Shirin in Love
Film Review by Kam Williams
Shirin (Nazanin Boniadi) has never really found the courage to pursue her own dreams. For example, after graduating from college and law school, instead of going into practice, she moved back home and began writing book reviews for BH Style, a magazine owned by her domineering mother (Anita Khalatbari). The deferential daughter knows her problems stem from livings under the same roof as her very traditional Iranian-American parents. Furthermore, they’re members of a tight-knit community located in a section of L.A. known as Tehrangeles.
Consequently, more out of obligation than love, she accepted the marriage proposal of Dr. Joon (Maz Jobriani), a successful, Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who shares the same background. But with the wedding day fast approaching, Shirin is belatedly questioning the wisdom of tying the knot with a man she’s not passionate about just because everyone else considers him to be Mr. Right.
A fly lands in the prenuptial ointment the night she spots a handsome hunk (Riley Smith) across a crowded room at a publishing party. Trouble is she’s tipsy at the time, and he’s too much of a gentleman to make a pass, given the situation. And since he lives far away in the coastal town of Mendocino, they seem fated to pass like ships in the night and never see each other again.
However, thanks to a frankly farcical series of coincidences they cross paths once more when Shirin ventures to Northern California on a writing assignment in search of an interview with a notoriously-reclusive, best-selling author (Amy Madigan). This time around, she and William do make a love connection, leaving the blushing bride-to-be in quite a quandary.
Thus unfolds Shirin in Love, a formulaic romantic comedy that eschews breaking new ground in favor of resorting to a slew of shopworn Hollywood clichés. For that reason, the most amusing aspect of this otherwise predictable romp is the presumably-authentic peek offered into Iranian culture. Nevertheless, you’re left with a nagging a sense of déjà vu that’s hard to shake.
My Big Fat Iranian Wedding!
Good (2 stars)
In English and Farsi with subtitles
Running time: 104 minutes
Distributor: Sideshow Releasing
To see a trailer for Shirin in Love, visit
IDFA is looking for emerging documentary film talent!
From June 30 through July 5 2014, IDFA organizes the seventh edition of the Summer School: a tailor-made training program for emerging filmmakers, taking place in Amsterdam and aimed at strengthening the narrative structure of documentary projects. Around sixteen projects from all over the world will be selected for the Summer School 2014. The deadline for submission is April 1, 2014.
IDFAcademy Summer School offers the opportunity to meet and work with highly esteemed filmmakers and film professionals who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with emerging film talent. The Summer School combines individual coaching with group sessions and an inspiring cultural program in a relaxed atmosphere. It offers two types of training possibilities: Script Development and Editing Consultancy.
Filmmakers who are selected have the opportunity to bring a sparring partner: a creative producer, a co-scriptwriter, or an editor in the case of participation in Editing Consultancy. If a project is selected, a participation fee for two persons of a total of €1000,- (excluding VAT) or in case of one person for a total of €750,- (excluding VAT) is due. This fee does not cover travel, accommodation or food expenses. There is a scholarship available per project (accommodation) for international participants.
Participants will be coached by eight international documentary experts. In previous years experts like Gianfranco Rosi (Director, Italy), Audrius Stonys (Director, Lithuania), Emma Davie (director, Scotland), Kate Townsend (Executive Producer BBC Storyville, UK), Sabine Bubeck-Paaz (Commissioning Editor ZDF, Germany), Debra Zimmerman (Distributor Women Make Movies, USA), Jesper Osmund (Editor, Denmark) and Peter Wintonick (Producer/ Director, Canada) were tutors at the Summer School.
For more information IDFAcademy Summer School how to apply, see
“The Single Moms Club” Interview
with Kam Williams
Nia Expounds on Everything from Movies to Motherhood
Stunningly-attractive leading lady Nia Long returned to the big screen last fall in the highly-anticipated sequel The Best Man Holiday where she reunited with original cast mates Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut and Harold Perrineau. Early last year, she joined the all-star cast of Showtime’s “House of Lies” alongside Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell.
Nia made her film debut in Boyz n The Hood, a poignant picture portraying social problems in inner-city Los Angeles. She subsequently starred in Friday opposite Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, as well as Love Jones, which won the prestigious Audience Award at Sundance. Nia’s notable film roles also include Soul Food, Alfie, The Best Man, Are We There Yet?, Big Momma’s House 1 and 2, Stigmata, The Broken Hearts Club and Made In America.
Nia’s portrayal of Officer Sasha Monroe on the hit crime drama “Third Watch” netted her a couple of NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Drama series. Her other TV accomplishments include “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Boston Legal,” “Judging Amy,” and “Big Shots.”
In addition to her film and television work, Nia’s passion lies in serving her community. With her family roots firmly planted in Trinidad, Long’s long term goals are to connect women in the US to those of the island and to mentor young girls to regain their self-esteem.
Additionally, she lends her support to Black Girls Rock, an organization that promotes the arts for young women of color and encourages dialogue on the ways women of color are portrayed in the media. And in 2012, she was named an official surrogate to the Barack Obama reelection campaign.
Nia loves to cook fresh, farmer’s market meals with a twist of her Trinidadian heritage. When she’s not juggling between her career and motherhood, she enjoys staying active by doing Pilates, boxing, hiking, and horseback riding.
She also takes pleasure in traveling and experiencing different cultures throughout the world. One of her favorite locations to visit is Jamaica, a place she calls her second home where she can reflect and refuel.
Here, Nia talks about co-starring as May in The Single Moms Club opposite her son Massai, as well as Amy Smart, Zulay Henao, Tyler Perry, Terry Crews, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Cocoa Brown.
Kam Williams: Hi Nia, thanks so much for the time.
Nia Long: Of course, Kam. How are you?
KW: Great! And you?
NL: I’m good!
KW: What interested you in The Single Moms Club?
NL: The title alone. I think it’s a world we haven’t explored on film. And I feel that single mommies don’t get enough praise and accolades. I’ve had first-hand experience. My mother was a single mom. As far as I’m concerned, mommies, in general, rule the world. And single mothers just take it to a whole other level.
KW: Congratulations on the latest Essence Magazine cover!
NL: Oh, thank you!
KW: I don’t how many that makes. I’ve lost count. Besides this one, which of your Essence covers is your favorite? The August 2012 issue with your sons?
NL: Honestly, it’s so hard, because each Essence cover represents a different special moment in my life. So, I can’t really judge them. It’s hard to judge yourself, too. But I do love the one with my boys. That was probably the closest one to me myself. This one is about keeping it sexy in my 40s, so I’m not mad about that either.
KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: How was it having your son, Massai, play your son, and what acting advice did you give him?
NL: I actually sent him to my acting coach, Betty Bridges.
KW: Todd’s mom. [Todd Bridges of the TV show Different Strokes]
NL: Yes. She worked with him for several days. And then, my own mom recorded him on her iPhone. It was one of those situations where I didn’t want to be a part of process, because I felt it was important for him to go through the process and earn it. So, we sent the video over to Tyler. When we didn’t hear back after a couple of days, I was like, “Omigosh! What if he doesn’t get this job? How am I going to break the news to him?“ Fortunately, Tyler thought he was great and he did get the job. At the end of the day, I was really happy with the outcome of the scenes. Working opposite him was such a gift, and something I’ll have on film forever. I don’t know whether a star was born, but I’m sure it was an experience that can only help benefit his development as a young man.
KW: Director Rel Dowdell says: In the movie there's a poignant scene where your character, May, has the chance to say disparaging things about her son's father to her son, but doesn't. Did that scene have any special resonance with you, since your real-life son was playing your son?
NL: Well, my son’s dad is committed, and involved, and amazing. We’re actually really good friends. But I think it’s dangerous to speak negatively to the child about your ex or the absent parent, because, believe it or not, they learn very quickly who the other parent is. And it’s important that they develop their own attitudes and opinions about that other parent based on their experiences, not based on what someone has said about them. Fortunately, there’s mostly more positive than negative. When there isn’t, that’s just the way life happens. You just don’t want your child to ever feel like they have less of an opportunity to succeed based on the circumstances in which they were born. I try to be optimistic about everything. There are no victims in my home.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What would you say is the overall message of The Single Moms Club?
NL: Try to find fellowship… And try to find sisterhood… And try to find that village that can help you support your journey and your kids and your experiences. Never lose a sense of yourself throughout the process, and still pursue your dreams as a mom. Listen, when all is said and done, don’t be afraid to get out there and date, and have a little bit of fun. We’re still women… we’re still feminine… and we still have needs.
KW: Patricia says: You have been in the entertainment industry for decades. I’ve followed your career since Boyz n the Hood. What is the secret to your longevity?
NL: Probably my last name. [Chuckles] No, I feel it’s that I don’t ever give up on myself, and I’d rather run a marathon than a sprint. Personally, I think I’m a slow learner who’s getting better every year, every moment, every project. I’ve met so many amazing people along the way. And there’s no gimmick with me. What you see is what you get. The journey might be longer, but it’s definitely been sweeter. I can look at myself in the mirror every night knowing I’ve never ever pretended to be someone I know I’m not for the sake of this industry. I believe that it’s important to live by your truth in order to be able to sleep peacefully when you rest your head at night. I’ve gone off and taken breaks, not necessarily by choice, but life has a way of giving you breaks, even when you don’t want them, especially in this industry. So, I’ve had a chance to raise my children and to be a mom, and to come back to do more in film and television. I really cannot complain.
KW: Editor Lisa Loving asks: What is the most surprising thing you’d like people to know about you?
NL: That I’m really, really silly and slightly clumsy. I had to re-teach myself how to walk in high heels after the birth of Kez. [Chuckles]
KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: Do you have a dream role you would like to play?
NL: I would love a good drama, maybe a period piece.
KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
NL: I’ve never really thought about that. I think classic films are classic for a reason. It’s always sketchy to redo one, especially if you’re trying to make it contemporary. That’s really just not the way to go. [LOL]
KW: Eddie Cibrian, who played your love interest in The Best Man Holiday, is also in The Single Moms Club. Did it feel weird that your characters weren’t romantically-linked this time around?
NL: No, I never actually saw him on set, because we didn’t have any scenes together. But it was sort of funny seeing him in the film. I was like, “Omigosh! I totally forgot!”
KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
NL: I know this sounds shallow, but a good pair of new shoes really gets me going.
KW: What do you want that you don’t have yet?
NL: That question’s so loaded! [Laughs] I’d say more choices, more options, more opportunities that force me to grow as an artist and challenge me to grow in a way that I haven’t as of yet.
KW: Congratulations on the success of The Best Man Holiday and on the announcement that another sequel is in the works.
NL: Thank you.
KW: But will we ever get to see a Love Jones sequel?
NL: I have no idea. There have been a lot of rumors, and some bad versions of scripts. I don’t know what’s going to happen. All I do know is that unless it’s right, we won’t do it.
KW: What does Love Jones’ write/director Theodore Witcher have to say?
NL: I haven’t seen or spoken to Ted in a long time? He’s a smart man, though.
KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
NL: Definitely a cat.
KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
NL: [Breathes deeply, sighs and reflects] That was a big heartbreak, and I wasn’t that young either. I would say that I learned that the heartbreak wasn’t as much about me as the fact that he wasn’t right with himself. I see where his life has taken him, and realize that the handwriting was on the wall. There were things that I had blamed myself for, but it was really more about his choices, his needs and his journey as a person. His desire for too much of everything made it a challenging relationship.
KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
NL: I would love to have the ability to see inside everyone’s heart before I heard them speak or even saw their faces.
KW: You’ll be playing a lawyer on The Divide, a dramatic TV series debuting this summer. Have you started shooting the first season yet?
NL: We have been shooting in cold Toronto. We only have one more episode to go. I’ve been working with Tony Goldwyn, Richard LaGravenese and an amazing group of actors. I play a strong, successful mom.
KW: What’s the show about?
NL: All of us have moments in our lives when we have to choose between what we know is right and what we feel obligated to do. I think that’s the theme of the show. What is your divide? What are the things you struggle with?
KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?
NL: At home, it’s all about my babies and no makeup. On the red carpet, it’s: Am I standing up straight?
KW: We’re out of time, Nia, and I still have a million more questions for you from fans.
NL: I’m so sorry. We can do another one soon, Kam.
KW: Thanks Nia.
NL: Take care.
To see a trailer for The Single Moms Club, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQNOvfixtpo
Film Review by Kam Williams
Veronica Mars was a critically-acclaimed TV series which enjoyed a three-year run from 2004 until 2007. Kristen Bell starred in the title role as a smart aleck teen detective who spent most of her free time solving crimes committed in her mythical hometown of Neptune, California.
Fans of the franchise will delighted to learn that Kristen and eight other principal cast members have returned for the big screen version of their much-beloved program. Written and directed by the show’s creator, Rob Thomas, this faithful reboot was substantially funded by a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
At the point of departure, we find Veronica happy to be living in New York City, where she’s preparing for the bar exam, having recently graduated from Columbia Law School. She’s also now in a long term relationship with Stosh “Piz” Piznarski (Chris Lowell) and expects to be offered a job with a prestigious Manhattan firm.
But fate intervenes when pop singer Bonnie De Ville’s (Andrea Estrella), body is found lying in her bathtub and Veronica’s ex-boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring) is the prime suspect. So, she impulsively returns to Neptune only to help him find a good attorney, since she’s convinced he’s innocent.
However, her super sleuth instincts soon kick-in and it’s not long before, just like old times, she’s uncovering clues with the help of her Private Investigator father (Enrico Colantoni). Her arrival back in town conveniently coincides with her 10th high school reunion where many of her classmates have congregated to catch-up and reminisce.
The gathering also proves to be the best place to interrogate persons of interest in the unsolved murder. For, Bonnie had attended Neptune High, and several alums seem to have had a reason to want her silenced. That’s as far as it’s fair to spoil this nostalgic whodunit delicately laced with surprising twists each step of the way.
Though back by popular demand, consider this edition of Veronica Mars compelling enough even to hold the attention of folks unfamiliar with the original TV show.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence, profanity and drug use
Running time: 108 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers
To see a trailer for Veronica Mars, visit
300: Rise of an Empire
Film Review by Kam Williams
The bloody epic 300 (2007) chronicled the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. when a badly outnumbered band of 300 soldiers were sent on a suicide mission to defend Sparta against a horde of over 100,000 Persian invaders. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, that minimalist, monochromatic adventure was shot almost entirely against blue screens on assorted soundstages.
300: Rise of an Empire is one of those rare sequels which actually improves on an original’s formula. This relatively-expansive, higher body-count affair arrives replete with sweeping seascapes and panoramic mob scenes. It also ups the ante in terms of sensuality, especially by exploiting the visual appeal of Eva Green.
At the point of departure, we find the previous picture’s triumphant King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) plotting to lead the Persian army against forces led by Greek General Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton). The play-by-play is narrated by Sparta’s Queen Gorgo (Headey) who devotes considerable time to a detailed lesson in ancient history to set the table for the wanton slaughter about to ensue.
Among other things, we learn that the commander of the Persian 1,000-ship armada is the warrior goddess Artemisia (Green), a Greek traitor who turned against her own people for good reason. In her youth, she’d been brutally raped and sold into slavery after being forced to witness the murder of her entire family.
The revenge-minded orphan was freed and raised as a warrior by Xerxes late father, Darius (Yigal Naor). Today, she has blossomed into a ravishing fighting machine as likely to subdue an adversary with her womanly wiles as with her sword. In perhaps the movie’s most memorable moment, she decapitates a foe before planting a kissing on his skull’s lips.
Such gruesome displays are par for the course, as scene after scene seizes on any excuse for stomach-churning depictions of torture and gore. A revisionist tale of female empowerment suggesting the fairer sex was the equal of any man even when engaged in mortal hand-to-hand combat.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and pervasive violence
Running time: 102 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
To see a trailer for 300: Rise of an Empire, visit