Five of the six feature films shown at this year’s edition of the Vegas Indie Film Festival (VIFF) were created by local filmmakers, and none of them felt like token inclusions. Filling a festival (granted, a small festival) with professional-level local features probably wouldn’t have been feasible even just a year or two ago, but recent work by local filmmakers is more accomplished and diverse than it’s ever been.
Easily the best movie in the festival was Jeremy Cloe’s Liars Fires and Bears. Cloe’s beautifully observed comedy-drama is both sharply written (by Cloe and star Lundon Boyd) and strongly acted, with Boyd and young actress Megli Micek giving equally affecting lead performances. Cloe is now studying at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, and along with Rebecca Thomas (Electrick Children), he’s the local filmmaker with the most potential to break out of Vegas into mainstream acclaim and success.
Even if they didn’t measure up to Cloe’s work, the other features in the festival all had their strong points. Kelly Schwarze’s Territory 8 is not only a departure from his recent comedy work, but also the kind of lean, no-frills thriller you might catch on premium cable late one night (even if the pacing is a little lethargic). Timothy L. Anderson’s Two Hundred Thousand Dirty is an admirably bleak dark comedy about go-nowhere retail employees launching a doomed scheme (and it co-stars Coolio!). David Schmoeller’s Little Monsters brings the UNLV professor and onetime cult horror filmmaker back to his roots with a disturbing thriller about two underage murderers released from prison after their 18th birthdays, with excellent performances from Charles Cantrell and Ryan LeBoeuf.
And local B-movie legend Ted V. Mikels, still working diligently into his 80s, executive produces The Corpse Grinders 3, a Spain-shot sequel to his 1971 cult classic, with campy violence and unintelligible, Spanish-accented dialogue. These movies may not be must-sees, but, along with VIFF itself, they’re all positive signs for the future of local filmmaking.