The 12th Annual Las Vegas Film Festival will spotlight a mix of feature films and documentaries that have been favorites on the international festival circuit, as well as films with Las Vegas ties, including a documentary about The Amazing Johnathan, and Robin Greenspun’s personal portrait of local businesswoman Amy Ayoub. Additionally, one of the documentaries, Knock Down the House, follows the campaigns of four progressive women who ran against incumbents in the elections last fall, including Amy Vilela who ran for Congress in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House.
“We are thrilled to announce the initial ten films for the 2019 Festival, which is shaping up to be one of our most exciting festivals yet,” said Las Vegas Film Festival President Milo Kostelecky. “This wide-ranging lineup of feature films and documentaries will offer something for everyone, and we look forward to announcing additional films and events in the coming weeks.”
The Farewell / U.S.A. (Director: Lulu Wang) — After learning their beloved matriarch has terminal lung cancer, a family opts not to tell her about the diagnosis, instead scheduling an impromptu wedding reunion back in China. Headstrong and emotional writer Billi rebels against her parents’ directive to stay in New York and joins the family as they awkwardly attempt to rekindle old bonds, throw together a wedding that only grandma is actually looking forward to, and surreptitiously say their goodbyes. English and Mandarin with subtitles.
Ms. Purple / U.S.A. (Director: Justin Chon) – Kasie, who’s stuck in LA’s Koreatown, works as a karaoke hostess getting paid for her companionship by drunken men. When her dad’s hospice nurse quits she reconnects with her estranged brother, Carey, forcing them to enter a period of intense self-reflection as their single father who raised them nears death.
Ray & Liz / U.K. (Director: Richard Billingham) – On the outskirts of Birmingham and the margins of society the Billingham family perform extreme rituals and break social taboos as they muddle through a life decided by factors beyond their control. At times shocking and laced with an unsettling humour, three episodes unfold as a powerful evocation of the experience of growing up in a Black Country council flat.
American Factory / U.S.A. (Directors: Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert) — In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. English and Mandarin with subtitles.
Hail Satan? / U.S.A. – (Director: Penny Lane) — When media-savvy members of the Satanic Temple organize a series of public actions designed to advocate for religious freedom and challenge corrupt authority, they prove that with little more than a clever idea, a mischievous sense of humor, and a few rebellious friends, you can speak truth to power in some truly profound ways.
Knock Down the House / U.S.A. (Director: Rachel Lears) – Follow the campaigns of four progressive women who ran against incumbents in the elections last fall, shaking up the status quo and bringing fresh blood into Congress. One of the main figures in the film is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who ran as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and was elected to New York’s 14th District and became at age 29 the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress. Ocasio-Cortez was expected to come to Sundance, but had to cancel the trip because of the turbulence of the government shutdown which was just coming to an end.
¡Las Sandinistas! / U.S.A. (Director: Jenny Murray) – ¡Las Sandinistas! reveals the untold stories of Nicaraguan women warriors and social revolutionaries who shattered barriers to lead combat and social reform during Nicaragua’s 1979 Sandinista Revolution, the ensuing US-backed Contra War, and documents their leadership in the continuing struggle for justice today.
Untitled Amazing Johnathan Documentary / U.S.A. (Director: Ben Berman) – It begins as a documentary about “The Amazing Johnathan,” a uniquely deranged magician who built a career out of shock and deception in the 1980s—but becomes a bizarre story about the unravelling of his documentarian.
Walking on Water / U.S.A. (Director: Andrey Paounov) – Ten years after the passing of his wife and creative partner, Jeanne-Claude, Christo sets out to realize The Floating Piers, a project they conceived together many years before. Boasting uncensored access to the artist and his team, Walking on Water is an unprecedented look at Christo’s process, from the inception through to the completion of his latest large-scale art installation, a dahlia-yellow walkway atop Italy’s Lake Iseo that was eventually experienced by over 1.2 million people.
The Zen Speaker: Breaking the Silence / U.S.A. (Director: Robin Greenspun) – The story of prominent Las Vegas businesswoman Amy Ayoub, who found the courage to overcome the shame and trauma she kept hidden for 38 years. A personal portrait, the film explores the emotional and physical devastation associated with sex trafficking; survival, public vs private persona and finding one’s voice in unexpected ways.