A mystery author, Chris Wilde and her friends are being forced to do things against their will (including murder), and they don’t necessarily know they’re being controlled.
That’s the premise of “Mind Thief,” a new independent movie shown Sunday evening at the Ojai Film Festival.
Producer Matt Steinauer directed this movie starring Angelique Pretorius as Chris, who can’t get past her writer’s block to finish her novel. That troublesome Chapter 17 just isn’t working, and she’s using note cards and literal threads between her plot points.
Chris tries to get relief with some distractions and ends up encountering some real-life mysteries in a movie that succeeds because of the actors’ commitment to their characters and a directing style that’s reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock.
“Mind Thief,” which begins as a mystery, ends up becoming a sci-fi thriller. And the actors each had to play two people: their characters being their normal selves and, at the right moments, their characters suddenly under the spell of an evil man and doing horrible things. The changes happen quickly, and the News-Press asked the cast during a Q&A after the screening how they managed to pull it off.
Greg Berman, who played Chris’ neighbor and boyfriend Nathan, told the News-Press and the audience at the Ojai Arts Center that he had to keep reminding himself that his character both loved Chris intensely and, with the same level of intensity, wanted to kill her because of the mind control.
Leslie L. Miller played Chris’ friend Gina, and she too goes from a good friend to a dangerous threat at a moment’s notice when … Well, the plot won’t be spoiled here.
If you’re a fan of Hitchcock-style mysteries, you should see “Mind Thief,” which will be shown again but this time online during the virtual segment of the film festival, which runs Wednesday through Nov. 20. You can watch “Mind Thief” in the safety of your own home, along with other films, at ojaifilmfestival.com.
“Mind Thief” is compelling because it presents many mysterious questions and leaves clues that suggest something’s not right. Pay close attention! And when the action builds up, you’ll be on the edge of your seat.
The film also includes a lot of comedy, and the actors handle the drama and comedy with equal finesse. Ms. Pretorius, in particular, is brilliant with her dialogue, action and facial expressions.
Other film festival highlights include “Out and About,” a new independent film starring and directed by Peter Callahan. His middle-aged character takes a long walk around his neighborhood, running into a variety of memorable people and wrestling with his life’s successes and failures. It’s brilliantly written and performed, and it’s a great, character-driven comedy.
The in-person segment of the film festival ended Monday, but if you get a chance, attend it next year. The small festival offers movies in the arts center’s theater and gallery, and has some panels. It’s an intimate setting, and with the small audiences, you get to rub elbows with filmmakers. The crew and cast of “Mind Thief” not only answered the audience’s questions, but stuck around after the Q&A to talk with fans individually.