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Movies

Local films, festivals, and faces

Deaf gangsters? Comedy ‘Conned’ gives it a shot

The “Conned” team (from left): director of photography Jeremy Traub, director Arthur Luhn, and composer Munk Duane.

The “Conned” team (from left): director of photography Jeremy Traub, director Arthur Luhn, and composer Munk Duane.

There’s never been a Boston crime movie quite like “Conned.” A comedy shot in and around Boston, it’s about gangsters who happen to be deaf.

“Conned,” which screens at Sunday afternoon at the Somerville Theatre and will be available on DVD and video on demand Tuesday, was written and directed by Arthur Luhn, a Boston University graduate who lives in Randolph. Luhn, who was born deaf, wanted to make a film in which deaf characters figure prominently in a story that has nothing to do with their deafness. “I find most crime movies dreary and depressing. I wanted to do something completely different,” says Luhn, signing through an interpreter. “It’s empowering because there’s no reason for the characters to be deaf in the film. They just are.”

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“Conned,” about a band of eccentric and dysfunctional criminals who have so far managed to avoid prison and are looking for one last score, features locations from Logan Airport — securing this site was a real coup for an indie film, says Luhn — to Wonderland racetrack. Jeremy Traub, the Newton resident who shot “Conned,” says Luhn has a “highly developed visual sense that allows him to create worlds. He has a great eye and scouted some great locations.” Traub’s wife, Jennifer, worked as makeup artist for “Conned.” Jeremy Traub was the cinematographer for Luhn’s debut feature, “Golden Legacy” (2003), and served as technical adviser on his most recent film, “The House Across the Street.” The horror thriller, which stars Eric Roberts, is currently in post-production.

“Conned,” says Luhn, boasts his biggest budget to date. It’s also rich with Boston character actors, most of whom credit Luhn with giving them their best roles in a film that looks more expensive than most low-budget indies. “I got cast in March of 2007. I had less weight and more hair,” said Bob Dicicco, who plays insecure underworld boss Mr. Million. “Arthur has innovative ideas and he busts down stereotypes.” Other local actors featured in the film include Lou Fouco, John Cleary, and Mike Malvesti.

Although hearing actors play deaf characters, Luhn cast several deaf actors, too. Wally Carlson, who displays slapstick chops as an inept outlaw, has known Luhn for 13 years and acted in an early Luhn short and “Golden Legacy.” “I’ve gotten a lot better since then,” says Carlson. “Arthur took a chance with me and helped me over the long shooting days.”

Christopher Tranchina, who worked as a stunt driver on the Boston-shot films “The Town” and “Knight and Day,” is pleased to have gotten his first big acting role in “Conned.” The film united the close-knit community of actors in Boston who often audition on their lunch hours, he says. “We’re all friends; everyone knows everyone. You are guaranteed to run into all these guys at auditions. We were lucky to be in such a good group. That’s what drives this film.”

For more information, go to www.connedthefilm.com.

Fully committed

Another local actor-director, Albert M. Chan, also has a personal stake in a fiction film. Chan says he was inspired to direct and star in “The Commitment” after he and his husband of seven years decided to expand their family through adoption. “The Commitment” will screen next Sunday as part of a shorts program in the Boston Asian American Film Festival, running Thursday through next Sunday. “The Commitment” is the story of Robert (Chan) and Ethan (Jason Lane Fenton), an interracial gay couple who have been chosen by a pregnant Asian woman (Kerri Patterson) to adopt her baby. Then things take an odd turn. Chan and the majority of the cast and crew are scheduled to attend the screening in the Paramount Center’s Bright Family Screening Room.

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The fourth annual BAAFF takes place at three venues: the Bright Family Screening Room; the Brattle Theatre, in Cambridge; and the Somerville Theatre. There are nine features and two short programs. The opening-night film is Quentin Lee’s “White Frog” (7:30 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre), a twist on the coming-of-age genre film that stars Booboo Stewart, Joan Chen, B.D. Wong, and Harry Shum Jr.

Friday, director H.P Mendoza will engage in post-screening discussion of the horror film “I Am a Ghost” (Somerville Theater), about spooky goings-on in an empty house. Saturday, director S. Leo Chiang will be on hand for a question-and-answer session after the screening of the documentary “Mr. Cao Goes to Washington” (Bright Family Screening Room), a portrait of US Representative Joseph Cao (R-La.) and his first year in office.

For more information, go to www.baaff.org/festival.html.

Coming from Cuba

In 2002, Jose Barriga nearly single-handedly put together the Cambridge Latino Film Festival. His effort has since grown into the four-day Boston Latino International Film Festival (BLIFF), unveiling its 11th edition Oct. 25-28 with screenings of 60 films from 15 Latin American countries as well as the United States. But Barriga’s focus has not changed: BLIFF serves Boston’s diverse Latino population by offering truthful portrayals of Latinos by Latino filmmakers and by using film to strengthen intercultural understanding.

This year, the opening reception and program (Thursday at 5:30 p.m.) takes place at the John O’Bryant African-American Institute at Northeastern University. A short film from Spain will be followed by “Long Distance,” a feature from Cuban director Esteban Insausti, about a woman whose friends have all fled Cuba for the US.

“The festival is a unique opportunity to see films from Cuba,” says Barriga. “The film industry there is fantastic, with films of such high quality considering how limited resources are.”

On Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Northeastern, a panel of local filmmakers and academics will discuss contemporary cinema in Cuba. It will be followed at 3 p.m. by a program of shorts from Cuba. Then at 6 p.m., director Chloe Smolarski will present the documentary “Admissions,” exploring the stories of four undocumented college students. The film screens as part of the BLIFF’s Immigration program.

The Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University will also host BLIFF events and screenings. “With My Heart in Yambo” (Saturday at 4 p.m.) is a documentary from Ecuador about police brutality and injustice. In “Inside El Porvenir” (Saturday at 6 p.m.), director Rainer Hoffman, who will attend the screening, examines life in the penal institution of La Ceiba, in Honduras. Admission is $10 per program at both locations. Panels and the opening and closing receptions are free and open to all.

For more information, go to www.bliff.org.

Fright nights

It’s thrills and chills at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, which unspools its 13th annual RI International Horror Film Festival, Thursday through next Sunday. The event features 63 horror films from 20 countries, including an exclusive screening of “The Barrens,” starring Stephen Moyers (“True Blood”), from writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman (“Saw II,” “Saw III,” “Saw IV,” “Mother’s Day”). The annual Horror Festival Opening Night Spooktacular kicks things off with a series of international scary shorts, including “The Other Side,” directed by Oli and Alex Santoro (United Kingdom); “La Granja,” directed by Ignacio Lasierra (Spain); and “The Narrative of Victor Karloch,” directed by Kevin McTurk (United States). Two films salute Asian horror cinema: “Overflowed,” directed by Joan Llabata (China) and “Twisted,” directed by Yee-wei Chai (Malaysia/Singapore).

For a complete schedule, go to www.film-festival.org/HorrorCALENDAR12.php.

More ghoulish fun

The Coolidge Corner Theatre hosts its 12th annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon from midnight Saturday to next Sunday at noon. A spookily stellar double bill opens the 12-hour marathon: “The Exorcist” (1973) and “The Thing” (1982). There will be a costume contest and some special shorts and trailers from the archives. Horror fans are invited to stick around for another four jolting tales of terror with titles to be determined. All six films will be screened from 35mm prints.

For information go to www.coolidge.org.

Loren king can be reached at
loren.king@comcast.net

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