“Listening” Review


For years, we have tried to harness the power of the human mind… and failed. Now, one breakthrough will change everything. Beyond technology. Beyond humanity. Beyond control.

LISTENING, the award-winning debut feature from visionary director Khalil Sullins, is a psychological thriller about penniless grad students who invent mind-reading technology that destroys their lives. David, Ryan, and Jordan hope the telepathy invention will solve all their problems, but the bleeding-edge technology opens a Pandora’s box of new dangers, as the team discovers that when they open their minds, there is nowhere to hide their thoughts. Secrets and betrayals surface, and the technology is stolen by a covert government agency with a hidden agenda. With no one left to trust, David is forced against his friends in a life-or-death battle over not only the privacy of the human mind, but the future of free will itself.


Listening writer and director Khalil Sullins spent over a year strategically planning how to make the film. Including, but not limited to, cinematography, production design, costume design, editing, color, sound effects, and music prior to the numerous auditions.   Sullins also diligently studied about current brain-computer-interfaces and he was extremely interested in the carbon nanotubes and their potential applications. He obviously did his homework and preparation for Listening, because it’s evident in the film’s story, characters, and production quality.

One unique aspect of the film is how he and his wife, Pardis Sullins who is the main producer of Listening, wanted to incorporate the flicker 3D technology into the film. After multiple trial set ups and testing, including how the audience would be impacted especially on the big screen, the outcome does an excellent job giving the audience the perspective of the characters telepathically reading of each other’s minds and that would include some sexual fantasies.


The main characters in the film are likeable and intriguing. Thomas Stroppel plays the role of David who is a genius, but struggling financially and emotionally with his wife Melanie (Christine Haeberman) and daughter Lana (Mykayla Sohn). David is so wrapped up in the experiment that he’s jeopardizing everything he has including his family, home and freedom. Stroppel has been nominated best actor at several festivals for his role as David.


David’s partner, Ryan (Artie Ahr) is comical, brilliant, a little rough around edges and makes the experiment and film more entertaining. Ahr shared his sentiments working on the film, “I’m really fortunate to be a part of the film and just lucky that the audition happened to go my way. I think Listening has such a strong message and each character has a point of view that justifies their actions. I think it’s really neat when different viewers can relate to different characters because they might have the same point of view or opinions. The film had a really big emotional impact on me and changed the course of my life, how I saw myself as an actor and the relationships that I had with people. It goes without saying that Khalil really knew what he was doing from the beginning of the project until the finished version. The other actors were great to work with and super easy going. Making a movie like that is a dream come true”.


Jordan, the guys’ brainy and strikingly pretty teammate is played by Amber Marie Bollinger, who is up for best actress at the Diabolique International Film Festival. Bollinger stars in many films, TV series, and shorts. She has nothing but praise about her entire experience being part of the Listening team, “Working on Listening was such a wonderful experience, overall. Every once in a while a really good role comes along… not too often, sadly, so I was thrilled to be a part of Khalil’s vision and really enjoyed the opportunity to bring Jordan to life. She was my favorite role to play up to this point. Also, a side-note… for a low-budget film, I never ate better in my life. Crafty had all the best foods I could put in my body, thanks to the Sullins’ family”.

Steve Hanks plays the bad guy role of Matthew, the official in charge of the secret government operation. Hanks has the expertise of playing an authoritative role along with the looks, which made him the perfect fit for the role of Matthew.


While a majority of the is set in Los Angeles, there are scenes set in Cambodia. Sullins was very meticulous about the Cambodia scenes and worked intensely to capture the beauty of the surroundings and the temple. The filming was challenging for Sullins due the location and Mother Nature, but Sullins and his crew succeeded and accomplished their vision.

All the thrills and drama in the film are accentuated by the music provided by the talented British composer Edward Patrick White. White recorded the music with a live orchestra and world-class musicians at the renowned London’s Sphere Studios, where musicians like Elton John, Genesis, and Duran Duran worked.


About the film:
David and Ryan are Cal Tech students secretly conducting a mind-reading experiment. Both are not in good financial situations and in order to conduct their unauthorized experiments, they needed to steal equipment from the university and set up in David’s garage. As they proceed with the experiment there’s a lot of frustration along with failure, however the results are promising, but they struggle at a few technical barriers. That’s when Ryan brings on board Jordan. David is reluctant initially until Jordan’s intelligence shines with her suggestions, which significantly advances the experiment.


Occurring at the same time in Washington DC, Matthew is in charge of a governmental experiment consisting of the same nature. However, Matthew’s testing has much more severe and dangerous results and also reveals the unethical plans of how the government will utilize the experiment once it’s perfected. David, Ryan, and Jordan make for an exciting team that keeps the audience captivated as they progress and develop throughout the film. Dilemmas and conflict slowly grow between the team and crisis at home put David and Ryan in desperate situations.


A lot is at stake with the experiment, personal life, and amongst David, Ryan, and Jordan. Drastic measures are taken that will put the entire experiment in jeopardy and team members true identities will emerge. After a string of pure chaotic times, the guys unwillingly end up working with Matthew.   David realizes Matthew’s ultimate plan and morally David knows he has to do something about it.


David gets his family to safety and then disappears without a trace.   He travels to a temple in Cambodia where the monks teach him the method of uncluttering and keeping his mind clear. Upon mastering the skill, he then risks his life and returns to Ryan and the lab. Matthew wants no part of David, but the experiment needs him and allows him back, but under tight supervision.

With the climax of the film approaching, David cannot carry out his plan without sacrifices and pain. Once David puts his plan into execution, it’s clever, a little depressing, and even frustrating to a point, which results in an intense ending.  To be thoroughly entertained, check out Khalil Sullin’s Listening, it’s a hard core mind F___! Check out the website to see the multiple ways you can watch the film, view the trailer, and find out where it is screening locally, so you can see it on the big screen.