2012 Las Vegas Film Festival

A femme fatale seeking revenge, a suicidal soldier, and Saddam Hussein. What do these people have in common? They were all characters in films featured at the 2012 Las Vegas Film Festival hosted at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, July 19 – 22. This year a mix of films with international focus wooed film-lovers who were trying to find a reprieve from the 110-degree temperatures outside. Viewers were quickly transported far, far away from the sweltering Nevada desert with this year’s selection of stories and characters of China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, and Iraq.

I was hungry for some good old-fashioned noir, and I came away satisfied where I least expected. The following films were some of the highlights of this year’s festival.

Monika
Written and Directed by Steven R. Monroe. This violent and edgy thriller oozed noir with its revenge theme and bullet-flying special effects. The story follows Reagan Tyler, a troubled guy who ends up in the place where troubled people seem to flock—Las Vegas. It’s here where he meets the dark and dreadful Monika, a woman who is supposedly already dead. Monika is hungry for revenge on the killers of her younger sister. Check out this one’s trailer!

In Mexico
Produced by, Directed by, and Starring Ash Adams. This one was only 13 minutes in length, but it was 13 minutes of sheer genius and picked up this year’s Jury Award. The story is about a conflicted soldier fighting the demons lurking inside his mind. The plot takes place at a bar surrounded by cold alcohol and hot tempers. The script was tight and the acting was eerily real. If you have a chance to see this film, do it!

Thief
Directed by Julian Higgins. A story about a young boy named Mehdi who accidentally befriends Saddam Hussein, only to get burned by him. Now a grown man 40 years later, Mehdi has another chance meeting with Saddam. For Mehdi, revenge is tempting.

At this year’s festival, there was a panel discussion featuring Original Gangsters of Las Vegas, which included the mobster Frank Cullotta. Mr. Cullotta discussed his time as a consultant with Martin Scorsese providing him with the real mob experience during the making of Casino (which was the number one film on my Top 10 Las Vegas Noir Film list!).

My feature-length screenplay entitled “Past Due” won the Silver Ace Award at this year’s festival. The story revolves around a young woman trying to “make it” in Las Vegas only to find herself at the brink of disaster as the city slowly and methodically tricks her. I had the opportunity to speak on the screenwriters’ panel and to meet some talented filmmakers between some rolls of the dice.

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