KilimanjaroI love it when gems like Kilimanjaro happens across my desk. Discovering a small budget, big hearted film like this one fills me with excitement and makes me want to tell anyone I can to seek out the movie. An accomplished debut film by writer/director Walter Stafford, it features exceptional performances by Brian Geraghty and Chris Marquette. Even if Kilimanjaro never finds the audience it deserves, I hope that Hollywood decision makers will consider Stafford, Geraghty and Marquette for their upcoming projects.

Geraghty stars as Doug, a depressed twentysomething with a job in publishing that’s sucking the life out of him, and a relationship with Clare (Alexia Rassmusen) that has reached a dead end. Minutes into the film, Doug and Clare call it quits and she moves out of their apartment. Through the prodding of his outrageous and more successful friend, Mitch (Marquette), Doug is encouraged to embrace his newfound “freedom” and pursue something that will inspire him. Mitch means other women, but Doug finds his inspiration in Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. After seeing a documentary about Kilimanjaro, Doug wonders whether he could ever climb the mountain. A brief visit with his ailing grandfather (John Cullum), leads Doug to decide that he must seize the moment to take the trip to Africa before his life becomes complicated and the opportunity to go on an elaborate trip slips away.

Doug’s life is complicated by an asshole boss (Jim Gaffigan) and parents who don’t understand his motivations. Bruce Altman is particularly effective as Doug’s prickly father, and comedian Gaffigan adds extra bite to his dramatic turn. As his preparation for the trek begins, Doug meets a free spirited woman (Abigail Spencer). They flirt, but nothing ever happens, primarily because Clare flip-flops on her feelings. She questions whether she made the right the decision and whether she and Doug can maintain a friendship after the breakup. Rassmusen does nice work as the equally confused and lost Clare.

At 80 minutes, Kilimanjaro moves at a brisk pace and maintains a light, melancholy tone throughout the film. There are several hearty laughs, most of them provided by the talented Marquette. He nearly steals the film. Stafford’s thoughtful script allows for each character to have a moment to shine. The story takes several unexpected turns and has one of the most bittersweet endings I’ve seen in some time. As a director, Stafford allows his characters room to breathe, pacing each scene with grace. Unlike many low budget films that overdo it with the handheld camera, most of Kilimanjaro was shot with a steady hand and the camera locked down.

Kilimanjaro premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in 2013 and has screened at festivals around the country including the Sun Valley Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, Dallas International Film Festival, Gasparilla International Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival, Boston Film Festival and the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival. It is available on DVD August 12th, and can be rented on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

I love when gems like Kilimanjaro happens across my desk. Discovering a small budget, big hearted film like this one fills me with excitement and makes me want to tell anyone I can to seek out the movie. An accomplished debut film by writer/director Walter Stafford, it features exceptional performances by Brian Geraghty and Chris Marquette. Even if Kilimanjaro never finds the audience it deserves, I hope that Hollywood decision makers will consider Stafford, Geraghty and Marquette for their upcoming projects.

Geraghty stars as Doug, a depressed twentysomething with a job in publishing that’s sucking the life out of him, and a relationship with Clare (Alexia Rassmusen) that has reached a dead end. Minutes into the film, Doug and Clare call it quits and she moves out of their apartment. Through the prodding of his outrageous and more successful friend, Mitch (Marquette), Doug is encouraged to embrace his newfound “freedom” and pursue something that will inspire him. Mitch means other women, but Doug finds his inspiration in Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. After seeing a documentary about Kilimanjaro, Doug wonders whether he could ever climb the mountain. A brief visit with his ailing grandfather (John Cullum), leads Doug to decide that he must seize the moment to take the trip to Africa before his life becomes complicated and the opportunity to go on an elaborate trip slips away.

Doug’s life is complicated by an asshole boss (Jim Gaffigan) and parents who don’t understand his motivations. Bruce Altman is particularly effective as Doug’s prickly father, and comedian Gaffigan adds extra bite to his dramatic turn. As his preparation for the trek begins, Doug meets a free spirited woman (Abigail Spencer). They flirt, but nothing ever happens, primarily because Clare flip-flops on her feelings. She questions whether she made the right the decision and whether she and Doug can maintain a friendship after the breakup. Rassmusen does nice work as the equally confused and lost Clare.

At 80 minutes, Kilimanjaro moves at a brisk pace and maintains a light, melancholy tone throughout the film. There are several hearty laughs, most of them provided by the talented Marquette. He nearly steals the film. Stafford’s thoughtful script allows for each character to have a moment to shine. The story takes several unexpected turns and has one of the most bittersweet endings I’ve seen in some time. As a director, Stafford allows his characters room to breathe, pacing each scene with grace. Unlike many low budget films that overdo it with the handheld camera, most of Kilimanjaro was shot with a steady hand and the camera locked down.

Kilimanjaro premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in 2013 and has screened at festivals around the country including the Sun Valley Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, Dallas International Film Festival, Gasparilla International Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival, Boston Film Festival and the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival. It is available on DVD August 12th, and can be rented on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.