A Texas Sized Warm Welcome for Land of Leopold
By Ruchi Mukherjee
Tall handsome Chris Pinkalla, most popularly known as Jerri Moore’s son was shinning bright on Tuesday night at the River Oaks Theater Land of Leopold Premiere. Chris plays the lead role in this Indie film with Drake Shannon produced by Jerri Moore and Director Akis Konstantakopoulos.
“There is truly nothing Jerri can’t do,” remarks Neal Hamil. The statement is so true as my relation with Jerri goes back to her designer days when she produced an amazing runway collection right here in Houston, Texas. Jerri Moore is a third generation Houstonian, proud mother of two boys, and a loving wife of Jim Moore. She is a feature film producer, clothing designer, philanthropist and is currently a Board Member of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston and her family foundation The Duddlesten Foundation.
A VIP reception was hosted at La Griglia. where I got to catch up with the lead actor Houston boy Chris Pinkalla who would never miss hot dogs at the James Coney Island. “I grew up in Sugarland and tonight it feels great to be home to show my film. This city is like family,” shares Chris. Already on to working with Tom Ford, don’t be surprised if you see this talented Pinkalla on the Oscar red carpet.
When asked how he feels about Houston as a creative city. He said that its changing quite a lot. “A lot of my friends are embracing music, art, movies and that is great. We are slowly breaking away from stereotypical jobs and exploring new ideas,” says Chris.
Jerri Moore who is a powerhouse with loving family and high profile friends yet so demure and humble. “It was a dream come true to work with my mother,” added Chris.
I am firmly in the belief that the best cinematographers are also the best photographers. They take beautiful images and set them in motion. From a visual perspective, Land of Leopold excels at this. You can see the care and effort the filmmakers have taken to visually tell the story. Sweeping Texas vistas help set the stage and relay the sense of the remote location in which the film takes place. This is an independent film with a low budget, but the imagery alone does a fine job of elevating the production value. No need for any expensive special effects (save for a single fluttering butterfly!), as solid camera work tells the story well.
And all of the above means nothing without a compelling plot. The story here is of an angry and lonely young drifter played by Chris Pinkalla who, after a stint in jail, finds himself at halfway house for the mentally disabled, searching for his place in the world and redemption from within. The challenges faced by the mentally afflicted, in a broken justice system ill-equipped to handle their needs, are highlighted well.
An excellent performance by a young cast was bolstered by veteran actor Ray Wise, who lent his considerable talent to the story without taking it over. He complemented co-star Chris Pinkalla in his role as Dr. Deece Warren, director of the halfway house. Other cast included Scottie Thompson, Tyler Cook, and Drake Shannon who co-wrote the film. I must say that for a relatively lesser experienced cast, they all did a superb and convincing job in their respective roles of patients with mental illnesses.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” came to mind when I watched the film, and sure enough, the writers cited the 1975 film’s influence on their script. I also found similarities to Robin William’s “The Fisher King”, another movie that explores the stigma faced by the mentally ill. Land of Leopold was far from derivative though, finding its own contemporary place between these two movies. This was a solid independent film, definitely worth a look.
With a packed theater and roaring applause from the audience it was clear that good artwork was appreciated. Jerri has two passions film and fashion but most importantly spending time with her family. “I am so happy to see everyone enjoyed the film,” says Jerri with a smile.
Spotted at the red carpet Actor Ray Wise, Joanne King Herring, Cynthia Hand Neely, Sharron Melton, Maha Rasheed Khan, Matthew Helderman, Drake Shannon, Jason Gibson, Liz Hudson Decker and Katie Decker, Mark C. Wilson, Ernie Manouse, and many other prominent leaders of the community.
Photo Credit Daniel Ortiz