Film Review of ‘Lady Hater’ & Interview with Director Alexandra Barreto

Natalie Zea stars in ‘Lady Hater’

Natalie Zea stars in ‘Lady Hater’

Alexandra Barreto’s ‘Lady Hater’ cleverly challenges our ideas about beauty 

Film Review By: Sari Cohen  | HFLF Contributor | InterviewBy: Jennifer Ortega  | HFLF Contributor |

In a time when feminism seems to be at the height of its latest wave, and platforms such as Instagram can make or break a young girl’s dreams, “Lady Hater” stands a good chance of stirring up some conversation during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. The annual celebration is currently underway and will run until May 5. 

Alexandra Barreto makes her directorial debut with her seven-minute short. The film premieres on Friday, April 26, during the 18th installment of the renowned festival. After spending nearly two decades in the entertainment industry, producing and writing, as well as starring in shows such as “The District,” “Justified,” “Parenthood,” “The Fosters,” and “Mayans M.C.,” Barreto reveals a new side of herself with “Lady Haters.”

The initial inspiration came as an idea for a feature film, after the Women’s March a few years back. Barreto credits her husband, Rider Strong, for eventually encouraging her to pen the short. Her producing partner, Taylor Feltner then entered the picture, which inevitably led them here – to the Tribeca Film Festival.

“We all have the Goddess within, it’s up to you if you want to free her or not,” actress Natalie Zea says, in character, as she stands in front of a room full of women. Zea plays Premstar, a pretty instructor, who is teaching an all-female seminar on how to live life as a “Goddess.”

The comment comes after Sam, a self-described “guy’s girl,” played by Allyn Rachel, attempts to walk out of the New Agey class. Sprinkled throughout the room, is an eclectic group of women; different ethnicities, different styles, and as we later learn, different insecurities. Some discussion of feminism versus femininity arises before Sam is tagged as a “lady hater” by the group, following her statement about not being into “girly things.”

Barreto pulls from personal experience, referencing back to a Facebook post, which led to some honest discussion about toxic masculinity and the role that women play in it. Once she opened up about distancing herself from other women because of her insecurities, the actress found that not only did other females feel the same way, but by talking about it, it unified women as a whole. On screen, Barreto taps into the same theme. She calls on comedy to help challenge people’s perceptions about womanhood and encourage authentic dialogue around it. 

In “Lady Haters,” Sam lists off typical “girly” things that she dislikes (going so far as even to bash brunch), naturally causing the women in the class to take offense. All of the women in the room begin to question their own lives, leading to the ultimate message: honesty. It's not only about being honest with yourself; it's about being honest with others. Eventually, everyone declares their faults, realizing that no one is perfect. The point is, that commonality should bring us together, not drive us apart. 

The film leads with a humorous tone, as it examines universal ideas about outer beauty and who gets to decide what being beautiful means. In the end, we’re all just human. Yes, as women, there are a lot of expectations placed upon us, but mostly, we put them upon ourselves. 

Director Alexandra Barreto on the set of ‘Lady Hater’

Director Alexandra Barreto on the set of ‘Lady Hater’

Jennifer Ortega: I love your film because it's so clever and humorous, but it’s also tackling a very real conversation that we should be having. I read your director’s notes and I wonder if you could touch briefly on the origin of the idea for the film and about the Facebook post and where ‘Lady Hater’ came from.

Alexandra Barreto: For sure. It’s little complicated where the idea came from because it came from a couple of different places. But the original incarnation actually came about because I went to a spa with a good friend and I thought I was just going to get a couple of good massages,  have a drink and have a good time. But when I got there I was slightly confused by everything going on around me and I felt like I didn’t fit in there. So I went home and I wrote this short and my friend who I went to the spa  with opened up a meditation studio. We went in completely different directions. I actually filmed the movie in her meditation studio. So that was kind of perfect. So I wrote it and when Trump was elected and we all started looking at things and seeing how women were being treated. I then had to really reexamine what I had written. And then also just examine myself and why I had all those feelings. I wrote the Facebook post about being a ‘guy's girl’ almost like an exercise for me to figure out what that meant .As it was all coming about I realized saying you're a ‘guy's girl’ is not a great thing. It's essentially saying I'm better than women because I'm like a guy. I then had to reflect on well why did I think that. Ultimately I realized that it wasn't because I disliked women. It was because I was insecure about being a woman and the way society thinks you should act as a woman. I would then distance myself from women because I was like oh I don't fit that mold and I don't feel feminine and I don't like some of the things that I'm supposed to like. I don't feel like… just the most in a shallow sense like shopping. So yeah I just would distance myself and I realized well that's ridiculous.

As it was all coming about I realized saying you’re a ‘guy’s girl’ is not a great thing. It’s essentially saying I’m better than women because I’m like a guy.
— Alexandra Barreto

Jennifer: That’s why I love the takeaway from the film because we kind of have been brought  into this idea of femininity and what it means and if you don't like certain things or act a certain way then you’re automatically a tomboy, but really that’s bullshit. I love the line in the film about being a tomboy that’s not good at sports.

Alexandra:  Oh yeah. Yeah, that was that was me. It's like I call myself a tomboy that wasn’t athletic.

Jennifer: I’ve felt like that before, a tomboy that’s really klutzy and has no athletic capabilities.

Alexandra: I was in softball because I could hide out in the outfield.

Jennifer: Oh that was my key position in softball growing up. I was always left outfield far back looking at flies above my head.


Jennifer: In one of your statements you mentioned that you wanted to create a full length film and you were going to submit to a directors lab, but you had to have a filmed sample. I love that your husband was like just make a short. Then you were like, but that’s only three weeks away. He's like yeah so, just make it. I kind of love that because I really feel like that's the way to get things done. Like you really just have to do it.

Alexandra: I thank him all the time for encouraging me to do it. He was totally right. I had the feature version written. And the short I mean it ended up like I really did write it in a day and then within a couple weeks we got it all together and shot it.

Jennifer: The cast is hilarious too.

Alexandra: Natalia Zea & Allyn Rachel are just amazing. And then the rest of the cast...I just didn't want to get extras. I wanted actors. I wrote lines in the script, but at the same time I was like I don’t know if i’ll be able to get to everybody. It’s like 13 people. I didn't know if they were all going to be able to be featured. I wanted to make sure that they were all actors. I got all of them. I was like oh wait you're all great. I just wanted to make sure they all were featured and it worked out.

Jennifer: I kept thinking like I think a lot of these women must be doing comedy. I feel like some of them are doing stand up and I want to check them out somewhere because they were so funny.

Alexandra: Totally. Vivian Vivian Martinez is a stand up comic and there's Naomi Murden who’s an improv actor who's currently doing some musical improv in L.A. 

Jennifer: That sounds amazing!

Alexandra: Yeah. They're all they're all doing their own thing so it's great.

Jennifer: Natalie Zea I love. I have to tell you when I was college my guilty pleasure was the show ‘Passions’. So I've been a fan for a long time. I’ve interviewed her before and I’d never say this to her, but when I see her with hre husband (Travis Schuldt) I really want to say I’m so happy Gwen and Ethan (their characters from ‘Passions’) are still together.


Alexandra: I'm so proud of you for admitting that you love ‘Passions’.


Alexandra: Natalie is as a really good friend. We met in acting class. Many moons ago, bJennut that's how we became friends.

Jennifer: I thought she was perfect in this.

Allyn Rachel stars as Sam in ‘Lady Hater’

Allyn Rachel stars as Sam in ‘Lady Hater’

Alexandra: She's such a good friend of mine and I knew she got that character in like a new agey sense. Natalie is the woman that when I go out to dinner with her I like struggle and I stare at my closet and I want to cry. She always looks perfect. I can’t compete.

Jennifer: II think we all have that one really good friend that like there's no bother in trying because she's going to look perfect. Even covered in garbage somehow she’ll look perfect.

Alexandra: Exactly. We’re so close and I remember she made fun of an outfit which she didn't mean like in a mean way. But of course that I just broke down in tears and I'm like You can't talk to me like that. But she’s just so great, when I asked her to do the film she didn't even read the script. She just said of course.

Jennifer: She embodies that character so well from the start. I love the how it ends with the mansplainer, the guy who thinks he's helping things out it's like, but in reality it’s so cringy.

Alexandra: That came about because I was at an event with Senator Kristen Gillibrand. It was a mostly female crowd. She came to one of my friend’s houses to speak and it was mostly female. Men were allowed to come, but it mostly was all women. I was talking about how strong we are and this and that and a guy just raises his hand and he's like I just need you all to know you're not strong you are stronger than us.

Jennifer: Oy that’s bad. The funnest things come from truth. Life is way more interesting than anything we could make up. I love films like this that make you think afterawrds about certain topics for days. In your statement you say toxic masculinity definitely is awful and we are never to blame for it, but we definitely have to look inside ourselves and see how as women we've maybe perpetuated some of these same ideals.

Jennifer: You already have a feature length script of ‘Lady Hater’. Are you hoping the short to be like a stepping stone?

Alexandra: Yeah I'm hoping to get this out to the public and like you said kind of get the conversation going and to show that people when they see it, it always strikes the conversation which I love. Like I had a group of women watch it and we talked for hours afterwards about it, about a seven minute short. So I would love to expand that and you know go a little deeper in the feature version. It’s all written and ready to go. We've already got the budget and we've got everything ready to go.

Jennifer: Thank you so much for talking with me! I loved ‘Lady Hater’ and I can’t wait until more people see it! I know it will do great at Tribeca.

Alexandra: Thank you so much!

“I wanted to take what is a pretty heavy subject in today’s political climate and bring it to a place where we can laugh about it. And through that laughter be honest about how we really feel and think, and then figure out how we can shift the broader cultural perception.”
— Alexandra Barreto

Twitter/Instagram - @ladyhaterfilm
Facebook - @ladyhaterfilm / 
Hashtag: #ladyhaterfilm
Website -
Tribeca Film Festival:

Wonder World Brings Psychedelic Fun to Hollywood!

Wonder World LA is located at 7080 Hollywood Blvd.

Wonder World LA is located at 7080 Hollywood Blvd.

By: Jennifer Ortega | HFLF Contributor |

WonderWorld: NYC’s Magical “Alice in Wonderland” Inspired Pop-up Goes Hollywood

A rainbow floor and cascade of roses greets you!

A rainbow floor and cascade of roses greets you!

Last week, I was given a sneak peek private tour of LA’s coolest new pop-up, WonderWorld. WonderWorld first premiered in New York City in Andy Warhol’s old studio. Jay Yue, who is not only the founder of WonderWorld but also Eastern Horizon Ventures, enlisted the help of Eastern Horizon Venture’s Hua Wang & Jie Wang, as well as local Los Angeles designer Joshua  Wong to bring this truly immersive experience to Hollywood. WonderWorld is an interactive art installation based on the theme “Alice in Wonderland’. It is a room by room installation, each room whimsical, fun and innovative in its own right. When asked why Hollywood was chosen for the next WonderWorld location, Jay Yue answered, "Hollywood is the place to be for introducing yourself to the West Coast. It's also the entertainment capital of the world. We chose our Hollywood Boulevard location because it's right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has a lot of foot and vehicle traffic. It's one of the biggest tourist locations worldwide and embodies the ideas of fantasy and chasing a dream which is in line with WonderWorld's theme.”

Part Mad-hatter, Part Peewee’s Playhouse, what’s not to love?

Part Mad-hatter, Part Peewee’s Playhouse, what’s not to love?

I was blown away by the creativity of WonderWorld. As soon as walk in you are meet with a rainbow of colors. I felt like an absolute kid there. I climbed on top of oversized mushrooms, stuck my head through giant cheddar cheese, leaned against an oversized illuminated crescent moon (pretending to be Tatum O’Neill in Paper Moon, of course) and played in an adult-sized ball pit. That’s right a ball pit for both kids and adults! Finally! I did not want to leave the ball pit! It became quickly evident that part of the charm of WonderWorld is that it genuinely makes you feel like a kid again. 

Finally an adult-sized ball pit! And one that is lit by a crescent moon! I never wanted to leave!

Finally an adult-sized ball pit! And one that is lit by a crescent moon! I never wanted to leave!


Throughout the rooms, you will definitely feel Alice in Wonderland vibes. From the rainbow flooring to the hanging roses to the Mad Hatter’s giant teacup, you feel like you are going down a magical rabbit hole. Definitely bring at least one friend with you because the photo ops are unreal. If we’re going, to be honest, Los Angeles is the home of the Lifestyle Brand, the Instagram Celebrity, the Fashion Blogger all on the hunt for that perfect photo op. Well, look no further because social media maven or not, you will love taking photos here. The designers definitely kept in mind that we are a city that likes nothing more than a great photo to post. Every room is filled with interactive elements and backgrounds that are perfect for exceptional pictures. 

Meet me at the mushrooms!

Meet me at the mushrooms!

I love the fact that not only can you have fun at WonderWorld with kids, but also a fantastic time with your adult friends as well. It’s hard to create a place that is genuinely appealing to both kids & adults, but WonderWorld has definitely succeeded in that. 

Wonder World is located at 7080 Hollywood Blvd. The pop-up is open now through August 31st. To get more information and to purchase tickets go to:

Follow WonderWorld on Instagram @wonderworldspace 

'Stockholm' Film Review

'Stockholm': Part Black Comedy, Part Love Story, Totally Captivating

film review

By: Jennifer Ortega | HFLF Contributor |

Ethan Hawke stars as Lars Nystrom in Robert Budreau’s ‘Stockholm’

Ethan Hawke stars as Lars Nystrom in Robert Budreau’s ‘Stockholm’

The film “Stockholm” begins with the statement, “based on an absurd but true story.” The story that director Robert Budreau is referring to is the origin of the term “Stockholm Syndrome”. On April 23, 1973, escaped convict Jan-Erik Olsson walked into Kreditbanken in central Stockholm with a machine gun. After taking four people hostage, Olsson demanded his friend and current convict Clark Olofsson be brought to him, along with money, 2 guns, bulletproof vests, and a fast car. Olsson treated the hostages well, and they began to bond with him. Days later when the ordeal was finally over, the police were perplexed by the hostages' affection towards their former captors. Shortly after the bank hold up,  the term “Stockholm Syndrome” was coined to refer to the psychological condition where a hostage begins to identify, bond with and trust their captor. 

Isn’t this how every great love affair begins? Ethan Hawke as Lars Nystrom & Noomi Rapace as Bianca Lind.

Isn’t this how every great love affair begins? Ethan Hawke as Lars Nystrom & Noomi Rapace as Bianca Lind.

35 - Stockholm_Day12_JT_1818.jpg

In Robert Budreau's film, the names have been changed so have some of the facts, but we are left with a fascinating character study & bizarre love story that is both dark and humorous. The year is 1973. Ethan Hawke is sublime as Lars Nystrom, an American raised Swede, obsessed with Americana who happens to be an ex-con. Nystrom walks into a bank in Stockholm, machine gun in hand, sporting a fake mustache, cowboy hat and a leather jacket. Lars is like a hybrid of Burt Reynolds as Bandit in “Smokey & The Bandit” and Peter Fonda as Wyatt in “Easy Rider.” 

A getaway car like Steve McQueen’s in ‘Bullitt’

A getaway car like Steve McQueen’s in ‘Bullitt’

Lars holds up the bank, places a radio playing Bob Dylan on the counter and lets everyone go except for two hostages, Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace) & Klara Mardh (Bea Santos). Lars tells Bianca to call the chief of police. Soon he is on the phone with Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl) demanding he is brought his friend who is currently incarcerated, Gunnar Sorrenson (Mark Strong), one million dollars and a car similar to the one Steve McQueen drives in “Bullitt.” Once Gunner is delivered to Lars without any cash or a getaway car, a real cat and mouse game begins between Lars & Chief Mattson. At the same time, Bianca and Lars start to bond with one another. He plays her music. He lets her phone her husband. They open up to each other and begin to fall for one another. In fact, all the hostages, including a third hostage, a man that they find hiding in a back room, all start to trust their captors way more than the police or the Swedish Prime Minister.  

BFF’s Gunnar (Mark Strong) & Lars (Ethan Hawke) having a little spat.

BFF’s Gunnar (Mark Strong) & Lars (Ethan Hawke) having a little spat.

I quite enjoyed  “Stockholm.” The story was captivating, it was beautifully shot in a muted palette, the acting was excellent, the costumes amazing, the humor dark and the music, of course, was terrific (I mean it’s Bob Dylan, after all!). The film contained everything I truly enjoy about a smart character piece. The opening shot of the film is a close-up of Noomi Rapace as Bianca in her oversized glasses frames that match the color of her jacket. She’s reflecting back as her voiceover plays over her image. There is something in that shot that reminded of Terrence Malick and more specifically “Badlands.” I love “Badlands,” and if anything in a film large or small makes me think wistfully of Terrence Malick, it is my own little indicator that this is a film that will most likely appeal to me. And “Stockholm” most definitely appealed to me. 

Synopsis: Stockholm is based on the absurd but true story of a 1973 bank heist and hostage crisis documented in the 1974 New Yorker article “The Bank Drama” by Daniel Lang. The film follows Lars Nystrom, (Ethan Hawke) who dons a disguise to raid a central Stockholm bank. He then takes hostages in order to spring his pal Gunnar (Mark Strong) from prison. One of the hostages includes Bianca (Noomi Rapace), a wife and mother of two. Negotiations with detectives hit a wall when (at the request of the Prime Minister) the police refuse to let Lars leave in a getaway car with the hostages. As hours turn into days, Lars alternates between threatening the hostages and making them feel comfortable and secure. The hostages develop an uneasy relationship with their captor, which is particularly complex for Bianca, who develops a strong bond with Lars as she witnesses his caring nature. This connection gave rise to the psychological phenomenon known as “Stockholm syndrome.”

Production company: Darius Films
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace, Mark Strong, Christopher Heyerdahl, Bea Santos, Thorbjorn Harr
Director/Writer: Robert Budreau
Producers: Nicholas Tabarrok, Robert Burdreau, Jonathan Bronfman
Executive Producers: Scott Aversano, Jason Blum, William Santor, Will Russell-Shapiro
Director of Photography: Brendan Steacy

Running Time: 92 Minutes

Rated: R for language and brief violence

Release Date: April 19th in Los Angeles & New York, April 26th Nationwide

Nat Geo's 'Hostile Planet Shows' the True Reality of Tragedy & Triumph in the Planet's 6 Harshest Environments

By: Jennifer Ortega | HFLF Contributor |

(Produced by NatGeo)

National Geographic has once again brought us a truly remarkable & groundbreaking series with ‘Hostile Planet’. The show is beyond powerful. It is gut-wrenching yet filled with these beautiful moments of adaption and triumph. ‘Hostile Planet’ effectively displays with a masterful use of cinematography just how magnificent and strange and wonderful this planet is, hopefully reminding everyone the need to protect & celebrate Earth. 

Reimagining “Dumbo” For A New Generation

By: Sari Cohen  | HFLF Contributor |

(Produced by Walt Disney Pictures)

Disclaimer: SPOILERS! Enter at your own RISK

The updated version takes flight with a heartwarming tale about love, hope, and family.

Disney continues with its passion for remaking classics, as their latest endeavor is 1941’s animated favorite, “Dumbo.” Director Tim Burton’s 2019 iteration, penned by Ehren Kruger, stars Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier, Eva Green as Colette Marchant, Michael Keaton as V.A. Vandevere, and Danny DeVito as Max Medici, in a two-hour, live-action feature that is determined from the get-go to warm hearts.