While head honchos of qFLIX Philadelphia 2017, that would be the producers, Thom Cardwell and James Duggan, feverishly gear up for a 23rd installment of the city’s most cherished LGBTQ film marathon, slated to run from March 14 through March 19, boatloads of underground filmmakers from across the country and around the world match their enthusiasm by frantically submitting their newest, chicest and always sexiest works in hopes of being cleared for a coveted spot during the five-day affair.
Such is ongoing in the case of director Russell Brown, a promising LA native who tends to blend unique storytelling with all-star casts–turning the boyishly handsome auteur into a bit of both a Hollywood darling and on the guest list of festivals around the country. Brown, whose filmography as director, writer and producer include nearly a dozen acclaimed hits since 2002 and who brought us “Annie and The Gypsy, Karen Black: On Acting,” and “The Blue Tooth Virgin” is at it again; this time with his whimsical dramedy “Search Engines,” which made its US premiere in October 2016 and stars the real life mother-daughter tandem of screen icon Connie Stevens and Joely Fisher, the last mother-daughter from the Eddie Fisher dynasty, among many other familiar faces. (Incidentally, Stevens is a native daughter of Philadelphia, and was a close friend of the original Rat Pack. Fisher played the foil character more than a decade ago in the ahead-of-its-time “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”)
Seated literally during the middle of a glorious Californian Thanksgiving turkey feast, “Search Engines” follows an eclectic crew of friends and family, assembled to bring good holiday cheer in the aftermath of a loved one’s divorce. It’s the quintessential ABC Movie of the Week on steroids, until, of course, all cellular service is magically interrupted in the neighborhood, resulting in the group having to (gulp) deal with their real life shenanigans instead of escaping via a click of their phones.
It’s a knockout story: brimming with witty dialogue, a gorgeous cast and plenty of issues that range from heartbreaking to “Jerry Springer.”
“Search Engines” makes for a particularly attractive addition to qFLIX Philadelphia 2017, a festival well known for showcasing art that is hammy, dramatic, macabre… sometimes all at once, but always entertaining.
Brown’s screening will bring the director himself to qFLIX Philadelphia 2017. “Search Engines” makes for an exciting and comedic experience about how we do and don’t communicate very well or at all with each other.
“Everyone in the cast was a joy to work with. It was so inspiring and fun to show up everyday and have such a varied and talented group to collaborate with,” Brown said, before adding that he couldn’t label just one favorite moment because of how enjoyable the project was.
Given the over-the-top nature of the storyline, Brown couldn’t help but add one real life incident on set equally as cheeky as the film itself: “I remember one day the power went down because there was a heatwave — I was super happy when the power turned on again,” the director said.
He also expects the film to have a special effect on first time viewers, if “Search Engines” is one of the lucky ones selected for one of the prized audience or jury awards given out at qFLIX Philadelphia 2017.
“A lot of viewers have told me how relevant they find the movie, how it gives voice to issues they are grappling with in terms of technology and connection and how those issues interplay with relationships and family. I think the movie has a lot of humor and thoughtfulness.”
From my vantage point, Russell Brown’s “Search Engines” (the title is a pun with several different meanings) is clearly a leading contender for a potential award that adds to the legacy of independent films shown at qFLIX Philadelphia.
“Search Engines” will screen at PM, Saturday, March 18, at The Prince with Russell Brown in attendance.