Tuesday, August 17

2021 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Monday, August 16th

Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2021 Phoenix Film Festival & International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival. I'll be using these posts to recap the films I've experienced as part of these festivals.



By Emery Snyder - @leeroy711

SURGE – Directed by Aneil Karia


 SURGE takes place over a 24-hour period in London when Joseph (Ben Wishaw), a British Airport Security officer takes the audience through the journey of his breakdown and attempt at self-liberation.

I came here for a great Wishaw performance and was treated to exactly that. The film begins with Joseph on the brink of mental collapse. His portrayal of this descent was perfect. Sometimes, great acting comes from the smallest things. Little quirks of the mouth can flesh out a character. Tiny eyebrow movements can give an audience a glimpse into emotional reactions and feelings. Sometimes however, as is the case here, a role calls for more animation and physicality. This is tough because the need for restraint is still present. Without restraint, you risk the disrespect of turning a mental affliction into a cartoon character. I was quite pleased to see that this didn’t happen here.

Impressively, we spend every moment of this film’s runtime with Joseph, up close and personal, shot entirely hand-held. There is no escaping what he’s going through. There are no breathers. At times I got a pretty heavy Travis Bickle vibe from him. But at least Scorsese had the decency to turn away in disgust a few times. This film is uncomfortable by design.

If you can handle this type of a depiction, I highly recommend checking this one out. I won’t likely see a better performance at the festival this year.


Additional Screenings: Wednesday, August 18th @ 10:10 PM & Thursday, August 19th @ 9:20 PM



WHEN I’M DONE DYING – Directed by Nisan Dag


Fehmi (Oktay Çubuk) is an aspiring young rapper from the slums of Istanbul but he can’t seem to kick his addiction to the cheap street drug, bonzai. His path to stardom is paved by his relationship with Devin (Hayal Köseoglu), an upper class DJ who’s love his motivation to try to get clean.

I can’t say anything too negative about this film. It is quite well composed as a whole. The acting is phenomenal, the music is great and it is just an overall well told story. I particularly liked the touch of animated sequences sprinkled in throughout. They actually looked like what someone in the throes of a drug-induced haze may be experiencing in the graffiti illustrated streets of his neighborhood.

This film deals with a lot of different themes. Archaic drug laws, homophobia, the classism associated with different addictions and the struggles to make art when you are broke all get a mouthpiece at times here. But the overarching weight of this story is felt simply by the addiction aspect itself. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just a story we’ve seen cinematically quite a few times.

I don’t want to do that thing where I review the film that I wanted it to be instead of what it is because this movie is quite an impressive accomplishment for a host of aforementioned reasons. Rap is the poetry of poverty and struggle and I guess I was wishing to see more redemption and self-discovery from the music angle. I was just hoping for Turkish 8-MILE; this is more like Turkish A STAR IS BORN.

 Additional Screenings: Wednesday, August 18th @ 2:25 PM


THE BETA TEST – Directed by Jim Cummings & PJ McCabe


 Jordan (Cummings), an engaged Hollywood agent receives an invitation to an anonymous sexual encounter that leads him down a rabbit hole of infidelity, dishonesty and awkward hilarity.

This was the festival film I was most excited for this year. I’ve kind of been stanning Jim Cummings since his amazing work on 2018’s THUNDER ROAD. I’ve never seen anyone pull off awkwardness like this before and he continues to nail it. The combination of gracelessness and volume is not something you typically see in a film’s emotional peak soliloquy. Cummings does this multiple times and I’m always going to be here for it. At this point, I wish he was writing dialogue for at least one character in pretty much every film and television show. If there were an Oscar specifically for awkward ranting monologues, Cummings would already be receiving his lifetime achievement award.

If comedy is tragedy plus time, what happens when you also add depth and detail? Well… this is what happens. I’m being intentionally opaque. I didn’t really know anything about the story when I went into it and I’m grateful for that. The plot is twisty and swervy and the third act reveals are an absolute delight. I hope this film gets legs upon release. I’ll likely be still talking about it for years to come.


THE BETA TEST opens wide, November 5th, 2021.

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