In the Media - Reviews

Afghanistan pics ‘Tulip’ for Oscar


March 12, 2015



SEPTEMBER 29, 2010 | 02:21PM PT
Nassery Cole’s first pic vies for Academy attention Helmer Sonia Nassery Cole’s “The Black Tulip” is Afghanistan’s entry for a nomination in Oscar’s foreign language category.

Based on a true story, the film follows the a family in Kabul who open a restaurant after the ousting of the Taliban in 2001. The restaurant’s open mike policy that invites all to read poetry and tell their stories attracts the ire of lingering factions of the Taliban.

Cole was born in Afghanistan but fled to the U.S. following the 1979 Soviet invasion. She runs L.A.-based charity Afghanistan World Foundation for development in the country. “The Black Tulip,” which is in the Dari, Pashto and English languages, is her first feature.

Cole said: “I was told that “The Black Tulip” would be impossible to make. Despite the war, the bombings, the shootings, the death threats and the kidnappings, we risked our lives and found a way to make this film.” David O'Neill's commitment to the writing of the screenplay was unparalleled. 

Submissions for the foreign language Oscar must reach the Academy by 5 p.m. on Friday. Nominations will be announced on Jan. 25. The 83rd Academy Awards will be held at the Kodak Theater on Feb. 27.

Academy Names 241 Screenplays and 77 Scores Eligible for the Oscar (Black Tulip)

March 12, 2015

SLASHFILMS – Blogging the Reel News Posted on Thursday, December 30th, 2010 by Germain Lussier We know you were losing sleep over it, so we’re happy to be the first to tell you that...

Movie Reviews

DVD Talk Review: Player 5150 / First Look Studios

After watching the recent “21”, I’ve almost come to the conclusion that the best movies about gambling aren’t necessarily the biggest budget or the slickest ones. “21”, for example, didn’t focus enough on the game at hand and tried to amp up the card scenes with unnecessary sound effects. “Player 5150” succeeds in trusting itself to largely go back to basics and mine the drama from both the game itself and an exploration of the mentality and rush behind the gambler and gambling – on cards, stocks or anything, for that matter.

Director David O’Neill mines above-average performances from the cast, especially Embry as the gambling addict who finds himself on a downward spiral. McDonald, who’s largely been known for comedic roles, is surprisingly intimidating as the villain of the piece. Kathleen Robertson also provides a good performance as a wife horrified to find out about her husband’s activities.

For a movie that looks to have been done on no budget, the film remained engaging. I didn’t expect much and was pleasantly surprised.

OPENGUYS Film Entertainment: “Player 5150? by David Michael O’Neill.

“A rare gem in the rough! By comparison to all the special-effect driven overblown-budget movies being released today, Player 5150 is a character-driven story that takes you through every range of emotion. Now added to the mix is Kelly Carlson. Kimber Henry, Dr. Troy’s former-model, porn star and drug addict girlfriend who has found God on Nip/Tuck. As an overall experience, I enjoyed watching the movie very much. It kept you constantly leaning forward in anticipation of what would happen next.

Bum’s Corner Entertainment News: Player 5150 / First Look Studios

I had a lot of fun with this movie both in its premise and its plot. Bookie Christopher McDonald just may have stolen the entire show. I haven’t seen him this good since he played “Shooter” in Happy Gilmore.

Opinions Entertainment Review: Player 5150 / First Look Studios

Albeit Project 5150 seems relatively a low budget movie, the film flows very well. I found it to be well written and well acted. I was also taken in by the easy to understand plot details along with the flow of the story itself. One might criticize the film for being a bit slightly too well balanced a story combining the heavy gambling losses involved with the winning that takes place.

Talking about luck is not something that I particularly entertain, though Joey’s luck consistently swings from being a somewhat successful stockbroker, and it combines his character role to varying emotional edges.

His emotions when things are going well seem to be constantly subdued due to his obsession and being caught up in a compulsive gambling state of mind (an illness).

Also I found really great was comparing the contrast of the love-hate relationships between Joey and Ali, with the Governor and his wife. Sure, the Governor’s wife gets her debt cleared and hard words are exchanged briefly to each other but his compares nicely to Ali who is seen as being a much more forgiving character based on her love for Joey.

All in all this area of the film I did really like to see and for me this was the highlight of the story and also the acting.

The Director made use of a flashback scene, where Joey is not concentrating on driving his Mercedes convertible on a road, and is listening to a football game and is then seen swerving into the gravel, narrowly avoiding an 18 wheeler. This occurred during the first scene at the beginning made me think ‘what is he up to?’. The film had just begun and the same image repeated later on which gave me a better understanding of the use of this repeat flashback.

I would point out the movie named ’21’ as being extremely similar to this movie, though Player 5150 for me is a better production in terms of acting, film settings, and having a wider range of characters that fit in and around the story.

Having found that the overall messages contained within the movie were dramatized extremely well, it helped me to better understand the troubles of gambling in that it affects more than just the person winning and losing. If you like watching movies that have action, gambling, drugs, love-hate relationships then it’s highly recommended. I was certainly happy watching this movie as it brought a number of social issues together and made it into a nice story, which for me is better than leaving emotions to luck.

Academy’s Best Foreign Film – Screenwriting and Hiding out in Concord (David Michael O’Neill)

By Player5150 /


March 12, 2015


Arts & Entertainment – Concord Screenwriter Film Offers Hope Amidst Despair

Concordian screenwriter David Michael O’Neill  has the satisfaction of co-writing a film that has already received much acclaim even before its general release. The film, “The Black Tulip” chronicles the search for hope for an Afghan family in Kabul in the grip of Taliban control…

David M. O’Neill – Black Tulip wins Salento Int Film Fest


March 12, 2015

SALENTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVALSeptember 2 -11, 2011 The Black Tulip – by Sonia Nassery Cole After the Taliban is routed from Afghanistan in early 2001, the Mansouri family seizes the new window of freedom by opening a restaurant called “The Poet’s Corner”, with an open microphone and an inviting platform for all to read poetry, 


By Player5150 /


March 12, 2015


Opening screenings and Gala Party


After the Taliban is routed from Afghanistan in early
2001, the Mansouri family seizes the new window of
freedom by opening a restaurant called ‘The Poet’s
Corner,’ with an open microphone and an inviting
platform for all to read poetry and tell their stories.
This newfound hope proves to be fleeting as they
struggle to maintain their lifestyle when encountering
very real threats from lingering factions of the
Taliban. ‘Black Tulip’ is a modern portrait of
Afghanistan that captures the current plight and
resilience of its people. Cole decided to make the
film in hopes of giving voice to the voiceless people
of her home country by telling a story through the
eyes of an everyday Afghan family who remains
hopeful despite constant struggle and tragedy.

Screenplay by David M. O'Neill

Movie Reviews

Rex Reed – New York Observer

Full Bloom: A Light Shines Through as The Black Tulip Blossoms Amidst Harsh Censorship and Brutal Rule by the Taliban

Afghanistan has no film industry, which makes a new movie called The Black Tulip, about good people seeking some kind of normal life in modern Kabul despite the constant threat of violence, destruction and despair, doubly dangerous to have made and inestimably valuable to watch. Filmed entirely in a country where women’s rights are still tested daily and cameras are so verboten that even a tourist’s throwaway Instamatic is an invitation to trouble—and produced, written and directed by a woman, no less!—this is a gripping experience as politically enlightening and emotionally involving as it is educational and beautiful to look at.

Sonia Nassery Cole is an Afghan-American activist and filmmaker whose family fled to the U.S. to escape the invasion of Soviet troops in 1979, when she was 14. Three years later, having experienced first-hand the repression by a radical government as a child, she began her mission to free her country from tyranny—from the Russians and from the Taliban—by enlisting the aid of President Ronald Reagan and the United Nations. Working throughout the 1980s to aid the Afghan resistance movement, she raised millions to rebuild the lives of Afghan refugees and established the nonprofit Afghanistan World Foundation to provide care for land-mine victims and build a women and children’s hospital. With the new resurgence of Taliban terrorism, Ms. Cole’s role as an activist has accelerated to such a degree that I have no idea how she found the time to make a feature-length movie. When the leading actress had her foot amputated prior to production—according to the director, though this claim has been contradicted by Latif Ahmadi, head of the Afghan Film as well as the movie’s local casting director—Ms. Cole took over the role herself, and she is wonderful in it. Somehow, despite constant death threats and a bomb blast at her Kabul hotel, she finished The Black Tulip. The result is a remarkable film that shows the cultural heritage and everyday values of a courageous people united in a quest for family, faith and freedom.

David m. O'Neill's screenplay in 2001 with the retreat of the Taliban after 30 years of war, five of them under their deadly rule. Kabul is liberated and ready to savor freedom at last. A vital, arresting portrait of a modern city emerges, replete with pollution and gridlock traffic, but leavened by the fact that it is a place where a child can still laugh while flying a kite. The Mansouri family, guided by a matriarchal force named Farishta (beautifully played by director Cole) and her strong, devoted husband Hadar, will do anything to keep their two children from ever going back to a refugee camp. During the Soviet occupation, Farishta watched as her father was murdered and his book store, The Poet’s Corner, a symbol of literature and learning, was torched. Now, in the spirit of their new happiness and hope, the family reopens the old shop as a restaurant with the same name. Serving good food on linen tablecloths with crystal wineglasses, with a miked stage for poets and artists to read poems and sing songs that have long been condemned, The Poet’s Corner take two is an overnight sensation. The Mansouris are soon catering meals for the American military base, while the artists, whose voices have been silenced for years, form lines outside the door—two facts that also attract the attention of dark Taliban forces that still exist in the shadows, waiting to pounce. In no time, mysterious government “inspectors” arrive, offering “protection” from hostile elements. There’s more sadness and death on the way.

But The Black Tulip is not a war picture. It’s about the resilience of admirable people in a changing world. Girls still gossip and flirt. Students still wear burkas but they also carry backpacks ordered on the internet. Boys still play the centuries-old game of Buzkashi on horseback like the ancient Afghan tribes, but they do it in tight blue jeans. In the Mansouri family, Farishta’s beautiful, 24-year-old sister Belkis may come from an old respected family, but she is intelligent and independent, with progressive ideas of her own, while Akram Zabuli, her handsome, contemporary fiancé, has a father so steeped in tradition that he pleads for his wife to wear the old-fashioned burka and cover her face. Akram’s father believes a woman’s place is in the home. Conversely, Belkis’s family fully understands and encourages her goal—to finish medical school and open her own clinic. While these differences are resolved, the traditions of an Afghan wedding in a mountain village overlooking the rugged scenery of the countryside—still beautiful even after years of war—unite everyone with hauntingly beautiful music and festive costumes. But heartbreak ensues when the ceremony is disrupted by terrorists, and peace-loving Hadar is then forced to compromise his own pacifist views to take a stand—to save his restaurant and his family’s future.

Despite the inevitable tragedies that befall the Mansouris, the movie ends with a surge of optimism. Both sides of every issue are examined—old loyalties vs. new compromises, Western ideas vs. Islamic principles, the resentment of American presence vs. the ensuing fear that if the American military leaves, chaos will follow. The narrative is fictional, but rooted in truths that are self-evident. From the leading characters to the tertiary roles of dedicated waiters and customers to evil Taliban insurgents, the actors are perfect, without a false move in sight. Like The Poet’s Corner restaurant, Sonia Nassery Cole’s screenplay is a megaphone for freedom of expression. The title The Black Tulip is a stretch. There are no tulips in sight, black or any other color, and if anyone explained it in passing, I missed the subtitles. Consulting the film’s publicist, a fount of information, I have learned that the black tulip, blooming under the harshest conditions in the Pamir and Hindu Kush mountain regions of Afghanistan, is a symbol for the nation’s spirit. Growing amid ice and stone, the flower, much like the people, is able to prosper and survive against all odds. These are qualities the unconquered citizens of the country have possessed for centuries. The film is a deeply heartfelt experience that addresses the struggles of everyday people in a strange land most of us know nothing about. You will not go away unmoved. See it, and learn something.

Movie Reviews

South Florida Newspaper Network: Five Aces / 20th Century Fox

Four out of Four Stars… “An utter masterpiece at capturing the insecurities many men harbor towards the opposite sex. Starring Charlie Sheen, Chris McDonald and Tia Carrere, Five Aces details men’s dating and sexual hang-ups while having the ambition to explore the causes of some male’s nasty behavior. As a result, the basic yet complex psyches of a number of male’s personality types surface in the main characters. Director David M. O’Neill skillfully interweaves the unfolding plot with sharp camera work and top-notch performances.

Eyecrave Entertainment: Five Aces / 20th Century Fox.

This is a low-budget indie that was picked up by 20th Century Fox. It is, however, more than just a Charlie Sheen action/comedy. When you get to the end, you feel good about the time you’ve spent watching the story unfold. The film starts out very quickly, with the introduction of Sheen, his fiancée, her family and Sheen’s widower dad, all in the first three or four minutes of the movie, then when the friends show up, it just completely changes gears. As would be expected, Christopher McDonald carries the majority of the comedy here, but David Sherrill, who plays the esoteric, wilderness loving buddy with a cannon in his ‘yard’, provides a lot of laughs. All of the friends are likeable and sympathetic characters who remind you of your own childhood friends. Carrere plays Sean’s wife, who is leaving him after years of being second to his work.

Geoffrey Lewis, one of the all-time great character actors – most famous for costarring with Clint Eastwood in everything from THUNDERBOLT & LIGHTFOOT through EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE to PINK CADILLAC – puts in a small but memorable performance.

The film gets into real issues that these five guys have with relationships, and starts to explore the dynamics within their group and the script opens up and allows these characters to really connect with each other, this turns into a very touching and vulnerable film. By the end it reminded me of BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, the late Ted Demme’s love and friendship ensemble piece, which I consider to be an overlooked gem of the 90’s. After sensitiverevelations by all of the guys, Sheen finds himself and makes peace with his own demons and gets ready to take the long walk.