Documentary Capsule Movie Reviews From 2018 Florida Film Festival

By Leslie C. Halpern

The 27th Annual Florida Film Festival, produced by Enzian Theater and held throughout Central Florida from April 6-15, 2018, offers nearly 200 narrative features and documentary short films from countries around the world, in addition to celebrity guests, special events, film forums, film sidebars, parties, and the American Independent Competition. A sampling of documentary capsule reviews appears below.

Three Identical Strangers. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Three Identical Strangers

In Spotlight Films. Documentary. Screens April 11, 2018 at 8:45 p.m. and April 14, 2018 at 5:00 p.m., both at Regal Winter Park Village.

This compelling documentary tells the story of three young men living in New York who learn at age 19 that they were triplets separated at birth and adopted by three different Jewish families. Their strange reunion – combined with their handsome faces and outgoing personalities – got them on the cover pages of print media and invited on talk shows around the country. Their incredible similarities were noted: they smoked the same brand of cigarettes, liked older women, and were on their high school wrestling teams. They became best friends and lived together, and even opened a restaurant called Triplets. The story takes a dark turn when their three sets of parents start demanding answers about why the boys were originally separated. A journalist becomes involved in their case, and things get even messier. This story is told effectively through some re-enacted scenes, which are more utilitarian than artful, but they help elicit emotions in the viewer. Old home videos, news footage, and current interviews with family, friends, and researchers shed some light on the mystery of their separation, but viewers – like the brothers – are still left with questions when the credits roll.

  • Directed by Tim Wardle. Stars David Kellman, Robert Shafran, Eddy Galland
  • Run time: 96 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: Not Rated
  • 4 / 5

Ramen Heads. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Ramen Heads

In the Food Films Sidebar. In Japanese with English subtitles. Documentary Feature. Screens April 8, 2018 at 1:45 p.m. at Regal Winter Park Village.

This mouth-watering documentary presents ramen noodles in an entirely new way for those not living in Japan, where a fanatical culture exists for the slurp-able noodles found in this everyday treat. The story centers mainly on Tomito Osamu, a chef who keeps winning Best Ramen awards for his unique broth that stews for three full days before serving. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of his tiny restaurant, he enlists the aid of two other well-known ramen chefs to help him prepare something special for that day. Just as his ramen combines a “witch’s brew” of ingredients, this documentary includes a little bit of this and that. In addition to Tomito’s professional and personal life, the film peeks inside other ramen restaurant for tips from their chefs, provides an animated history of ramen noodles, visits a ramen festival, and then returns to the 10-year restaurant anniversary party. It’s a strange mix of ideas that ultimately satisfies.

  • Directed by Koki Shigeno
  • Stars Tomito Osamu
  • Run time: 93 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: Not Rated
  • 3.5 / 5

King Cohen. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

King Cohen

 In Midnight Movies. Documentary. Screens April 13, 2018 at 10:15 p.m. and April 15, 2018 at 9:45 p.m., both at Regal Winter Park Village.

This clip-driven documentary reveals the raw, exploitative, low-budget genius of writer-producer-director Larry Cohen. While not much of his childhood or young adulthood made it into the movie, there is a brief mention that Cohen originally worked in standup comedy. The ability for quick-thinking improvisation stayed with him even when he left the world of comedy and branched out into writing for series television. After creating the premise and writing great scripts for multiple TV programs (including Branded, The Invaders, and Coronet Blue), he moved on to independent filmmaking where he could be a triple-hyphenated threat making violent movies, such as It’s Alive, that really pack a punch. Often shooting without permits, permission, or insurance, Cohen is a true indie who doesn’t like to collaborate. Although his films and working style are examined thoroughly in this documentary that includes interviews with Cohen, other directors, and some of the actors who starred in his films, the man and his motivations remain much of a mystery.

  • Directed by Steve Mitchell. Stars Larry Cohen, J.J. Abrams, Martin Scorsese, Fred Williamson, Joe Dante, John Landis, Traci Lords, Eric Roberts, Yaphet Kotto
  • Run time: 109 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: Not Rated
  • 3 / 5

For a complete list of films and to learn more about the Florida Film Festival, visit the official website.

 

 

 

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