By Lynn Venhaus
In a powerful feature-length film debut, Shatara Michelle Ford presents a gripping, relevant view of how traumatized women are still treated in the aftermath of sexual assault and the prevailing patriarchy about womanhood and consent.

Ford, who grew up in St. Louis, wrote and directed “Test Pattern,” which was shown at last year’s St. Louis International Film Festival. It won the inaugural Essy Award for best narrative feature, which is given to a film shot in St. Louis or made by a St. Louisan.

It’s about how an interracial couple’s relationship is tested after Renesha (Brittany S. Hall) is sexually assaulted and her live-in boyfriend Evan (Will Brill) drives her to several hospitals in pursuit of a rape kit.

Defying stereotypes, and with its exploration of identity and race, this work has flourished on the festival circuit, and as of Feb. 19, Kino Lorber is distributing it as a video on demand through their Kino Lorber Marquee platform (https://kinomarquee.com)

Ford’s realistic drama veers into psychological horror as everything about Renesha’s girls’ night with best friend Amber (Gail Bean) turns into a nightmare, from the predatory actions of brash e-commerce entrepreneur (Drew Fuller) to its day-after blurry, drugged, foggy trauma.

Not only does Ford delve into these ongoing systemic issues, but also features a frustrating quest to seek answers and justice that serves as an eye-opening indictment of health care inequities.

It is a lot to take on in one film, and Ford has much to say, but she uses one couple’s experiences as an intimate portrait of modern relationships and the framework to look at external forces affecting life today.

Using flashbacks in key moments, self-assured Ford establishes a loving opposite-attracts relationship between an easy-going white tattoo artist, Evan, a superb Will Brill, and a bright, beautiful black development director, Renesha, played shrewdly and delicately by Brittany S. Hall.

Interestingly, they meet during an innocuous girls’ night out of drinking and dancing. Their awkward encounters lead to a first date, then a first night together, then fast-forward to ‘now.’

As their mutual attraction has led to commitment, they have moved in together in a small starter house in Austin. Convincing in every way, their performances are intertwined in a truth.

Bored with the corporate world, Renesha has started a new job working for a non-profit, the Humane Society.  

That night, her pal Amber wants to celebrate, so she reluctantly goes to the Hacienda Social Club. Everything that unfolds screams “bad idea” – Amber, eager to party and already losing her inhibitions, falls prey to a pushy guy, Chris, (Ben Levin), who is toasting a business deal with his friend.

The flashy white guys keep the champagne flowing as they pressure each girl to drink more and dance – and despite Renesha’s repeated attempts at no, and that “I have a boyfriend,” she is stuck in this situation with her fun-loving friend, who is having a good time.

At some point, Renesha is slipped a “roofie,” the illegal date-rape drug Rohypnol, and when incapacitated, she is taken to Mike’s apartment, where he rapes her. She wakes up with little knowledge of how she got there or what happened.

A concerned and devastated Evan wants answers, insistently pursues a rape kit, but Renesha doesn’t want to go through the process. The tense journey does not go well, as each deal with their own emotional responses while facing the bureaucratic red tape of health care hell and a police report.

What is in no doubt is that they have been forever changed as a couple, tested both by gender roles and prejudice.

At only 88 minutes, the film leaves out some pertinent details, and the abrupt ending is not satisfying. But Ford’s flair for dialogue and crafting authentic characters is strong.

Cinematographer Ludovici Isodori’s has contrasted the two storylines masterfully, locations are well-chosen for a low-budget indie, while Robert Oyuang Rusli’s string-heavy score accents an entire gamut of emotions. Tchaikovsky’s “The Waltz of Flowers” from “The Nutcracker Suite” is a clever choice for a compelling scene.

Oscar Wilde’s quote, “Everything is about sex, except sex, which is about power,” is used as the film’s tagline, and Ford has wisely applied it to a modern exploration of how women are conditioned about sex and consent. Add institutional racism from a black woman’s perspective and the power shifts between couples, and you get one potent thought-provoking film.

“Test Pattern” addresses similar territory that “Promising Young Woman” tackles and will add more to the national conversation.

Like the impressive female-directed and written 2020 social commentaries “The Assistant” and “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” with this film, Ford proves she is an exciting new voice. Her name can be included in the growing list of formidable female directors with something to say.

Shatara Michelle Ford

“Test Pattern” is a 2019 drama written and directed by Shatara Michelle Ford, starring Brittany S. Hall and Will Brill. It is not rated and the run time is 1 hour, 22 min. The film is available as a video on demand through Kino Lorber Marquee. Lynn’s Grade: B+

Disney Trivia, Creator Panels, Costume Contests, Cosplay Sessions, Speed Dating All Weekend Long At America’s Center, April 5-7

‘Charmed’ Q&A. Photo by Heather Christie PhotographyST. LOUIS, March 29, 2019—Q&A sessions with  the stars of “Charmed” (Holly Marie Combs, Brian Krause and Drew Fuller) plus Chris Kattan (“Saturday Night Live,” A Night at the Roxbury), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings, “Stranger Things 2”), Alaina Huffman (“Smallville,” “Stargate” universe), David Alpay (“Vampire Diaries”) and workshops, cosplayer and comics creator sessions, adult and kids costume contests, feature film and trailer screening and more highlight the programming offerings at Wizard World St. Louis, April 5-7 at America’s Center.

David Alpay of “Vampire Diaries

Most programming is included as part of the standard event admission and is in addition to the live entertainment options (dancing, music, etc.) all weekend.

Some highlights of the more than 50 hours of panels scheduled to date include:

· Group session with the cast of “Charmed” (Saturday, 3 p.m.)· Sessions with Astin (Saturday, 4 p.m.), Kattan (Saturday, 3 p.m.), Huffman (Sunday, noon), Alpay (Saturday, 1 p.m.) and voice actor Scott Innes (“Scooby Doo,” Saturday, 4 p.m.)

· Disney Trivia panel with Walt Before Mickey star Thomas Ian Nicholas (Rookie of the Year, American Pie) and Chris Owen (American Pie) moderated by Handbook for Mortals author Lani Sarem (Saturday, 2 p.m.)· Creator sessions with industry superstars Tom Cook, Phil Ortiz, Victor Dandridge, Josh Lyman, Stuart Sayger, Gavin Smith, Mostafa Moussa, Kurt Lehner, The Pumpkin Geek, James Morris, Shawn Coss and more· Immersive, high-intensity interactive workshops on such topics as Cosplay Photography, Cosplay Painting and Weathering, Resin Casting, Worbla, Creator U, Cosplay Foam Fabrication, Sculpting, Basics of Drawing (these workshops have an additional fee, with limited availability)

Drew Fuller

· Screening of modern religious feature film Jesus Bro, with writer Brad Jones and director Ryan Mitchelle (Saturday, 7 p.m.)· Fan- and industry-based panels on subjects ranging from self-publishing, YouTube 101, steampunk, Doctor Who, zombies, cosplay & anxiety, Nerd Off 2.0, Armor, superhero movies, comics in the classroom, Star Trek and more· Kids programming all three days, including story time, face painting, puppet shows, dance parties, magic, learn to draw, (and Kids 10 and under are free every day with paid adult)· Trailer Park, a screening of some of the newest and most anticipated movies and TV series (Saturday, noon)· World-famous Wizard World Adult Costume Contest, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Kids Costume Contests on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.· Cosplay with special guests SuperKayce, OhMySophii, Thousand Faces, Sally Quinn, Terrible Trio, Baroness Von T and more, throughout the weekend

Holly Marie Combs

Unless noted, programming events take place in the designated General Programming Rooms or show floor stages at the convention center. VIP tickets or additional costs may apply to ensure access to select activities, as noted.

A full list of Wizard World St. Louis programming is available at http://wizardworld.com/programming-entertainment/st-louis (subjects, guests, times and rooms subject to change).

Wizard World events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. The fourth event scheduled on the 2019 Wizard World calendar, St. Louis show hours are Friday, April 5, 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, April 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Kids 10 and under are admitted free with paid adult.

Wizard World St. Louis is also the place for cosplay, with fans young and old showing off their best costumes throughout the event. Fans dressed as every imaginable character – and some never before dreamed – will roam the convention floor and participate in the famed Wizard World Costume Contest on Saturday evening.

For more on the 2019 Wizard World St. Louis, visit http://wizd.me/StLouisPR.

About Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD)Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (www.wizardworld.com) produces comic, gaming and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, tech, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. A first-class lineup of topical programming and entertainment takes place at each event, with celebrity Q&A’s, comics-themed sessions, costume contests, movie screenings, evening parties and more. Wizard Entertainment has also teamed with Sony Pictures Entertainment to find the next generation of movies as well as to engage in a number of strategic initiatives. Additional initiatives may include an augmented touring schedule of Wizard World shows, fixed-site installations, curated e-commerce, and the production and distribution of content both in the U.S. and internationally. Fans can interact with Wizard Entertainment at www.wizardworld.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media services.

The 2019 Wizard World convention schedule is available at: http://www.wizardworld.com/comiccon.

‘Aquaman’ Star Momoa, Astin, Kattan, Hudson Headline Celebrity RosterAt Wizard World St. Louis, April 5-7‘Charmed’ Trio Combs, Krause, Fuller, Cudmore, Alpay, Huffman Also Scheduled To Appear at America’s CenterJason Momoa, who rocketed to superstardom in Justice League and Aquaman, Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings, “Stranger Things 2”), Chris Kattan (“Saturday Night Live,” A Night at the Roxbury) and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, “Desperate Housewives”) are among the top celebrities scheduled to attend the seventh annual Wizard World St.Louis, April 5-7, at America’s Center. Other stars scheduled to appear include the “Charmed” trio of Holly Marie Combs, Brian Krause and Drew Fuller, Daniel Cudmore (X-Men, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2), Chris Owen (American Pie, The Mist), David Alpay (“The Vampire Diaries,” “The Tudors”), “Desperate Housewives”), Alaina Huffman (“Smallville,” “Supernatural”), Joe Flanigan (“Stargate: Atlantis,” “Stargate: SG-1”), Gregg Sulkin (“Marvel’s Runaways,” “Pretty Little Liars”) and Thomas Ian Nicholas (Rookie of the Year, American Pie)Some of the world’s most talented creators populate Artist Alley at Wizard World. Top writers and artists scheduled to attend are Arvell Jones (Marvel, D.C.), Stuart Sayger (“ROM,” “Micronauts”), Kurt Lehner (“Gargoyles,” “Marvel Action Hour”), Jeremy Clark (“Grimm Fairy Tales,” “Day of the Dead”), Phil Ortiz (“The Simpsons”), Tom Cook (“He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” “Superfriends”), Rick Burchett (“Batman Adventures,” “Superman Adventures”), Ryan Kincaid (“Antoinette,” Upper Deck), Shawn Coss (“Cyanide & Happiness”), Ty Templeton (“Batman and Robin Adventures,” “Batman: The Gotham Adventures”) and more.Wizard World St.Louis will also feature non-stop live entertainment hosted by Kato Kaelin, gaming, exclusive Q&A sessions with top celebrities, movie screenings hosted by stars and directors and more. Details to follow soon, along with programming and entertainment stage schedules.t.Wizard World events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. The fourth event scheduled on the 2019 Wizard World calendar, St. Louis show hours are Friday, April 5, 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, April 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Kids 10 and under are admitted free with paid adult.Wizard World St. Louis is also the place for cosplay, with fans young and old showing off their best costumes throughout the event. Fans dressed as every imaginable character – and some never before dreamed – will roam the convention floor and participate in the famed Wizard World Costume Contest on Saturday evening.For more on the 2019 Wizard World St. Louis, visit http://wizd.me/StLouisPR.About Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD)Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (www.wizardworld.com) produces comic, gaming and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, tech, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. A first-class lineup of topical programming and entertainment takes place at each event, with celebrity Q&A’s, comics-themed sessions, costume contests, movie screenings, evening parties and more. Wizard Entertainment has also teamed with Sony Pictures Entertainment to find the next generation of movies as well as to engage in a number of strategic initiatives. Additional initiatives may include an augmented touring schedule of Wizard World shows, fixed-site installations, curated e-commerce, and the production and distribution of content both in the U.S. and internationally. Fans can interact with Wizard Entertainment at www.wizardworld.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media services.The 2019 Wizard World convention schedule is available at: http://www.wizardworld.com/comiccon.

Jason Momoa, who rocketed to superstardom in Justice League (2017) and Aquaman (in theaters now), will attend Wizard World St. Louis on Saturday, April 6, at America’s Center. Momoa will greet fans, sign autographs and pose for photo ops.

Momoa had significant roles in the popular series “Baywatch” and “Stargate: Atlantas” before a turn as “Khal Drago” on the acclaimed “Game of Thrones” was followed by his first appearance as “Aquaman” in Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice in 2016. That led to a larger role as the undersea superhero in Justice League and star billing in the current hit release.

Momoa’s other credits include the title role in both Conan the Barbarian (2011) and Braven (2018) and opposite Bruce Willis and John Goodman in last year’s Once Upon a Time in Venice.

Momoa joins Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings, “Stranger Things 2”), Chris Kattan (“Saturday Night Live,” A Night at the Roxbury), the “Charmed” trio of Holly Marie Combs, Brian Krause and Drew Fuller, Daniel Cudmore (X-Men, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2) and Thomas Ian Nicholas (Rookie of the Year, American Pie) and more, as well as an outstanding array of programming, live entertainment, cosplay contests, gaming and more at the seventh annual Wizard World St. Louis, April 5-7.

Wizard World events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. The fourth event scheduled on the 2019 Wizard World calendar, St. Louis show hours are Friday, April 6, 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, April 7, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, April 8, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Kids 10 and under are admitted free with paid adult.

Wizard World St. Louis is also the place for cosplay, with fans young and old showing off their best costumes throughout the event. Fans dressed as every imaginable character – and some never before dreamed – will roam the convention floor and participate in the famed Wizard World Costume Contest on Saturday evening.

For more on the 2019 Wizard World St. Louis, visit http://wizd.me/StLouisPR.

About Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD)Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (www.wizardworld.com) produces comic, gaming and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, tech, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. A first-class lineup of topical programming and entertainment takes place at each event, with celebrity Q&A’s, comics-themed sessions, costume contests, movie screenings, evening parties and more. Wizard Entertainment has also teamed with Sony Pictures Entertainment to find the next generation of movies as well as to engage in a number of strategic initiatives. Additional initiatives may include an augmented touring schedule of Wizard World shows, fixed-site installations, curated e-commerce, and the production and distribution of content both in the U.S. and internationally. Fans can interact with Wizard Entertainment at www.wizardworld.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media services.

The 2019 Wizard World convention schedule is available at: http://www.wizardworld.com/comiccon.