Boyana Balta, Milena Cuskic, Conor Kowalski, Suzana Norberg, Dragan Sutalo, Keziah Wall
"Libertyville" Set for Dances With Films Premiere
Set for its world premiere at September's Dances With Films, Libertyville is a gentle yet warm-hearted skewing of the cultures and traditions we grow up in and how, sometimes, they start to get a little bit out of place.
Written by Suzana Norberg, a first-generation American born in Wisconsin to Serbian immigrants, Libertyville taps into Norberg's own childhood experiences in creating a humorous 17-minute short film about one family's seemingly unusual, at least to Americans, tradition.
Norberg stars in the film as the grandmother, a rather tyrannical traditionalist who's dragging off her daughter (Boyana Balta) and two grandchildren (Conor Kowalski, Keziah Wall) for their weekly ritual of having a picnic atop the grandfather's grave.
For the most part, Libertyville is the film you expect it to be with equal amounts of heart and humor and a film that manages to both respect traditions while also wielding its cinematic side-eye. It's fun to watch precisely because Norberg's script never gets overly condescending or critical.
The film is directed by Devin Scott. Scott infuses Libertyville with a lightness and retro vibe that often feels like early Neil Simon. That vibe is matched by Rob Amato's lensing and Nicholas Patrick's original music.
Norberg is clearly enjoying her turn as the demanding grandmother, while Boyana Balta equally shines as the mother inclined, somewhat begrudgingly, to go along with it all. Conor Kowalski and Keziah Wall round out the key players in the ensemble cast. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a delightful acting debut from Milena Cuskic, who just so happens to be Balta's real-life mother and who was cast due to her excellence as a reader for Balta's self-taped audition.
Seriously, what a delightful story for a delightful film.
Dances With Films is a perfect place for Libertyville to begin its indie fest run as the low-budget indie fits in sublimely with those fine folks at Dances With Films and their remarkable dedication to the indie world. Rather miraculously, this Norberg's own first film after acting for 34 years and Dances With Films will be her first film fest.
Bravo. And enjoy.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic