canada, Columbia, Estonia, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the UK.

Feature film "Happy Face, by Alexandre Franchi, Film Maudit 2.0. Photo courtesy of Big Time PR.

Dedicated to outré films, the "Film Maudit 2.0 Film Festival" was inspired by French film auteur Jean Cocteau’s 1949 "Festival Du Film Maudit," which celebrated "overlooked and neglected at the time," with the term “film maudit” literally meaning “cursed films,” according to a release. The festival is to showcase “genre-driven cinema to blend narrative, documentary and experimental films that in style or subject matter are deliberately bold, extreme, confrontational or unusual,” including subject matter addressing socio-political issues, the taboo, and works that challenge artistic assumptions and sexual mores.

Each feature and short film in the program will make its Los Angeles premiere, with half of the selected films by female-identifying filmmakers, and awards are to be given for Best Narrative Feature, Best Experimental Feature, Best Narrative Short, Best Experimental Short, and Best Animated Short.

Kennelly, Highways’Artistic Director since 2017, received the 2008 Princess Grace Award for Theater and has received fellowships and grants toward the production of theater in Los Angeles. Highways Performance Space & Gallery has been one of Southern California’s most important non-profit alternative cultural centers for 30 years, encouraging radical artists from diverse communities to develop and present innovative new work in various media and promoting the development of contemporary socially involved artists and art forms. Under the helm of Executive Director, Leo Garcia, Highways has received special funding and support from organizations such as the California Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Warhol Foundation, and the Getty Grant Program.

Film Still from "Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture," by Nicole Brending, Film Maudit 2.0.

Festival Highlights Include:

MOPE (USA)
The Los Angeles premiere of Lucas Heyne’s directing debut, MOPE, a feature-length drama co-written by Zack Newkirk and Heyne and produced by Parkside Pictures in association with Saxton Cinema and Uncooperative Pictures. Set in the San Fernando Valley, the drama is based on the tragic true story of best friends Steve Driver (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) and Tom Dong (Kelly Sry), two low-end porn actors who sought fame but gained infamy. The film premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and includes David Arquette as Rocket. Among the featured cast also are Brian Huskey, Max Adler, Tonya Cornelisse, Clayton Rohner, and Peggy Dunne.

LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER (USA) – The Los Angeles premiere of Ryland Tews’ feature debut, Lake Michigan Monster - Winner of the Audience Award - Best International Film Award at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival, is a whip-smart comedy that follows an eccentric ship captain and a crew of specialists as they plot revenge against the most mysterious creature of the deep – the Lake Michigan Monster. Among the featured cast are Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, Erick West, and Beulah Peters.

DOLLHOUSE (USA) – Other features include DOLLHOUSE: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature and the George Stark Award at Slamdance 2019. A disturbingly entertaining film that charts the rise and fall of fictional child pop star Junie Spoons as her life story (and the ensuing disasters) unfold - as told by those who knew her. Revealing the hypocrisies of a society that preys on the talents and contributions of women, DOLLHOUSE is a scathing look at what it means to be female in a modern world. Among the featured cast are Nicole Brending, Sydney Bonar, and Aneikit Bonnel.

JESUS SHOWS YOU THE WAY TO THE HIGHWAY (Spain, Estonia, Latvia, Ethiopia, Romania, UK) – Written and directed by Miguel Llansó, Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway, an unexpectedly goofy sci-fi-adventure-comedy in the spirit of Team America: World Police, is a Spanish, Ethiopian and Estonian co-production that looks like nothing else out there, blending an afro-futurist outlook with the retro cool of the Cold War spy thriller. Among the featured cast are Daniel Tadesse, Guillermo Llansó, and Agustín Mateo.

FLESH CITY (Germany) – Flesh City, written and directed by Thorsten Fleisch, is an experimental horror film out of Germany. The film follows a young couple who stumbles into a dark, incomprehensible world in the basement of a nihilistic techno club, opening a portal to mutation and mayhem. Among the featured cast are Christian Serritiello, Eva Ferox, and Maria Hengge.

HAPPY FACE (Canada) – Desperate to become less shallow, Stan (Robin L'Houmeau), a handsome 19-year-old, deforms his face with bandages and attends a support group for disfigured people after he learns his cancer-ridden mother will undergo invasive facial surgery. But when he’s exposed as an impostor, Stan strikes a deal with Vanessa (Debbie Lynch-White) the domineering workshop leader. He stays with the group, and in exchange, trains them on how to use their facial differences as a weapon against our beauty-obsessed culture. Happy Face is filmed with real persons with facial differences playing fictionalized versions of themselves. The film also features Dean Perseo, David Roche, E.R. Ruiz, Alison Midstokke, and Noémie Kocher.

Film Still - Caterpillarplasty, director David Barlow-Krleina, an animated short, "Film Maudit 2.0."

SHORTS -  The festival’s program of shorts spreads over five categories, from animation to Avant-horror, to experimental works to the completely bizarre. The animated shorts vary–from storyline and technique–from "a prehistoric fantasy adventure" in with "Savage Death Valley", to a "sardonic take on social obsession with beauty" with "Caterpillarplasty," to stereotypes in rock culture with "Hunks", and a "mixed-media stop-motion piece about a motorcyclist riding between worlds" with "The Motorcyclist." Characters in the Avant-horror category are "a man who fantasizes about being devoured by an anima in "Muil", a "female professor trying to escape the vicious circle of the horror genre" with "The Film Machine," and a "man who makes a deal with the devil in order to learn the truth about dead bodies he finds in a motel" in "IRA."

In the experimental category, is a "first-person video diary of a young jaguar who escapes from the zoo and is recaptured with "Valerio’s Day Out," the "search for masculine connectivity featuring a transsexual transplant in the American South" with "The Eddies," an "endless train ride in the heat of Vietnam" with "Hanoied," and a film that "combines three moments of shared looking at Chicago’s Marina City in "Do It Again." And in the Bizarre Short format, works include the story of a "bullied teenage girl’s revenge" with "It’s Not Custard," a short about "three stoner buddies who confront the supernatural on a visit to a mountain getaway" in "Montana, GA," and "blood n' guts, the deep blue sea, tooth decay, and her lazy [manacing?] boyfriend add up to a really rough night of sleep for Alex" in "Wakey Wakey."

Each night will feature special events. "Cinematic Music Event" on Saturday, November 16, 2019, at midnight, and Joel Jerome and Jimi Cabeza de Vaca will perform live scores to Sergei Eisenstein's unfinished masterpiece Que Viva Mexico as well as the 1910 Thomas Edison produced "Frankenstein."

"Sushi Girl Screening with Cast & Crew" on Sunday, November 17, 2019, at 7:30 pm, will include a special screening of the stylized 2012 crime thriller, “Sushi Girl,” with performances by a rogue gallery of famous character actors including Mark Hamill ("Star Wars"), Tony Todd ("Candyman"), Michael Biehn ("Terminator"), Sonny Chiba ("Kill Bill"), James Duvall ("Donnie Darko"), Jeff Fahey ("Grindhouse") and Danny Trejo ("Machete.") Note: Sushi Girl cast and crew in attendance for this special event sponsored by Magnet Releasing pending availability.

Tickets for individual screenings are $10 each, and go on sale soon, with full festival passes offered at $40 for the entire four-day program.

Highways is at the 18th Street Arts Complex, 1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404 - (310) 453-1755. To learn more and for tickets, visit Film Maudit 2.0.  Seating is limited and advance reservations for screenings are highly recommended.