Movie News & Reviews

4 can't-miss movies at SLO film festival

Wholesale produce pioneer Frieda Caplan samples some sugar snow peas in the documentary "Fear No Fruit," premiering at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.
Wholesale produce pioneer Frieda Caplan samples some sugar snow peas in the documentary "Fear No Fruit," premiering at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.

Let’s get one thing straight: Nobody gets into independent filmmaking for the money.

Making a movie requires time, patience, persistence and lots of cold, hard cash that — more often than not — comes directly out of the filmmakers’ pockets.

“This is not a venture in capitalism. This (is) a labor of love,” said Jay Silverman, director of the drama “Girl on the Edge.” His movie makes its West Coast premiere Friday at the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo as part of the 21st San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, which kicked off Tuesday.

Below, we take a closer look at four films premiering at the festival this week.

“Fear No Fruit”

7 p.m. Wednesday, Spanos Theatre, Cal Poly

1 p.m. Thursday, Downtown Centre Cinemas, 888 Marsh St., San Luis Obispo

If you’ve ever munched on mangos, Asian pears or sugar snap peas, you may owe a debt to Frieda Caplan.

Caplan, the first woman to break into the Los Angeles wholesale produce industry, has helped introduce more than 200 exotic fruits and vegetables to U.S. consumers over the past half-century. In fact, she’s known as the “Queen of Kiwi” for her role in introducing kiwifruit to America in 1962.

Caplan is the subject of the documentary “Fear No Fruit,” which has its world premiere Wednesday in San Luis Obispo.

“What I found was a fascinating figure, strong-willed yet extremely humble,” director-producer Mark Brian Smith said, describing Caplan as a “Mad Men”-era pioneer who defied the odds. “She saw no obstacles and was willing to take risks by introducing these obscure fruits and vegetables when others wouldn’t dare to try.”

“Fear No Fruit” follows the Frieda’s Inc. founder and her daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, on their collective mission to change the way the nation eats.

“They mastered the art of marketing these items by finding ways to eliminate the fear of the unknown,” Smith said, while weathering economic challenges and climate change.

He hopes moviegoers will be inspired by Frieda Caplan, who received an honorary doctorate from Cal Poly in June.

“At 91 years old, she pushes for positive change every day … only looking toward the future in what still needs to be accomplished,” Smith said. “We can get bogged down, clouded and disrupted by obstacles every day. She chooses not to.”

“Girl on the Edge”

6 p.m. Friday, Fremont Theatre, 1025 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo

4 p.m. Saturday, Galaxy Theatres, 6917 El Camino Real, Atascadero

Something was wrong with Jay Silverman’s 15-year-old daughter.

“We noticed her grades had started to decline. We noticed she wasn’t doing her homework. We noticed she didn’t seem to be getting any sleep,” the filmmaker recalled. She stopped hanging out with her friends and started experimenting with alcohol and drugs.

It wasn’t until two years later that Silverman discovered his daughter had been raped.

“This is really a deeply personal story,” Silverman said, but one he felt he needed to share in “Girl on the Edge.” The movie, written by Joey Curtis, debuted at Arizona’s Sedona International Film Festival on Feb. 28.

Taylor Spreitler stars as Hannah, whose behavior changes dramatically after she’s sexually assaulted. Her father (Gil Bellows) and stepmother (Amy Price-Francis) send her to a rehabilitation treatment center run by the folksy Hank (Peter Coyote).

It’s there that Hannah begins to heal with the help of equine therapy.

Silverman said the fictional center is based on two real-life centers catering to troubled youths: Pacific Quest in Hawaii, and Uinta Academy in Wellsville, Utah. (His daughter attended the latter.)

“These places are changing people’s lives,” said Silverman, crediting the centers’ no-nonsense approach to recovery. “I don’t believe you can effectively change somebody’s future … without taking them away from everything they’re accustomed to and give them a chance to find themselves.”

Silverman, whose credits include the A&E series “The Cleaner,” hopes “Girl on the Edge” will open audience members’ eyes about the challenges facing today’s teens and the resources available to help them.

“I’m a huge fan of getting these children hope,” he said.

“My Name Is David”

4 p.m. Saturday, Downtown Centre Cinemas

4 p.m. Sunday, Palm Theatre, 817 Palm St., San Luis Obispo

Mental illness, medication and the American Dream figure prominently in the drama “My Name Is David,” which has its world premiere Saturday in San Luis Obispo. Chris Gallego Wong directed the movie.

Keith Powell, best known for his role as comedy writer James “Toofer” Spurlock on NBC’s “30 Rock,” flexes his dramatic muscles in “My Name Is David” as a prescription drug addict.

When David finds an abandoned baby on the subway, he decides to keep the child — throwing his precariously balanced world into chaos.

“The major character flaw in David is not so much the mental illness. It’s that he tries to force the life he wants for himself,” Powell said.

The actor, who co-wrote the movie with Howard Emanuel, said he was inspired by watching friends and family members deal with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and Adderall, the drug often prescribed to treat it.

“You and I take a look around the room and our minds automatically process what’s important and what’s not,” he explained. “A person with ADHD does not have that natural ability to block out the things that aren’t really important. … It’s a constant stimulus.” ADHD isn’t “scary or dangerous or debilitating,” he added. But when people try to self-medicate — and David does in the film — the results can be disastrous.

Despite its serious subject matter, “My Name Is David” isn’t merely a “message movie,” Powell said.

“There’s some suspense to the film. There’s some humor. There’s some heart-tugging moments,” he said. “I really want the audience to go through a range of emotions while watching the movie and walking out feeling they had a genuinely good time.”

“Out & Around”

7 p.m. Friday, Mission Cinemas, 1025 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo

10 a.m. Saturday, Palm Theatre

In 2011, Jenni Chang and Lisa Dazols left their jobs, their friends and their San Francisco home to travel through Asia, Africa and South America in search of the extraordinary people leading the international gay rights movement.

Together, they visited 15 countries, amassing 120 hours of footage along the way.

“They came back with all this stuff and they realized, ‘We’re a little over our heads (as to) how to make a standalone film,’” Ryan Suffern said. He was brought aboard with co-director Lauren Fash to help the pair turn their footage into a documentary in partnership with It Gets Better Project.

Suffern said “Out & Around,” which debuts Friday in San Luis Obispo, offers a cross section of cultural attitudes around the globe.

“There are places that are so much more progressive than the United States and there are places that are really on the other end of the spectrum,” he said. “The idea of LGBT rights is not a Western invention or unique to Western culture.”

The central narrative running through “Out & Around,” Suffern added, is Chang and Dazols’ relationship.

“It’s Jenni and Lisa’s story,” he said. “They’re humorous, they’re honest and there’s a lot to like about them.”

According to Suffern, his goal in co-directing “Out & Around” was to capture a story with universal appeal “through a medium that provides entertainment and engagement and even a level of education.”

“I feel you can effect change in telling great stories,” Suffern said.

San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

Various times and days, through Sunday

Various venues in San Luis Obispo County

$10 to $12 screenings, $15 to $35 special events, $40 to $285 passes

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