I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS has been traveling the film festival circuit non-stop and what a magical journey it has been!
From our world premiere at SXSW to winning the Grand Jury Prize in Atlanta and Best Original Song in Nashville, we have also screened in Dallas, Florida, Idaho, Providence, Sarasota, Arkansas and Boston.
We are thrilled to announce that I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS recently won the GRAND JURY PRIZE for BEST FEATURE at the Atlanta Film Festival!
We look forward to continuing our film festival tour and hope to see you soon...
We could not have wished for a more magical review. Thanks Variety!
Film Review 'I Believe in Unicorns'
by Joe Leydon
Filmmaker Leah Meyerhoff makes a strong impression with her drama about a fantasy-prone teenage girl who mistakes a brooding bad boy for Prince Charming.
First-time feature filmmaker Leah Meyerhoff spins a familiar but affecting coming-of-age tale in "I Believe in Unicorns," a sensitively observed and arrestingly impressionistic drama that feels at once deeply personal and easily accessible. Although its commercial prospects are iffy, given the harsh realities of the current indie-cinema marketplace, this road-movie romance could find a receptive audience with the assist of critical recognition and empathetic marketing. A major selling point: Natalia Dyer's delicate portrayal of a fantasy-prone teen who falls for a bad boy (Peter Vack) laden with emotional baggage.
Dyer plays Davina, a naive young beauty who often seeks refuge from the universal anxieties of adolescence and the specific demands of caring for her handicapped mom (Toni Meyerhoff) by escaping to a fairy-tale world where unicorns frolic, dragons lie in wait, and a lovely princess like herself can gracefully traverse the landscape. Prince Charming is nowhere in sight, so Davina is drawn instead to Sterling (Vack), a slightly older, punkish skateboarder who casually deflowers her in the back room of a music club, then treats her with stinging indifference the next time they meet. (Vack handily suggests inner pain, rage and confusion to explain, if not excuse, the caddishness that counterbalances Sterling's brooding charm.)
The heartbroken girl is elated when Sterling changes his attitude yet again: He behaves tenderly, even lovingly, and invites her along for the ride when he impulsively opts to take an open-ended drive toward "anywhere but here." The longer they're together, however, the more Davina realizes that mood swings aren't Sterling's only unattractive quality.
Helmer Meyerhoff covers familiar ground in "I Believe in Unicorns," and it is to her credit that she deftly avoids most of the cliches that are endemic to the territory. Viewers who have seen other films with similar storylines may be primed to expect the worst — or at least the most predictable — as Davina and Sterling aimlessly wander along the back roads while their finances slowly dwindle and their passion gradually wanes. There are moments here and there — during an instance of shoplifting, for example, or an argument that dangerously escalates — when the filmmaker appears ready to impose a traditional doomed-lovers-on-the-run plot on her freeform scenario. As it turns out, however, this is not that kind of movie.
Rather, "I Believe in Unicorns" represents a worthy and largely successful attempt to mine heartfelt drama from material too frequently played for manipulative melodrama. That Meyerhoff cast her own MS-afflicted mother in the small but key role of Davina's wheelchair-bound mom is merely one indication that she's working in an autobiographical mode. But many simpatico members of the audience — and not just impressionable young women — doubtless will see elements of their own lives in the story as well.
Meyerhoff establishes the daydream-y quality of Davina's p.o.v. in the opening scenes, and sustains that subjective approach to reality with lenser Jarin Blaschke's artful variations of film stock, and purposefully childlike fantasies realized through Josh Mahan's inspired stop-motion animation.
A few details are fudged, which may prove annoying even for those otherwise willing to go with the flow. (It's never clear just who, if anyone, is caring for Davina's mother during the girl's absence.) Dyer's performance is so compelling, however, that sporadic plot holes are never more than fleeting distractions. The appealing young actress radiates a sense of wonder and an aching vulnerability as Davina, eloquently conveying the character's desperate longing for something, anything, that will brighten her dreary life with magic.
The reviews from SXSW have been rolling in and we are blown away by all of the magical words about our film!
"Young love is typically treated one of two ways in feature films made by adults: either as gauzy, treacly fairy tales of first kisses and two-straw milkshakes or as raunchy comedies where losing one's virginity is a requirement for high school graduation -- and in most cases, the protagonist is male. That's what makes I Believe In Unicorns such a refreshing change of pace." -Huffington Post
"I Believe in Unicorns is this magical-realist journey hosted by an imaginative protagonist, but for all the delving into Davina's subconscious, the film represents an experience that is all too common for young women, to varying degrees. It rings true, resonates as real even in its fantasies, because it is rooted in a place of authenticity, in subjectivity, in emotion and in storytelling. And that is what makes a film like this work so well." - Indiewire
"A dreamy and quirkily twisted coming-of-age story, Leah Meyerhoff’s I Believe In Unicorns may well tread very familiar territory, but it does so in a unique and gently striking style, resulting in an appealing left-field story of teen love, adventure and trauma." - Screen International
"Even with the layers of imagination, the film’s authenticity sustains itself because of Meyerhoff’s creative attention to detail and the small cast’s top-notch acting." - Austin Chronicle
"Unicorns is a poignant and heartfelt story of what it means to be a teenage girl. Beneath the beautifully whimsical fantasy sequences lie truisms of awkward, vulnerable, and complex adolescence." - Filmmaker Magazine
i Believe in Unicorns director Leah Meyerhoff is featured in Conrad Magazine.
Leah Meyerhoff is chosen as one of “5 Filmmakers to Watch” in Hollywood on the Hudson
I became a filmmaker because it satisfied the creative side of my brain and the social activist side. Narrative film has the potential to reach a wide audience and affect social change in a way other art mediums to not… My film is a coming-of-age story. The media has strong potential to shape the way girls grow up. The more realistic representations of girls and women there are on the big screen, the healthier it is for teens looking to these portrayals. I’ll consider my films successful if girls in the middle of nowhere see them and feel there’s a kindred spirit out there.
I Believe in Unicorns screens in Paris: We are honored to have been one of six American films invited to screen a rough cut in the US in Progress section of the Champs Elysees Film Festival
Ion Cinema writes:
The US in Progress Paris which promotes about a half dozen American independent film currently in post-production to European buyers in the context of the Champs Elysées Film Festival in Paris (this June) have selected film items from the likes of Michael Tully, Leah Meyerhoff and Jaffe Zinn — projects we are more than likely going to see as early as the fall, Sundance 2014 and beyond.
Katie Mustard, Tommy Oliver (1982), Leah Meyerhoff (I Believe in Unicorns), Sean Telford (BFE), Chantal Lian (Champs Elysees Film Festival) and Ulka Sniegowska (American Film Festival)
Leah Meyerhoff (I Believe in Unicorns) and Jaffe Zinn (Children)
Leah Meyerhoff (I Believe in Unicorns) and Eliza Hittman (It Felt Like Love)
Unicorns has been awarded an All Access grant from the Tribeca Film Institute
We are pleased to be in such esteemed company as Ondi Timoner, Ramin Bahrani, Liliana Greenfield-Sanders and Ryan Koo. This grant will go a long way toward helping us finish the film and we look forward to participating in the All Access Labs during the Tribeca Film Festival in the spring.
Variety writes: "The Tribeca All Access program bestows a grant of $15,000 to each project and brings in the filmmakers for a five-day professional program set to run during the fest. Features are all in the running for TAA's Creative Promise Awards, which sees a jury of pros pick one doc and one narrative film to receive an additional $10,000 each. Narrative features include Liliana Greenfield-Sanders' Bypass, a Frankenstein-ish story about an obese young woman who transforms herself through surgery; Leah Meyerhoff's I Believe in Unicorns, about a teen girl who runs away with an older boy; and Manchild, Ryan Koo's tale about a young basketball prodigy at a Christian school."
Unicorns director Leah Meyerhoff recounts her experiences at Tribeca All Access
I was delighted to be in the company of such talented filmmakers as Ondi Timoner, Nate Dushku, John Christou, Lily Greenfield Sanders, Ryan Koo, Isaac Chung, Andrew Bujalski, Grainger David and Dara Bratt and enjoyed getting to know them and their projects better as the week progressed.
The program kicked off with a Film Fellows session where established filmmakers were partnered with aspiring high school students for a full day of mentoring activities. I was lucky enough to be partnered with two brilliant teenage girls who were full of enthusiasm and ideas. By the end, I think I had learned as least as much from them as they had from me.
Next up were the industry sessions, which basically entailed meeting a new producer/distributor/sales agent every half hour, all day long. It was a hectic format to be sure, but surprisingly effective. I made some fantastic connections and already have had several productive follow up meetings.
I saw my friend Lucy's film Una Noche opening night which was absolutely stunning and it was exciting to see her pick up so many awards by the end of the festival. Other movie-going highlights included Bradley Rust Gray's Jack and Diane, Harmony Korine's 4th Dimension, Kat Coiro's While We Were Here and Ben Dickenson's First Winter.
Perhaps best of all, the festival brought together many members of the I Believe In Unicorns team from far and wide. I would like to thank Natalie Mooallem, Tamir Muhammad and Dyana Winkler for welcoming us to Tribeca All Access. This film has been a labor of love from the beginning and it is experiences like these that make it all worthwhile.
Inside the NYFF Artists Academy
I am honored to be among a dozen filmmakers selected for the Emerging Visions Artists Academy program at the 2012 New York Film Festival.
NYFF’s Artists Academy will offer an immersive creative experience for 12 up-and-coming filmmakers. Taking place on Wednesday, October 3 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, established filmmakers will "delve into the creative process and artistic collaboration through case studies and talks."
Confirmed participants include writer/director Paul Schrader, cinematographer Ed Lachman, and avant-garde filmmaker Robert Lepage . Film director, screenwriter and former film critic Schrader will present a case study of his latest project, "The Canyons," walking filmmakers through the entire process of production, including a successful Kickstarter funding campaign. Visionary film director and playwright Lepage created a spectacular new Ring Cycle for the Metropolitan Opera last season. As he rehearses a new opera for the Met, he will talk to filmmakers about his vision for combining creativity and new technology.
Regarding the new program, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Executive Director Rose Kuo said in a statement: “Artists Academy will nurture emerging filmmakers to develop their creative skills and to discover new approaches to storytelling with moving images. It will be a collaborative workshop in which master filmmakers will mentor new talent.”
The 12 filmmakers selected (and their latest projects) to take part in the NYFF Artists Academy:
Rodney Ascher, ROOM 237 (documentary feature)
Daniel Carbone, HIDE YOUR SMILING FACES (narrative feature)
Russ Harbaugh, LOVE AFTER LOVE (narrative script)
Simon Jaikiriuma Paetau, WITHOUT ARTIFICIAL TITS THERE IS NO SALVATION (feature script)
Ana Lazarevic, BACHA BAZI: BOYS FOR PLAY (feature script)
Leah Meyerhoff, I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS (narrative feature)
Olivia Newman, FIRST MATCH (narrative feature)
Lucas Smith, GHOSTS OF THE ARAL SEA (documentary feature)
Kim Spurlock, THE WHISPERING GIANT (feature script)
Musa Syeed, THE DOCTOR (feature script)
Greg Vander Veer, MISS HILL; CHURCH FOREST (two documentary features in post-production)
Susan Youssef, MARJOURN AND THE FLYING HEADSCARF (feature script)
Read more about the Emerging Visions Artist Academy here
Amy Seimetz is an Artist to Watch
Unicorns actress Amy Seimetz is featured in Indiewire's Breakout Artists to Watch
"Over the last few years, Amy Seimetz hasn't come anywhere near threatening to crack the mainstream, but has served as a sort of "Zelig"-figure for a particular kind of American independent film, crossing paths with many of the most notable players in the scene in some way or another. The latest is Shane Carruth; the actress stars in the "Primer" director's sophomore feature "Upstream Color," and while the filmmaker's work doesn't quite serve the actors in the way of some of his contemporaries, Seimetz has picked up strong enough notices that it could see her go on to bigger things from here on out."
Read the full article here