Filmfest 2019

After he's attacked on the street at night by a roving motorcycle gang, timid bookkeeper Casey joins a neighborhood karate studio to learn how to protect himself. Under the watchful eye of a charismatic instructor, Sensei, and hardcore brown belt Anna, Casey gains a newfound sense of confidence for the first time in his life. But when he attends Sensei's mysterious night classes, he discovers a sinister world of fraternity, brutality, and hyper-masculinity, presenting a journey that places him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor. Audacious and offbeat, this is an original dark comedy that takes toxic masculinity to absurd extremes.

tags: Violence, Comedy, Feature film

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots


Screenplay: Riley Stearns

Director of Photography: Micheal Ragen

Film Editor: Sarah Beth Shapiro

Composer: Heather McIntosh

Production Designer: Charotte Royer

Costume Design: Jami Villers

Sound: Chris Polczinski

Producer: Cody Ryder, Andrew Kortschak,Stephanie Whonsetler, Walter Kortschak

Production Company: Bleecker Street

Director: Riley Stearns


Riley Stearns grew up in Austin, Texas. His short film THE CUB was shown the Sundance Festival in 2013. A year later, he had his feature-film debut with FAULTS, about a woman who falls into the clutches of a cult. This film, like THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE (2019), premiered at the SXSW Festival. Stearns has a martial-arts background and has a purple belt in Brazilian jiujitsu.