NBFF 2015: True Tales of Intrigue, Extraordinary Individuals and Adventure

The Last Executioner
The Last Executioner
De Warrene Pictures

It's the seventh inning stretch of the Newport Beach Film Festival, and much of what remains in the line up are short films, music videos, and even some repeats of earlier feature screenings. But there are also plenty of quality feature films left to be mentioned, including a wide array of films based on harrowing, uplifting and surprising true stories you never heard of. Whether you have or haven't, these stories make for great subject matter to sink your teeth into, so enjoy reading through this list and make your way to their screenings before time runs out.

The Last Executioner

Inspired by the true story of Chavoret Jaruboon and based on his memoir of the same name, The Last Executioner details Jaruboon's life from ambitious rock n' roller to taking a job as prison executioner in his native Thailand to provide for his family, becoming the last executioner to use a gun, and executed 55 prisoners over a 19-year span. Tom Waller's film looks at Jaruboon's inner conflict as he tries to rationalize his new career, with a dark performance by David Asavanond as the spirit of Death who follows him around for much of his life, adding an existential bent to Jaruboon's tension.

Screens Wednesday 4/29 7:30pm at The Triangle.

La Bamba

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As part of their Retrospective film series, NBFF brings the 1987 Luis Valdez classic starring Lou Diamond Phillips in his baby-faced prime as gone-too-soon singer and rock n' roll legend Ritchie Valens, who perished along with The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly in a plane crash at age 17. This film will tug at your heartstrings for various reasons: the doomed love between Valens and high school girlfriend Donna Ludwig; the appearance of late Latina actress Elizabeth Peña in her youth, and of course, the film's finale. Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk," a well-known romantic instrumental standard, has never sounded so solemn and heartbreaking before.

Fun fact: Stray Cats frontman Brian Setzer plays another tragic rock and roll icon Eddie Cochran in the film as well.

Screens Wednesday, 4/29 7:30pm at Lido Live.


Much of photography and cinema owe a huge debt to the photographic frame-by-frame studies of movement conducted by Eadweard Muybridge, but what they don't tell you in film school is the life story of the legendary photographer behind The Horse in Motion: Eddie suffered an head injury in his early life that made him prone to bizarre behavior in his later years; he also killed his wife's lover in a jealous rage, but was later acquitted on the grounds of justafiable homicide. Kyle Rideout's feature film seeks to bring to light (so to speak) the drama and love triangle of Eddie's life, all the while becoming a pioneer for motion picture history.

Screens Wednesday, 2:30pm at Big Newport.

The Ambassador to Bern

An obscure, forgotten chapter in world history is the Hungarian Revolution of the 1950s that sets the stage for Attila Szasz's film. Two Hungarian immigrants abduct the ambassador and employees of the Hungarian embassy in Switzerland in search of secret documents on August 16, 1958. The situation grows more and more tense behind closed doors, and outside the embassy where Hungarians take up political demonstrations. Expect plenty of suspense and drama in this twist-filled historical adaptation.

Screens Wednesday, 4/29 7:45pm at Island Cinema, Fashion Island.

The True Adventues of Raoul Walsh

Raoul Walsh might not be a household name as say John Wayne or Errol Flynn, but those Hollywood heavyweights owe their careers to starring in Walsh's productions-- which total to around 150. In fact, scrolling through his IMDb filmography you'd find a list of well-known classic films Walsh helmed, from the silent to the sound eras: The Birth of a Nation, The Thief of Bagdad, The Loves of Carmen, The Big Trail, The Roaring Twenties, They Drive By Night, High Sierra, White Heat, and more. Not to mention Walsh could really rock an eyepatch. Directors Marilyn Moss and Joel Bender uncover the details of Walsh's life and career through this informative documentary.

Screens Wednesday, 4/29 5:15pm at Island Cinema, Fashion Island.

Warrior One

Warrior One sounds like it could be an infomercial for the Wellfit Girls Program, a girls-only wellness challenge that takes teen girls to extensive outdoor expeditions around the world, teaching them how to do yoga, leadership skills, and how to approach real world obstacles. The documentary follows 11 teen girls as they travel across the world from their neighborhood in Florida to the heights of Machu Picchu, all the while giving them a sense of self discovery and transformation. Run the world, girls!

Screens Thursday, 4/30 5:45pm at Big Newport.

For more information on screenings and tickets, visit www.newportbeachfilmfest.com

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