To Live and Write in LA

Anthem Film Festival: Laughing Though the Pain

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It usually impresses people when you quote dead poets, so, here goes.

Lord Byron said, “Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” If that’s true, then attendees of the Anthem Film Festival, part of FreedomFest, July 13-16 at Planet Hollywood, left Las Vegas well medicated.

Between films focusing on dysfunctional futures, police excesses, brain damage, political oppression, climate fraud, cancer, and unjust imprisonment, Anthem Film Festival director Jo Ann Skousen worked in a few films that inspired giggles and guffaws. Thank you, Jo Ann.

Love Gov


Alexis, played by Kira Pozehl, wonders how she let Gov mess up her life

I’ve written about Love Gov: From First Date To Mandate before, but it deserves another mention as it won Anthem’s “Best Libertarian Comedy” award.

This millennial oriented rom-com, directed by John Papola and Bradley Jackson, tells the story of Alexis.

“Millennial oriented?” What the heck is that? According to the funding source for Love GovThe Independent Institute, there are 83 million 19 to 34 year olds, who are asking questions like: Why is my student debt so high? Why can’t I get a good job? Why can’t I find a place to live I can afford? Why can’t I find healthcare I can afford? Why is my government spying on me?

Millennials sure ask a lot of questions. Amazingly, the answers are in this film.

Alexis, played by Kira Pozehl becomes financially and emotionally dependent on a guy named Scott Govinski, played by Jonathan Flanders, or “Gov” for short. Alexis’ bestie, Libby (who just happens to be a libertarian), played by Kaci Beeler, helps her fight off the overbearing and intrusive Gov. Get it? It really is funny, winning awards at almost every film festival where it has shown. You can watch it here, but, make sure Gov isn’t looking over your shoulder.

Safety School


Kaci Beeler, helps Alexis fight off the overbearing and intrusive Gov

If Anthem gave an award for most average laughs per minute, Safety School, coming in at three and a half minutes, would have won.

This film, directed by Jeremy Michael Cohen and Victoria Hill, shows a student’s effort to deliver a college graduation address while under the watchful eyes of a representative of the Department of Education (DOE). “Why is that so bad?” you might ask. Because the student is connected to a series of electrodes and the representative of the DOE is in charge of delivering electric shocks if he says anything politically incorrect or worthy of a trigger warning.

Director Hill commented after the screening that her high school and college experience inspired the film. “I felt I could never say anything,” she said.

An audience member asked about the length of the film. “We started with fifteen pages,” Hill recalled. “Then we just kept trying to hone it down to the best version it could be.” Anthem Festival director Skousen agreed, noting that one of the most important things a filmmaker can learn is to cut out everything that is not essential.

Safety School should be available on YouTube soon.


AnthemAnother rom-com, but this time involving a Department of Justice bureaucrat, Harriet, played by Sal Neslusan whose job is to help the CIA and FBI spy on people. The not-so-cute-meet with her potential love interest comes when Harriet and her bestie, played by Elle Young (there’s always a best friend or two in rom-coms), who is also a DOJ spy, get hacked by one of their targets.

The target blackmails Harriet. He threatens to tell her boss all the secrets he’s uncovered, unless she has dinner with him.

After the screening, director Dugan Bridges discussed the film with the audience.

The film is short, Bridges explained, because it is a sample to help them develop a feature length version. He said that the film’s target demographic is anyone who likes absurdist comedies and 18 to 34 year olds. (Those pesky millennials again!)

I found the film charming and thought the acting was excellent. It had two payoffs. First, Harriet realizes that if she and her coworkers do something inappropriate with the information they’ve hacked, they get a letter in their personnel file. But, if the people they are spying on do the same thing, they go to jail. Second, when Harriet meets the hacker, they discover that to really know people, you have to get offline and meet them face-to-face.

I will look forward to the feature-length version of this film.

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An exploration of film and filmmaking