This was the year of the iPhone at the Sundance Film Festival. “Tangerine,” a feature film about transgender prostitutes in Hollywood shot almost entirely on an iPhone 5s, was the talk of the Festival, receiving audience raves and critical praise for the purity of its cinematic aesthetic; it was picked up for commercial distribution by Magnolia Pictures.

I was also surprised to learn that when the filmmakers ran out of money, some of the scenes in the Academy Award-winning documentary “Searching for Sugarman” were shot on an iPhone.

Now “Departure,” an iPhone feature film by filmmaker Ruben Kazantsev, co-founder of the iPhone Film Festival, has been selected for 2015 competition in the Short Film corner of the grandest of all film festivals, Cannes. It’s believed to be the first iPhone film ever to compete at Cannes.

Santa Monica resident Satie Gossett is one of the film’s three featured director/producers.

“Departure,” described by Kazantsev as a “multi-film,” was shot in Los Angeles, Belarus and France and tells an interwoven story that unfolds across three countries over several years.

In France and Russia, there were production teams with equipment and backing. In Los Angeles, Gossett had to handle things on his own, which he did for free, including helping to raise money for the project.

Gossett, a TV and film writer/director/producer, is the son of actor Louis Gossett, Jr. and is currently working as Federal Express courier. He directed and produced the Los Angeles segments, shot entirely on iPhone 4S — a few generations older than the most current model.

And yet the film looks and feels just like any other movie; if you didn’t know the film was shot on iPhones, you’d never guess.

Kazantsev says he gets his best ideas when he’s out for his “cigar walks.” The inspiration to create the iPhone Film Festival came to him that way, as did the idea to make “Departure.” Knowing the film was set in three locations across the globe but without a budget to fly crews to locations, he decided to harness social media connectivity. Thinking geographically, three filmmakers in each of the locations who had submitted movies to the iPhone Film Festival stood out for him; Gossett was one of them. They held production meetings via Skype and email.

The film’s original script opens with a man desperately trying to get from France to Los Angeles for his daughter’s birthday, the first since her mother died, but the plane is fully booked. A Russian jewel smuggler sympathetically gives up his ticket to this stranger. When the plane crashes, the smuggler secretly takes on the responsibility of looking after the man’s daughter, while dealing with the complications of staying alive himself.

“Departure” premiered at the fan-based MacWorld Conference, which features all things Apple for users from home amateurs to professionals. At Cannes, the movie will have to stand up against international submissions made on conventional platforms.

Gossett says there are now so many apps, lenses, adapters and devices such as tripods and Steadicams that a film made on an iPhone can hold its own in the wider movie-making world.

We’ll know whether “Departure” makes the cut when the Cannes shorts competition gets underway in May. Watch a teaser at

Bunraku in the ‘Bu

You know you’ve been meaning to go, so here’s your excuse. This weekend, The Getty Villa’s Theatre Lab in Malibu celebrates its 10th anniversary season with an original production, “Tungsten (artery)” created out of a partnership between two groundbreaking organizations, Automata and Los Angeles Performance Practice.

Integrating shadows, Japanese Bunraku-inspired puppetry, sound, text and projected video, this multi-disciplinary production takes an imaginative approach to the myth of Persephone, the Greek goddess of spring and awakening.

Theatre Lab residencies support theatre artists as they create new works inspired by ancient stories. With access to the Villa Auditorium’s range of technologies, emerging and established directors, designers, musicians, playwrights and actors can discover and incorporate innovative stage, sound, and visual elements into their works in progress.

The play follows Cora, a contemporary Persephone on a train journey who faces an existential dilemma. A meditation on dramatic climate change as well as an elliptical rumination on mortality, “Tungsten (artery)” explores the complexity of being human.

Performances are Friday through Sunday, Feb. 20-22, including matinees. Tickets are $7; call (310) 440-7300 or visit

Not gettin’ the Geffen

The times I’m least comfortable expressing my views about a play are when they diverge so widely from respected reviewers.

I attended the opening of “The Night Alive” by Conor McPherson at The Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. As I was leaving, scratching my head and concurring with my plus-one about our bafflement, a very angry man in the elevator to the parking lot was threatening to write a letter to the artistic director, expressing his disgust at the piece of crap he’d just seen. His words, not mine.

Okay, that may be a bit harsh but I really did not “get it.” It’s a gritty slice-of-life morality play, but the characters are not exactly sympathetic. If its mood was supposed to be edgy, it was hit and miss for me on opening night.

There were moments when language was delivered with such deliberate hesitation that I wondered whether the problem was the direction or the actor’s inability to make the hesitation sound like a normal speech pattern.

I found no one to love, and didn’t need to be reminded that it’s easy to be taken in when you have a soft heart. But I found no hope here, no salvation for anyone.

But to be fair, read other reviews before basing your decision to attend on mine; you’ll find I am mostly alone out here.

Find out more at

Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also reviewed theatre for

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *