So: The rich and privileged are augmented with nanotechology and new skyscrapers crowd the skyline of Phnom Pehn in a near future. In Tralok Bek, a tight-knit community threatened with forced eviction, 13-year-old Leng Heng is having vivid dreams of his past lives. He and his pals are convinced they are meant to find a buried golden Buddhist statue (stolen centuries ago) that can save their homes, and they seek help from a street-smart girl and orphan in the neighborhood, Srey Leak.
The way that Director Jake Wachtel uses a sci-fi lens to tell his story can mesmerize audiences around the world even though the setting is a down on its luck neighborhood with struggling working class families eking out the best lives for them and their kids. KARMALINK addresses the filmmaker’s concerns about the iniquitous unfairness of neocolonialism and the perils of the so-called progress of modern technology.
KARMALINK is one of those rare films that reverberates in that inexplicable transcendental way of a medium that can reach out and touch very diverse audiences, reminding them of their shared commonality with people not like them who live around the world, characteristics that make us human, such as kindness, mercy and empathy. We aren’t witnessing much of that kind of existential, transcendental force with all the chaos going on in everyday life around the world but it is most certainly flowing in KARMALINK.
This reviewer believes that KARMALINK is one of the best if not the best of recent movies for millions of people who have been shuttering and shuddering from the menaces of COVID-19, Trumpism and all the rest. It has it’s bewildering moments, but audience appreciation may actually soar during those moments because of the way that the film is made.
My experimental WOW-Exclamation Point Film Review Rating System (W-EPFRRS) – I’m still working on an acronym – is equivalent to the 5-star ratings that viewers are accustomed to. The sci-fi, reincarnation-artificial-consciousness-search-for enlightenment KARMALINK movie is rated between WOW!!! and WOW!!!!. I pretty much believe that when I watch it again, the W-EPFRRS will increase. And so on.
It’s not unusual for entertainment reviewers, dealing with unique films that can be perplexing and challenging, to stumble if not fumble with their opinions. This can happen especially when we’re on deadline. Before I became interested in writing reviews, I saw movies that I thought were at first were either comme ci, comme ça or were over my head, giving me that lost feeling as I left the theater. Yet, I was lulled back to the theater because of an irresistible gut feeling to see them again. To see reruns back in those days you had to “run” back to the theater if you didn’t want to wait for them to show up on HBO or Showtime.
I saw 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) at least five times in a downtown Chicago theater – and many more times when it eventually showed up on cable. KARMALINK is most certainly one of those irresistible gut-feeling movies. Once you see it, you will have to see it again until the irresistible urge is satiated. Thank the gods that DIGITAL makes seeing re-runs easy, especially on the wallet.
KARMALINK will be released in the U.S. Theatrically in major cities and on VOD in the U.S. and Canada on Friday, July 15.
Lumiere Music Hall – Los Angeles, CA
Rialto Lakeside Elmwood – Berkeley, CA
Rialto Lakeside Sonoma – Sebastopol, CA
SIFF Film Center – Seattle, WA
VOD Platforms include:
US: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, XFinity Cable, and more.
Canada: Apple TV/iTunes, Google Play.
JAKE WACHTEL (DIRECTOR/CO-WRITER)
American-born filmmaker Jake Wachtel began his career making short documentaries for nonprofits and social impact ventures working in the global south. His work has been featured on NYTimes.com, Wired, NPR, and MSNBC.
In 2015, he moved to Cambodia to teach a year-long class in filmmaking to children as a part of the Filmmakers Without Borders initiative. His Phnom Penh-set short film THE FOREIGNER HERE premiered at the Cambodian International Film Festival, and he has gone on to collaborate with many of the growing new wave of young Cambodian filmmakers. He also served as on-set editor for Jimmy Henderson’s
Cambodian-Chinese coproduction THE PREY. Phnom Penh became his home base for several years as he developed his first feature KARMALINK—Cambodia’s first sci-fi movie—set in the community where he taught and produced with a majority Cambodian cast and crew, including his former students.
VALERIE STEINBERG (PRODUCER)
Valerie Steinberg is a creative producer based in Los Angeles. Her producing credits include the upcoming feature film KARMALINK (dir. Jake Wachtel), which premiered as the opening night film of Venice Film Critics’ Week and will be released theatrically this summer. She is also Executive Producer of the feature film WAR PONY, directed by Riley Keough and Gina Gammell, which just won the Caméra D’Or award at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. She is currently serving as the Executive Producer for Disney’s Bite Size Halloween series of 20 horror short films which will air on Hulu.
Her award-winning short film credits include HAIR WOLF (dir. Mariama Diallo; 2018 Sundance award winner; Criterion Channel), BLOCKS (dir. Bridget Moloney, Sundance 2020), COFFEE SHOP NAMES (dir. Deepak Sethi, Tribeca 2021, HBO), FRY DAY (dir. Laura Moss; SXSW; Tribeca award winner; Criterion Channel), and EVERYBODY DIES! (dir. Nuotama Bodomo; SXSW; HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness; Criterion Channel). She has been selected for the 2021 Sundance Institute x WIF Financing Intensive, 2021 Rotterdam Lab, 2021 Berlinale Talents, 2020 Venice Biennale College Cinema, 2019 Film Independent Producing Lab, and 2019 Tribeca Film Institute Network. She is an advisor for the Soho House film initiatives and has lectured on film at NYU and Yale. Valerie earned her BA in Philosophy and Chinese at Yale University.
CHRISTOPHER LARSEN (CO-WRITER)
Chris worked for a decade as a gun-for-hire doing polish and rewrite work for directors and producers in Italy, Norway, Los Angeles, Toronto, Buenos Aires and Singapore. In 2010, Chris followed his wife, Mattie Do, to Laos, where he wrote and produced her groundbreaking feature films, CHANTHALY and DEAREST SISTER, the latter of which was Laos’ first ever submission for the Foreign Language Academy Award.
ROBERT LEITZELL (DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY)
Robert is a cinematographer whose most recent home was 2019-era New York. He is currently somewhat peripatetic. He loves shooting movies, adventures, and spending time with his wife. Ideally – three birds, one stone. Other passions include Italy, Rafael Nadal, espresso, a good pastry, and debauchery. Feature film credits include BLACK BEAR (Sundance), WOMEN WHO KILL (Tribeca), and THE HEART MACHINE (SXSW).
OLGA MIASNIKOVA (PRODUCTION DESIGNER)
Olga was born in Siberia, and currently residing in NYC. She just wants to make dark things with her friends. Feature film credits include BLAST BEAT (Sundance 2020) and WOMEN WHO KILL (Tribeca 2016), and television credits include TBS’ SEARCH PARTY.
HARRISON ATKINS (FILM EDITOR)
Harrison Atkins is an American filmmaker who works as a director, producer, and editor. He edited MADELINE’S MADELINE, which premiered at Sundance and was called “one of the boldest and most invigorating American films of the 21st century” by Indiewire and “an ecstatic, anguished, fiercely empathetic masterwork” by The New Yorker. His feature directorial debut LACE CRATER premiered at TIFF in 2015 and screened at numerous international film festivals before being distributed theatrically and on VOD. His short films, including CHOCOLATE HEART, BLISSFUL BANQUET, and DOOR ON THE LEFT, have screened worldwide and received online accolades like ‘Short Of The Week’ and ‘Vimeo Staff Pick.’ He co-executive produced and edited the Netflix original series EASY.
STEPHANIE KAZNOCHA (FILM EDITOR)
Stephanie Kaznocha is a film and television editor. Her most recent film 7 Days, produced by Duplass Brothers Productions, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival 2021. Her recent TV work includes Room 104 (HBO) and Cinema Toast (Showtime). She has also edited celebrated shorts including “sometimes, I think about dying” (Sundance Film Festival 2019), Coffee Shop Names (HBO, Tribeca Film Festival X 2021), and Let’s Be Tigers (Disney).
ARIEL MARX (COMPOSER)
An eclectic composer and multi-instrumentalist, Ariel Marx draws from many genres and often combines orchestral and rare instruments with electronics to create unique worlds of sound. Her scores have premiered in films at Sundance, TIFF, SXSW, Tribeca, Woodstock, Criterion Channel, as well as Amazon, Netflix, HBO, and is a Sundance Film Music and Sound Design Lab fellow.
Gregg W. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com