Starfish Throwers

Six Awesome Recommendations by Mel LeBaron

Throughout the movie-packed days of BIFF, (Feb. 20 through March 1), I am planning to devote my free evenings to a film-watching extravaganza. I feel like I am picking out delicious sushi bites from a rich, extensive menu. Therefore, I gotta make sure I select the best morsels!

So, at first glance, to choose from the total of 200 films (which also include short films), it certainly seems like an impossible task.

As a film addict, believe me, I know how difficult it is to pick: Comedy or Romance? Drama or Documentary? Animation or Horror? I become a film glutton for ten days.

Annually, I scan through the year’s program book’s film summaries, glance at pictures, and then I align my potential choices to specific, limited dates of a showing, or my ability to attend.

However, allow me to gently guide you to six of this year’s promising tales from two genres (three films per genre).

The power of humanity especially shines in the following documentaries: “Starfish Throwers” and “Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic.”

The Starfish Throwers

In “Starfish Throwers,” three separate stories are linked by the desire and drive to help others in need. For example, one man begins to serve homeless people in his home country, India. This award-winning chef quit his job and decided to care for others, first, with food, then kind, human touch that they often don’t receive. He sits with them, talks with them, cares about them.

Someone You Love | The HPV Epidemic

Similarly, in “Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic,” the power of humanity is revealed as five stories unfold. Five women share the same diagnosis’s, and throughout the film, they each learn to navigate their journeys as they fight a largely misunderstood cancer that lurks within their bodies.

Back Issue | The Hustler Magazine Story

In a different vein, if you are interested in something more risqué, the documentary “Back Issues: Hustler Magazine Story” is about the impact the Hustler porn magazine continues to make, as well as delving into its controversies. Questions regarding free speech and nudity, for example, are explored as former editors, models, and cartoonists, as well as current staff reflect upon one of the most offensive magazines out there.

Amira & Sam

As much as I love watching a solid documentary, I also adore a good romance. Throw in some comedy, some dramatic upset, and a few much-deserved kisses – I’ll be in the front row.

The movie, “Amira & Sam” is about a recent Army vet (Martin Starr) struggling to reconnect with the America he left, while trying out stand up comedy. Meanwhile, Amira (Dina Shihabi), who escaped from Iraq after U.S. soldiers killed her brother, is now an illegal immigrant living with her uncle in New York City. Amira’s uncle knew Sam during the war (as Sam’s interpreter) and asks Sam to keep an eye on her while he is out of town.

For the remainder of the story, the interactions between Sam and Amira grow, despite all of their differences in the political as well as personal realm as they face their struggles while falling in love.

East Side Sushi

Now, I am a big fan of sushi – and when I saw that there was a movie called “East Side Sushi” on the roster, my stomach growled.

This film is about Juana, who begins to work as a kitchen assistant in a local Japanese restaurant after being forced to leave her previous fruit cart job. She quickly falls in love with the sight, taste, and methods of sushi making as she secretly watches the sushi chefs roll up their food magic bites.

Soon, as Juana becomes more vocal about wanting to also create sushi, she is met with doubt and pushback due to her race and gender. Undeterred, she is resolute in following her dream to become a sushi chef; I know I always love watching the underdog as they navigate their way towards success.

Hank and Asha

Lastly, I love a good love story set in modern times. The use of Skype and Instant Messaging and all other social media produces more opportunities for people to meet!

In “Hank and Asha,” the two start video messaging after Asha contacts Hank first. She saw a film that Hank made, and reached out. In turn, Hank, who is recovering from a recent break-up, begins to open up with Asha as they continue the video connection tango. Anything can happen; this film certain shows that mere miles cannot compete with feelings of love.