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On “Being Real”: 5 Reasons You Can’t Miss ‘Cronies’ at NEXT FEST

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Nate von Zumwalt

There is a millennial-borne obsession with “being real” that deserves to be checked, and Cronies is the perfect film to do the checking. Michael J. Larnell’s stark ode to St. Louis is an earnest depiction of a day in the life of three friends as they rove aimlessly through their hometown smoking “squares,” pursuing girls, and testing their luck. Cronies centers on a growing rift between lifelong friends Louis (George Sample III) and Jack (Zurich Buckner), resulting from the former’s newly established friendship with Andrew (Brian Kowalski) and the latter’s complacency with letting his life steep in Missouri’s summer heat. Larnell’s frank depiction of quotidian Midwest life effortlessly shapes a portrait of what it really means to “be real”—to your friends, to your family, to yourself, and how it’s never as easy or fun as it may sound.

Cronies screens at NEXT FEST at the Theater at Ace Hotel in Downtown LA on August 9, followed by a conversation with a special guest. Check out our list of 5 reasons you shouldn’t miss the Los Angeles premiere, and Click here for tickets.

1. Spike Lee Thinks You Should See It

Spike Lee executive produced the film after Larnell received a grant from the iconic filmmaker: “I showed him the first 10 minutes and he decided to become the executive producer on the film.” It’s no wonder, as Lee likely recognized his own filmic takes on his hometown of New York in Larnell’s work.

2. This Is Not the Media’s St. Louis

Cronies

The film is quintessentially St. Louis and offers a counter to the volatile, faltering community depicted by media amid last year’s unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. “I think it’s a blessing that the timing of this film comes where you can see another side of St. Louis and black people,” said casting director Albert A. Smith.

3. Actors Need Not Apply

Cronies’ honesty rests in its three inexperienced leads, all of whom are non-professional actors. The Cronies team broadcast a casting call on the local news: “A lot of people came in and we felt out the people with the right vibe to make sure they were responsible enough to learn the lines,” Smith said.

4. Black-and-White!

No matter your position on contemporary black-and-white films—if you even have one—the result is neither gimmicky nor unnecessary in the case of Cronies. In fact, it’s impossible to imagine the film without its cold visuals contrasting with the muggy milieu.

5. You Already Know These Characters

Cronies, while specific in its locale, is a universal tale of youthful camaraderie. You’ll recognize at least one of these characters as someone you grew up with, whether you want to remember them or not.

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Sundance Institute Piloting Direct Individual Support for Mediamakers Through the Sundance Institute | Humanities Sustainability Fellowship

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in general, and halted production and distribution for many creatives, the nonfiction field was plagued by issues of sustainability. For several years, sustainability has been an urgent and vigorous topic of study, debate, and organizing, as more and more filmmakers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living solely on the basis of their creative work. 

In Memoriam: Diane Weyermann (1955–2021)

A singular force within the documentary film world with a global reach, Diane Weyermann passed away at age 66 after battling cancer. Over the course of her 30-year career as a funder and an executive, her work elevated the documentary form and expanded its cultural impact.

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