Red Bull Project X
Red Bull Project X

Ten Don't-Miss Films at the Newport Beach Film Festival

American Jihadist
Director Mark Claywell’s film, which won the Best Documentary prize at January’s Slamdance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, shows how Clevin Raphael Holt was picked on at home and school in Washington, D.C.; felt empowered by the Black Panthers and Malcolm X as he came of age; found God in Islam; and is now known as Isa Abdullah Ali. Though he has never been charged with a crime, he’s labeled a “known terrorist.” Claywell deftly shows how Ali, his old family and his new family have come to grips with the man’s spiritual journey, even if his government has not. (MC) Edwards Island Cinemas. April 23, 6 p.m.


Burning Palms
Creepshow meets Short Cuts meets TV’s Love, American Style in this anthology-styled, darkly comedic look at love in Los Angeles. Christopher Landon, who co-wrote Disturbia and Blood and Chocolate, makes his directing debut. A bunch of actors you’ve seen elsewhere helps him, including Dylan McDermott, Zoe Saldana, Lake Bell, Nick Stahl, Paz Vega, Emily Meade, Rosamund Pike, Colleen Camp, Jamie Chung and Shannen Doherty (with a bad British accent). (MC) Edwards Island Cinemas. April 23, 8:30 p.m.

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio
Years ago, the late architect and Auburn University professor Samuel Mockbee began a program called the Rural Studio, which has students design and build homes, churches and other structures for the residents of poverty-stricken Hale County, Alabama. As Sam Wainwright Douglas’ documentary shows, the Rural Studio is still going strong. You may want to change your major (and school) after watching this. (MC) Sage Hill. April 24, 6 p.m.; Edwards Island 6. April 26, 5:30 p.m.

Down Terrace
U.K. TV vet Ben Wheatley’s zingy, caustic first feature was co-written by Robin Hill, who stars opposite his real-life father, Robert, as part of a pathetic dad-son kingpin team, heading up a two-bit syndicate in Brighton. The two, recently sprung, are back home with constantly aggrieved Mum (an excellent Julia Deakin). Further autobiographical touches—the film was shot in eight days in the house where Robin grew up, and his wife plays his pregnant girlfriend—heighten the sense in this kitchen-sink comedy that the greater psychopathological unit is the nuclear, not the crime, family. (MA) Edwards Island Cinemas. April 23, 3:30 p.m.

Fiberglass and Megapixels
Who knew photographers and videographers clogging the sand and waters of the North Shore of Hawaii to capture pro surfers in barrels act like paparazzi on the Lindsey Lohan beat? Derek and Craig Hoffman show how dangerous it has gotten out there in this smart documentary that also exposes the beauty of the sea, the sport and the island of the filmmakers’ birth. (MC) Edwards Island Cinemas. April 24, 2:45 p.m.

lo sono l’amore (I Am Love)
Luca Guadagnino’s visually stunning third narrative feature suggests an epic Visconti and Sirk might have made after they finished watching Vertigo and reading Madame Bovary while gorging themselves on aphrodisiacs. Further enticement (as if any were needed): Tilda Swinton, in yet another bravura performance, stars as an unhappy, unfulfilled Russian wife of a Milanese industrialist and mother of three adult children whose passions are awakened when a man prepares her a plate of perfectly seasoned shrimp. As her impeccably arranged chignon unravels and her salmon-colored finery is shucked, it’s impossible not to succumb to the operatic sweep. (MA) Regency South Coast Village Theatre. April 23, 3 p.m.

Red Bull Project X
In the winter of 2009, deep in the back country of Colorado, Red Bull built a secret half-pipe for Shaun White, who would practice and train there, make the U.S. Snowboard Team, and later go on to win Olympic gold at Vancouver. God, how I wanted to hate this documentary. The Red Bull logo is slapped over everything (even embossed on the snow, fer crissakes), and one feels sympathy for other countries’ athletes who do not have corporations bankrolling their Olympic dreams. But the Flying Tomato is so charismatic, his aerial tricks unbelievable—and he won the gold, baby. USA! USA! (MC) Regency Lido Theatre. April 25, 7 p.m.

The whole Twilight thing deserves a more adept mocking than it gets from this uneven rock-and-horror comedy from Canadian filmmaker Rob Stefaniuk. Even so, it’s worth the price of admission for the hilarious cameos delivered by Moby, Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins and, especially, Iggy Pop. As a bonus, you get Dave Foley of Kids In the Hall looking bloated, rocker Dimitri Coats as the head vampire making Keith Richards look like Justin Bieber in comparison, and Malcolm McDowell looking back at himself in flashbacks from, like, 35 years ago. Amazing. (MC) Edwards Island Cinemas. April 23, 8 p.m.; Edwards Island 4. April 26, 9 p.m.

The Wall
The longer you watch Ricardo Martinez’s documentary on the 25-foot fence that the U.S. government plans to build along the Mexican border, the more you realize what a joke the project has been since Dubya gave in to pressure from his party to install it. Not laughing, it turns out, are many Americans who live along that border and have never wanted the damn thing. (MC) Edwards Island Cinemas. April 27, 6 p.m.

You think Josh Pomer’s documentary is setting you up for the warmed-over Dogtown and Z-Boys treatment as three young surfers, each wrestling different personal demons, are taken under the wing of an older, not-necessarily wiser street thug in Santa Cruz. But best friends-turned-pro-surfing hotshots Darryl “Flea” Virostko, Shawn “Barney” Barron and Jason “Ratboy” Collins have inspiring tales to tell, and “Godfather of the Westside” Vince Collier not only surviving, but also emerging a loving father is miraculous. Rosanna Arquette narrates. (MC) Regency South Coast Village Theatre. April 24, 8 p.m.

Edwards Island Cinemas, 999 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach.

Regency Lido Theatre, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach.

Regency South Coast Village Theatre, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana.

The Studio at Sage Hill School, 20402 Newport Coast Dr., Newport Beach.

Visit for ticket information. See more reviews, recommendations and festival coverage on

This article appeared in print as "Ten to See: Don’t miss these flicks at the Newport Beach Film Festival."



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